C. Richard Panico
Founder & CEO
From Integrated Project Management Company, Inc.’s (IPM’s) inception in 1988, my intention and priority were to establish a company that would endure for 100 years and beyond. To accomplish this, I believed that several foundational elements needed to be established and consistently reinforced. Through the years, our experiences have validated these as essential to IPM’s continued growth, financial success, and long-term viability.
Long-term sustainability requires determining, communicating, and enforcing a set of values that guide decision-making, behavior, and delivery of services. These values must be alive—not simply words on a plaque but rather living “codes of conduct” essential to establishing and maintaining our direction and ultimately our destiny. Of these values, honesty and integrity, the chief components of ethical conduct, are the most critical. They are clearly tied to reputation, and reputation is an essential influencer of brand, which ultimately determines to what extent a company will thrive in the marketplace. Deliberately performing in an ethical and responsible way, an even higher standard than legal requirements, is a prerequisite to organizational success.
IPM’s seminal guiding document was Our Mission & Beliefs. My goal was to communicate the company’s reason for being, the conduct it would demonstrate to deliver services, its responsibility to employees, whom we consider family members, and its responsibility to the greater society. I often describe Our Mission & Beliefs as IPM’s conscience. We know what we are doing and why, as well as the impact we are striving to effect. It is important to keep our mission alive and in focus. For this reason, Our Mission & Beliefs is continually referenced in developing strategies, recruiting candidates, making significant decisions, providing employee feedback, and promoting IPM’s brand.
A vision of a meaningful and value-laden destination is required to inspire people to join in a journey. The vision must be aspirational and drive engagement and affiliation. As years pass and progress is made toward the vision, it is important to revisit it and make it farther reaching, more challenging, and more aspirational. High performers want and need lofty goals that defy complacency and challenge the status quo.
Establishing standards for those invited to join the IPM family was and remains one of the most important factors in success and sustainability. From the beginning, this meant finding individuals who share our values and want to subscribe to Our Mission & Beliefs. This cultural fit is even more important than job skills. From the first conversation, we make our expectations for both conduct and performance clear, allowing candidates to determine if they want to join our family. Getting the right people on board establishes the potential for a strong and deep succession plan. This plan must be clearly defined and continually enhanced or there can be no hope of sustainability.
Strategy Development & Execution
A well-crafted strategy, incorporating insights of rapidly changing market conditions, competitive landscapes, social and political climates, technology influences, workforce evolution, and a realistic understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the business model are essential to the goal of remaining relevant and continually thriving. By understanding the positive and negative influences on the business and responding to these in a proactive manner, we can remain on the offensive. Strategy requires effective execution, or it delivers no value.
Structure & Processes
Scalability and high performance require efficient and effective processes and a structure that ensures compliance and perpetuation. High-performing and consistently winning teams embrace structure and discipline, knowing these are essential to consistent quality. Both process and structure coexist with innovation and enable it (contrary to some contemporary thinking).
Strong financial controls were some of the first things we put in place, and we have continually improved them with better processes and technology. They drive good cash flow management, which enables building strong cash reserves. This allows the company to remain on the offensive and invest in its growth.
Having the opportunity to establish a culture (rather than change one) certainly provided an advantage. I wanted a culture where continuous improvement was an obsession, not a project or a program, but rather a core element of our operation. This constant striving to raise the bar meant we needed to create processes and standards, and measure performance against them. It is important to marry process compliance with the challenge to improve, remain adaptable and flexible, and evolve every aspect of the business. Process compliance and flexibility are not opposing forces; instead, when managed properly, both are enablers of evolution and creativity.
Caring, Sharing & Fun
Hard work that provides value to our clients is the center of our business. But over the long haul, the effort must provide intrinsic value; the human connection cannot be overlooked or in any way discounted. Our family members must know that they are cared for, that they share in the bigger picture, and, more often than not, work should be fun. The connection must be felt one on one with a supervisor as well as in the company-wide meetings (every employee from every office) that occur each quarter. We have always shared company information transparently, announced and celebrated personal accomplishments and family news, and been intentional about sponsoring fun activities. Combined with Project Mercy (IPM’s philanthropic activities), we emphasize our humanness. A smile, a laugh, a shoulder, or a helping hand all ensure connectedness that goes well beyond business.
As important as the above factors are to achieve a company’s centennial, there is an owner’s philosophy which must underpin them all—the company is not for sale! In today’s economic climate of acquisitions and mergers, it is rare for privately held companies not to be acquired by strategic buyers, private equity groups, or venture capitalists. Non-strategic buyers are rarely interested in long-term sustainability and typically focus on short-term (five to seven years) returns for investors. In the case of a strategic buyer, it is rare for the acquired company to maintain its identity and culture for more than a few years. It is swallowed up and eventually disappears. From the beginning, my business plan included IPM achieving its 100th anniversary. “Not for sale” has been communicated throughout our history and has been met with loyalty and appreciation.
— Published June 22, 2018