Questions? Call us now at 609-688-0428

What is a Business Pit Stop?

by Lindsley Medlin, Jr. on Apr 30, 2019 8:49:48 AM

In auto racing, a pit stop is when the driver pulls the car into the pit so that the pit crew can attend to it during the race. They replace tires, refuel, repair damaged wings or make other modifications to the car to change the downforce and improve performance. In business, a pit stop is when you step back and stop working, like the driver stops driving, and assess and address any issues that need to be fixed so you can get back to work and achieve your objectives.

At Trilogy Partners, we often see business leaders working long hours, nights and weekends to keep up with the financial, operational and staffing issues that can be overwhelming. However, if you don’t stop and assess the situation, you’ll continually be reacting to the business and letting circumstances control you. To be effective and operate at a high level, you need to be out in front of the business, being proactive and guiding it. Not only is this important for the CEO or business owner, but also for the employees. They need to understand how their jobs fit into the overall business goals, and review how they are progressing against their personal and departmental goals. If things are not going as planned, how can they take corrective action?

The business pit stop can be regular update meetings in the office, but it can take place outside of the office as well. Going to happy hour with colleagues to relax and re-energize is another form of business pit stop. It allows people to de-stress and build relationships with their officemates. Taking time out to attend training and educational sessions is also valuable. It provides the additional skills needed for people to operate at higher levels and advance their careers. Regular professional networking events with people outside of your organization is another form of business pit stop that allows you to connect with others who can help you.

It’s not too late for your pit stop. Call Trilogy Partners at 609-688-0428 and we’ll put our pit crew to work to help your organization operate at the highest level, overtake your competitors and win the race.

Anything for a Buck

by Christine Connolly, MBA on Apr 01, 2019 10:58:28 AM

Entrepreneur: a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risk. So how does Trilogy Partners help manage potential risk? We help owners fully understand the financial story of their business including the danger of “Anything for a Buck”.

It starts with an idea, for a product or service that you can do better than anyone else. This idea will make you more money than you’re earning now PLUS, you make the rules and set your schedule.

So, you make the leap. You buy the domain, create a website, and hang out your shingle. You are open for business.

The phone rings! It’s a friend who needs X. Now X isn’t exactly what you do but after a brief conversation, you accept the work because you’re just starting out.

Then you get an email from someone who needs Y. Y also isn’t what you do but it’s close enough, so you write a proposal.

Time passes and you take on work that is within your strategic plan and some that’s not. You are working hard, putting in more hours than planned, yet the ROI isn’t there. Your vision of working smarter, not harder, isn’t panning out and you’re not sure why. What went wrong?

Instead of committing to your vision, you decided to do anything for a buck.

Consider my very first client, AFAB, aka “Anything For A Buck”. That was their business model and it didn’t work. Here’s why.

AFAB tried to do a bit of everything for anybody. Every time they quoted a job, they were starting from scratch and that takes time. They couldn’t build on experience, because every job was different and required new and unproven resources and processes. In a nutshell, they were guessing. Often, they would lower their quote to secure a project, minimizing the value of their brand. Also, by not specializing, the quality of their work suffered, and they did not stand out from the competition.

Stick to your vision. You know what you do well and why it adds value. You’re passionate and that passion shows. Every time you deviate from that model, you are spending time and money trying to reinvent a wheel that someone else has already invented, someone who is passionate about that wheel. Your time IS MONEY. Taking a lower rate of pay or a lower gross margin is a false positive. On paper, it looks like the business is making money, but unless you’re taking a fair market salary for what you’re doing, profits are overstated.

At Trilogy Partners, we understand how difficult it is to turn away a customer, especially a paying one who you genuinely want to help. But learning how to measure which clients and work are profitable is essential to the health and sustainability of your business. We can help you define your strategy and design a financial plan to support your vision. Call us at 609-688-0428 and let’s get started.

