Integrated Project Management (IPM), a national business consulting firm founded in 1988 – and a 2008 Top Small Workplace – specializes in on-site project management. In serving a range of industries, the 82-employee firm is devoted to the values of integrity and honesty, and driven by a commitment to flawless execution and service.

IPM founder and CEO/President C. Richard Panico identifies the roots of the company’s success: a solid foundation of professional ethics. Earlier in his career at Johnson & Johnson, Panico recalls, “It became obvious that project execution and values-based leadership were intertwined.” Eventually becoming a senior manager in the Personal Products Division at that company, a growing need across industries for top-drawer project execution sparked his formation of IPM in 1988.

As referenced in IPM’s title, the leaders here believe excellence in project management is linked to how well IPM project managers assimilate into client environments. As Timothy Czech, IPM Controller and employee of 12 years explains, “This occurs when the associate works hand-in-hand as an equal partner with a client’s team members.”

Operating in such fields as the life sciences, food and beverage, and health care, IPM invests a tremendous number of hours in continuous training, development and coaching. Errol Jones, Manager of Project Planning and Execution for nine years, adds that the company sees 90 percent repeat business, secured ultimately by not only the processes, tools and techniques for completing a job, but also by the essential communication practices involved in nurturing an effective team.

The original IPM business plan included a “Mission and Beliefs” section, serving as the company’s conscience “to drive corporate governance and communicate to the outside world a responsible, ethical and meaningful business model,” Panico says. The CEO has woven ethics into his career to such a degree, in fact, that from 2001 to 2007 he served as Chairman at the Institute for Business and Professional Ethics at DePaul University.

Ethical conduct, Panico observes, has been in the news a lot recently due to an abundance of such foul-ups as insider-trading, fraud and ethics violations. As the fundamental element of the business decision-making process, Panico contends that core values influence business management processes at each step and establish a baseline perspective for all relationships, internal and external.

“I believe the common thread that brings people to our organization is our commitment to provide a motivating and supportive environment based on honesty, integrity and ethical conduct,” Panico says.

His assumption is seconded by many on his team, including Czech, who says the hiring process does a great job of revealing only those truly dedicated to the company’s core values.

One clear business benefit of a hyper-focus on personal ethics, starting with recruitment, is that through continuous reinforcement IPM creates an environment in which employees support each other.

One of the most concrete manifestations of this may be the company’s comprehensive health care package, which offers 100 percent coverage for employees and their families. Regular health screenings are encouraged by the company, and one employee says it was only because of such a check-up that his cancer was discovered early on and was able to be successfully treated.

Looking out for everyone when it comes to benefits is not just the respectful thing to do –though that definitely fits with IPM’s core values – it also has direct implications on profitability.

“From a strictly business perspective, we need to be concerned with our revenue generators,” says JoAnn T. Jackson, who is currently CFO and has been with the company since its inception. “To the extent that we can keep our PMs healthy – ie, billable – we are protecting our revenue stream.”

“More importantly,” she says, “we care about our people well beyond their direct contributions to the company’s bottom line. We want them to be well and free from unnecessary worry.”

“It is truly is a family-oriented culture,” agrees Jones. And families are stronger as a whole than any one individual can be: IPM’s clients consistently give kudos to not just their project manager, but to all staff. This demonstrates a clear link between the Winning Workplaces “building block” of Trust, Respect & Fairness and long-term productivity and revenue generation.

This approach, while fruitful in terms of the company’s bottom line and employee satisfaction, is not without its caveats, however. “There is a tremendous danger,” Panico says, “that values-based leadership can fall victim to simply become embodied in policy.” Still, he has found that hiring and promotion processes based on identifying and developing values-based leaders and holding each other accountable can keep policies from becoming too burdensome.

For instance, regular meetings at IPM are supplemented with a newsletter to augment personal interface with employees, and a rich mentorship program is revered by both mentors and protégés as an opportunity to reinforce values, refine techniques and bounce around new ideas.

What advice does Panico have for small organizations like IPM that are crafting and working to meet goals to ensure operations for the next 100 years? He suggests leaders remain sensitive to points of inflection as their organizations develop.

“While I expect our services and model to evolve through innovation and the continual infusion of lessons learned,” he says, “I equally expect our mission and beliefs to remain consistent, guiding our growth while reinforcing our values.”

Company: Integrated Project Management Company, Inc. (IPM)
Web site: www.ipmcinc.com
Industry: Consulting, on-site project management
Location: Burr Ridge, IL
Number of Employees: 82
Sales: $14.5 million