Meg Crosby’s career might be summed up as an exercise in adaptation.
A principal with the boutique human resources firm PeopleCap, Crosby left her hometown of Memphis for college at the University of Richmond for a double major in English and interpersonal communications. Her pragmatic father insisted on throwing some business courses into the mix.
“My dad felt it was quite important for me to take some accounting and finance and econ, so by the time I took his required classes I had a minor,” she said.
After graduation, she returned home to work as the membership and development coordinator for the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
A longing to live in New York, though, found her working for an investment bank there three years later. Working her way from planning special events into the human resources department, she eventually ran the undergraduate analyst program, a two-year program for those on the way to graduate school. She managed the program for three years, taking it from a national to a global scope, and from hiring 40 undergraduates a year to about 200.
In 1999, Crosby was approached by a friend in Los Angeles about heading up the human resources department for a 40-employee startup.
“It was a time in my life where I just thought, ‘Why not?’” she said. “I had this overwhelming sense that technology was going to be the hallmark of our generation, and I really was excited to be a part of it and to figure out what was going on out there.”
In 2003, that startup was bought by Google, which then had a staff of about a thousand employees. Crosby was the first human resources generalist hired in a department of 14.
“Six years later when I left, the employee population was 25,000, and the HR department had a thousand people in it.”
“It was awesome,” she says of her time with Google. “It was like being a part of history, and it was incredible working with such talented, smart people. I think, if anything, that experience taught me to think big. … It was a culture of ‘yes.’”
During that period, she married Scott Crosby, an attorney with Burch, Porter & Johnson PLLC, and moved back to Memphis while continuing to telecommute, including a lot of travel, for Google. In 2008, son Tom was born, and she left Google with the intent of taking a hiatus from her career for a couple of years.
It may have been two of the busiest years of her life. She and Scott were recruited as co-chair for the final stages of the campaign push to build The Salvation Army’s Kroc Center. The couple also opened The Brass Door, the Irish pub Downtown at 152 Madison Ave.
It was over lunch at the Brass Door that Crosby and partner Andy Nix began discussing what would eventually become PeopleCap.
“We believe that your people strategy for any organization or company is as important as your financial strategy … so that’s really our goal, to help companies think about their people.”
Crosby found her way among investment banks and search engines, and has come to learn that the world is in constant flux and that the only way to succeed is to change with it. As an example, she points to the fact that the most popular firm recruiting on her campus, Arthur Andersen, no longer exists. In contrast, the company she ended up working for, Google, didn’t exist while she was a student. For the skills needed to adapt and change in an ever-evolving world, she looks to her liberal arts education.
“I think what you need to do is take liberal arts classes and learn to learn, and to adapt and analyze and to think critically, because those are the skills that will keep you moving forward as change happens; I think everybody these days is having to make significant changes every three to five years.”
This is the outlook used to develop the philosophy around PeopleCap. The team of five works primarily with mid-sized businesses that are navigating some sort of transition, the most common these days being growth.
“Organizations that grow quickly find themselves in a new place in their maturation and need to strengthen their processes and their values and their leadership and all sorts of things that relate to their people.”
Crosby lived the dream in Manhattan and from the enviable vantage point of watching Google grow from the inside. She returned to Memphis, though, to find opportunity and make a life in a city that continues to grow and progress in new and different ways.
“Memphis is so exciting to me because of the impact that any person who’s interested can have on the city,” she said. “One of the things that I love about it is that it’s the big city that offers all the great things that a big city offers, but at the same time it’s small enough that you can navigate a network and find people who are interested in doing what you want to do and making change, which I think is really important.”