Katherine Englander’s 2020 Impact Awards nomination is a welcomed acknowledgement of the Port Stanley resident’s personal and professional labors. The St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce has nominated the HR Partners 4 Business (HRP4B) proprietor in the Inspirational Women category.

“For sure, it’s an honor to be recognized as an Inspirational Woman,” the human resources (HR) consultant and contractor said in a recent interview, “but I don’t think of myself as an out-of-the-ordinary human being. I’m just slugging it out like everyone else.”

The 2020 Impact Awards will be held online on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, at 7 p.m., broadcast on the Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/StThomasChamber. “The Inspirational Women award recognizes a woman or female-led enterprise who has taken on and succeeded at extraordinary challenges in their field. The recipient is a true trailblazer in our community, providing inspiration and mentorship so that others may more easily follow in her path.” There are three other award finalists from St. Thomas: Samantha Daniels and Julia Margetts, of Our Place Respite; and Sarah Coleman, of Counting on Change with Sarah Coleman.

“The thing with HR, you’re the person that people always go to with their problems,” said Englander. “I have always wanted to work with people, to help people.”

Born and raised in Ingersoll, Englander, 61, studied French and psychology at Western University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts and later earning a Certificate in Human Resources (HR) at Fanshawe College, as well as an HR Business Partner Certificate through the HR Professional Association (HRPA)

She cut her teeth at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). Englander was assistant to the regional HR manager, handling a variety of tasks and projects, including grievance management. She had a knack for managing grievances and with a keen attention to detail, she soon developed a solid understanding of employee unions, and cost management.

Englander also specialized in “dismissal assistance.” Even today, when she walks into a client’s office, heads turn. “Jokingly, I’ve been called the terminator.

“The companies that I work with, they see me a lot and they know,” added Englander. “We do a lot of other work too, but dismissals are a major part of it.” HRP4B does one of two per month. “They’re not just layoffs, they’re termination for cause, or not for cause.

“It’s important … I know what’s got to be done,” she added. Englander has developed a three-page termination check list for clients. “If you do it as I say, it’s all good. If not, that’s when we need a lawyer.”

HRP4B also manages satisfaction surveys, compensation surveys, equal pay for equal work surveys and recruiting. The business also provides support and coaching for corporate HR staff. “I’ve seen and heard a lot. The junior people haven’t been in the trenches as much as I have.”

Englander, who has taught French and HR at Fanshawe for the last 12 years, left the LCBO in 1995 and held several different HR jobs in Woodstock, Tillsonburg and Kitchener, before moving to Port Stanley in 2014 and hanging up her own shingle.

While working a complex Provincial government contract, Mind the Gap, Englander started experiencing some physical discomfort. She fit a series of medical tests into her busy December schedule and in February, Englander was diagnosed with third-stage breast cancer. On March 4, 2015 she underwent surgery. “I finished the project on March 30, 2020.”

Englander tried not to interrupt her career and took a contract in London while still wearing a wig from her treatments but lasted just six weeks. “A nurse told me it would take a year to recover. I thought I was super woman and went back to work.”

She finally relented, but still used the 12 months recovery period to update her skills. Englander took two courses to refresh her knowledge of HR legislation and regulations. She also wrote a business plan.

“Self-employment gave me the flexibility to handle the other half of my life,” she said. Englander has weathered two bouts with cancer and several other health issues, including six chemotherapy and 35 radiation treatments. “I could never predict when I had to go to the doctor.”

Slowly she got back into the swing of things. “When I moved here, I didn’t know anyone.” She did a lot of cold calling to generate business. Englander also solicited the support of the Elgin Business Resource Centre, as well as the City of St. Thomas. She joined the Chamber of Commerce two years ago.

“Gradually, I had work to do most days,” she said. “Then I had work every day.” Then COVID-19 disrupted the economy. “It was very, very quiet for the first month of the pandemic,” she said. “Employers were concerned about costs, and not sure what to do.”

Englander opened a dialogue with the community, using her 400-name mailing list. She literally started to give it away, contacting clients and providing a variety of free HR tips, updates and interpretations on legislative changes.

“Everybody got free help, I wanted to give back in these trying times,” she said. “I didn’t want to take money when everybody was so concerned. But life goes on. Work started to trickle back. They still have HR needs. Now, I’m back to being crazy busy. For about the last two to three weeks, I’ve been working 50 hours a week.”

Other 2020 Impact Awards nominees are: for the Circle of Excellence award, Impressions Printing, Terry Carroll and Yurek Pharmacy; for the Standing Ovation award, 1Password, Rich Lambe – Stay True Tattoo, and Simply Pure Water; for the Exceeding Everest award, GCW Custom Kitchens, Rail City Bistro, and Toth Jewellers; for the Rising Star award, Ben Gilbert, Devin McRae and Step Above Dance; for the Bright Beginnings award, Erie Rest Medical Cannabis, Establish Media, and Susana Pereira; and for the Unsung Heroes award, Alzheimer Society St. Thomas-Elgin, Kinsmen Club of St. Thomas, and the St. John Ambulance St. Thomas-Elgin.