Meet Robert Sniderman of HR Focus

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Bob Sniderman holds a doctorate degree in organizational psychology, runs a successful human resources firm, and is one major Dodgers fan.

Robert Sniderman of HR Focus believes the term “HR” is a bit of a misnomer when referring to what he does. Bob is what is known in baseball as a five-tool player: from compliance to performance to leadership to management to conflict resolution, he’s here to help his clients succeed.

“I work with companies and their people to help them do better business in whatever way they prefer me to contribute,” he says.

“It’s a timepiece.”

One look at Bob’s wrist will immediately tell you he has a fondness for really nice watches. But not all of them are not considered “watches.” According to Bob, his broker would call it a “timepiece.” Vintage timepieces is another passion of Sniderman’s. Ask him. You’ll get a GREAT story, we promise.

Bob Bleeds Blue

Speaking of baseball, Bob is an Los Angeles native and lifelong Dodger fan. So much so that he became a season ticket holder. He and his family fight over who gets to use their tickets for each game. He’s also living out every fan’s dream: he’s got not one, but two current Dodger players living in his neighborhood. Take a listen to the podcast to find out who those players are (and what they’re like as neighbors). 

CLICK HERE for more information about Bob Sniderman.

CLICK HERE for more information about HR Focus.

Listen to Bob’s story here.

Click here to read the transcript

Intro Speaker 0:00
From Los Angeles, this is the Echelon Radio Network.

Jerri Hemsworth 0:15
So this is Jerri Hemsworth with the Echelon Radio Podcast, and we were just laughing here with Dr. Robert Sniderman. Hi, Bob.

Robert Sniderman 0:27
Hi Jerri!

Jerri Hemsworth 0:28
How are you?

Robert Sniderman 0:29
I’m great.

Jerri Hemsworth 0:30
We were just laughing about timepieces. So you’re wearing…you’re fashioning of a very lovely piece.

Robert Sniderman 0:37
Thank you.

Jerri Hemsworth 0:38
What watch is that?

Robert Sniderman 0:40
It’s called a Franck Muller, It’s German, but it’s actually Genevan and it’s, it’s Swiss, but I think the guy’s name is Franck. And it’s called the Franck Muller Long Island, which is a very large face because I have very large hands and wrists, so it fits on my wrist.

Jerri Hemsworth 1:03
So you don’t wear puny pieces.

Robert Sniderman 1:05
I don’t wear puny pieces. Puny pieces make me look fat.

Jerri Hemsworth 1:15
I can understand that because I’m wearing a rather large new piece that I got. I did foot the bill for a new Apple Watch.

Robert Sniderman 1:26
Yes, I like Apple Watches.

Jerri Hemsworth 1:27
And I got the 38 millimeter one, but my very best favorite watch is one I bought in London. A Camden watch. They aren’t expensive, but they are very, very nice pieces to wear. Fashion. But it is rose gold. But you’ve said this piece is rose gold, but it looks like an 18 karat gold watch.

Robert Sniderman 1:53
Yes, it does. And I can’t really tell until you put it next to a yellow. I actually prefer white gold over other color gold. But I love this watch. I have a friend of mine who is a watch dealer. He doesn’t generally have these kinds of watches. He does mostly Cartier and Rolex as his specialty. And he has a shop in Melrose and it’s a great little shop. And he’s very well versed in watches. And I told him what I wanted and he found it for me.

Jerri Hemsworth 2:33
How long did it take for him to find it?

Robert Sniderman 2:35
Very fast. I was surprised. It took him about six months. I didn’t know he was looking. And there was a pawn shop around the corner from his shop that had a Frank Muller. And he said meet me over there. So I drove over there. And it wasn’t the Long Island, it was a little bit smaller. And it was a really good price. He looked at and said it was in really good shape. And I said okay, I think I’ll buy it. And he said, I don’t want you to buy this one. Outside the door. He says no, no. He says, I don’t think you’re gonna be happy with it over a long term. I think it’s too small for your wrist. And I just don’t think you’re going to be happy with it. And I said, Okay. He said, I’ll find you one. And about a month later, he was at a watch show in Las Vegas, and he texted me. He put it on, he put this watch on. And he took a picture of it. And he texted me. He says, I like this watch. What do you think? I said, Take it. And he’s a kidder, this guy’s a kidder. And he says, he says “on the plane back, I could have sold it four times.” So he brought it back from from a Vegas show. Got a good deal on it and gave me a good deal on it. And there it is.

