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Michael Duffy

Job title: CEO

How did you choose your career path? My parents had started an investigation and market research company in Davenport in 1953. I had worked for them in high school and through college; majored in criminal justice and business at St. Ambrose and decided that going into the family business was the natural thing to do.

How do you maintain a work/life balance? Over the years I always felt that faith, family and business needed to share equally in my time. I also used community service as a way to balance my work life. I have served on a number of not-for-profit boards over the years and found that the diversity helped keep things in balance. My wife has always served as a support network too, so that helped immensely.

What do you look for in a new hire; what questions do you ask in the interview to find the right fit? I always look for someone who has demonstrated a strong work ethic. I ask what their strength/weaknesses are, and if they have long term goals. Anyone with a can-do attitude to get the job done, even if that means they have to work a little extra, usually moves up the ranks. A strong sense of urgency is a plus. People skills are as important as intelligence.

Was there ever a time in your life when you hit an obstacle and had to re-evaluate or rebuild? On a couple of different occasions, we had bank loans called, as we were expanding too fast. One time we had to sell off some operations and another time we just had to slow our growth down. A valuable lesson I learned is that a business without cash is like a car without gas. So we have a tendency to manage on cash flow as opposed to top line.

What’s the best thing about doing business in the Quad-Cities? The best thing in the Quad-Cities is the people. There are a number of people that are very fair-minded, have high integrity and they are fun to do business with. The location is terrific too. We made a decision many years ago to operate in secondary and tertiary markets and try to be the dominate firm. We operate in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska and other small markets and we choose to remain a Midwestern company.

Do you have any advice for people just starting out in their career? If and when you get married, make sure that you have an understanding spouse. They need to understand that you may need to travel, work late, work weekends, or just sometimes have to be busy to get the job done. Conflicts will arise. I couldn’t have been more fortunate in my choice of a spouse. I would also say that the harder you work, the luckier you get. Be nice to people on your way up — you may meet them on your way down. Always do the right thing. If you take care of your employees and your customers, your financial success will follow. It’s very important that you don’t let any success go to your head. It is what is leftover that counts.

The goal of “Each One Teach One” is for established community leaders to offer advice to those building careers. To suggest someone to be profiled, contact Business Editor Liz Boardman at 563-383-2396 or