With Scott Orn

A Startup Podcast by Kruze Consulting

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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

Leslie Hensley and Lee Turner of HENSLEE discuss the company and building a human resource strategy that scales as your company grows

Posted on: 07/05/2022

Leslie Hensley

Leslie Hensley

Co-Founder & People Leader - HENSLEE

Lee Turner

Lee Turner


Leslie Hensley & Lee Turner of HENSLEE - Podcast Summary

Leslie Hensley and Lee Turner, co-founders of HENSLEE, discuss HENSLEE’s HR solutions and how it can help develop a human resource strategy that scales as your company grows.

Leslie Hensley & Lee Turner of HENSLEE - Podcast Transcript

Scott: Hey. It’s Scott Orn of Kruze Consulting. Thanks for joining us on Founders and Friends for another awesome podcast. Let’s give a quick shout out to the Kruze Consulting accounting team. We’re very fortunate. We have a ton of people at Kruze who work on the monthly books for our clients and get them all set up, due diligence ready. Rocking every month. Answering all the clients’ questions. Making all of those adjustments. There’s no better moment for a founder, and for us really, when a founder says, “Hey. I think I’m going to get a term sheet. Are my books ready for diligence?” We get to say, “Yes, they are. Fire away. Send them over. Give them access.” That is a great feeling. It’s the feeling that lets us know we’ve done our job very well-done. Nothing is better than watching that cash hit the bank account. If you are a venture-backed startup, you’re going out to fundraise, maybe check us out. Check us out at We love what we do. At taping here, I think we have 575 clients. The clients raised over a billion dollars this year. We know what we’re doing. Hopefully, we can help you be successful in your fundraise. All right. Let’s get to the podcast. Thanks.
Singer: (Singing).
Scott: Welcome to the Founders and Friends podcast with Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting. Today, my very special guests are Leslie Hensley and Lee Turner of … This is the best name for a startup, HENSLEE. It’s a combo of their names. It’s amazing if you see it written. Welcome, Leslie. Welcome, Lee.
Lee: Thanks, Scott.
Leslie: Thank you, Scott.
Lee: Happy to be here.
Scott: My pleasure. We have worked together in the past. You are alums, veterans of Fleetsmith, which is a company that Kruze worked with many years ago for many years. You want to tell the audience how that turned out? It worked out pretty well, right?
Leslie: It did.
Scott: Not the Kruze part. The exit part for the company.
Leslie: The exit part. Yes. Fleetsmith was acquired by Apple. Such a great opportunity for a lot of folks. It was really cool. Really cool to just see a company grow and scale, and have that kind of an outcome and be a part of it.
Scott: We’re super proud of that one too. Zach. You guys. Trang. Gosh, the two other co-founders were hilarious. Jesse … And I’m forgetting the other gentleman.
Leslie: Jesse and Ken.
Lee: Ken. Yep.
Scott: Ken. Ken was so nice. I remember helping Ken with the expenditure part one time. What a great crew. I wanted to have you on the podcast, because you have a new HR firm. It’s a startup that you serve startups. It’s kind of like the Kruze of HR. I can’t recommend you both enough. This was a way to … A couple of things. For you to give some advice to clients who listen to this podcast or people in the ecosystem. Also, just let people know you’re out there and you’re available to be hired. Because I’ve had the pleasure working with both of you. I really believe in both of you. Maybe to start off, just retrace each of your careers and how you joined forces here.
Lee: My first startup was back in the late ’90s. It was a medical location service, as well as building out doctor’s websites. I was in an operational role. Office manager. A little bit of PR. A little bit of payroll. A little bit of everything. Over the course of the next … Gosh. 10, 12 years, I went through six startups. Always in an operational role. Usually, office manager. With the help of my mentor back in 2015, I believe, I started really narrowing down my focus into HR and people ops, where I was just gaining a lot of energy and a lot of excitement for what I was doing. Also, being able to be that support role and help advocate for folks in the companies that I was a part of. A couple of companies after that, I had the great pleasure of working with Leslie at Fleetsmith. I reported to her in the people team. We really just aligned with personal and professional philosophies about how to treat people, how to show up for your folks, how to put the right processes in place. As well as policies to really engage your employees to help make it a great place to work. Our company, as we mentioned, was acquired by Apple. Leslie and I kept this conversation going. Over the next year-and-a-half or so, HENSLEE was born.