Jerri Hemsworth 4:01
It’s got to be a very fascinating world. Because of the history of, as you say, timepieces. You said this gentleman says they’re not watches.

Robert Sniderman 4:11
Right, this is not a watch. This is a timepiece.

Jerri Hemsworth 4:14
And it’s really, really cool.

Robert Sniderman 4:16
Thank you.

Jerri Hemsworth 4:18
You have a business called HR Focus. What does HR focus do?

Robert Sniderman 4:27
Well, by the name, it kind of indicates that I do HR. And that’s a component of what I do. But really, I think it’s a misnomer to some extent but it gets me in the door. Really what I do is I work with companies and their people to help them do better business in whatever way I can contribute. And in whatever way they prefer me to contribute. So it could be an HR compliance issue, it could be a performance management issue. It could be a leadership issue or a coaching issue, any of those things. A lot of conflict resolution: managers aren’t getting along, or managers aren’t getting along with their subordinates. It could be a discipline problem, or they’re not getting performance out of someone. They need someone to help them figure out a way to get better performance or to disengage. So those are pretty straight, that that kind of stuff is pretty straightforward HR. But the stuff that I do that’s really not so straightforward, is leadership stuff. I work with leadership teams, I do team building. I do succession planning with teams. Right now, I’ve been on a project for about the last year working with a company that is nonprofits, actually a nonprofit that is turning almost their entire leadership team over in the next…well now two years because there’s nine people on the team, and I think six or seven of the people on the team are over the age of 60. And they’re all talking retirement, and the CEO wants to retire and has identified January of 2023 as the retirement date. And there they have no bench strength. They need to define who is going to be their leadership team going forward. And so I’ve been working on that. So that’s really not HR, but people.

Jerri Hemsworth 6:44
Or human capital as they say these days.

Robert Sniderman 6:46
That’s right. And there’s a lot of developmental programs that have to be put in place. So the people that are identified as up-and-comers are people who were identified as coming on to the leadership team will be properly prepared, so they can step into the jobs. I mean, one example is their IT manager. We interviewed him, and we said, you know, IT is becoming really important, much more important position today, and going forward in the future. In everybody’s company, all companies. And I said to him, “are you capable of being a CTO?” I don’t know, right? I mean, I don’t know what a CTO looks like. Right? Because I don’t have the subject matter expertise. So I was talking to him. And I worked on off with this guy for a long time. And I didn’t have a particularly impressive point of view. But I found this guy, we were having this conversation. And I found this guy incredibly candid, and I was surprised. And he said to me, “I would like to be a CTO, but I’m not there yet. I’m not capable of being a CTO for this company.”

Jerri Hemsworth 8:18
Sound very self aware.

Robert Sniderman 8:19
Yes, and shocking to me, surprising to me. So I put my head together with my partner that was working with me on this project. And we sat down with the CEO, and we said, you know, this guy, he might be the person you need going forward, I just don’t know. And I would suggest that you hire a consultant who is well versed in IT that can evaluate his capability of becoming a CTO, and maybe mentor him and coach him.

Jerri Hemsworth 8:52
Yeah, get him there.

Robert Sniderman 8:53
So that’s what they did,

Jerri Hemsworth 8:54
especially if he wants to become that. That that’s his ultimate goal.

Robert Sniderman 8:58
That’s right. So I referred someone in to the company to first evaluate the guy’s capability from a point of view of someone who consults as a CTO. So he’s pretty high level, and then design a coaching program for him to become the CTO of the future. So yeah, so I’m doing that kind of work. And it’s really fun work for me.

