NorthBridge Blog

Pat Dugan

Innovation is essential to growth in any space, but it’s become a cornerstone of the American economy with the loss of industrial and manufacturing strength. Coming to Chicago from May 2 to June 1 is the UChicago Innovation Fest 2017, which is all about spurring exactly the kind of innovation we need to keep moving forward.

UChicago Innovation Fest Logo

The University community and the public will come together to listen, consider and speculate about ventures and science that will lead our communities in years to come in areas of technology, science and the arts.

Much like the old-timey “World’s Fairs” where inventions and ideas were display to remind us all of our human capacity as creators, the Innovation Fest will host workshops, discussions and competitions.
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Pat DuganA recent Crain’s survey informed us that among over 650-plus Chicago-area men and women surveyed in January, 62% —nearly 2 out of 3—said changing companies was necessary for advancement in the local job market.

We know this isn’t a Chicago issue per sé but we do know that certain industries offer fewer opportunities for growth and increased income than others. Frequently large CPG firms, common in this area, take the brunt of not allowing the growth or compensation opportunities needed to make a long stay worthwhile. Rather than waiting for promotions, people are leaving.

Foster GrowthWhile many suggest the Millennial generation, followed by their predecessor Gen Xers, tend to move with the highest frequency, we’ve got a few suggestions on how better to manage churn.  In fact, there are even strong arguments that encourage moves that support both employer and employee.
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Pat DuganNo matter the burdens we’re facing of a divided government or a deeply affected constituency with its own divides, the light is always there —if we care to see it.

The future is bright, and getting brighter according to observations made about a new generation whose pragmatism, entrepreneurial curiosity and realism are being tapped into as the next best thing.

Generation Z is available for hire.

Generation ZFollowing the Millennial generation is a group making up approximately 25% of the population; all-in-all, bigger than the Baby Boomers or the Millennials. According to Hal Brotheim, author of Introducing Generation Z, they’ll be better future employees.


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Pat DuganGrowing a city and state’s global recognition and allure takes a lot of things. Having a smart, educated population is paramount among them, and so is creating educational diversity. Business and commerce innovations at the local level are often driven by thinkers and innovators from all over the world, bound by curiosity and ambition. As a country, we’ve historically fed our higher education systems with a strong number of international students.
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Pat DuganAmid all the hubbub about industrializing our country again and bringing jobs home, we’re getting by with a little help from newfound friends. We’ve found an enthusiastic partner in China.

In mid-March, Chicago hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for a new manufacturing plant set to build 846 new railcars for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to replace nearly half of the agency’s current railcar fleet. This new facility and business operations are spurred by Chinese investment.
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Well, it appears the Chicago Hawks won’t be left behind. If things continue as they are today, like the Cubbies, the Hawks will be extending their icy-hot brand of winning, and bringing more hardware back to Chicago’s municipal trophy case.
Today, they hold the number one position within the Central Western conference. Num-Ber-One, a place they haven’t held since the 2012-2013 season.
We can’t help but appreciate the interplay and growth that can happen between exceptional players and terrific leadership when we think about Joel Quenneville; the second most winning-est coach in history.  What’s the secret sauce behind those that track record? Cultivation and tenure? Fire  and philosophy? Lady luck?
Sports leaders and their teams show us variables that sometimes don’t allow us to be certain of whether it’s team cultivation or an elusive chemistry that brings it all together. But it seems that managers and coaches who succeed have a lot of the same characteristics.
One thing they seem to share is an awareness of what’s going on outside the clubhouse. While some companies we watch on a daily basis show us lengthy tenures by colorful CEOs – Reed Hastings Netflix 19 years, Jeff Bezos, Amazon,  21 years, Dan Amos, AFLAC, 27 years, Rupert Murdoch, News Corp., 38 years, Roger Penske, Penske Corp., 48 years – according to a recent Temple University study on CEO tenures, the optimal length of stay for a CEO is just 4.8 years. The reason being that, “…after about five years, chief executives will rely more on their internal network rather than information that comes from outside markets. This tendency to focus inward causes them to become less attuned to market conditions and customers, which ultimately hurts the company.”
Of course they’re different scenarios: corporate America versus professional sports.  Differences in commercial season lengths/sports seasons lengths, extremely different compensation granted for a wing or goalie versus a marketing manager. And, of course, very different market  and category factors.
Interestingly, in Q3 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average wage/salaried employee lasts just 4.7 years, The median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.2 years in January 2016, down from 4.6 years in January 2014. Some might argue that approximately 4.7 years of collaborative business leadership and management efforts aren’t nearly enough to shift the needle, elevate a brand or expand without hiccups.
Mindsets that include solid standards and clearly-defined expectations seem to trump all, though. Of the aforementioned CEOs with decades of vested time, all demand consistent performances from their teams. Their personal expectations run wildly high. and have a contagious effect on their company cultures that stands the test of time. It‘s all about consistency.
We find those characteristics in the Hawks’ Coach Q and the Cubs’ Joe Maddon. In the case of Maddon, a lifetime’s worth of gumption and managerial agility found its perfect application.
Quenneville, recognized as a player’s coach, is noted for his strong compassion for his players. In nine years, his tactics reveal a slow burn approach to managing people, with a deep hunger for the game. When interviewed, he cites a favorite part of coaching as being cultivating players. Compare that with Joe Maddon, who’s also expert at handling young players and veterans alike.
One similarity between the two? They each brought home the ultimate prize at the end of their second season at the helm of their respective teams.
There aren’t many finite assumptions about generating greatness, but we can touch on winning factors found on the field or office. Here are a few that a Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks organization exemplify, and they’re factors that any company should emulate in creating equal ideal alignment between job candidate and organization:
1) Understand the nuances of leadership, and bring the right candidates to complimentary leaders so there’s a good stylistic fit.
2) Encourage candidates —whether managers, subordinates or administrative workers – to develop a sensitivity for peers and the greater goals of an organization.
3) Coaching people – whether hockey players or our own candidates at North Bridge – to expect to deliver success wherever they go. When we do that, we’ve found that that success always followsWell, it appears the Chicago Hawks won’t be left behind. If things continue as they are today, like the Cubbies, the Hawks will be extending their icy-hot brand of winning, and bringing more hardware back to Chicago’s municipal trophy case.