Scott: Amazing. You also worked at JASK, which is another Kruze client.
Lee: That’s correct.
Scott: And that was acquired by a big unicorn company too.
Lee: Sumo Logic. Yes.
Scott: That was in between, right? That was before Fleetsmith.
Lee: Yes. That’s correct.
Scott: That’s awesome.
Lee: A couple of companies before.
Scott: Leslie. You want to do your quick background?
Leslie: I’d love to. Interestingly enough, I started my HR professional career in the corporate space. I was at Starbucks for about eight years and started on the legal team. And then, I was there for a couple of years, and then moved over to the HR side of the house at Starbucks and had an opportunity. Starbucks is one of those organizations that’s just great at learning and development. At that stage in my career, I just took advantage of all those opportunities. And so, really went every year or two into each different discipline within HR. Started out with the stock and savings plans. Moved over, had little bit of interaction with the benefits team. And then, spent the majority of my time on the compensation team, which was super interesting. I got a really base foundation, understanding of how HR supports an organization on that big scale. And so, from there, I’d been there for a while. I was ready for a change. Moved down to the Bay and wanted to get some experience working on the other side. At Starbucks, HR team was 250 employees. It was a huge HR team. A lot of my clients at that time, or my people I was working with, was other HR folks. I wanted to flip it around and I wanted to be more of a people partner. And so, when I moved down to the Bay, I started working at IGN. At that time, they were owned by News Corp. So much fun. Was there for a couple of years. Helped that team scale and grow. They were actually acquired as well. They were acquired by Ziff Davis. And so, saw them through that acquisition. And then, from there, moved over to Wikia, now Fandom, and was there for a couple years, which was so great. I was their second HR person. Helped build out, scale. When I joined, we were close to 50. Maybe a little more. And then, we scaled to a little over 250 worldwide in the time that I was there. I got to build out all the systems and tools and process. Interestingly enough, when I was at Fandom, that’s where I met Zach, who is the CEO of Fleetsmith. And so, decided to leave there and got an opportunity to join Fleetsmith, when they were just so tiny. I was their seventh employee.
Scott: Oh my gosh.
Leslie: Really cool to be able to come into an organization so small, take everything that I learned, and really start to build those HR practices from the very start. And so, I got an opportunity to partner with Fleetsmith for four years, which feels crazy, before they were acquired by Apple. Learned so much. Really got to be that on-the-ground business doing all of the things. All of the things to start, and then as the team scaled and grew, we were at almost 100 employees when the team …
Scott: Also, I just have a memory that came flooding back. Because Zach was probably 10 years younger than me. Maybe 15 years younger than me. I remember him when he actually hired you. I was sitting and talking to him. He’s like, “You know …” I was like, “Wow. It’s kind of early for HR.” This is me. I’m demonstrating my maturity, my growth here. Because that’s what I said at the time. He said, “Yeah. But I want to do it right. Leslie’s the best and she was available.”
Lee: Nice.
Scott: Now, me five years from now, “HR early. Actually, yes. It’s never too early.” I remember that and thinking … Now, I look back on it. The guy who’s 15 years younger than me was actually teaching me something in that moment that I didn’t know about running a business and how important HR was. And it was great that it was you. We had a great working relationship. I saw you build all the processes and treat people well. Fleetsmith was great at recruiting and great at building the team. I just look back on it like, “Wow, I didn’t …” That was really something I had to learn. I’m grateful I know it now. I bring this up because I want the people listening to this who are, today, thinking how I was thinking back then … I really think it’s never too early to bring in HR. The cool thing is, you can talk about HENSLEE now, because you have an access point for people. They can work with you when they’re really early, and you can make a really big difference for them. Tell us about HENSLEE and what you’re offering and how you work with startups.
Scott: Tell us about HENSLEE. Tell us how you can work with startups and even super early stage startups.