Jerri Hemsworth 9:24
And you also do expert witness work, right?

Robert Sniderman 9:26
I do a lot of expert witness work, and I do a lot of investigations.

Jerri Hemsworth 9:31
Do you like that?

Robert Sniderman 9:33
I do. The investigations are very procedural. But, you know, you’re helping companies resolve huge issues. You know, and sometimes it’s a little painful and sometimes, but it’s necessary. I feel like I’m making a contribution to the organization, long term in the organization by doing a good investigation. Sometimes the results can be kind of painful. And sometimes they’re not, but sometimes they’re painful.

Jerri Hemsworth 10:09
Difficult conversations, sometimes.

Robert Sniderman 10:11
Very difficult conversations, and very difficult conversations for a board of directors to have to confront something that’s not working well in the organization. Or a leader that has made some terrible mistakes and there’s a consequence, and they’ve done a good job except. And then they’re faced with this concept of: is the exception acceptable? Or is it not? And lots of times, you know, that’s not my that’s not my call. I just give them the results. They have to decide whether they act on it or not. On the expert witness work stuff. It’s hard. It’s hard. You know, it’s, it’s a really strange animal. Yeah.

Jerri Hemsworth 11:07
Brian has done some of it, too.

Robert Sniderman 11:08
Right. And, you know, my point of view on expert witness work is: I evaluate the case, I say what my opinions are, and they fall where they fall. And you know, there’s a lot of times I feel like, as an expert witness, you have to be really honest with your client, because sometimes you can’t agree with them. You know, I’ve had a lot of clients where I’ve evaluated the case and I’ve said, “I don’t think you want me to testify on this case, because I don’t think it’s going to work for you.” And they’ll say “why?” Lots of times on defense side, a lot of the work I do in expert witness is disability related, Because I have a specialty in disability. And so lots of times, defense attorneys will contact me and ask me to evaluate the case, not really knowing whether I’m actually going to testify or not, but they want to know what I think the holes are. So I can say to them, well, you have a hole here, hole there. Where are we going to get clobbered? And can we handle it? And often they’ll say, “Yeah, I knew that. I I’m glad you knew that. I think we can handle that issue.” You know, sometimes, especially on disability cases, it’s really, really difficult for the employer to do everything correctly. It’s just it’s it’s almost impossible. And so, there are always things that the employer could have done differently. And then it becomes an issue of: can we overcome that in the case, or can we not?

Jerri Hemsworth 12:53
Well, Bob, how did you get to specialize in disability?

Robert Sniderman 12:58
Well, it’s actually a long story, but I’ll make it a short story. I have a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. So rehabilitation counseling is basically vocational counseling for people who are disabled. Okay. So that’s the rub. It’s not just straight career counseling. It’s career counseling for people that have a disability of some kind. The area that I worked in was the worker’s comp system. So I had a I had a company, a rehabilitation consulting company, when we worked with insurance companies who were required to provide return-to-work services as part of the law in California until 2004. Okay, or not, I’m sorry. Yeah. 2004 I think the law changed. I might be a little off on that. And so my partner and I ran a company. We worked with people are disabled, due to workers comp, or long term disability was another type of case we worked with. And so these are all disabled people that cannot do their jobs anymore. And now they need to be either retrained or redirected into a different job. So, you know, all of the disability issues involved in returning someone to work is my specialty. And then the ADA came along. I started my company in 1982, and the ADA was passed in 1989 and was implemented in 1992. So, you know, we were involved in the implementation of the ADA, especially in California, and then I left the industry because the legislature, the California legislature, when Schwarzenegger came in, which was 2004 when he came in after Gray Davis, they changed the workers comp law and mandatory rehabilitation no longer existed. So it put a lot of the rehab counselors out of business. I was already out of the business at that point. I saw it coming. I was very active in the professional community in California. That’s why I went back to school and got my PhD. And so by the time Schwarzenegger came in office, I was already out of that industry, you know, but I always consulted with companies for reasonable accommodations, interactive process as part of my consulting practice, okay. And so that’s kind of how I inadvertently ended up going back into expert witness work, because I stayed working with disability issues in workplaces through my clients, and then it became kind of an easy step to go into expert witness work because of my expertise.

