Stretching Your Way up the Ladder

Sunny Gonzalez-Cepero Executive Features, Human Resources

Chris Himebauch, Chief HR Officer for APR Energy, explains how to grow through stretch goals, build a value-added team, and encourage an engaging company culture

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PMI Health Group are pleased to have been able to support Chris and his team at APR Energy, as they have worked to ensure all staff members world-wide receive appropriate health and life employee benefits. Chris is a business-focussed reward professional, and we look forward to advising him and his business for many years to come.
– Mike Blake, Compliance Director at PMI Health Group

Chris Himebauch, MBA has over 20 years’ of progressive HR leadership experience across numerous industries. He now serves as Chief Human Resources (HR) Officer for APR Energy, an innovative global power provider that generates electricity through large-scale mobile power plants. The company’s plants are in operation all over the world, and unlike conventional plants – which often take years to build and commission – APR Energy’s plants are typically installed and commissioned in under 90 days. Himebauch’s realm of responsibility includes identifying and developing individuals who live the APR Energy values.

Exorcising Stagnation

Many of Himebauch’s past positions were with large companies that employ 25,000+ workers, including Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Darden Restaurants, Wyndham Worldwide, and Winn-Dixie. Himebauch’s character is etched with a deep and compelling desire to grow. When he gets too comfortable, he looks for opportunities to stretch to new goals and new challenges. He explained how he felt while working at Darden: “I realized I felt restless and needed to continue to break out and learn by moving to another business.” His career management strategy has worked; he’s made four of these career moves successfully, greatly widening his experience, he noted.

When he was offered the opportunity to run HR at APR Energy, a fast-growing company, Himebauch was both intrigued and excited. “I had always wanted to build my own HR team and be able to develop HR infrastructure to support an organization from the ground up,” he said. APR Energy gave him the platform to stretch his knowledge base.

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An Engaging and Entrepreneurial Culture

When Himebauch began at APR Energy, his primary goals were to grow and strengthen the company’s engaging culture, as well as to help encourage the entrepreneurial spirit that the company was founded upon. To keep the employees engaged and make the culture vibrant, Himebauch explained that he deemphasizes corporate buy-in mentality, and instead provides autonomy to everyone on board. At APR Energy, the collaborative, roundtable approach takes precedence over hierarchy.

Fostering an entrepreneurial spirit is a key to company growth and success, Himebauch explained. APR Energy must be very pioneering by nature, given that it has to operate on a dime in remote and emerging areas of the world. “When you are in the middle of a desert or a jungle, and you’re building a power plant from the ground up with less than three months to the commissioning deadline, you can’t wait around for a corporate approval process to get things done,” he said. It’s far better to give employees the necessary freedom to enable them to do their tasks sans red tape and swiftly meet company goals.

Building Value through People

One of the foundational lessons Himebauch has learned about HR it that it’s a function that “has to constantly think about how to help a company build value through its people.”  He gleaned this lesson from his mentor and friend Jim Lynde, former head of HR of Red Lobster.

Lynde taught Himebauch that there are three essential components involved in building company value through its talent force.  Firstly, it’s essential to find the right people with sufficient and applicable ability to do the job. Secondly, employers must be able to generate workers’ genuine commitment to meet their responsibilities. Lastly, employers must create regular accountability to drive performance.

Himebauch’s innate drive to expand, absorb, and grow has fueled his success in Human Resources, making his leadership an asset to the team. Fortunately for up-and-comers, his strategies are completely implementable. By focusing on building your company’s value, maintaining focus on your objectives, and keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive within your organization, you can deliver results that will help you grow your career. ♦

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Approach of Developing a Value-Added Team

Himebauch’s mentor Jim Lynde taught him to use this approach for helping a company achieve success through its people.

Head – Ensure that your organization has people who have the capability to execute on the vision and strategy of the business. (Ensure people have ability)
Heart – Create a cult-like commitment from individuals who want to achieve the vision and strategy. (Influence what people care about).
Hand – Drive performance and accountability to achieve results. (Influence what people do).

“If you can do all three of those things, your organization’s people will deliver far greater results than a company who does not have people’s head, heart, and hands engaged.”


Stretching towards Growth

Purposefully seeking out stretch opportunities has been a large driving force in Himebauch’s career. To impart the benefits of growth to team members, he recommends providing them with ample project opportunities and stretch assignments. Giving employees new, challenging assignments will do far more to foster real growth than many class training modules will, he explained. This will increase workers’ knowledge base and skill sets, which will trickle down and wind up increasing company value.

Himebauch believes that young professionals can do much to benefit their careers by simply developing a love of learning and seeking out ways to improve and grow, rather than focusing too much on clawing their way up the metaphorical ladder. Many of his team members that continually soak up information like a sponge have made massive headway in a short period of time at APR Energy. “When there are people around who just want to learn and grow, they don’t worry about how to climb the ladder. They just worry about ‘What do I need to do to make myself better and make the company better?’ and once they do, the good things will come – the jobs, the promotion, more money, or the ability to do something different.”


Pro Tip: Go Global ASAP

In order to build professional longevity and success, Himebauch highly recommends getting involved with an international company as soon as possible. “If I were to start over again, I would have gotten involved in an international company much earlier in my career,” he said. “The knowledge, experience, and perspective that an adventurous person can gain from working with international businesses and cultures will shape a very long, healthy, and fulfilling career.”


Chris's Key Partners:
 PMI Health Group (International Insurance) | The ALS Group (Risk management advisory) | ADP (PEO provider)
Sunny Gonzalez-Cepero

Sunny Gonzalez-Cepero

Contributing Writer at Forefront Magazine
Sunny Gonzalez-Cepero, a Key West, Florida native, has been a writing aficionado since she could hold a chunky crayon and scribble across her Granny's walls. Her love of writing fueled her career path, and eventually grew to encompass other arts, including web design and photography.

Professional profiles, photojournalism, and legal writing are Sunny's specialties; her personal, creative, edgy approach makes her stand apart in the industry. Her clientele has included over three dozen law firms around the country; international businesses such as LiveStrong and Howcast; American favorites like Family Fun and Natural News; and regional publications such as Rutherford Woman and Conch Color.
As a mom of six, fitness enthusiast, and self-employed business woman, she stays busy in her island home with her middle school sweetheart and husband Michael, and makes time to travel regularly. If she's not jogging on down the islands, shooting an event, or writing up a storm, you can find her at Sunfire Creatives or on Facebook.
Sunny Gonzalez-Cepero

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