A Rosy View of Business

by Andrea Grubb on Mar 04, 2019 11:08:16 AM

One day many summers ago, the founder of Trilogy Partners, Hal Levenson, brought a bunch of varied colored roses from his garden into our office.  Sitting in a bucket, the unshorn flowers were wild with bits of soil clinging to them.  Instinctively, I grabbed the roses from the bucket and started cleaning them, taking off the thorns, disposing of dead leaves and neatly assembling them into separate vases.  I thought of our team members as I constructed each display.  Who would like the tall vase? Who would appreciate yellow roses instead of red?  Once completed, I distributed each bouquet and after an initial sense of gratitude, I noticed that each team member coveted the arrangement by showcasing it in a perfect spot.  As days passed, I witnessed people filling their vases with extra water and repositioning the flowers to ensure proper light.  Each summer, we repeat this ritual much to everyone’s enjoyment.

You may wonder, how does this story relate to business?

I recently realized that this practice is a metaphor for the organizational structure we have at Trilogy and what we advocate to our clients.  Hal’s role as the Visionary of the company is to provide many raw and creative ideas that will help enhance the business.  The Visionary offers the bucket of roses. These ideas need to be objectively assessed and thoroughly groomed by someone other than the Visionary which is where I come in as the Integrator.  The Integrator sorts through the roses & comes up with a plan for use.  After the ideas are developed and ready for execution, our team members, based on their skills and roles, are responsible for the continuous cultivation and management of the processes while guaranteeing quality and value.  The Executives/Directors/Managers and their support teams are accountable for the sustainability of the flowers.

Each person has a vital role to play in a company.  At Trilogy, we’ve seen that the trick for gaining the best results or traction for companies begins with having the right people in the right seats contributing based upon their unique talents and skill sets.  It sounds simple but you’d be amazed at how many businesses get stuck because of ineffective organizational structure.

Does your company have the right people providing, arranging and taking care of the roses?  If not, reach out to me at agrubb@gettrilogypartners.com.  Trilogy can help you identify the right people and structure your organization for maximum results.

 

 

 

Trilogy Partners – A 10 Year Journey

by Hal Levenson on Feb 05, 2019 12:15:10 PM

As a CPA, people often ask me why I started Trilogy Partners.  I enjoyed my career but deep inside, I knew that I wanted a different path, one that would allow me to be more consultative, collaborative and capitalize on my tendency to look at things differently.

Being an entrepreneur and working with entrepreneurs, I recognized that business owners look to the future, search for opportunities and sometimes ignore potential pitfalls.  Also, many business owners are visionaries and excel at their trade but are not strong at implementation and managing people or processes. My idea was to solve this disconnect and form a team of trusted advisors who could help entrepreneurs implement their vision, create new opportunities for their employees and pay it forward to other entrepreneurs.

In the beginning, I made mistakes ranging from the structure of the organization, to unrealistic expectations, lack of processes and focus.  I was often frustrated, and even thought I would fail.  Because of my support system, the people who really cared about me and believed in Trilogy, I was able to push forward.  As the years progressed, I realized that I had to let go, not micro-manage and release control.  As a result, we implemented EOS®, identified a new strategy and hired terrific employees.  Ultimately, I found the right integrator who is a confidante and someone I trust to run the business.

Why do I still love Trilogy Partners? Trilogy has had a major impact for so many.  Our clients have seen greater financial results, better corporate culture and strength in leadership.  Our network of Alliance Partners has created something special where we have subject matter expertise, common values and a collaborative team who want to make a positive difference.

As we celebrate our 10th year, I’m excited about the initiatives we will be undertaking.  Just like our clients, we will face challenges but with the right strategy, processes, financial aptitude and people, I am hopeful for what’s ahead. We look forward to sharing Trilogy’s redefined services in the upcoming months and thank you for the support you have shown on this journey. The best is yet to come.