Leslie: I think we’ve learned. We’ve learned from our experience of getting into these companies that are just starting out, and recognizing that you often don’t have resource in-house to hire a full-time HR person early on. But you can bring so much value by adding structure and process to your systems early on. Really finding a way to support your team as you grow. Especially, if you’re scaling quickly. Thinking about, for example, on the onboarding side. If you’re getting ready to hire five to ten employees, there’s a lot of steps in that process. And so, oftentimes you don’t have the capacity in-house to be able to just come in and take care of that. And so, having someone come in who knows the process. We’ve got the templates. We’ve got the tools, so we can come in and help you make those hires. Onboard them successfully. Successfully, meaning, you’re setting them up with the tools to thrive in your company. We can look at all the data points … Let’s say that if you give employees the tools they need, they’re going to grow. They’re going to want to continue to stay and work in your organization. And so, we’ve done this. We’ve been in it. And so, we’re able to really help you build out those systems and structures that are going to help you scale and grow and give your employees what they need.
Scott: I totally agree. You broke it up nicely. Process and systems. Because first of all, when you’re onboarding new people, that’s their first impression of the company … I actually think it’s an amazing barometer of the company and the people there and how it’s run. Part of what we do at Kruze is we’re super aligned. We want people to use the best systems, because it makes things so much easier and makes things really repeatable. I know at Fleetsmith … You talked about how you were over 100 people by the time you were acquired. There was a lot of systems and plumbing in there that allowed you to grow that fast. And if you put the right stuff in, it makes things a lot easier. It’s so valuable to be able to run stuff by you. Or just be like, “Hey, Lee. Hey, Leslie. I want to bring you in on an entry-level consulting project. I want you to put all this stuff in place for me.” What the founder may not realize is they’re buying back some of their time. They’re also doing it with the people who are the most knowledgeable, who know exactly what should be used. I can tell you. We’ve ripped out multiple ATS systems. We’ve switched payroll providers. There’s so much stuff that we’ve done at Kruze on our scale roadmap that … Again, if I would’ve known about a service like you and HENSLEE five years ago, six years ago, we would’ve been using you. It’s just a great investment and just saves so much time and saves so many headaches.
Lee: It truly is, Scott. I can speak to my experience at Fleetsmith, both from the employee side and also being on the people team, with how smooth it was for our onboarding process. Because Leslie and the team before me had taken the time to put the right tools in place. To have the right structure and setup. To make sure that the process was smooth for employees, but also engaging from the very beginning. I was just blown away, as a new employee, how easy it was, how connected I felt to the culture immediately, which allowed me to do better. To be more engaged. To really want to give more to the company, and then return to the employees that we were going to be onboarding from there. Flipping sides, being on the people team and being settled into Fleetsmith. Leveraging all those tools, the process was incredibly easy for new employees to come in and feel connected. We did a lot of feedback surveys. We received such great numbers and great feedback from the new hires who just were so appreciative and were able to … Not only fold into that culture, but to do their job effectively quicker. And so, ultimately that pays the company.
Scott: I love it. I love it. And then, there’s the other aspect of this, which is pure expertise. Pure de-stressing the founder’s life. Because when you get into this stuff … Almost everyone we work with, they got into it because they want to build a killer product. Change the world. Cure disease. Do something amazing. They don’t realize like, “I’ve got to worry about accounting taxes. I’ve got to worry about HR and employment law and that stuff.” And so, having a resource like you folks. Whether it’s just running a simple thing by via email or just a quick phone call. Or having someone coming in and doing training and making sure the sexual harassment training’s up to date. A million things like that. I just find that there’s a real peace of mind that you can offer founders. No matter what stage they’re at.