Jerri Hemsworth 16:05
It sounds like you had a lot of insight or foresight to recognize a direction that you needed to start going in. Where did you get your PhD from?

Robert Sniderman 16:17
I got my PhD from California School of Professional Psychology, it’s organizational psychology degree. My daughter just graduated from CSPP, on the clinical side. So CSPP had a clinical program and an organizational program. I was in the organizational program. And it’s kind of interesting, just an aside. So business schools have organizational behavior programs. And if you’re going to get a PhD from a business school, it’s usually called organizational behavior. And if you’re getting a PhD from a school of psychology, it’s called organizational psychology. So it’s very similar training, but it’s different orientation. In terms of the approach to the to the practice.

Jerri Hemsworth 17:12
Interesting. Can I switch gears? Where did you grow up?

Robert Sniderman 17:16
I grew up in West LA.

Jerri Hemsworth 17:17
West LA, you were born there?

Robert Sniderman 17:20
I was born at Cedars of Lebanon, which every Jewish kid in Los Angeles was born at Cedars of Lebanon, except my wife. My wife was born in St. Joseph, which is kind of funny,

Jerri Hemsworth 17:30
Okay. She’s a valley girl,

Robert Sniderman 17:33
Right. And I grew up in Mar Vista. My parents lived in the same house in Mar Vista, now called Mar Vista. It was called West LA at the time. My parents lived in the house for 60 years. So I grew up with that house. My brother still lives about a mile from that house. My sister’s deceased. I went to Venice high school, I went to Webster Junior High School, which is up at National and Sawtell. And then I went to Venice High School. Then UCLA.

Jerri Hemsworth 18:02
Why UCLA? Just because, or a family thing?

Robert Sniderman 18:07
No, none of those. You know, it’s really, you know, haven’t been asked that question for a long time. My friends were very academically oriented, much more academically oriented than I was.

Jerri Hemsworth 18:26
Were you sports oriented?

Robert Sniderman 18:28
I don’t know what I was you know, I played tennis in high school and I was successful playing tennis in high school, but I ended up having shoulder problems. But you know, my friends were going to universities. My brother and my sister went to San Fernando Valley State,

Jerri Hemsworth 18:48
which is now Northridge.

Robert Sniderman 18:50
My sister, actually, before she graduated, it became Northridge. And so they were going to state schools and I was thinking, you know, I have a lot of friends that applied to UCLA. I qualified. My GPA by itself qualified. And so I applied to UCLA. It was not as difficult as it is today. Ended up going, I ended up getting getting into UCLA. I’m very happy about that. You know, it’s local. I lived near campus. I didn’t live on campus.

Jerri Hemsworth 19:22
You didn’t live with your parents.

Robert Sniderman 19:24
I didn’t live with my parents. And my parents didn’t have money. So I paid for it myself. I had a job. I got a job in my freshman year.

Jerri Hemsworth 19:33
What did you do?

Robert Sniderman 19:33
I was working as a dishwasher in a lab, in a neurological research lab.

Jerri Hemsworth 19:40
That sounds stimulating.

Robert Sniderman 19:42
It was it was fun being a dishwasher.

Jerri Hemsworth 19:46
But it was a new neurological lab.

Robert Sniderman 19:49
But not the kind of dishes that you think about. And over the years, I became a lab tech. I also always do the dishes, but I became a lab tech. And so I worked there, all the way through my undergraduate degree, which was five years, and a year after I graduated.

Jerri Hemsworth 20:10
And your degree was in?

Robert Sniderman 20:12
Biology. My undergraduate degree is in biology. And, you know, I mean, all my friends are doctors.

Jerri Hemsworth 20:23
Well, so are you!

Robert Sniderman 20:24
Well, yeah, but they’re medical doctors. As a matter of fact, my general practitioner, my internist, is a guy that I went to undergraduate school with.