Pat DuganWell, it looks like our Chicago Blackhawks won’t be left behind. If things continue as they are today, like the Cubbies, the Hawks will be extending their icy-hot brand of winning, and bringing more hardware back to Chicago’s municipal trophy case.

Today, as the Cup playoffs loom, they hold the number one slot in the Central Western conference. Num-Ber-One, a spot they haven’t held since the 2012-2013 season.

We can’t help but appreciate the interplay and growth that can happen between exceptional players and terrific leadership when we think about Joel Quenneville; the second most winning-est coach in history.  What’s the secret sauce behind those that track record? Cultivation and tenure? Fire  and philosophy? Lady luck?
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Pat DuganAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 3,976,800 workers classified as secretaries and administrative assistants in 2014 (the most recent year for which they’ve posted figures). We’re on course for 4,095,600 people in those jobs by 2024. That’s a steady, if not spectacular, growth rate of 3% a year – but growth nevertheless.

We’ve helped companies hire a lot of secretarial and administrative workers over the years, so we’ve picked up a few tips on how to make a good hire for an admin role. Even though some might say, “Hey, it’s just an admin job – that’s not quite a make-or-break hire for my business, you know?”Chart

Our observation? A great hire is a great hire, regardless of the position, and they’ll help you in ways that go far beyond the job description. A bad hire? That’ll cause damage or costs that make a hiring manager regret not doing their due diligence in the first place.
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Pat DuganWe’ve mentioned it before, but yet another study now confirms that Chicago is a leading jobs creation hub when it comes to technology positions.

The Brookings Institution has verified that we ranked ninth among the U.S. metro areas demonstrating the greatest increase in tech jobs between 2013 and 2015. Chicago added about 10,000 jobs over that span.

It translated into a growth rate of 5.8% a year for Chicago, which put it in the same bracket as New York and Portland, though still not as fast a growth rate as seen in Austin (16.1%) or even Indianapolis (13.9%). San Francisco and San Jose, naturally, kept up a strong pace, growing 12% over those two years.

Digital jobs cluster in the top 10 metro areas nationwide, according to the report, accounting for 46% of those jobs. In 2015, Chicago had 94,000 digital services jobs, while the U.S. had 2,782,000 digital positions in all.


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Pat DuganFrankly, there can never be enough support given to our military veterans as they adjust to civilian life, try to launch careers, and are otherwise rewarded with the same kind of opportunities so many of the rest of us take for granted.

That’s why this program, Code Platoon, needs to be recognized for the good work it’s doing on behalf of those vets in the Chicagoland area.

Intended exclusively for vets, the program is an accelerated curriculum that teaches the basics of the Ruby full-stack programming language over the course of 20 weeks of combined remote and in-person training. As a code “boot camp,” it immerses students who have very little or no tech background in both instruction and actual programming, and also supplies them with job counseling, interview prep and employer matching.

technology-1283624_640It’s a necessarily initiative, because post-9/11 veterans find it harder than other jobseekers to land full-time work.
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Pat DuganWe’ve previously posted about the move downtown by McDonald’s and other companies who have re-located to urban sites after decades in the suburbs. That’s not only true in our area, but it’s a trend that’s taking hold across the rest of the Midwest, too.

Jobs Following TalentIn Cleveland, there’s an increase in the use of old building for new business ventures and move-ins, plus new construction. The fact that the Cavaliers and Indians had great seasons, and the RNC came to town, have helped invigorate the downtown vibe there.


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Pat DuganIf it seems to you like there are more cranes dotting the skyline, more condos and apartment complexes under development than you can keep track of, you’re absolutely right. There’s a nation-leading construction boom underway across Chicago and its surrounding suburbs that represents a powerful turnaround. Building Boom

In December alone, according to figures from research firm Dodge Data & Analytics, Chicagoland saw more than $452 million in total residential construction spending. Taken year-to-date, the total was $7.230 billion, a 46% jump that was the best VTD growth of any metro area in the U.S.A.
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Pat DuganChicago’s unemployment rate has steadied out at around 5.8%, down from 6.4% just a couple of years ago. That’s good news for the overall regional economy, though the problems downstate and other endemic difficulties in the Illinois economy are still with us.

But for some companies, it’s made it tougher to find and hire the kind of skilled workers or specialists they need to fill certain roles. Just a few examples of that?
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