ScaleUp Success: Susan Lear of GLA Employee Assistance Provider

As Susan Lear found out, saying ‘yes’ can be empowering. In business or in life, we have become accustomed to initially saying ‘no’ to new opportunities. The ‘no’ can cause us to miss out on life’s rewards, whether it’s “No, we’ve tried that before,” “No, we don’t have the funds,” or “No, there is not enough time.”

Lear grew up in a time where teaching was an acceptable career for females and saying ‘yes’ was an expected practice. Lear chose to turn her ‘yes’ into opportunities that took her out of her comfort zone. The practice of saying ‘yes’ created a varied and strong set of skills including adaptability and flexibility.

For Lear, a former educator, her practice of saying ‘yes’ has opened doors to discovering not only her own potential, but also that of her business Gerlach, Lear and Associates, Inc. (GLA) Employee Assistance Provider (EAP). GLA is a national employee assistance provider that provides small business customers, as well as large private employers in industries like manufacturing, health care, insurance, education, utilities, construction and even labor unions, with the resources to help their employees work through issues affecting their job performance, health and overall well-being.

Susan Lear

When her husband who started GLA EAP in 1979 passed away, Lear remembered his words, “Don’t retire from something but retire to something.”Lear, at the point of retiring from teaching, said ‘yes’ to retiring to her husband’s business in 2009.

“GLA EAP felt like a natural fit,” Lear said. “As a teacher under the umbrella of human services, I’m advocating for children who grow up to become adults. They are the same people. So, if you’re caring for little ones, you can be caring for the adults at the same time.”

When Lear took over the business after 36 years as a teacher, she had no training as a business owner nor a framework for how to run a business.

“I had been out of my comfort zone so often that I finally just became comfortable with that,”
Lear said. “I had a strong curiosity about what I could achieve.”

Lear made the decision to initially outsource all of the business while she learned the process.

“Outsourcing gave me the gift of time to learn, but the challenge was my inability, from a teacher perspective, to see and hear what was happening, so I began to perform quality checks,” Lear said.

The quality checks uncovered that while the outsourced company did well with many services, they not did meet her expectations during intake, the most critical point when an employee calls and says, “I need help.” So after a sleepless night, she said ‘yes’ to taking back the intake process.

This was a year-long undertaking in 2014. Lear installed new phone and data collection systems and hired staff to ensure a more personal and positive intake experience. This decision also enabled the other company to focus on services that aligned with their core competencies.

GLAlogoEven with all this momentum, “I had to start from scratch in creating new business rules, forms and processes to support the in-house intake, new technology and expanded services,” Lear said. “The opportunity to join the Entrepreneur Exchange Program was very timely.”

From the program curriculum and business coaching, Lear has gained a greater insight into GLA’s competitive landscape, a new perspective on GLA’s perceived value in the marketplace and clarity on its target market. As a leader, she attributes her new approach to leadership to the program.

“I have learned the power of delegating that has allowed me to focus on growing the business and demonstrate my confidence and trust in my employees,” Lear said. “This all happens from the power of a ‘yes.’”

For more information about GLA Employee Assistance Provider, visit

To take the next step in scaling up your business, visit to apply and learn more about the Entrepreneur Exchange Program.

The Entrepreneur Exchange™ Program is a nine-month program fully funded by the Small Business Administration’s ScaleUp America initiative. Any Ohio small business with $150,000 – $750,000 in gross revenues and at least two years in business can apply. However, each year only 30 Ohio small business owners are selected.