What’s the “Real” Business Challenge?

by Hal Levenson on Dec 04, 2018 1:59:04 PM

What holds a business back? Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see even successful companies struggle to grow. When working with Trilogy clients, challenges typically surface in the following categories:

  1. Fundamental business issues
  2. Culture of the organization
  3. Attitude towards change

Let’s explore each of these critical areas in more detail:

1. Fundamental business issues can be defined in two categories:

Growth: Strategy, Sales/Marketing and Organizational
Sustainability:
People, Financial and Processes

Examine the company and ask the following questions:

  • Is there a clear, concise written strategic plan that is aligned by all members of the team?
  • Are marketing and sales efforts being tracked, measured and getting consistent results?
  • Is there a current and future organizational chart outlining expectations, gaps and opportunities for advancement?
  • Is recruiting, training, onboarding, and compensation putting the right people in the right seats?
  • Does leadership understand what is “behind” the numbers and utilize a financial dashboard to guide decisions and increase the bottom line?
  • Are processes current and effective, making the business more competitive and more profitable.

2. The culture of the organization as measured by the following characteristics:

Foundation: Trust, Conflict, and Communications
Results:
Accountability, Courage, and Passion

Consider the following questions:

  • Is there real trust; that is, the ability to tell one another the hard truth and not be afraid to offend because of the positive intentions?
  • Is healthy conflict encouraged to get the best ideas from different point of views?
  • Is there 2-way communication that is understood at all levels of the organization with clear expectations?
  • Are all employees consistently accountable to specific measurable results?
  • Does everyone in the organization have the courage to make tough decisions and admit to mistakes?
  • Are people engaged and passionate about the company’s vision?

3. Attitude towards change

Change can be intimidating and can mean many things. When we talk about change, we focus on a willingness to embrace change, how much change can the organization handle, and what rate of change is acceptable?

What is the company’s attitude toward change? Consider the following:

  • How much change can the organization handle with its current employees, processes, technology and resources?
  • How fast can the company change emotionally, financially and organizationally?

For change to take hold, leadership must address these questions otherwise, any fundamental or cultural initiatives will fail.

So, what’s the “real” business challenge? It’s rarely ever just one thing but rather, some combination of the questions above. At Trilogy, we don’t believe that these challenges should hold a company back. Rather, addressing common issues can give a business the boost it needs. Find out how we can help; call Trilogy Partners at 609-688-0428 for a complimentary consultation.

 

 

Maximize your Business Value

by Jeff Bruno on Oct 31, 2018 11:54:56 AM

I enjoy working with Trilogy clients, helping them to better understand their financials to set strategy and drive growth. But what happens when owners want to exit the business? How can they ensure that they get the highest value for the business they’ve dedicated their life to build?

As you may know, the industry standard valuation method is a multiple of a organization’s Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA). The objective of a company in the short-term is to maximize EBITDA any way possible, to improve its value. However, depending on your industry or business model, one may have to decide if EBITDA is the best strategy to value your business as demonstrated by these two examples:

First, let’s look at MakeStuff, LLC, a manufacturing company that has been operating for 25 years and is positioning itself for exit. With a multiplier of 5X, any addition to EBITDA has considerable impact. While there are alternate ways to add to EBITDA from cutting overhead expenses to increasing sales, MakeStuff chooses to discount products heavily to incentivize purchasing and top-line growth. The gross profit margin will decrease, a strategy that may not be sustainable in the long-run, but every extra dollar of gross profit margin would improve the EBITDA. Ultimately, if the company raises the total EBITDA from $1,000,000 to $1,200,000 for the year, with a 5X multiplier, this would yield $1,000,000 more at time of sale.

Now consider Govt Software, LLC, a software company positioning for exit in the government space. Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) or Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) are major factors for this type of entity and can be more critical than solely an EBITDA multiplier. Therefore, this company could have a completely different strategy than MakeStuff.

Govt Software’s value lies in its targeted niche, licensing specifically for government agencies and multi-year contracts. There are many larger companies that have better economies of scale with more dollars to invest in infrastructure, so Govt Software becomes very attractive as an added revenue line for a larger company.

In this instance, with the goal of exiting soon, Govt Software would be wise to reinvest all profits in sales and marketing initiatives that would help the company improve the overall MRR. With a revenue multiple of 3X, they would add $300K in company value for every $100K of annual contracts added, regardless of a positive or neutral effect to the EBITDA.

