Lowell Hellervik uses his psychology degree to build a global company and give back to the Unversity
SUCCESS HAS TWO essential ingredients. One is the foresight or good fortune to be in the right place at the right time. Another is the ability and drive to take advantage of the opportunities that come along.
Lowell Hellervik had both.
Hellervik is chairman of the board, president, and chief executive officer of Personnel Decisions International, a Minneapolis- based firm that helps organizations develop leadership, plan for succession, and improve effectiveness. As it has grown from a small startup into a global firm, PDI has retained close ties to the Department of Psychology.
In fact, the company had its origins there. Hellervik enrolled in the Ph.D. program in educational psychology in the 1960s. Although the program was in the College of Education, he took courses in the psychology department, where he and Marvin Dunnette, an industrial psychologist, became fast friends.
In 1967, Dunnette founded a small consulting firm with Wayne Kirchner, an industrial psychologist at 3M. They invited Hellervik to join them. The young Hellervik found himself on the fast track in the nascent, fast-growing field of management consulting.
"In those days, there was not a specific course on management assessment," he says. "Mostly, I learned by experience."
He also applied his psychology education, which prepared him to interpret tests, perform validation studies, and work one-on-one with clients.
"I was a former teacher, so when people wanted to do management training, I could do workshops," he says. "I was not afraid to get up in front of a class. Likewise, I was not afraid to do individual work with executives because I had therapeutic and counseling internships in graduate school. I could do virtually anything that came down the pike."
It's that kind of confidence and drive that made PDI a pioneer and a powerhouse. Today, the company has 29 global offices, more than 700 employees (about 75 Minnesota Ph.D. graduates over the years), and more than $100 million in annual revenue. Its clients include some 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies.
Hellervik's personal stamp is everywhere. He was instrumental in developing PDI's 360-degree feedback business, including a system known as PROFILOR. He also was one of the original authors of the Successful Manager's Handbook, which has sold more than one million copies.
Hellervik and his wife, Cay Shea Hellervik, have retained close ties to the University. Lowell Hellervik has served on the board of the University of Minnesota Foundation and holds the title of adjunct clinical associate professor in the Department of Psychology ("it qualifies me for staff- PAYING TRIBUTEprice football tickets," jokes Hellervik, an ardent Gophers booster). The Hellerviks and PDI have endowed several academic chairs, an expression of their gratitude for the opportunities that have come their way from the University.
"We both feel it very strongly," says Cay Shea Hellervik, PDI's vice president for relationship development. "The people we meet, the fun we have, and the excellent education the University provides for students are very motivating factors for us."