Thirteen years ago, Steve Hayes, senior partner and founder of The Human Capital Group, had an epiphany. Through the mouth of his 11-year-old son, God opened his eyes to the pride-driven journey he was on. The goal was to be the Chief HR Officer for a Fortune 100 company, and he was well on his way. Motivated by a focus on work first, he moved his family 9 times in the first 14 years of his marriage. Then one night when tucking his son into bed, his boy asked, “Dad, will you move us back to Tennessee and commute to Atlanta for work?”
Steve felt like he was hit with a ton of bricks. His family was living a gypsy lifestyle, and he was justifying working so hard by telling himself he was taking care of his family, and that honored God. Through the voice of his son, he realized he had it backward and needed to put God first. Without God, he wasn’t going to take care of his wife and children the way he needed to. Work needed to be subordinate to them. So he took a leap of faith and began the process of rightfully aligning his priorities.
He resigned from his very lucrative $200,000+ per year job, with twice that in bonus and other perks, moved his family back to Tennessee and, eventually, started The Human Capital Group, a retained executive search and leadership consulting firm.
Steve recalled those early days. “I started in my basement with my previous employer as my first client. This allowed me to create a model that I wished I had when I was the customer.”
That model includes speed, quality and value, the three differentiators that characterize The Human Capital Group’s value proposition. Speed means that the client is guaranteed 4 to 5 thoroughly vetted finalists within 20 business days. Quality is not sacrificed for speed as the company guarantees each new hire for one year. Value is essential to a sustained relationship with their clients, so The Human Capital Group prices its services at 25% of total compensation versus the typical 331/3% fee charged in the retained search industry. This paradigm-breaking model of delivering quality candidates on a timely basis and at a fair price proved to be sustainably successful.
“When I started this business, I was very clear about who was in charge and who I served. My title is not CEO. That title is intentionally reserved for Christ. He is my boss. But for 41/2 years I was covert about it.”
Then a former colleague approached Steve about joining his team. “When it was no longer just me, I knew we needed to have principles to guide us. We had to formalize how we were going to conduct our business, so we followed the roadmap of the best leader of all times, with over 2 billion followers. Clinging to His roadmap, we try (Steve emphasized try) to apply His principles foundationally so they guide anything and everything we think and say and do.”
It was at this time that Steve boldly went public with his Christian values and principles. Many of their clients are secular companies–not faith-based clients–and they have lost customers because of their guiding principles. “When we came out of the Christian closet, my marketing firm, at the time, threatened to fire me if I did it. They were scared of how it would hurt their reputation. I prayed long and hard about that. Christ told us we would be called fools for following Him. He also told us not to be ashamed. Job 1:21 says, ‘The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’”
That gave Steve the courage to accept the fact that any customer they are blessed with is through God’s hand; and if they lose any customers, that is His protection. He isn’t ashamed of putting out there who they are trying to follow and how they are trying to deal with their customers and their candidates. The main reason is not to preach but to equip people to hold them accountable.
Steve continued, “If you take the scripture off our guiding principles, you can’t argue with the message. If ever we are not living according to these values, I know who I have to answer to.”
These core values are reflected in The Human Capital Group logo. Their purpose is to Deliver Results Through People™. With this purpose as the backdrop, Steve explained the picture that signifies his company’s brand.
“The arms of the large and small figures reach in an upward direction pointing to positive results. This reflects our clients’ need to deliver positive sales, profits and growth results from a business perspective. The figures also portray reaching for and celebrating a goal once achieved.
“The gender-neutral smaller figure grows into a larger figure illustrating the importance of investing in people so they can grow, which then produces business growth.
“The heart of the logo captures the mission of The Human Capital Group in the image of a crucified Christ and, more importantly, a risen Christ. The figures reflect the three points of the Trinity who are foundational to who we are and where our guiding principles come from.
“Lastly, the overarching figure reflects God the Father, protecting and looking over His flock, or in The Human Capital Group’s case, guarding me when I started the business from scratch. I needed that visual of God watching over me, shadowing me and protecting me, and, therefore, my family.”
The Human Capital Group delivers on the brand promise because at their core are guiding principles that define who they hire into the firm and how they work. Steve explains, “A lot goes into this logo, and that is why we work so hard to protect the brand.
“We are very specific about how we do our work, because, ultimately, it reflects on Him, and we have to keep that in mind.”Steve Hayes
As the company grew from one person in a basement in Nashville, TN, to 14 people in 4 offices, and is still growing, Steve needed to make sure that each person who came into the business shared their principles.
“We are actively seeking new and talented people to join our team. When someone approaches us, we give them an assignment to write why they want to come to work for us. If they don’t mention those guiding principles, then I know they are not right for us. Without discriminating, it is my way of getting to know the heart of the person. We don’t focus on the denomination but on the denominator–Christ!”
Steve is an active member of the C12 Group, an organization for Christian business leaders, where he is able to connect with other business owners with the same passion for integrating their faith into their businesses. The mentorship and accountability that the group provides are invaluable tools in helping him to run his business in a biblically responsible manner.
“When I did come out of the Christian closet all those years ago, my marketing firm did fire me, and I did lose a few clients who felt it was not appropriate. But God has blessed us with so many others for not being ashamed of who we are and whose we are! It has been an amazing journey, and I am so blessed to get to walk it.”