Champions of Human Capital

A Note From Darren

Upon arriving at my first real-world job, my mentor and friend, Rob Strobel – a competitive triathlete who thinks in photograph and has a story to relate to most any situation – kicked off the meeting with our client. Rob named the seven of us consultants and then proceeded to walk out to his car.  In the parking lot, he informed me that I was going to manage the team, all who were more experienced in the software we were implementing, and with confidence, stated, “If you find yourself in trouble, give me a call.”  Rob then flew off to his next project.  Two weeks later, my mentor prodded, “OK, give me a rundown of everyone on your team.  I want strengths, weaknesses and skill sets… Go…”  Rob is now CEO of a concrete construction business of 2,000-plus employees, a company that builds and develops people as consistently as it erects structures.

Unfortunately, when Rob asked me his question, I was more focused on technical aspects of the system, team schedule and what a 20-year-old does to add value as a consultant.  Rob put me right where I needed to be – uncomfortably aware of my ignorance.  The next few weeks required more calls.  These regular lifelines enabled me to refine my thoughts with my champion.  We talked through observations while cycling through country back roads. Rob never put his interests first.  As a champion of his human capital, he stewarded me and, as a result, always got my top performance.  I was loyal because he cared.  I was loyal because my mentor championed his human capital.

Leaders like this leave their impression. Focus on the care and development of people has been a driving value since opening our HR Consulting practice. Our firm of 120-plus in three states is focused on the needs of our clients: closely held businesses and not-for-profits that employ tens of thousands. Our HR Consulting practice champions our clients’ human capital, perform retained searches to fill key roles, design career paths, facilitate compensation planning and evaluate HR structures. And we share many success stories on caring Cincinnati businesses.

Like the leaders profiled here, a caring leader – a leader bent on getting top-shelf results from the entire team, focused on people and passionate about team dynamics, outcomes and benefits to the team and community – champions people. What makes some leaders true champions of their company’s talent while others are simply tracking a schedule or barking orders?  The answers here highlight the thoughts and ideas of several of our city’s top human capital champions. I hope you enjoy the dialogue as much as I have.

We were particularly interested in how our human capital champions view the impact of artificial intelligence on team dynamics.  Will  teams strengthen or will they implode?  How the C-suite responds to investment in tedium-eliminating bots, apps and training will prove our worth here in Cincinnati.  I am looking forward to the history we make.  Let’s LEAD together.


HR and AI: Friends or Foes


Steve Browne

Karen Crone

Alan Gasvoda

​Matt Hess

Stephen Hightower II

Howard Mintz

Nathan Peirson​

Heather Schwab, SPHR

In addition to the eight profiled Champions of Human Capital, LEAD editors compiled a list ­– with input from the Greater Cincinnati HR Association and VonLehman’s Human Capital practice – recognizing the local human resources leaders who are admired by their referring peers and appreciated by their community.  Thank you!

  • Eric Bostian
  • Janine Bradbury
  • Ann Marie Braker
  • Karen Brandenburg
  • Tom Burke
  • Kim Chapman
  • Kevin Cheek
  • Krista Combs
  • Tarah Cook
  • Melinda Cooper
  • Jim DeMoisey
  • Julie Doyle
  • Debbie Fisher
  • Jennifer Gill King
  • Jeff Greelish
  • Craig Hendricks
  • Megan Hollan
  • Michelle Huber
  • Sue Hulsmeyer
  • Diana Key
  • Tim McCoy
  • Shelly McNamara
  • Ruth Moore
  • Debbie Munz
  • Craig Oaks
  • Penelope Orr
  • Karen Pawsat
  • Timothy Prince
  • Susan Richey
  • Mary Scheper
  • Chris Simpson
  • John Thompson
  • Mark Wilson