After 20 years in the business, Teresa Miele knows how to deal with human resources issues in a variety of situations — including in times of crisis.
Miele recently started HR Acquired, her own independent HR business — nearly two years after a fire destroyed the Rutland Plywood facility where she had led the HR department since 2013.
After the fire, Miele led the efforts to connect former Rutland Plywood workers with state and regional employment services to get their careers back on track. At least a dozen different agencies were involved.
“We brought in a lot of resources for folks to help them transition,” she said.
Her position at Rutland Plywood continued until last December, and Miele wanted to stick with the kind of work she’d been doing for two decades.
“I really wanted to stay in the Rutland area, and really wanted to stay in human resources,” she said.
She decided that the easiest way to meet both those goals was to start a business. Last fall, Miele went through the new-business workshop put on by the Vermont Small Business Development Center — which she highly recommends for aspiring entrepreneurs.
“The class is really comprehensive and walks you through every part of the process,” Miele said.
She set up her new enterprise and put the word out, and by January, companies were calling her to ask about her services. Miele said she was already “well-networked” in the area, which helped drive some initial business.
Many of her clients are small- to medium-sized companies — with 50 employees or less — which need help updating their HR policies and procedures, and many times compliance with state and federal law comes into play. Businesses also often ask for help with a particular employee issue and need advice on how best to resolve it.
Miele said a number of small-business owners have a need to update HR policies which may have been created years ago and in very different times.
She said in the first meeting with a new client, she learns about what the business owner thinks their main challenges are, and what they want to accomplish in the human resources realm. Many times, this leads to a full “gap analysis” of the company’s HR operation, during which Miele looks at all the company’s HR policies and procedures.
Miele also examines how well their HR policies “flow” together and identifies opportunities to make the processes more efficient.
She said her favorite part of her job is helping businesses identify a way to not only resolve an issue, but also provide them with tools and approaches they can use to prevent those issues in the future.
For those who need help after implementing new policies or procedures, Miele offers a service where the client can buy a certain number of hours a week to have her continue to work with them through implementation.
Many of her clients are currently in Rutland County, but she also has a few clients in the Bennington and Burlington areas.
“I can go anywhere … I can work on-site when needed, and I can work off-site from home,” Miele said.
Although she helps draft new policies or procedures, Miele emphasized that she’s not a lawyer, and she’s clear with clients that important changes like this should be reviewed by a lawyer before final approval.
“There does come a time where a legal opinion is very important and very necessary,” she said.
Before joining Rutland Plywood in 2013, Miele was the human resources manager at Plasan Carbon Composites in Bennington.
Aside from her HR work, Miele is also the chair of the Rutland County Workforce Investment Board, or WIB, and is a longtime member of the Green Mountain Human Resources Association.
She lives in North Clarendon with her husband, Patrick Firliet, and they have two grown children. Her daughter, Anna Firliet, is the HR administrator for the state of Vermont.