As a trailblazing CEO, John Hillman’s accomplishments at the helm of Nationwide Title Clearing have been chronicled by industry and national media. He is known for his high energy, leadership style, and commitment to serving people: be they employees or clients. Promoting community involvement, retaining NTC’s original and core values, and caring for his staff has been the hallmark of his 21 years with NTC. And yes, under his leadership unprecedented company growth has occurred. We asked John to share his motivation and why he is focused upon creating a culture that “thinks like the big guys."
Q-What initially attracted you to join NTC?
In reality it was the challenge - to see if I could pull off changing industries (from technology to mortgage) and remain successful while bringing that technology angle to an industry mostly devoid of technology at that time.
Q-What kept you at the company? Did something in particular challenge you?
Having grown up in an aviation family, I would have preferred to become a helicopter pilot. Initially, I didn’t plan to remain at the company, but wanted to help establish it further. However, the more responsibilities I took on at the company, the more I became an integral part of our operations. For instance, I initially ran HR, but then also took on all IT hardware infrastructure as well.
As we grew, I took on reporting to all clients, and even did my own development/programming to automate reports and reporting QC. By 2006, I had to choose if I was going to remain with NTC and expand with it by taking it over or move on to something else. I chose to take the leap into the lead spot and run the company. I was immediately faced with the necessity of navigating the mortgage industry meltdown through 2008. Post crisis, that’s when our true expansion started.
Q-How do you maintain a fresh perspective after so many years?
By constantly asking employees, vendors and partners new to NTC their perspective on what they see in my company, and trends in the industry. And, by reading articles about how others improve companies of all sizes, change the culture, improve productivity and expand without losing core values. I’m a deep data kind of person, and constantly increasing my knowledge inside and outside of our own industry, what’s successful and what isn’t, and asking WHY?
Q-What inspires you regarding NTC's future to attain?
A goal I’ve had since I took over has been to transform NTC into a technology company without losing our deeply embedded persona and identity as a facile, adept and malleable “ditch-digging” company able to staff up and meet the demands of clients who need it. This identity is what has gotten us in the door so many times. With the advent of SaaS services, I knew we’d see major and further diversification of our service offerings. That meteoric expansion has given us the ability to help others in a more meaningful way in the community, as well as give back to the staff that got us there.
Q-What do you believe is necessary to be a good CEO?
Volumes of DATA – a constant stream of correct information on the industry, trends, and indicators. And if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Humility. The understanding that the very definition of management is to serve others. Mostly, the ability to listen and adjust to changes. More than all of these – the ability to truly care for others.
Q-Have your views on this changed since you have been at the helm of NTC?
100 times at least, yes. I’ve learned gems like “Use your people for what their good at, not for what they’re bad at.” And that some people, because of their own trials and issues in life, want to bring harm to you and your company but they are in the vast minority. That a well-run company and team environment tends to weed out the bad apples and bad decisions rapidly.
And that PR is perhaps the most important entrance point to everything, especially if you desire to grow. That some data is flat-out incorrect and false. Often what is “alarmingly reported” can be completely incorrect. Getting all the data that can be known about any situation is vital to solving it, and it can be very smart to wait to be sure the data is correct.
Finally, that ‘people’ will always be your greatest and most crucial resource, which also leads to the necessity of a strong and inclusive culture.