Singing a New Tune

Trending to more personalized and customized services, an HR firm rebrands to reflect its strategic resource role

Photo: Terry Gillis

EVERY FEW YEARS, Terry Gillis likes to shake things up. In 2013, he partnered up to buy the company he was working for. In 2016, he bought out his partners to take full ownership of the firm.

This month, he is renaming and rebranding the company as Ahria Consulting, starting a fresh chapter for the 30-year-old human resources business formerly known as Carswell Partners.

Gillis says the name, Ahria, is derived from the musical term ‘aria’—defined as an accompanied, elaborate melody sung by a single voice—overlaid with the ‘HR’ abbreviation for human resources.

“Our clients are front and centre, singing their songs. We are the orchestra, supporting them,” says Gillis. “We work almost exclusively with small- to medium-sized enterprises in Southwestern Ontario, and 90 per cent of our customers know us on a first-name basis. We’ve reached out to let them know we have a new name, a new brand, a new look and feel, but we will continue to serve them with the same levels of expertise, tailored solutions and highly personalized service.”

“Career transition as a commodity is a one-size-fits-all approach. We offer highly personalized and customized services—one size sfit one” —Terry Gillis

Gillis officially unveiled the Ahria brand at London’s third annual DisruptHR event held last month—an initiative that has been co-hosted by Carswell Partners each year since 2017 and will continue under the Ahria banner.

“We are proud to bring this worldwide movement to London because we know London can use a little disruption when it comes to the people side of business,” says Gillis, explaining the DisruptHR concept. “We hope to push a few buttons each year and make sure people leave with some new ideas and perspectives.”

Gillis says the HR landscape has changed significantly since he started working at Carswell in 2000, when the company’s focus was on career transition and outplacement, with some internal career management services. Over time, he explains, outplacement services have become commoditized, with larger companies often opting for high volume, low touch, lower cost providers.

In response, his company has diversified. “Career transition as a commodity is a one-size-fits-all approach,” he says. “We offer highly personalized and customized services—one size fits one.”

Ahria’s services range from talent acquisition, assessment and development to HR advisory services and career transition. “We’re not your status-quo provider,” says Gillis. “We’re a bit nerdy—we only use scientifically validated tools, and we ask tough questions to get to the root of an HR problem.”

It’s an approach that has served the business well. Since 2013, the company has grown from three to nine employees, added four associates and almost tripled its revenues.

While Gillis acknowledges that it can be tough to compete in a crowded marketplace, he says a company with a sole owner has an inherent ability to be very nimble, and the firm’s membership in the global HR services consultancy Career Partners International (where Gillis is the current board chair) enables Ahria to compete with the industry’s big players.

“If we have a client with a branch in Vancouver,” says Gillis, “we can call in a partner to provide services there if need be.” Kym Wolfe

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