Preparing for exit is not something that should be left to chance or done without professional guidance. Each specific case needs to take into consideration the specifics of the business involved in the M&A transaction. If you’d like to have a conversation to learn more, contact Trilogy Partners at results@gettrilogypartners.com or 609-688-0428.

School Smarts + Street Smarts = Success

by Blair Turner on Oct 01, 2018 12:46:28 PM

When working with Trilogy clients, I often tell them the story of Mitch and Jack, two high school friends with contrasting personalities.  Mitch was a loner, a straight-A student who always completed the extra credit homework and was essentially the pompous, go-to answer man when the rest of us stared back at Mr. Carmen with dazed expressions.

Jack, on the other hand, was a good student who finished his homework during lunch, right before class.  He often showed up a few minutes late, usually detained by friends seeking his brotherly advice. Jack was a very good listener and involved in many school and community activities.

Many years after graduation, I saw both men at a high school reunion.  I found it fascinating to learn how their lives had evolved. Mitch graduated at the top of his class from an Ivy League school with a law degree.  He had moved around and through various prestigious law firms as well as three wives.  His continual complaining and negativity turned off our classmates and sadly, they drifted away from his table.

Conversely, Jack earned his Associates degree and started working at IBM where he was able to complete his Bachelors.  Through the years, he moved with the company and had been promoted many times.  He now led a huge regional sales team, was married with two children, had settled into a new home and was thankful he could become more involved in the community.  The same classmates who sought his brotherly advice decades earlier were still his friends.

Like many, I grew up believing that success in school equaled success in life and in the workplace.  Intellectual Quotient (IQ testing) dominated society’s view of human potential for a hundred years.  People with school smarts or high IQs, were analytical, logical, rational and could retain and recall information at high levels. At the time of my reunion, I was reading about street smarts or people with high Emotional Intelligence (EI) who can recognize, understand and manage their own emotions and recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.

This new concept of emotional intelligence was clarified when I reflected on how Mitch and Jack’s lives transformed into such dissimilar directions.

So why is EI important for business owners and their employees? Scientific data shows a correlation between emotional intelligence and proven success in our personal and working lives.  Daniel Goleman, who first published Emotional Intelligence in 1995, shares that Johnson and Johnson found that in divisions around the world, those identified at mid-career as having high leadership potential were far stronger in EI competencies than were their less-promising peers. This is further supported by Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, who wrote, “Ninety percent of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence.” and states that there is a direct link between EI success and earnings.

Is there someone like Mitch in your organization? Self-perception, Self-expression, Interpersonal skills, Decision making, Stress management and Happiness can all be assessed in an emotional intelligence test and these skills can be improved no matter our age. At Trilogy Partners, we identify barriers and help develop emotional brilliance. To learn more, call us at 609-688-0428 or email results@gettrilogypartners.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Build Your Business by Building Relationships

by Ken Jacobs, ACC, CPC on Jul 31, 2018 1:42:46 PM

One consistency among Trilogy clients and owners of ANY size business is that they often struggle with how to grow their business.

All too often, we hear, “I make so many cold calls,” “I network at so many events,” “I’m always on social media, posting about all our valuable services to clients,” “I send so many follow-up emails,” Yet they’re not reaching their business growth goals.

Does any of this sound familiar?  If so, here are five tips to help you achieve your business development goals:

EMBRACE YOUR NICHE: Too many business owners try to be all things to all people. They’re afraid that if they sound too “niche,” or narrowly-focused, they’ll miss out on some business opportunity. And that’s a shame, because prospects hire experts. So, if you want to grow, identify the industries, practice areas, and offerings you know better than your competition. Make sure you’ve got the results, proof, case studies, and ecstatic clients to back up your claim. And if you’re not comfortable with the idea of a niche, just think of it as your “Expertise Area.”

NETWORK WITH YOUR PROSPECTS: While there’s a benefit from networking with one’s peers, and I’d never discourage you from doing so, make sure that the majority of the time you’re networking with your prospects. Don’t be afraid of being the only “you” in the room. In fact, that’s exactly what you want.