Leslie: 100%. We don’t know what we don’t know. I think that there’s an opportunity for … Let us take some of that burden. One of the questions that we ask when we have our first calls with founders and leaders is, “What’s keeping you awake at night?” We’re like, “Let’s talk about work stuff. But what’s keeping you awake at night?” Oftentimes, it’s most often some type of an employee relations issue. Or it’s, “My payroll’s not running right.” Or, “I have this benefits issue that I can’t seem to solve.” Let us take that burden. We’ve solved those problems and we love it. We’re these big HR nerds that want to get in there and solve these problems and figure it out. And so, it’s a win-win for us. We get to come in and help you really establish your culture and your people strategy from a place of structure but also empathy. Let us help you as you’re walking through these things that you just don’t know.
Scott: I can totally agree. We get the same satisfaction at Kruze. I know it’s the same thing. You solve a problem for someone and it feels so good. You can do that for 50 companies. You could do it for a lot of companies, because you’re so good at it. Hey, it’s Scott Orn. We’re going to take a quick break from the podcast to give a shout out to the Kruze tax team. Gosh. It’s so nice to have an in-house tax team. I can’t even tell you. We have some really amazing professionals on the team. I think it’s 13 people now. We do everything from your federal state income tax return, state franchise tax filings, R&D tax credits. Those are pretty popular these days. Guess what? They’re there for you when you go through diligence. A lot of people don’t know this, but you actually go through tax diligence. Not just operational financial diligence, but you do go through tax diligence. It’s nice to have Vanessa Kruze on the phone with your VCs and with the accounting firm they hire to diligence all your stuff. And the law firm they hire to do diligence on all your stuff. Vanessa knows what she’s doing. She’s done this a million times. And it’s not just Vanessa. We have a really great team of tax professionals that will do those calls too. It’s sometimes the difference between getting it right on close or having it take another two weeks, because something was disorganized and the tax compliance wasn’t done correctly. We hear those horror stories from clients that come to us. Hey, if you want Kruze’s tax team on your side, we’re here for you. Check us out at Thanks. Now, let’s talk about your entry point. I’m imagining it … Because I’m thinking about the people listening to this podcast. A lot of people are seed stage, Series A, or maybe a little bit of a later stage. It feels like there’s a variety of services you can offer different stage companies. You want to walk through that a little bit?
Leslie: For sure. We can be a great partner when you’re early on. We often think about employee size. Where are you at, employee size? Because there are some compliance triggers. You hit 25. You hit 50 employees. Different states have different compliance issues that come up. Or different laws that come up. You want to make sure that you’re checking those boxes as well. But really, looking at … Anywhere from 10 to 30 employees is a great time to really think about, “What processes do I want to get in place?” The beginning is payroll benefits. You want to make sure that the process is running smoothly.
Scott: Right.
Leslie: We’re thinking about the strategy behind it as well. And so, if we start to solve some of those problems or some of those issues, and get those in place when you’re early stage … Then, as you scale and grow, you have a really solid foundation to work from. We really like partnering with those smaller orgs. And then, another group that we really like to partner with is as the companies start to scale and grow and you have an HR person in-house. Maybe there’s someone who started with you when you were 10 employees? They just naturally progressed over and started working on your HR and took on the HR tasks. They’re learning as they go and they’re just figuring it out. And so, we are such a great partner for those teams of one. How can we come in and help you? Again, we get back to that, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” We’re big HR nerds at heart. We just want to talk to you like, “What’s going on? How can we help support you and give you the tools that you need to be successful in supporting your team?”
Scott: I love it. What people don’t realize maybe … Out of most functions of anything in the company, HR has some serious spikes. Your HR could be going along. Everything’s hunky-dory. And then, there’s a giant spike. And so, that augmentation. Helping the HR of one person, or the HR of a two-person department at a startup is so valuable. Because you and Lee can augment them. When there’s one of those crazy spikes … Because a lot of the stuff is very time-sensitive.
Lee: Yep.
Scott: Or very stressful. Very emotional in that moment. And so, I really think there’s a huge value to having the backup team, the reference team. The team that can come in and help handle something in a tough moment. Meanwhile, you’re adding value in a lot of other places during the regular times. Just having access. Having Leslie and Lee on the speed dial is extremely valuable.
