WITH THE RIGHT ATTITUDE, building solid technical skills is much easier.

This is the philosophy of Canidium, a rapidly growing consulting business which focuses on sales and service performance improvement via strategic guidance and systems integration and support for their clients..

It’s a pretty technical set of services, but I was intrigued by the notion that this company puts people first: Both its customers and its employees.

I first met its founder and managing partner, Mike Stus, at a local Chamber of Commerce event a few weeks ago.  They recently expanded their company from Houston to Fort Collins, based on Mike’s desire for an improved quality of life and access to great employees.

I wanted to hear more about the story behind this company that invests so much in its workers.

It’s not complicated.  Mike’s mission is to hire great people, give them the tools they need to do excellent work, then get out of the way.

How does he find those great people?  It starts not with superior technical skills, but the ability to learn and the commitment to excel as a team. In an industry built on technology, you can pretty much count on constant skill development as the state of the art is advancing rapidly.

As for supporting his people, Mike focuses on work-life balance, facilitating productive problem-solving meetings, and measuring team results.  Some of this is pretty counter-cultural, especially when other consultancies seem to value 70+ hour weeks on a constant basis.  I’ve talked to some people who have done this, and it’s a recipe for burnout and turnover.

That doesn’t mean the Canidium teams don’t buckle down hard to tackle unexpected issues and achieve tough deadlines.  They do, and it can mean extra hours.  It’s just not sustainable over the long haul.

Canidium started a neat little program, their monthly “consulting challenge.”  It’s a “what would YOU do” exercise.  But not about having a right or even best answer.  Instead, it’s about learning from the diversity of viewpoints and pushing their overall knowledge ahead.

That’s a wonderful kind of competition, one where people are challenged to do their best but not at the expense of their teammates.

I was particularly impressed with their philosophy that even a tech business must be mostly focused on people.  They strive to understand each customer’s business and to develop deep, lasting relationships with the people they’re working for.  Because, in the end, it’s those people who have needs and make the decisions.

What’s next for Canidium?  I wasn’t surprised that it’ll be about growing the business further, improving their economies of scale.  But more important to Mike is how they’ll sustain their powerful culture, continuing to give everyone the opportunity and motivation for excellence.