DON’T JUST NETWORK, GET ACTIVE: Some define networking as joining groups, attending events, and so on. I don’t believe that’s enough to drive business, because you’re limiting yourself to the few you meet during the reception, or with whom you sit during the meal. Instead, 1) Seek out speaking engagements to any group that’s worth your joining (and see the point above to help determine that); and 2) Get active with that group! Volunteer to serve on a committee that allows you to demonstrate your knowledge, and even consider ultimately running for the group’s board. It’s far better to be well known in one or two groups, then be an inactive member of many groups.

ALWAYS BRING VALUE: Whether in a speech before your prospects, at a roundtable, or in writing your blog, shift from what you want to say about yourself and your company, to what will bring the prospect value and help them succeed in their business. When you do so consistently, the prospect will be more interested in knowing about you and your business.

MAKE IT PERSONAL: Although you’re hoping to help their business, your prospects are people, and people do business with people they trust and like. Remember to reach out on birthdays and anniversaries (both work and personal), know their alma mater(s), favorite sports teams, interests, etc. Unless you sense that they don’t want to “go there”, inquire about spouses, children, etc. The gift of a special bottle of wine, tickets to a concert by their favorite performer, or the new book by their favorite author will be so appreciated, because it shows you’re listening.

And remember the power of a hand-written note. As Maya Angelou said, “They may not remember what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”

If you’re not satisfied with how your business is growing, Trilogy Partners can help. Contact us at results@gettrilogypartners.com or 609-688-0428.

Navigating your Family Business from Conflict to Accomplishment

by Marc Celentana, PhD on Jul 09, 2018 9:50:47 AM

When working with family members in business with one another, something reveals itself over and over – the ties that bind also serve as stress points for potential unraveling.  With expertise in group and family dynamics, conflict management, and behavioral science, I am often asked to provide consultation and coaching to Trilogy clients with family-owned businesses who recognize that “things could be better” from both business and personal perspectives.  Does your family experience any of these issues causing conflict and misunderstanding?

  • Decisions about the future direction of the business.
  • Differences in leadership styles, practices, and core business values.
  • Permitting undesirable and potentially destructive workplace behaviors to (erroneously) maintain harmony.
  • Differences in performance and time commitment.
  • Compensation of those actively vs. passively involved in the business.
  • Fairness, equity and expectations around time off/time away from the business with maintenance of core business activities.
  • Agreement about reinvestment of profits and the payment of dividends.
  • Clarification on how family shareholders exit the business and agreement on the basis valuation of shares in the business.
  • Identifying the next generation of leadership.
  • And, quite possibly the hardest to do but most important to address: the inability to have radically candid conversations to address ‘past hurts’ and ensure communication free from anger, spite, and/or indifference.

If not addressed in a timely fashion, any of the above concerns can accelerate loss of reputation, structure, and wealth.  However, with a thoughtful and comprehensive evaluation including collective business goals and individual hopes and dreams, there are options to increase success, satisfaction, and engagement for your family.  Below, are four approaches proven to minimize conflicts and misunderstandings:

  1. Establishing formal and informal rules for family member engagement. Creation of a family council or shareholders’ group allows establishment of a set of rules based on shared values to address key ownership issues. When seeking guidance around particularly thorny issues, this formal structure is invaluable. These values are often referred to as the family constitution.  Equally important are the informal rules that speak to the ways family members want to behave with one another. These behaviors are often referred to as the family working agreement.
  2. ‘Baking-in’ the concept of fairness and the practice of conflict resolution into all family business activities. A highly emotional response by a member feeling that others are benefitting at the expense of the family business can easily create an inhospitable environment for success. Commitment to fairness assumes that family members both appreciate how perception of inequality – of time, effort, resources, etc. – can undermine progress, and, requires a method to resolve these differences. Through the adoption of conflict resolution techniques, your family will be able to deal with business matters in a fair and equitable manner.
  3. Investing in leadership and board coaching for those actively engaged in the business. Running a family business can feel like an interminable walk about a tightrope. Competition, increased product and labor costs, shifting regulatory environment, changes in technology, problem du jour, you name it…all serve as challenges, as well as, opportunities for savvy family business leaders.  Coaching, whether it is at the level of the individual, executive team, or family board, provides high level thought partnership, creative problem-solving solutions, and can re-energize your view on yourself and others in the work.
  4. Evaluating the next generation using a thoughtful and disciplined approach. As tempting as it may be to believe that your son, daughter, niece, nephew, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, is the “perfect fit” to propel forward the interests of the family business, research and experience suggests there is much more nuance in making a good decision. While experience working in the business, ideally that which is both broad and deep, is desirable, there exist several other factors that relate to successful succession. Assessment by a competent evaluator can provide deep information about interest in taking on expanded responsibilities, possession of necessary skills sets, aptitude for requirements of the role, and, prediction about long-term success.

