For Milton Hall, the long, hard journey from growing up in Baltimore’s inner city to owning a successful business in Washington, D.C. started with watching “60 Minutes” on CBS every Sunday and culminated with earning an MBA from University of Maryland University College(UMUC).
Hall, who is the CEO of the award-winning Human Capital Consultants, says he is not only the first person in his family to graduate from college, much less earn an advanced degree. He is also the first to even graduate from high school.
In October, ExecutiveBiz, an online newsletter for corporate and government executives, named Hall a recipient of its 2017 Top 10 GovCon Executive Recruiter Award, citing his “successful track record in identifying, developing and placing thought-leading executives” in all sectors of the human resources field.
Hall said that his mother, who worked on the lowest rung of the nursing ladder in Baltimore, was able to raise three “hard-headed” boys on her own. Still, most of the male role models around him were not positive. What caught his attention was Ed Bradley, the African-American reporter on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
“You seek mentors when you don’t have a father in your household,” he said. “There were a few guys on television who looked like me, and I was amazed by them. These are guys like Ed Bradley on “60 minutes” or Bryant Gumbel on the “Today Show” or Ken Chenault at American Express. These are guys who are titans in their industries. Why can’t I do the same?”
He sought out information about Bradley, Gumbel, Chenault and the like to learn what they did to succeed. And, Hall said, with failure all around him, it was the fear of failure itself that motivated him most to seek a college education. He didn’t want to end up stuck in Baltimore’s inner city without an education.
“I have always [placed] a high priority on information and education, and I was one of the few who was able to escape the inner city fairly completely unscathed, never having at that time—and today—an encounter with law enforcement. That was clearly uncharacteristic for an African American male in Baltimore.”
But it didn’t come easily.
He struggled through high school, and then slowly earned a degree at Coppin State University in Baltimore. He didn’t start until he was 25 and it took six years of night school to complete his degree in leadership and management.
Along the way, he got a job with Prudential Health Care, first in sales and then advancing into leadership positions. His Coppin State degree was the catalyst for a larger leadership role as a vice president with Cigna in the Midwest, Hall said, adding that he wanted to burn all of his books after graduating because he never wanted to go back to school.
But with his vice president’s position at Cigna, he realized just how much he didn’t know. That’s when he was recruited by an executive search firm to return to Maryland with United Healthcare as a vice president with greater responsibilities.
He would need to sharpen his ability to lead, he said, so he applied to UMUC’s MBA program.
At the same time that he was beginning his UMUC MBA, his company sent him to the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania for a leadership development program. The truth of the matter, Hall said, is that while Wharton is one of the leading business schools in the nation, the professors at UMUC were as good, or better.
“To this day, I claim that Wharton professors are amazing, but UMUC’s professors happen to get overlooked in accolades because I think they are just as exceptional if not more [so] than Wharton professors,” he said
The most important thing he learned in his MBA program at UMUC was critical thinking, Hall said. His favorite professor was Mary Ann Spilman.
“She had the innate ability to pull out of students how to think about a problem or a challenge or a crisis with critical, balanced, level-headed perspective. Emotional leadership is not something that is successful or sustainable, and she helped instill critical thinking skills in me.”
With his MBA under his belt, Hall believed it was time to launch his own business.
In looking at his own skill sets, he realized his greatest asset was in discerning talent in people and hiring them. So, why not start a firm that helps companies find good talent and fill positions—especially in human resources?
In 2003, Hall launched Human Capital Consultants (HCC), now based in Washington, D.C. HCC specializes in identifying and placing advanced Human Resources leaders and executives for progressive clients nationally. Believing that the best growth is slow and steady, he said, HCC has had consistent annual growth of 15 percent and now has 22 employees. Since its inception, HCC has yet to experience a down revenue year or fire a single employee, Hall said.
He prides himself on being a hands-on CEO who is closely involved in the day-to-day operation of a company that provides a haven for people who have tired of big, anonymous corporations where they feel like nothing more than a Social Security number.
To this day, Hall believes two things:
He would not be an entrepreneur if he had not gone through UMUC’s MBA program, making him a big fan of the university.
And even without Ed Bradley, who died in 2006 of complications from leukemia, “60 Minutes” is still the greatest program on television.
“All of my friends know that out of 168 hours in a week, they can call me 167 of them,” Hall said. “The one hour per week they know they can’t call me is Sunday night at seven.”
That’s when “60 Minutes” is on.