Jerri Hemsworth 20:34
Is that weird? I think I was in a meeting where we had this discussion. Is it weird when your doctors are your friends? And they they know more about you than other people would?

Robert Sniderman 20:51
In this case, no, it’s very comfortable. But, you know, we were friends and we’re still friends. And, you know, it’s really funny because I have now since met five or six people that go to him. And it’s kind of weird. It’s a little weird. And recently during the pandemic, actually a friend of mine, he had the largest bill. He broke a lot of glassware in our organic chemistry lab, and he had the largest bill ever heard of. Because in organic chemistry, you’ve got expensive glassware.

Jerri Hemsworth 21:37
So he got billed?

Robert Sniderman 21:39
He got billed for breaking a lot of glass unintentionally, but he still got billed. And he went to medical school and he’s now an ophthalmologist, if you can imagine. He says he specializes in the left eyelid but he’s actually far more important than that. He reconstructs ocular, the socket for the eye, usually because of either trauma or cancer. And he came out to Los Angeles to visit his kids, his daughter and his grandkids, in the middle of the pandemic. And he called me and we had drinks together. It was really nice. So I hadn’t seen him probably for 15 years. It’s been 30 or 35 years since he moved away. He’s in the Midwest, but periodically, I would see him when he came into town. But this is the first time I’ve seen him in like 15 years in the middle of pandemic. But he was vaccinated before I was.

Jerri Hemsworth 22:52
Well, I just learned something about you too, and that is you’re a huge Dodger fan. We have a lot of members that are Dodger fans. Do you remember the first game you ever went to? Or how you became such a huge Dodger fan?

Robert Sniderman 23:08
Well, my father was a big Dodger fan. And I used to listen to the Dodgers all the time. We didn’t go to a lot of games. I went to a game when they were in the Coliseum. So I was really young. But the season that I remember was ’63, with Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. My sister had a friend who knew Sandy Koufax. So she could get us into the games. And so I think that we went to like four or five games that year in ’63. It dates me a little bit but Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres and Ron Perranoski. I mean, these really second-generation Dodgers that you hear about a lot about. Duke Snider was at the end of his career. Wally Moon. I went to a game at the Coliseum where Wally Moon was really well known for the ‘moon shots.’ So I’ve been a Dodger fan all that time. And now, we go to a lot of games.

Jerri Hemsworth 24:19
How many would you say you go to in a season?

Robert Sniderman 24:21
We usually go to at least 10 a season. Yeah. And recently, I mean, I thought I would never ever have the chance to go to a World Series game. And I was able to go to the first game of the World Series. This is the first time the Dodgers were in the World Series, I think 2017? And it was the first time the Dodgers had a home World Series game and I was at that first game. And it was, it was unbelievable. It was awesome. And I figured, well, that’s my bucket list. I’ve been to two World Series games since. So it’s kind of fun.

Jerri Hemsworth 24:55
We were just talking that you actually have season tickets.

Robert Sniderman 24:58
I have a connection. I’m actually in a group with season tickets. So, you know, it’s really nice. All my family is is Dodger fans. Now it’s a little bit more difficult because my son and my daughter are with people that are also Dodger fans. The seats are only four seats. So we’re going to have to figure out how we’re going to do that. I’m going to be aced out a couple times.

Jerri Hemsworth 25:27
Relegated to watching on television.

Robert Sniderman 25:29
Yeah, sending my kids with their with their significant others.

Jerri Hemsworth 25:32
Well, we were just watching a Dodger game the other day, and our daughter was at the game with friends. And we saw where she was sitting. And it was no question that we could see far better and far more on television than she could in the nosebleed seats way up in right field. Do you ever go to a game and go “we should’ve just stayed home.” Or are you that much of a fan where you’re like, “great night.”

