Our CEO Shares Journey from Paper-Mill Town to Downtown Pittsburgh Executive

Chris Simchick

SDLC Partners’ CEO, Chris Simchick, was a special guest on a podcast called “Into the Corner Office” produced by Resource Options International (ROI), a national executive search firm.

In the interview, we learn a lot about how Chris grew up and the family values, education, and drive that influences his approach to entrepreneurship, leadership, sales, and personal growth.

In addition to his personal and professional journey, Chris shared compelling pearls of wisdom for any student, professional, entrepreneur, or executive who wants to build a successful career, business, or team.

Values Formed in a Paper-Mill Town Realized in Downtown Pittsburgh

Chris Simchick was raised in North-Central Pennsylvania in Johnsonburg. In the 70s, it was a small town in Elk County near the Allegheny National Forest centered around the local paper mill. His father worked there for 30 years as did Chris during his college summers.

He was raised with hard work and doing one’s best as evident by his family’s dedication and sacrifice to ensure Chris was the first in the family to go to college in the hopes of him finding a passion and new opportunities.

In addition to schoolwork and playing three sports, he worked as a teenager mowing lawns, cutting and selling wood, and umpiring kids’ baseball. It was in high school that he first discovered computers, going on to attend Edinboro University for a computer science degree. It’s a passion that both his children are pursuing at university today.

With his career success – including being the youngest market manager at a technology company at the age of 28 – came challenges and hard-won lessons.

During the podcast, Chris talked about these prominent themes from his career and entrepreneurial experiences, having co-founded SDLC Partners 17 years ago.

“The value of dialogue is the discovery.”

Chris has a passion for accelerating the value of technology while supporting clients and community; values that he, and his co-founders, built SDLC Partners upon. Through the consulting work that the company provides to regional clients, the SDLC team helps organizations realize a vision through collaboration. The company uses approaches that focus on data-driven decision making, as well as engaging with stakeholders. That’s where the magic of consultative dialogue bears much fruit. Discovery reveals many innovations and solutions that the client hadn’t thought of before.

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Healthy conflict and questioning are critical to discovery and achieving alignment. Chris encourages his teams to be willing to get into undiscovered territory and “put yourself out there.” At SDLC Partners, the leadership hosts monthly meetings where employees are randomly chosen and invited to come for open discussion. “We get questions around everything from sales to employee benefits to the direction the company is taking,” says Chris.

“What’s hit me the most is how our employees take ownership for our culture.”

When asked about company culture, Chris shared that he believes that the most unique part of the SDLC culture is “that we set the tone and we walk the walk. Our values are important, and we hire for them.” “What hit me the most is how our employees have taken ownership for it (the culture). Two aspects where the culture shines are community involvement by leadership and staff, and how employees participate in the interview process.

“Set expectations and inspect against those expectations.”

In the podcast, Chris emphasized how he tries to continuously challenge himself to learn to grow and not get tunnel vision. And, as he says, everyone should be driven by outcomes because business “is not a single-player game.” Leaders need to be willing to make tough decisions and walk-in other people’s shoes. Most importantly, be clear about expectations and be disciplined enough to “inspect against those expectations.”

At SDLC Partners, the Mission, Vision, Value teams help the organization stay focused on how to improve the company, its processes, client deliverables, as well as internal performance management. It’s another way to keep the culture honest and moving forward.

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