Feature Life

What’s On My Desk: Tanya Chapman

Image: Cherise Letson/Huddle Today

At the end of January, The Chapman Group, a human resources consulting company, purchased a building on the historic Germain Street in Uptown Saint John.

The building was previously home to Exchange on Germain, a high-end consignment and clothing boutique.

At first glance, it seemed like a big space for a small firm to fill, but Tanya Chapman says they have plans to make use of every square-inch.

“We’ll build leadership programs and offer them through this space and ideally what we’d also do is open this up to the public in some fashion and do things like pop-up galleries or events where people can come in and learn,” she says.

“That’s the intention, to have this really collaborative space where we can invite people in and we can really serve boards, not-for-profits, leadership teams and businesses in Saint John so that there’s a space where there’s lots of learning and business growth going on.”

This week, we paid Chapman a visit to check out the new office ourselves:

Image: Cherise Letson/Huddle Today

What inspired you to get a space like this?

“We’re a [B Corporation] and I think for us, the idea of giving back to the community is really important. When we talk about buying an old building, for me it’s almost like you’re the curator of a historical piece of art. It’s really about stewarding a piece of historic Saint John, so that was really important to me and it was important to my husband too.

For us, we’re really accomplishing two goals. One is to contribute to the uptown culture of Saint John in a different kind of way, but also for us, it’s really about that passion for historical buildings.

Can you describe the work that you do in the office?

The first thing we do is help small- to medium-size businesses transform to perform. We do that in a number ways. Through strategic planning, we do operational planning, score carding, we review the organization to help it become more effective in a number of different ways. That’s really one stream of work, that core business practice.

Another stream is human resource consulting. All of us have a background in some capacity in human resource consulting. As a result, we do things like performance management, implementation, we build employer of choice programs, we do specialized boutique training around customer experience so that traditional practice of human resource consulting.

This was a retail boutique before you took it over. Can you describe some of the work that you put into this space to make it what it is now?

It was a very fast transition because we purchased it January 31st and we were operating within three days. We had our whole team and our various significant others contribute to that move, so it was a fast move-in.

We converted the changing room space into a boardroom, which is intended to be a really flexible space. Instead of building a great big boardroom table, we had three custom-made tables built. Stewart Jamison, who is an amazing carpenter, helped us accomplish that vision. All of the furniture is moveable and on wheels. We move things around and be really flexible.

We have amazing local artwork on the walls. [My husband] Tom and I have collected artwork since we were first married. What you’re seeing on the walls primarily comes from our collection. We have no artwork left on our walls at home. But it’s really important for us to support our local artists and that’s what you’re seeing on the wall.

The space is designed [so that] when we have boards and teams in for retreats, as an example, we have lots of space where people can do breakouts and have those really important conversations.

What do you surround yourself with to stay productive?

I surround myself with great people. Making sure you have an army of strong, business-oriented and focused individuals from the community. I’ve been lucky over my whole entire life and career to have done that.

We [also] like to surround ourselves with beautiful things and beautiful spaces. That means everything we’ve talked about. The wood in here and the furniture is all recycled from our homes. Very little is actually purchased new. So whether it’s the tables being recycled from reclaimed wood or our paintings that will rotate throughout our homes, it really is about surrounding yourself with inspiration and beautiful space.

What’s one thing you can’t have around when you’re working?

I’d say negativity. We are very lucky to work with great clients and work with great teams and people when they’re taking our leadership programs. For me, it’s about surrounding myself with the positive.

What would you say is the most important thing on your desk? 

I would say the most important thing on my desk right now is we have lots of ideas and plans for this space and I think that’s the most exciting thing that’s on my desk right now.

The other things I’ll mention is we do all kinds of leadership development and we’re in the middle of planning two great programs with some partners. One in the fall is the Second Annual Women’s Forum W workshop, which will take place in St. Andrews. The second is another leadership program that really focuses on storytelling.

This interview was edited for length and clarity