Q&A With Cristina Morales Heaney, NAWBO National Board Member | NAWBO

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Q&A With Cristina Morales Heaney, NAWBO National Board Member

Building a business while advocating on behalf of small business owners is something Cristina Morales Heaney knows all about. As CEO of U.S. Safety Services, she has successfully grown her company to become a leading provider of temporary medical staffing throughout Central and South Texas. In fact, her company is the provider of the largest sports and entertainment center in San Antonio.

A member of NAWBO-San Antonio and Director on the NAWBO National Board of Directors, Cristina is actively involved in supporting women business owners to achieve their goals. She also serves on the Leadership Council of the National Federation of Independent Business and sits on the community board for the SA Youth.

We recently spoke with Cristina about this month’s NAWBO ONE theme of compliance and regulation and found out how she finds strength and support in a strong community of women business owners.

What inspired you to become a woman entrepreneur?

“I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. I knew after ‘putting in my time’ in the corporate world and experiencing both sides (working for someone else and owning your own business), I had it in me to become a business owner. 

Most importantly, I wanted to be able to show my employees that work can be enjoyable under the right circumstances and to be able to treat them the way I always wanted to be treated while working for someone else.  

Being an entrepreneur allows me to run an ethical business by the books and provide a ‘level playing field’ for all my employees.”

How has regulation and compliance impacted your business and your clients’ businesses?

“Public policy, the legislation that affects all small business owners, and those political leaders who ‘get’ and support the contributions and efforts of all small business owners have my support…no matter what political party they represent.

Health care, taxes and especially regulatory reform are significant problems for small business owners. 

Although I am able to provide health insurance for my employees, the continued price increase is not allowing me to reinvest back into my company, which is something all business owners want the opportunity to do. By reinvesting in our companies, we are able to grow them, thus providing more jobs for employees. Most unfortunate is having to pass a higher percentage of the premium along to my employees.

The tax code must be simplified, and compliance costs must be reduced for small business. There needs to be parity…small businesses are not ‘mega’ companies and should not be treated as such.

Legislation is a must to ensure small businesses are adequately represented in the regulatory process. The current process is cumbersome and costly.”

What’s your best piece of advice to effectively manage regulations as a business owner, specifically in safety services?

“Get involved with organizations like NAWBO, who are frontrunners in public policy, and with educational programs whose platform and programs afford us the ability to succeed personally and professionally. 

No matter the size of your company, have a Human Resource department, even if you are a ‘department of one,’ as I am in my business; make sure you outsource when necessary to ensure compliance in all aspects of employee processing and management. Partner with a payroll processing and employee benefits company and insurance provider who understand ‘small business.’ 

I gravitate towards other small and women-owned businesses. All my providers listed above are NAWBO members!” 

What’s been your biggest challenge as a business owner, and how have you overcome it?

“There is more than one: Laying the groundwork and building the infrastructure for my business—don’t give up, partner with the necessary resources…it will all work out!

Unethical business practices of competitors—it may appear that the ‘unethical’ business practices of others get them ahead; realistically, this is not the case. My business is profitable, puts over 85 employees to work and I can sleep at night!

Government regulatory and compliance audits—yes…you can survive IRS, I-9 and certifying agent audits! As long as your ‘Ts’ are crossed and your ‘Is’ are dotted and it’s evident you run a ‘tight ship,’ you will endure.

How did I overcome these? Tears, prayers and perseverance.

I identify my stages of emotion when overcoming any challenge as:

Shock, depression, anger then bring it on!”

What first drew you to join NAWBO, and what has kept you a member over the years?

“I was first drawn to NAWBO by a colleague, who said, ‘You are buried in the business and have to get back out into the community.’ That was in 2012 when I attended my first NAWBO meeting, I joined immediately and then got involved in my chapter’s leadership. No matter what organization you join, it’s about what you put into it! I got engaged, immediately became surrounded by like-minded women and was immersed in a wealth of relationships to guide me personally and professionally. NAWBO is definitely my therapy!”

What are the biggest goals you hope to accomplish as a NAWBO National Board Director?

“Join forces with my fellow board members to continue all the hard work and efforts accomplished before us. To get the NAWBO mission out to all women business owners who are currently not members or are unengaged members. To enhance the NAWBO experience through mutually beneficial relationships with current and future corporate partners. To grow affiliations with like-minded organizations.”

What community causes are important to you, and how do you support them?

“Educational opportunities for at-risk youth, ‘two-way’ mentoring with other business owners and legislation that affects all small business owners.

I’ve served and continue to support boards that provide an afterschool haven and educational opportunities to the youth of San Antonio. 

I provide my thoughts, insights and experience on starting and running a business to potential and current business owners. What I’ve learned along the way is that mentoring is as beneficial for the mentor as it is for the mentee.

I am a ‘voice’ for all small business owners through my involvement in meetings with legislators and State Task Force committees in which I serve.”

What’s something that most people wouldn’t know about you?

“I swam competitively as a synchronized swimmer.”