“Our mission is to help businesses to get results through people,” she said.EntrepreneurshipCreating the right human conditions for business successBrenda Gilchrist


The HR Martix

3510 Unocal Place

Santa Rosa 95403



SANTA ROSA -- Brenda Gilchrist said she’s always had an interest in psychology and helping people. The best outlet for this goal, she found, was to start her own business and continuously take risks.

The beginnings of a well-established human resources career began in the health care industry. After growing up in Fresno, she moved to Sacramento, hoping to hone her skills in industrial organization and psychology at California State University. Initially she hoped to land a job as a counselor in health care. But after working in a hospital psychiatric program in the state capitol, she said she was often overwhelmed with empathy toward those suffering from mental health disorders.

Return to the list of Women in Business 2010 video remarks and profiles.

“I’d want to take everyone home with me,” she said.

She was still intrigued by the humanistic side of life but changed her undergraduate focus to involve business and people. She would also apply that interest to another lifelong ambition – becoming a successful entrepreneur. She said her goal was to start her own human resources and organization development firm.

“Because with human behavior and business, you’re still dealing with people and their emotional aspects, and you focus on how to get people to perform. I was interested in creating the perfect environment for people to excel,” she said.

These days, she’s still attempting to provide insight on the human side of business, as the principal and founder of The HR Matrix, a human resources outsourcing company she started in 2006 when she merged a firm she had started in 2002 in Sacramento with partner Gary Hochman.

“Our mission is to help businesses to get results through people,” she said.

And if the responses from some of her clients and supporters are any indication, she’s succeeding.

“Brenda is always looking at opportunities and initiatives that will support local business, while striving to create a viable business community in the North Bay,” said Robert Eyler, the chair of economics at Sonoma State University.

She credits her willingness to take risks to her father, who she said was always self employed.

Ms. Gilchrist recently signed on to teach in SSU’s business school as an adjunct professor, where she hopes to inspire a younger generation of entrepreneurs in the North Bay. She also teaches business at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The 40-year-old graduate of Leadership Santa Rosa – and a previous Business Journal Forty Under 40 winner – said she supports local economic development as a means of creating the best possible business environment for startups and entrepreneurs. She’s served for the past three years on the Santa Rosa Chamber Economic Development Committee and is a founder of the Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster Board of Mentors program, of which she is the current co-chair.

After her time in Sacramento, she went to work for Atlanta-based Charter Behavioral Health Care Systems, a multi-state organization for which she coordinated regional HR duties.

While much of Ms. Gilchrist’s previous experience lies in the health care sector – she later worked in the human resources department of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which at that point was the number two pediatric hospital in the world – she said she’s been able to apply early lessons learned from health care to multiple businesses.

“The goal of human resources in the health care system is to create the perfect environment for the staff to do what they do best – patient care,” she said. “I took that and applied it to every other industry.”

While in Philadelphia, a city far grittier than anywhere she lived on the West Coast, she said, she applied and was accepted to the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her master’s in organizational dynamics.

And it was shortly after her time at the Philadelphia children's hospital that her entrepreneurial ambitions began to take shape. She was recruited to work by several investors to lead HR functions for a venture-backed start-up that quickly grew from 250 employees to 3,000 in 26 states. The dental practice company ultimately dissolved.

But rather than become deterred, she said the experience was invaluable.

“We had to go through a whole round of layoffs of staff. It was a great experience because now I can put myself in those shoes,” she said.

“You have to manage downsizing in a way that is empathetic, compassionate and respectful,” she said.

Outside of work, Ms. Gilchrist said she started another company that reflects her athletic interests – just for fun. Although it was for leisure, the company, www.trichic.com, quickly became a top organization for female tri-athletes.

Ultimately, she said, her efforts through both The HR Matrix and the female triathlete organization are a part of her continued goal: “To support local businesses to thrive by providing human resources solutions and to attract new businesses to our community by supporting economic development,” she said.