Lee: That’s what we call, “HR urgent care,” which is basically being on call to solve those problems for you. To be available when those spikes do happen. Speaking back to Leslie’s point about those teams of one. I was a team of one multiple times. Back at JASK, I was the team of one. We were scaling tremendously fast. I didn’t have that resource. I had some mentors from previous jobs. A couple of colleagues that I could ask questions for. Maybe a Slack group here and there. But it would’ve been invaluable as a resource to be able to tap someone and say, “Help me. I don’t know what I don’t know. And I don’t know a lot right now. I’m still pretty junior in my HR journey.” I’m supported by a PEO, but that model doesn’t offer that touch point that you really need when you’re in those situations.
Scott: There’s only so many hours in the day. When things are so urgent, that urgent care you’re talking about … If you had a week to do everything, you could do it. But you’ve got one day. Something’s going to happen if you don’t … I’m totally with you both. I think it’s really smart. It’s also not just training. Because I don’t want people to get the wrong idea that it’s just, “Hey. If you’re a newer or less experienced HR person of one.” But I feel like this would be very applicable for someone who’s an old pro, who’s done it, but just needs more hands around the table.
Leslie: Absolutely. A good example of that would be during your performance development cycle. That typically happens once, sometimes twice a year, depending on your organization’s cycle. Everyone in the company is involved in this process and this program. And so, you, HR leader … You’re a project manager. You’re in all of the pieces. We can come in and step in and help you out along the way.
Scott: That’s a really good call. That’s a great one too. How do you spell HENSLEE? Where do they find you? That kind of thing?
Lee: You spell HENSLEE, H-E-N-S-L-E-E. Which as you mentioned, Scott, is a combination of Leslie’s last name and my first name. HENSLEE. We can be found at We’re also on LinkedIn and Instagram.
Scott: I love it. When we post this, we’ll post a link to you guys and everything. Let’s talk about some of the challenges that’s just going on in the current environment. We’re recording this late, late June. There’s still a lot of companies hyper-scaling. There are other companies, where capital is getting tighter. What are you seeing out there? Any advice you have for people in those different situations?
Leslie: It’s interesting. We collectively have been through so much over the last couple of years. And so, through this terminal that we’re going through now, I think employees have a lot of choice. They’re figuring out, “Are they happy in their role?” Happy. How do we define happy? Are they happy in the role that they’re in? And so, they’re seeing a lot of change in movement. Transferring into new companies. And so, I think there’s a lot of value in really thinking about your people strategy early on, so that you can have that built into your foundation of your policies and your programs. So that as you’re bringing on and attracting all of this new talent, and you’re onboarding them into these new programs and policies, that they’re in alignment with what you’re building. Not just in alignment with what you’re building, but in alignment with the community that you’re creating. The companies that we join, we spend so much time there. They’re these small communities. And so, if you are engaging your team in a way, really sharing with them … Giving them not just the tools that they need, but also aligning your policies with the values of your organization. We’re talking about leave plans and vacation. What do those look like? How do they line up with your values and what you’re building and putting out into the world? I think that matters. That alignment matters so much now. Because employees, they want to work somewhere they believe in. They really believe their internal values are in alignment with the values of their company.