If you would like to learn more about how you can minimize conflict to increase growth and success in your family business, please contact Trilogy Alliance Partner Marc Celentana at (609) 688-0428 or mcelentana@gettrilogypartners.com.

 

It’s Time for a Plan!

by Bill Ehrhardt on Jun 05, 2018 10:04:50 AM

Companies large and small often deliberate on the need and/or depth for a strategic plan or roadmap. Is there really any reason not to have a formal plan documenting where you are; where you want to go; and how you will get there?

At Trilogy Partners, we guide business owners through the strategic planning process, allowing the organizational leadership to get out of the day-to-day and look at the business from “the clouds” or using the cliché, “working on the business, not in the business.” There is an essential difference between tactics, operational effectiveness, and strategy and we have seen first-hand how strategic planning improves overall organizational performance.

In the past, strategic plans were onerous to develop and often sat on a shelf; dusted off only when the plan was requested by a significant stakeholder. Today, the plans are living documents with magnitude and direction. Although plans are specific to each organization, here are 4 initial steps to consider:

  1. Who should participate in the process? Develop a preparation timeline with accountability.
  2. What are your core values? These are your current values, not the values you aspire to be.
  3. Is your vision or mission clearly defined? The vision is an aspirational description of what the organization would like to achieve in the mid or long-term future. It’s a guide for selecting courses of action. The mission statement defines the organization’s core purpose and overall direction. The vision is the cause or pursuit and the mission is the means to achieve the cause. Many companies are combining the vision and mission into one statement.
  4. Do you understand your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT)? A SWOT analysis is a powerful tool to learn more about your business, people, and many other factors.

These four points create the foundation from which your plan will develop.

So, what does this look like? I worked a company on the 4 steps outlined above and from this, we identified that that growth required an investment in their people and their facilities. One year later, they have hired the right people, expanded their facility and have seen an increase in revenue and a moderate increase in profits. They are encouraged and expect that both revenue and profits will continue to grow.

Trilogy doesn’t only help you develop your plan, but we work with you to ensure that it is put into action. It’s energizing to see the results when a roadmap is not just an exercise but rather, a guiding tool that provides focus, unlocks potential and brings about necessary change. With a roadmap in place, purpose is understood, and it is easier to make critical decisions, differentiate your business, and create a more sustainable organization with higher levels of employee engagement.

So, is it time for your plan? For help with strategy and ensuring that everyone on your team is moving in the same direction, call us at 609-688-0428 or email results@gettrilogypartners.com.

 

 

The Latest

What is a Business Pit Stop?
In auto racing, a pit stop is when the driver pulls the car into the pit so that the pit crew can attend to it during the race. They replace tires, refuel, repair damaged wings or make other modifications to the car to change the downforce and... read more
Anything for a Buck
Entrepreneur: a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risk. So how does Trilogy Partners help manage potential risk? We help owners fully understand the financial story of their business... read more
A Rosy View of Business
One day many summers ago, the founder of Trilogy Partners, Hal Levenson, brought a bunch of varied colored roses from his garden into our office.  Sitting in a bucket, the unshorn flowers were wild with bits of soil clinging to them. ... read more