When the lights click on at the Contract Professionals, Inc. (CPI) offices long before 8 a.m., the CPI staff sets to work with one goal in mind, to put veterans to work. A global staffing company founded by Steve York in 1982, and headquartered in Waterford, Michigan, CPI has spent more than 37 years partnering with companies to provide work to veterans after they have been discharged from the military.
“As a veteran and the CEO of CPI, I feel a deep obligation to ensure that my fellow veterans are given the opportunity to thrive long after their military careers have ended,” said York. “When they succeed in the civilian marketplace, then CPI has done its job.”
Of particular note is the successful placement and career advancement of Colonel Larry Phelps. One of ABC’s Persons’ of the Week, Colonel Phelps has made a career out of making a difference.
Responsible for notifying, comforting and working with families when a soldier loses their life in the line of duty or if they are lost in battle, Colonel Larry Phelps was the commander of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Rear Detachment. In short, he was responsible for the 18,000 families left behind as the troops went over seas to Iraq. Part of his job was to manage the process for those who made the supreme sacrifice. But more than the bearer of bad news, Colonel Phelps cared for every family member, attending to every possible need.
Colonel Phelps handled everything from getting lawns mowed to managing financial issues. He was also the last person to see every solider before their deployment. “We really thought it was very important for each soldier to see the rear detachment commander as they boarded the plane. It was a tangible sign that we were taking care of them and their families. We took it all very seriously,” said Colonel Phelps. “We wanted to be there and give reassurance and shake their hands. If there was uncertainty in their eyes, we wanted them to know that we were standing watch.”
Colonel Phelps’s position was created after the first Gulf War. Before then, all of the care giving was the responsibility of the wives and husbands left behind.
Colonel Phelps enlisted in the Army in 1978. For the next 32 years, he would develop a highly advanced skill set, which would ultimately position him as an extremely desirable candidate for employment in the business sector.
As a Commander of a Sustainment Brigade, his last position in the Army, Phelps honed his skills in supply, maintenance, transportation, human resources, finances, health services, field services, and the entire process at it relates to the contracting and procurement of business.
Colonel Phelps also commanded various units throughout his Army career, which sharpened his leadership and personnel management skills. “I rely on my leadership skills on a regular basis, now that I’m in the business community. I learned a great deal about planning, resourcing and directing large groups of people, in order to accomplish a common mission,” said Colonel Phelps. “The Army is a team. And team building is an important skill set, which you acquire and refine as you progress up the ranks in the Army. These leadership and team building skills are every bit as necessary in the business community.”
During his tenure in the Army, Colonel Phelps was also deployed on several combat tours. He reflects now on his time in the line of fire as an opportunity to differentiate between the important and the critical. “That sense of urgency and my ability to prioritize has certainly served me very well.”
Now retired from the United States Army, Phelps understands the power and synchronicity of finding and developing the right relationships at the right time. After all, he had spent part of his military career managing the lives of those who really needed his support. He was a friend, confident, brother, father, and the all around “go to” person rolled into one.
After completing his service in the Army, Phelps found himself in the unlikely position of looking for his own mentor; someone who could help him transition back into a civilian job. More specifically, he was looking for a way to put the expertise he had gained in the Army to good use. “As a veteran, it’s sometimes difficult to just get your foot in the door in the very competitive marketplace,” said Colonel Phelps. “I think that’s exactly what CPI can do. They can open doors and connect you to great companies.”
When Colonel Phelps got in touch with CPI, they knew he was uniquely qualified to take the skills and discipline he developed during his years of service, and apply it to the civilian workplace. Because CPI understands how to help veterans make a smooth transition from active duty to civilian employment, CPI’s team of recruiters set to work to find him the perfect fit.
Although smaller in scale, CPI is joining Fortune 500 companies across America in a concerted effort to employ veterans. The 100,000 Jobs Mission recently announced that they would hire an additional 100,000 U.S. military veterans by 2020. The coalition consists of companies from every industry including Detroit-based GM, BAE Systems, IBM, Aetna, Coca-Cola, Hershey, Halliburton, Western Union, Bridgestone, Merck, Grainger and several more. And there’s more. Companies like Disney, Starbucks and Capital One Financial all have their own programs that seek to target, train and employ veterans. CPI is proud to share the same vision of some of the best-known companies in the world.
“This didn’t happen by accident,” said Colonel Phelps. “CPI was instrumental in helping me find a company where I was given the room to lead and grow. My Army team refined my leadership and technical skills during my time in the service, and now my employer, a large, DOD Michigan supplier is honing those skills even further.”
After accepting a contract position with CPI, Colonel Phelps went on to receive a direct hire position as a Senior Logistics Analyst. “CPI made it just as simple to move on to the DOD supplier, as it did for me to hire on to CPI in the first place, said Colonel Phelps. “I was armed with the great training and the experiences I had while I was employed as a contractor. After that, I felt fully prepared to take a full time direct position with my employer.”
Phelps was honored to accept an offer of full time, direct employment. “I think there were several factors that played into that decision. My time with CPI was one of them.”
Because CPI has employed over 2000 veterans since the year 2000, the company has already been leading the way. It would follow that CPI would join the nation wide movement to educate, train and provide employment to veterans.
One of the biggest challenges veterans face is the ability to find work that maximizes their skill set. Many vets go back to work but report that they are being under utilized. They take the job because they need to, not because they’ve been given the proper pay or the ability to utilize their advanced skill sets.
“CPI already has strong history of putting veterans to work. It’s simply a matter of bringing it to scale,” said Cowper. “Colonel Phelps is a perfect example of where opportunity, skill and positioning meet. We worked extremely hard to ensure his transition to contract work at the DOD supplier went flawlessly. We are very proud of the outcome.”