Long-term CLI client C/D/H was recently awarded West Michigan’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For, by the Michigan Business and Professional Association (MBPA). I recently had C/D/H Partner, Paul Hillman on CLI’s Blog Talk Radio show, and he enlightened our listeners about how the firm made the climb from start-up in 1990 to the present. What emerged during our conversation was a series of six best practices that helped the firm grow:

1.  Ask for help

Paul found that by surrounding the firm with outside expertise, C/D/H was much more effective in accomplishing its business goals. “You need to know what you don’t know,” Paul stated.

2. Start with a framework of discipline as your business model

C/D/H’s founding partners came out of the accounting field and had a disciplined approach to starting their new company. “We kept careful records, treated work like it was important, and basically cared about what we did. That produced great results. When one of our peers had a client who asked for a discount, she responded with ‘There is no sale on brains this week!’ and that is how we worked too. We started out acting as professionals,” Paul said.

3. Create a great place to work

Treat your people, clients and suppliers well. Remove barriers like human politics, and layers of unnecessary reporting. Paul believes that happy employees create great results. He shared the following model:

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“To keep our people happy, we hire smart people, then we send them to trainings and certifications,” Paul commented. He estimated that training and development is the second greatest expense at C/D/H after payroll.  “With consistent training and development we stay relevant and have staying power, ” Paul explained.

4. Take calculated risks

C/D/H opened its second office in the Detroit metro area just as GM and others were declaring bankruptcy. “That’s why I suggest taking (calculated) risks!” Paul said. This may be true, but many have experienced success because they did not know or think they could fail. My father, Tom Cain, was a graphic designer who once famously said, “The reason I became a success is that I didn’t know any better.”

5. Stick to your purpose

Being purpose-driven, Paul believes, is motivating. “Stick to your knitting,” he admonished,  “We provide technology solutions, but we actually help people solve problems, and we use technology to help them get there.”

6. Think “future”

“Innovate, keep your ideas fresh, and be more deliberate about growing change internally. Here at C/D/H, we are growing leaders through training and development, and offering opportunities like our new employee stock ownership plan,” Paul offered.

I couldn’t help but think back to the many training sessions Paul and I have had over the years, from feedback sessions on the shores of Lake Superior to the scavenger hunt in Mexico, or even the cattle drive where collaboration was the only way out. Congratulations to everyone at C/D/H! You make a helluva case study.

For more information about Paul Hillman and C/D/H please visit their homepage at www.cdh.com.

The full interview will air on CLI’s BlogTalkRadio Show on Monday, July 1, 2013 at 11:00 AM CST.  The show can be found on CLI’s Blog Talk Radio Channel by clicking on the link below. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/corplearning

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