Culligan Water Case Study

Topgrading Boosts Company and Career Success

"Topgrading has definitely made two companies I’ve run more profitable. Nothing has been more important for my career success. Really – at least half my career success is attributable to Topgrading and Brad Smart’s counsel."

- Scott Clawson, CEO

No. of Employees: 6,600
Industry: Water Treatment


  • Percent high performers in all corporate jobs improved to 85%
  • Sales increased from $450 million to $1.4 Billion (current year projection)

The Company

Culligan was established in 1936 as provider of water softening solutions for residences and has since grown to become the worldwide leader in residential, office, commercial, and industrial water treatment needs, from the simplest filtration system to complex industrial water solutions. Based in Chicago, Culligan has over 600 dealers in 85 countries.

Culligan CEO Scott Clawson’s first Profit and Loss position was with Danaher, a top performing company that embraced Topgrading. “My job was to retool the division,” says Clawson, “and at Danaher P&L leaders are expected to perform. I credit Danaher with vetting all possible hiring methods and concluding that Topgrading was the best.” Clawson’s division was so successful, he quickly earned a promotion.


Later in his career, Clawson was hired as CEO by a private equity company to turn Culligan around. The PE company used Topgrading to assess senior managers prior to purchasing Culligan. From the assessments, Clawson knew that, like his first Danaher P&L position, the Culligan management team would require extensive retooling.

“Topgrading has been key to my career success. I don’t know many HR professionals who have achieved anything close to the percent high performers hired that we’ve achieved at Culligan.”

- Gary Parkinson, SVP, CHRO


Clawson was very familiar with Topgrading from his experience at Danaher and from being coached by his brother Curt, CEO of several companies that embrace Topgrading. Scott used Topgrading to replace 5 out of 8 executives, and all replacements turned out to be high performers. Says Clawson, “We Topgraded senior management quickly and better operating results were so fast in coming, I knew Topgrading was working.

Even before showing up for his first day at Culligan, Clawson hired an HR Executive and got all managers to read Topgrading: 3rd Edition. He brought in Topgrading Professionals to train all the managers and then implemented train-the-trainer. All new managers have been trained internally since then. HR is fully involved in Topgrading at Culligan. The CEO is the only one who can enforce the necessary disciplines, but HR does most of the heavy lifting to help hiring managers.

Clawson requires that Topgrading hiring methods be conscientiously used for all management hires. Clients and vendors are encouraged to Topgrade, so that clients are more successful, and vendors serve Culligan with mostly A Players.

"Our only limiting factor to continue to achieve such growth and success is people, and with Topgrading we have been able to hire, retain, and develop A Player talent."

- Scott Clawson, CEO


Since Topgrading, the percent of high performers hired and promoted in all corporate jobs at Culligan has improved to 85%. Sales and profits/EBITDA have skyrocketed. The company has made 33 acquisitions and achieved 30% annual growth.

In the last year alone, out of 75 corporate hires, 78% have proven to be A Players.

Ready to begin hiring more A players and fewer mis-hires? Contact us.

Improve your hiring success with Topgrading. The Topgrading methodology will transform your hiring process by increasing the number of A player hires and decreasing the number of mis-hires. Our leadership and candidate assessment tools will help you assess, hire, retain, and grow high performing teams. Contact us to learn more about the Topgrading approach to hiring and start achieving better hiring results now!

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