“I want to create a culture that is filled with love, laughter, synergy, levity and goal-oriented people. I don’t want to be a $50 million company. I want to alter 50 million lives. There’s not a net profit big enough to compare to that.”
- Rick Huffman, CSP, HLM Property Management, Hartsgrove Township, OH
Rick Huffman, CSP, has the Midas touch when it comes to culture. He has spent more than 25 years leading the charge, encouraging, leading, and focusing on team. Seeking a deeper experience, where he could truly get to know those under his leadership, he decided to take a leap and build a company based on his own values.
For the last year, Huffman has used his experiences to craft a culture at HLM Property Management near Canton, OH, focused on “Passion and Purpose before Profit.”
“I wanted a chance to truly get to know my employees, to learn about them and their lives and to focus our operations on what is truly important. I was the guy that missed my daughter’s first Christmas because I got sent out to plow and didn’t get any support. When she graduated from high school, she laid it on me: ‘You missed a lot of things that you can’t get back, Dad.’ That really changed how I looked at everything.”
That message has stuck with Huffman. Real. Humble. Caring. Empathetic. Those values drive him to build an atmosphere that is authentic and exudes compassion.
“A mentor told me: ‘Mind the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.’ For the longest time, I thought he was talking about money. But the pennies are what you put into your people. If you make them feel valued, educated and give them the opportunity to be all that they can be - even if it eventually leads them away from you - your business will grow,” Huffman says.
He is taking the people-centric approach to heart. HLM’s organizational chart is inverted so that he and the executive team are on the bottom supporting everyone else. At the top of the chart are the entry level workers, who most need to feel part of the group. His organizational chart is filled with people that other companies don’t, or won’t, investment time or resources on; and Huffman’s heart is fuller for it.
“I’m hiring people who want nothing more than a second chance and a little help. Whether it’s a single parent who needs flex scheduling or someone who fell outside the law or has challenges that make employment difficult. They appreciate they are getting a chance when a lot of people won’t give them one. This industry has a labor issue because we focus on the customer and not the people. You can’t look at them as gears to get the job done,” he says.
Those second chances are why you’ll see Huffman picking up a crew from their houses, delivering them to a worksite, and coming back to get them at 3 a.m. when the job is done.
“When people realize that you have their back, they feel empowered; and they will go to battle for you, your company and ensure your customers receive the service you’ve promised,” he says.
Huffman has vowed to know everything he can about the people that work for him...their backgrounds, why they are at HLM, what’s important to them. He shared a story of a company who had an employee who had fallen behind on paperwork after his wife had suffered an aneurysm. The officer manager told the owner he needed to be written up as a result.
“If that’s the way your company is built, you are missing the boat. Do you think he cares that he’s behind on his paperwork? How about saying: ‘We have your paperwork and we’ll get it done for you. You focus on your wife,’ ” Huffman says. “Too many people look at labor costs as a line on a P&L. People are not a number. They have names, wants, needs, and responsibilities at home. I want them to feel good about what they accomplished and then go home and spend it with those they love.”
Rick Huffman, CSP, is an avid reader and shared three books that he says changed his life and his approach to leadership.
- “Lead for God’s Sake!: A Parable for Finding the Heart of Leadership” - Todd Gongwer
- “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t” - Simon Sinek
- “Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family” - Bob Chapman