Scott Crowley and his wife, Jen, launched Highland Group sixteen years ago with two things in mind:
- A commitment to delivering smart marketing strategies and great design solutions to their clients
- A desire to create a genuinely rewarding place for their team to work… and have a life.
From their hip office space, complete with a scotch bar, and fun team rituals, like riding kick scooters to lunch and quarterly movie nights, Highland Group lives out the philosophies of its brand.
IT ALL STARTED WITH FOUR POST-IT NOTES AND A FISHBOWL
Scott had been living in Dearborn, Michigan with his wife, Jen, for some time when they decided they wanted a change. Leaving their next move up to fate, they put four post-it notes in a fishbowl: One would mean taking a job offer in Austin, another would mean moving to Boston, the third to Silicon Valley, and number four was back to Grand Rapids (Scott is an Aquinas College graduate.) After swishing around the fishbowl, they picked up number four and made their big move, eventually starting Highland Group. “Number four still sits on our bulletin board outside our office today,” said Scott.
Time has proven that Highland Group has done well by their clients. They’ve worked on projects for companies of all sizes, such as Steelcase, Amway, Kids’ Food Basket, and Gray Skies Distillery. The State of Michigan has also recognized them as “50 Companies to Watch” and “101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For.”
Beyond successful projects and company culture, Highland Group is also a certified B-Corporation in West Michigan, aiming to make their business a force for good and to impact social change. This means supporting policies that promote trust and transparency, inspiring others to be their best selves, and engaging in community service.
KNIGHTS OF THE CEO ROUNDTABLE: SCOTT CROWLEY OF HIGHLAND GROUP
For over 29 years, business owners, CEOs, executives, and managers have participated the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Roundtable Programs to discuss issues of vital interest to their business. Sessions provide structured discussion groups of 10 – 13 people, gathering every month in a confidential setting to discuss their businesses and receive relevant feedback from one another.
Scott Crowley has been part of this program for several years – so we decided to sit down with him and ask him about it!
What made you initially join this program?
The Chamber actually put me on a wait list for quite some time! [laughs] But the reason I joined is that I wanted a group of peers I could share business issues with and talk honestly and openly, so I could get relevant feedback and make better decisions.
What mix of people do you have in your roundtable, industry-wise?
We have a big hodgepodge of people. There’s a gentleman that works at a law firm, an independent hairdresser, a manufacturing company, an IT company, a travel agency, an insurance firm, and an eye doctor, to name a few! And of course, the greatest marketing services company to ever walk the face of the earth. [laughs] I like our group a lot. Can’t say that enough!
Scott enjoys playing competitive racquetball and is really into ‘80s pop culture.
What was your first roundtable session like?
We met at Rainbow Grill in a little private room. I was a little shy during the first couple of meetings. Eventually, I started sharing my opinion, and everyone seemed to value it. It’s a great platform if you want to share issues and get feedback from a peer rather than your parents or friends. It’s more professional.
What topics are usually discussed?
It ranges from a variety of topics such as employee issues, partnership issues, policies, etc. Company culture was the last one we had. As the facilitator of our group, I try and gather the topic the week before and distribute it to everybody to give them time to think about it. I always tell them to put on their thinking caps when I send the email! Then we give our feedback and talk it through. That’s the reason I like this Chamber program so much. Everybody has a different approach and different opinion as to how they would implement that approach. There’s no selling that goes on, and it’s all confidential.
A “CEO Roundtable” sounds really intimidating! Is that what it’s actually like?
Every time a new person starts, they think it’s more formal than it really is. They bring their business cards and brochures of their company – but it’s very informal. It’s a very welcoming group, so people make fun of each other and you’ll hear people talk in a language that shows friendship. Sometimes our sessions are a barbecue at someone’s house. We usually close off the year with a meeting at Bistro Bella Vita.
Is it worth the time and commitment?
That was one of my concerns initially: That I wouldn’t get enough out of it. But once I got to a point where I was speaking the same language as my peers, it was very comforting to have that camaraderie – and they all approach things from a CEO perspective. Everybody has had some sort of issue similar to yours that they can give you advice on. It’s been overwhelmingly positive for me and totally worth the 75 dollars to join the group and go to the meetings every month.