The InnoSource CEO isn't satisfied with just leading a growing staffing and outsourcing company. He also aspires to be an “urban statesman.”
The unexpected call changed the direction of Chad Delligatti's career. In 2000, just after graduating with an MBA from the University of Dayton, Delligatti was contacted by a former customer of his middle and high school business, CD's Lawn Care. Though Delligatti was hoping to get a job with a large, well-established company, his former client—an employee at a small 8-month-old firm— remembered Delligatti's teenage entrepreneurial bent and encouraged him to consider the startup world.
After interviewing with that company, Delligatti took his now-wife, Adrienne, to meet his parents in Granville. Standing over the grill with his dad and girlfriend, he weighed his options. Should he go with the upstart, InnoSource, a staffing and outsourcing agency in Dublin, or pursue a Fortune 500 path? Both Adrienne and his father encouraged him to go the smaller route.
That turned out to be wise advice. InnoSource has experienced rapid growth, and Delligatti has moved up the executive ranks, becoming president of the business in his late 20s. And during an era of employment volatility, Delligatti hopes to spend his entire career with InnoSource, his first job out of college. “My big dream is to finish InnoSource off to be the best company and leave it in great hands to continue to run forever,” he says.
But Delligatti's ambitions extend beyond business success. He also wants to leave central Ohio a better place and aspires to be “an urban statesman” like New Albany Co. chairman Jack Kessler, Huntington Bank CEO Steve Steinour and Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer, three community leaders who've mentored him in recent years. In the fall of 2016, Delligatti became a member of the Columbus Partnership. Since then, he's joined his three mentors and other senior business leaders at the table as they've set the city's civic agenda—an extraordinary learning opportunity for a young executive like him. “It was one of the biggest honors I've ever had,” Delligatti says of his joining the Partnership, “something that I take to heart.”
The admiration goes both ways, too. As the Partnership has evolved over the past 16 years, its membership has expanded from a handful of gray-haired CEOs representing the biggest companies and institutions in the city to a sprawling collection of 70 business and civic leaders, including younger folks like Delligatti. For the Partnership to continue to succeed in the coming decades, its leaders recognize it must cultivate a new generation to carry on the much-heralded Columbus Way, the spirit of cooperation that has defined the city in recent years, and they see Delligatti as an heir apparent, along with such younger leaders as developer Brett Kaufman, CoverMyMeds CEO Matt Scantland and White Castle CEO Lisa Ingram, all of whom have joined the Partnership in recent years.
“Chad's one of these unbridled, enthusiastic, energetic individuals who is running a very successful, growing company, but then doing it with a strong mindset and commitment to his community,” says Fischer, the Partnership CEO. “His involvement with us I think is one illustration of how [the Partnership] can evolve over time.”
A Better Way to Outsource
InnoSource has been in Delligatti's hands since 2010, with his promotion to president five years before setting his course. He was promoted unexpectedly on the day before Thanksgiving. “It was a last-minute meeting. I thought, ‘Oh man, Thanksgiving Eve.' You don't normally get called into the boss's office,” he says. “So it was kind of a surprise to me, but that was when I became president. … Didn't expect it at such a young age but loved it … and have been loving it ever since.”
InnoSource, which had about 90 total employees across the country when Delligatti was hired, has enjoyed double-digit growth year-over-year since he was given a leadership role, and now has bricks-and-mortar locations in Columbus, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Tampa and Colorado Springs. The company has two main roles, both as a contract staffer and an onsite outsourcer for its client companies. It offers a benefits package—including healthcare, dental reimbursement, $25,000 life insurance, a flexible spending account, paid time off and a 401(k) plan—to potential recruits, and Delligatti says that they are often recruited from other full-time positions, due in large part to the benefits package.
InnoSource specializes in staffing customer service and contact centers. Delligatti says that the onsite outsourcing part of the company keeps all of the good aspects of outsourcing and does away with all of the bad. “[It's a] compelling alternative to traditional outsourcing overseas or offsite,” Delligatti explains. In 2007, InnoSource identified that its clients “loved our recruiting services and our people, but half the group was still theirs, and they didn't know what they were doing with that department. So they asked InnoSource, ‘What can you do?' We made the decision at that point that we have the understanding and expertise for these environments. Why can't we run them?”
Delligatti wants InnoSource to positively affect as many people as possible. He is attentive to the care of his employees, and he instills a “work-hard, play-hard” culture in the office, where successes are celebrated. He also has a monthly call with his team, where he leaves time for them to ask him whatever they want. He cares whether the client companies are receiving the best possible talent from InnoSource. On a grand scale, he wants InnoSource to attract talent to the city of Columbus.
