What We Do
As a division of Strata Leadership LLC, Character First is a unique program that offers character-based resources for building integrity, strengthening relationships, and developing leadership skills in the workplace. The Character First Education division offers resources specifically designed for K-12 public and private schools.
Watch Dr. Nathan Mellor, president of Strata Leadership, explain why character matters in his 18-minute TEDxOU talk titled, “Listen Up, Corporate America: Less Rules, More Character” (video below).
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Character?
When we talk about character, we mean the inward values that determine outward actions; the mental model used for making decisions; the moral compass that guides your choices; who we are when no one else is watching.
Why does Character matter?
It takes character to build healthy relationships and improve your work or world. Character touches everything we do.
How did Character First Begin?
Character First began in 1992 at Kimray Inc, an Oklahoma City-based manufacturing company. When Tom Hill first became an executive at Kimray, he began a decisive, rules-based approach to employee behavior—which required an ever-thicker ethics manual. Tom and his leadership teem soon recognized that rules are not enough, and that personal character is at the core of outward behavior—including safety, service, productivity, and other desirable outcomes. So instead of safety first or productivity first, they started changing their culture through what they called “Character First.”
In less than two years, Kimray’s Worker’s Compensation costs decreased 80%, and they experienced a 25% increase in profits, even though the market was depressed. To meet the growing need for character education, Tom Hill started the Character Training Institute Inc. in 1994, which sold Character First to Strata Leadership LLC in 2012.
How does Character First work?
Some Character First resources you can purchase and use immediately without any special training. But if you contact us, we can tailor a program that fits your needs in your workplace, school, or law enforcement agency.
How long does it take to start working?
Many organizations see attitudes start to change within 2-3 months and see significant culture change within 2 years.
How can we measure the success of this?
Strata Leadership offers a Cultural Analysis, a research-based approach to identify strengths and weaknesses in your workplace culture and metrics for evaluating program results. You can also track things like attendance, accidents, misconducts, grievances, and retention. Just be careful to consider all the contributing factors—such as the economy, supply chain, weather, illnesses, and other programs you implement.
What are the character qualities for this year?
Follow this link to see what’s coming in our monthly magazine.
What is the difference between the bulletin and the magazine?
How can we keep it alive and fresh? Do you have anything new?
Make sure you get the free Insider Email so you know about new products or training programs. We also suggest you form a steering committee or team that can generate new ideas and help keep your program alive.
Who else does Character First?
More people than we can track. About 29,000 people in the United States receive our monthly magazine through their employer. We estimate about 3,000 public and private K-12 schools in the USA use our education curriculum. And we know it’s used in 28 other nations. In 2013, we estimated that Character First was reaching at least 850,000 people worldwide every month.
Do you have materials in any other languages?
We have a large selection of Spanish materials through our Oklahoma office and throughout Latin America. Otherwise you’ll need to contact each regional office for: French (Quebec), Portuguese (Brazil), Romanian, Turkish, Chinese (traditional and simplified), Korean, Indonesian, and Telegu (India).
What international connections do we have?
We partner with a variety of individuals and organizations overseas. Check out our list of international offices.
Can I be a distributor of Character First?
You may purchase materials at quantity discount through one of our regional directors, but we do not offer franchise or distributor opportunities at this time.
Is Character First a religious program?
No, the Character First materials are designed for a broad audience. We present timelesss character traits that appeal to every culture we’ve encountered so far.
Sometimes people confuse us for the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a faith-based organization in Chicago. When Tom Hill started Character First, he used the IBLP list of 49 character qualities and nature lessons as a starting point. But the two are separate organizations. (Read more.)
Is Tom Hill still involved?
Yes, Tom is part of the executive coaching team for Strata Leadership and speaks at business events and training programs, especially since publishing his book. Stay in touch with Tom at www.MakingCharacterFirst.com
What does our school need to implement Characer First in the classroom?
We recommend the Teacher Orientation Training (DVD or in person) so everyone gets on board. Then each teacher needs a Teacher’s Guide Kit (if you want the full version) or a Student Guide Collection (if you want the light version) to emphasize a different character trait each week. Everything else we offer (posters, music, cards, etc.) are add-ons. Download samples in our store.
Do you provide lesson plans?
Not in the traditional sense. Each Teacher’s Guide offers a dozen or so lessons with complete instructions, but we don’t insist on which grade and how much time you must give to each one. Teachers can pick and choose what works best for them. We recommend you teach at least one 15-minute lesson each week so students can learn the words. Then you can reinforce that concept throughout the week in your core subject matter and as you catch students making good choices.
Why do you have 3 levels of Student Guides and only 2 levels of Teachers’ curriculum?
We divided our Teacher Guides between Elementary and Secondary education, but later realized if we created a resource for students, it needed to be more targeted to their age group. So we offer 3 levels of Student Guides.
How are shipping costs determined?
We send most orders through UPS and apply up to 30 percent handling fee to cover the labor and materials used to package and send your order in a safe and reliable manner. Unfortunately, most of our products do not qualify for Media Mail from the United States Postal Service.
More questions? Please contact us!