Scott: I love it. I love it. I totally agree with that. You can demonstrate the values through, like you said, leave plan or generous PTO. Flexible work or work remote. There’s a lot of really great ways on the HR side. The other thing you mentioned. The stock market is correcting and money is getting tighter, but you’re right. People have a lot of choice, which I think is really healthy. I was talking to a person who was a phenomenal channel person at Gusto and she went somewhere else. That startup is having a hard time, so they did layoffs. I talked to her today. She has 10 companies she’s talking to a week after she left. There’s just so much choice out there. People know who’s good and they find those people. And that’s what I was doing. I was talking to her, because I knew she was good. We really enjoyed working with her. We were going to try to figure out a consulting thing or something. She’s like, “Well, I’ve got like 10 things going right now.” I was like, “Oh. We’re probably not going to …” But I was so happy for her. Because there is just a lot of choice. People need to remember that. Just because the market gets a little tougher, you still want to treat people with respect. You want to do things the right way. Give them the right tools we talked about. But also, these ways of demonstrating your corporate culture and what’s important to you are really valuable signals that people like that, who have a lot of choice, they pick up on.
Lee: Absolutely.
Leslie: Absolutely.
Scott: Is there any advice for the people who are in a little bit more of a triage mode? I imagine there’s companies listening to this, who are maybe cut-and-burn 10%, 20% kind of thing, and got to make some tough choices. Any guidance you’d give them?
Leslie: I think that, again, we’re all humans. Treating people with respect and giving them the space to be able to navigate change. If I was to boil down how we can come in and support is that we can really … We can help you and your team navigate change and transition. Lee and I talk a lot about that it’s the employee life cycle. Part of that is exiting and leaving and going to another gig. Or maybe the company is downsizing and you’re being let go as part of that. And it’s really thinking about, “How do you support these employees as they’re transitioning into whatever’s next for them?” How can you provide them with the best tools and resources as they’re going through that transition?” Here to help there too. It’s showing up for those conversations. Showing up in those moments when you’re really impacting somebody’s life. I know we keep saying it, but it’s process and structure. If we have a solid foundation of, “This is what we’re going to do. This is how we’re going to do it.” That leaves so much more space for the conversation that happens in the in-between, and for us to be able to really understand, “How can we help support you on the other side of this change?”
Scott: Very beautifully said. I totally believe that. There’s room for people’s feelings or how they’re going. Or if they’re having a mental health issue.
Lee: One of our internal company values is, “Lead with heart.” We want to not only practice that internally, but preach that externally. Have employers and founders and starting teams know and show up for their employees. Know that those are humans that are coming to work for you every day. That they’re going through a lot. There’s a lot going on politically, socially. The pandemic is still happening. Being available as a resource. Showing those people you care. Taking time to reassess your policies. Your lead policies that we spoke about. Where they’re working from, time off if needed, equal pay for equal work. Regardless of where they’re working from, they’re still doing the same work. Adjusting those comp philosophies. There’s a lot of touch points that employers can have and leverage to let those employees know that they’re there for them.
Scott: Well said. That’s really well said. Well, I have to be a little sensitive and respectful of your time. I think we should probably wrap it up, so you can get back to working and helping people. Can you just repeat where to find HENSLEE? How to reach out? I think it’s safe to say seed, Series A, even later stage. You have something you can do for pretty much every startup. Again, I just want to say, I worked with both of you. Fantastic people, personally. Very good at their jobs and made everything so much easier for us. Accountants want the company to have a good HR team, and a good HR team wants the company to have a good accountant. We are very mutually beneficial, so thank you for everything you’ve done. I think the ultimate is like, “Hey. This company was acquired by Apple. The company did very well.” There’s a lot of things that went into that. The technology, the marketing, the sales. But I think the operations was super smart and super strong. I just want to endorse you guys one more time.
Lee: Thank you for that, Scott.
Leslie: Thanks so much. You can find us online at HENSLEE, We also are on LinkedIn and Instagram. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Scott: I love it. I love it. Highly recommend. Highly recommend. Don’t be like me and not appreciate the early entry point. It’s a really good time to bring HR in when you’re at a startup. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. Thank you to both of you. Congrats.
Leslie: Thank you.
Lee: Thanks so much, Scott. Appreciate it.
Singer: (Singing).

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