Becoming a Partner
Delligatti first crossed paths with the Columbus Partnership when it did some joint programmingaround 2014 with the local chapter of the Young Presidents' Organization, which Delligatti led. Soon after, he was invited to be to be a guest at the Partnership's annual Harvard retreat at the Kennedy School. While there, Delligatti says he was moved to see so many powerful and successful people in one room, all unified in their purpose to make Columbus better. He says the conversations they had there were challenging and uncomfortable at times, but important. He came home with a new vigor for the city.
“I got into that room in Harvard, seeing the number of community leaders in the room putting all of their personal agendas to the side to have one common goal,” says Delligatti. “When [you see] these individuals with such passion for everyone else, it just moved me. I came back more energized, got involved.”
Fischer, the Partnership CEO, says that Delligatti “is a great linkage to a different sphere of the world,” as a member of the Partnership. He calls Delligatti a “successful business leader that could have the choice to just keep his nose down, focused 100 percent on business, but subscribes to the culture of being involved in the greater good.” As a member of the Partnership, Delligatti has another outlet for that desire. He has his sights fixed on the Partnership's future as it includes him as a young and engaged member. He says he is soaking in everything he can from the leaders around him.
His main mentors—Steinour, Kessler and Fischer—have taught him “to be the best urban statesman I can for the city of Columbus, to represent the Columbus Way,” he says.
“Steve has been unbelievable, just helping me develop, be the man I am, be able to do the things I do for the city,” Delligatti says. “Jack's been amazing over the last three or four years, really embracing me, introducing me to people and helping me set relationships and helping me drive the business as well. And then Alex really brings it all together. I am very thankful for all three of them. Very thankful.”
The Partnership continues to collaborate with YPO to inspire the Columbus Way in younger executives. Delligatti is especially excited about how the Partnership is encouraging civility among Columbus residents during a time of anger and strife. He is enthusiastic as he points out that Columbus 2020, the Partnership's economic development arm, is on the verge of pulling off what once seemed impossible: achieving its job-creation, capital-investment and per-capita-income goals (and two years ahead of time, to boot). Delligatti is especially focused in on the Smart Columbus initiative and what that will mean for those living in pockets of poverty all over the city. He wants to close the gaps. He envisions Columbus residents as one cohesive unit.
“Smart City is a huge win for the city of Columbus, but now we have to finish it off,” he says. “Smart City touches many things beyond just the electrification and automation. It helps with the infant mortality rate. It helps people in impoverished areas get access to transportation to go out and get employment and get education.
“When I look at the future of Columbus, finishing out Smart City will be a great end to the next evolution of Columbus.”
Fit for the Role
Leadership seems to come naturally to Delligatti. A firm handshake, unabashed eye contact and charisma give him an edge—but he exudes affability also, as he jokes around about how suits fit these days. When he talks about his family, he becomes emotional. “When I look back over the years at who impacted me the most, I'd say early, early on it was really my parents. They drove me hard to be who I am, but more importantly, taught me values,” he says.
When he was a boy with a lawn-care business, his mom drove him around in a truck so he could mow all those lawns. He says that early business taught him leadership skills he continues to use today. “There's a lot of things just through money and business I had to learn,” he explains. “When people didn't show up to mow grass in the morning, how do I get them there and motivate them?”
Once Delligatti graduated from Ohio University in 1999, having had the experience of overseas consulting in Vietnam and Malaysia through a school program, it was clear what excited him. Although his dad, a lawyer, inspired in him early to follow in his footsteps, he talked Delligatti out of going to law school, and encouraged him to get an MBA. Good thing too, since Delligatti met his wife Adrienne, also an MBA student at a different UD branch, on a school trip to Toulouse, France.
“I always wanted to be an attorney just because of my father, and then he was the one that gave me that advice that ‘I think you'll enjoy business more and just focus on your MBA,' ” says Delligatti.
Now, as a father of two, Giada and Luca, Delligatti says that time together is important. They try to all have breakfast and dinner together, and Sundays in the Delligatti household are for eating homemade Italian food. He says cooking is probably his favorite hobby. He makes pasta sauce and meatballs—he'll throw a short rib in, too—tossed with rigatoni. They'll invite his parents, brother and usually another family to come and eat—but, “I'm not a baker,” he says. He also spends his time outside of work rooting for the Buckeyes and Cavs. Recently, he says he has been getting into hockey since his son plays—he roots for the Blue Jackets, of course.
His dreams include not only a more equitable Columbus; he also thinks about what his life may be like after he turns InnoSource over to new hands. He flirts with the idea of owning a small restaurant. “Just a few tables, very small menu, but it gives me a chance to still have a small outlet to bring people together, talk and make the community a better place with food,” he says. (Together, he and his wife are a one-two-punch. She owns Dell's Homemade Ice Cream and Coffee on Dublin Road.)
He also dreams of being a basketball coach. “Not only to win, but to make the kids the best they can be in life and prepare them for what's out there.”
But no matter what happens, he plans to stay deeply involved in the community. “I want to be an urban statesman for the city of Columbus forever,” he says.
Chloe Teasley is staff writer.