Robert Sniderman 26:06
Well, if I was in nosebleed seats, I’d probably say that. But I’m behind home plate in the loge section. So I have a very good perspective on the field. The one thing that I hate is my eyesight sucks. And I can’t read the scoreboard very easily. So I have to constantly ask my son what’s on the scoreboard. And he gets a little impatient with me, but he realizes I’m getting old. So, you know. So that’s what I miss is because when you’re watching on television, all the statistics are available to you.

Jerri Hemsworth 26:39
That’s the thing is you get a little bit more, right. Yeah, it’s like going to the Rose Parade versus watching it on TV.

Robert Sniderman 26:45
That’s right. But there’s a feeling in Dodger at Dodger Stadium, people talk about Dodger Stadium as being just an amazing stadium. There’s a feeling when you’re at the game in Dodger Stadium, it’s very different. And yeah, it’s kind of unique. And it feels comfortable. And you know, it’s worth the hassle to get in and out of the stadium. It’s worth it. To me, I mean. I went to the game last Tuesday, and it was a reopening day and it was packed. And it was a million people. It was 52,000 people there. And first day out of COVID and it was so great. It was it was a great feeling.

Jerri Hemsworth 27:30
And when you know you’re going to the game, are you, all day, looking forward to getting there? Or is it just like “oh, yeah, nice. That’s right. We’re going to the game tonight.” Or are you like a little kid?

Robert Sniderman 27:46
This was the first one. This was the first time in a year and a half. So actually, I was surprised. My wife was really excited. Like little kids. Yeah, like little kids. And my daughter was really excited. My son, it was a four of us that went, and everybody was really excited. My wife has become a real Dodger fan watching it on TV. Everybody was excited about going back. The first game in a year and a half.

Jerri Hemsworth 28:22
And you also have a neighbor that happens to be a player.

Robert Sniderman 28:27
Actually a couple of neighbors. Justin Turner lives two blocks from my house, but he’s never out. I never see him. Kershaw lives a little bit further out. But we walk by his house, when we walk our dog, we walk by his house, almost every day. And sometimes he’s out in front. He’s very friendly. He’s very friendly. He’s a really nice guy. And Joc Pederson also lives the neighborhood, We’re trying to figure out if he actually moved. He got traded to the Chicago Cubs. But the neighbors say that his kids play with all the kids in the neighborhood. Joc’s from Northern California, so I have a feeling he might not have sold his house, and you know, he’s staying where he’s staying. So you know, when he’s in when he’s in Chicago, he probably has an apartment or something he stays in, but I don’t know what he’s doing. But Justin Turner is a local. Justin Turner grew up in California. And Kershaw, the day that season ends, he’s back to Texas. He’s gone. Yeah, he’s gone. I mean, he’s a Texas native. He grew up in the backyard of the Ranger stadium.

Jerri Hemsworth 29:49
I remember during the World Series, they were talking about how strange it was for him.

Robert Sniderman 29:54
He lived like 15 minutes from the park and he grew up there. But I think he really likes Los Angeles. I think he’s been treated really well by Los Angeles. I think he likes Los Angeles but you he’s a family guy. His home is his home. There’s always Texas license plates all over his front yard. Three or four cars out in front.

Jerri Hemsworth 30:18
Parking on the grass or?

Robert Sniderman 30:19
(Laughs) His parkway is gravel.

Jerri Hemsworth 30:30
Oh, Bob, thank you for being with me today.

Robert Sniderman 30:33
Thank you for having me. This has been fun.

Jerri Hemsworth 30:37
Come back.

Robert Sniderman 30:37
I will, thanks.

Intro Speaker 30:48
Presented by Echelon Business Development. More than just networking. Way more.

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Written by Jerri Hemsworth
As CEO and Creative Director at Newman Grace, Jerri leads one of Los Angeles’ most respected marketing firm and brand communication firms. Newman Grace has been providing marketing, brand and advertising consulting, graphic design, and social media services to growing companies since 1996. Newman Grace serves the professional services, manufacturing, sports, publishing and non-profit markets. Jerri is an adjunct professor in the School of Media, Culture and Design at Woodbury University. She is also a co-founder of Echelon Business Development Network.

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