The history of CPC begins in 1993 in an old farmhouse in Central Hesse. Three managers from one of the world’s largest consulting firms and a former airline captain set up their office on the ground floor and founded “Connex Personnel Consulting GmbH”.
Because the founders came from far-flung locations in Germany, during the week they worked and lived together in the old half-timbered house. Even with such diverse regional backgrounds, they were all committed to one thing. Personal experience had led them to build a consulting firm with professional services that rivaled those of the industry leaders, but their approach was anything but typical: Every employee, not just the partners, would own shares in the company; employee development, both professional and personal, was paramount; and personnel turnover should be kept to a minimum. The four consultants also wanted to break out of the arrogant and autocratic mold the industry was sometimes known for – not entirely without justification. This commitment finds expression in the principle they adopted. To this day it remains the raison d’être of CPC and permeates its corporate culture: “Competent Consulting – Without Arrogance.”
In the early years, small and medium-sized businesses were the company’s primary clientele. During that time, CPC accumulated a wealth of change management and implementation expertise. The small-scale businesses, however, proved to be difficult clients. Consulting was sorely needed, but client funds were generally tight and each story took an old familiar turn: “The sooner the client’s reorganization project succeeded, the quicker we were out the door.” In the late 90s, this prompted CPC to focus more on larger companies to establish sustainable business relationships that extended beyond a single project.
Since its founding, CPC has grown by 15% to 20% each year. In the first three years, this meant hiring one or two new staff members. Back then, the partners’ main concern was whether new hires had their own car for traveling to clients all over Germany. By 1996 the number of applicants exploded – within three weeks the company received applications from 600 potential contenders. The stacks of applicant files built up in laundry baskets on the floors and in the offices. CPC quickly developed a finely tuned selection process, one that continues to mature with every passing year. The goal: Find young professionals who are talented, but who eschew the typical consultant pretentiousness and are not afraid to “get their hands dirty”. CPC became a corporation in 1997. This move shifted the employee-ownership success model to a new foundation. To this day, the company remains in the ownership of active employees. Shares of departing employees are bought back immediately and in full. In 1999, CPC moved its headquarters to Frankfurt am Main. What was once a four-person operation now had 12 permanent consultants and many other helping hands – assistants, interns, and freelancers.
Along with the shift in focus to large companies, the late 90s also saw the addition of project management (PM) to the change management portfolio. Even though large companies had ever more – and increasingly larger – projects, project management in companies was still in its infancy at that time, thus opening up the opportunity to tailor project management to the specific needs of the customer. Thereafter CPC very quickly developed additional expertise, offering a wide range of project management services. The project management methodology proved a real growth engine, greatly accelerating the productivity of even junior consultants and enabling them to deliver immediate added value to clients.
Reality training became another focus in 2000. Firms face strategic changes, e.g. implementing new management policies or a service excellence model, and need large numbers of managers to rethink how they do things. Reality training gives participants a true “before and after” experience under absolutely realistic circumstances. Through awareness, coaching and feedback, participants take a critical look at “old” behaviors and develop a desire to think and act differently. The virtual reality training firms Dolphin Aircraft, Kronau Druckmaschinen AG, Banco Dos Povos and World Motors AG came into being between 2000 and 2004. Other (fictitious) firms followed. The unusual learning effect of the reality training format unleashed real passion in the participants. The training concept worked so well, several curious – and completely unexpected – events occurred. The Banco Dos Povos recruiting website was bombarded with serious applications. Dolphin Aircraft’s online shop was getting orders for merchandising articles, but there was only one of each. And a buzz erupted at an automotive supplier trade show in Detroit because World Motors AG – a sports car manufacturer that no one had heard of but everyone wanted to meet- had its headquarters on the building’s 22nd floor. The term “reality training” suddenly took on a whole new (and quite literal) meaning.
In subsequent years, the fruits of many years of investment-oriented company policy became more visible. For the Dolphin development program, CPC and T-Systems shared the 2003 Ongoing Training Award from the ZfU IBS, Zentrum für Unternehmensführung AG (Center for Corporate Management). In 2007 CPC was honored with the International German Training Award for their reality training. At the same time, demand for PM services for large projects exploded. More and more companies wanted their major projects in capable hands and enlisted CPC consultants to handle the most important project tasks. By the end of 2007, CPC had more than 50 permanent consultants.
The Service Academy of 2008 to 2010 was an important milestone in the history of CPC. The objective was to provide service competence training to all 2,500 senior managers of a large telecommunications firm and ingrain in them the service mindset. Approximately 80 reality training courses were simultaneously held at three different locations. Each training had up to 30 actors, coaches and assistants.
In 2008, CPC earned its first “Top Employer” recognition in the “Germany’s Top Employer” analysis conducted by the CRF Institute in conjunction with the Handelsblatt/Junge Karriere monthly magazine. This underscored just how satisfied the company’s employees were. CPC fared even better in 2009 as one of Germany’s top 10 employers. We are proud to bear the Great Place to Work® title since 2011
So how do we best sum up the first 25 years? We do know that like-minded people in this company always manage to find each other, even though our workforce is incredibly diverse. What is CPC’s recipe for success? An outsider might say that “CPC has damned good people.” Clients are always asking how we find them. Almost no one asks why they are so good. There is, after all, no such thing as a “born consultant.” But if you peek behind the curtain, you’ll find a good deal of intensive training, coaching and mentoring. What clients find “good” is a combination of qualities and values for which CPC stands: commitment, entrepreneurship, teamplay, and a positive view of humanity. Long-standing and superior customer relationships are the happy result.