The honesty of business leaders has become a front-page story and a topic of discussion in boardrooms worldwide, and Larry Hilsheimer strove to make that value a priority for his team at Deloitte & Touche USA LLP.
“There are a lot of examples within the business world where integrity has failed,” says Hilsheimer, former managing partner of Deloitte’s Columbus regional office. “Compromising our integrity for even one client is not worth the damage that it would cause to our brand.”
Before leaving in October to become executive vice president and chief financial officer of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., Hilsheimer managed 295 employees at the Columbus office, which provides audit, tax, consulting and financial advisory services. Deloitte & Touche USA is a member of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, which includes 135,000 professionals in nearly 150 countries and had global revenue of $20 billion last year.
After joining Deloitte in 1978, Hilsheimer moved up the ranks and was responsible for Deloitte’s services to its most strategic clients for a 14-city, seven-state region that includes Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, western Pennsylvania, western New York and West Virginia.
Beyond his new job at Nationwide, Hilsheimer is active in civic and community organizations, such as the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, The Ohio Business Roundtable, Children’s Hospital Board of Trustees, Wexner Center, Battelle for Kids, Easter Seals, Compete Columbus, Columbus Downtown Development Corporation Board, Capital South Board, Center for Child and Family Advocacy Board, Deloitte Foundation Board and several groups at The Ohio State University.
Corporate integrity starts at the top, and leading by example is how Hilsheimer communicates that message to his employees.
“I try to engage all of our associates and teammates in focusing on excellent client service and on teaming to make sure that we bring all of the resources of our firm to the interest of the client,” he says.
Hilsheimer says it’s important for employees to understand their clients and their clients’ needs so they can work together to provide the strongest possible solutions.
“It’s a common problem in business that people tend to function in their silo within their little area of expertise and oftentimes, they don’t stop to think that their customer might be better served if they leveraged the other resources in the employee’s company,” he says. “If a client engages [a service provider] in multiple disciplines, they end up generating more revenue for [the company], but we ultimately get paid if our clients are satisfied.”
The culture at the local Deloitte offices tended to be a fast-paced environment, and Hilsheimer says his employees thrived in those situations.
“Our people are the most satisfied when they are the most challenged, in terms of a high-demand project, where they are working nights and trying to meet deadlines,” he says. “Oftentimes, those are the things that really get them excited, and it’s exhilarating because they are learning a lot, very quickly.”
But, he says, work is a big part of life but it’s not all of it, and business leaders are challenged with driving a high-performance culture at a great place to work while also providing the flexibility and freedom for their employees to enjoy the rest of their life.
“If employees need to participate in some event outside of the workplace and have competing demands with things in the office, we want to keep the lines of communication open so we can help achieve their goals while still serving our clients’ needs,” he says.
Hilsheimer says companies can pave the road to success by doing what is right for their employees and their clients.
An executive’s responsibility, then, is to ensure that his company maintains its brand recognition within the marketplace and does-n’t do anything to damage it.
“Our values are around integrity and outstanding value to our clients, commitment to each other within the firm in terms of helping each other succeed, and having a diverse population that helps make the organization stronger,” Hilsheimer says.
HOW TO REACH: Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., (877) 669-6877 or www.nationwide.com