Questions? Call us now at 609-688-0428

What is a Business Pit Stop?

by Trilogy Partners 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 Trilogy Partners 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 Trilogy Partners 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.

 

 

 

What’s the “Real” Business Challenge?

by Trilogy Partners 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.

 

 

School Smarts + Street Smarts = Success

by Trilogy Partners 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Navigating your Family Business from Conflict to Accomplishment

by Trilogy Partners 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 Trilogy Partners 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.

 

 

Fix the Toaster

by Trilogy Partners on Apr 30, 2018 2:35:47 PM

At Trilogy Partners, we often have to ask, do you want to fix the toaster or keep scraping the burnt part off the toast? It seems like a simple question but hear me out.

How seamlessly does your organization really operate? Can you cite examples of non-productive behavior caused by the way you’re doing business now? Where are people in your organization falling further behind serving customers, making shipments, or completing their work because process improvements were not put in place?

I am prompting you to go much deeper in your thinking process than whether or not you have an up-to-date organizational chart. You and your top team need to examine if your organization is really coalescing around the best ways to get things done.

Do you need to fix your toaster?

Business Process Improvement is improving quality, productivity and response time by removing non-value adding activities and costs through a set of steps or tasks that your team uses repeatedly. If your organization has not made process improvement initiatives a priority, it’s time to take a fresh look at opportunities. While looking for areas to explore, here is a suggestion. Take a look at how your senior executives are running the business.

Observing how things are actually getting done in a department or division versus how they are supposed to be done can be quite enlightening. Often, executive leadership is shocked to learn that many of the checks and balances they thought were in place are being ignored for the sake of expediency.

Where do you expect your firm to be on that continuum of discovery when you take the time to examine it? If the answer is not what you had hoped for, look at how easy it is for someone at any level to get things done. Examine your processes for efficiency and effectiveness both vertically (relationships with people above or below in the hierarchy) and horizontally (across functional disciplines).

Are you going to fix the toaster, or do you want to keep scraping the burnt part off the toast? Contact us at results@gettrilogypartners.com if you would like to learn more about how we help owners create process for improved efficiency, productivity and employee and customer satisfaction.

An Alternative to Ownership Transition – How to be a Successful Absentee Owner

by Trilogy Partners on Apr 02, 2018 1:57:26 PM

At Trilogy Partners, we often talk with business owners about the key considerations they need to make when they transition ownership of their company to one or more people, or to another company.  However, there is an alternative to selling your ownership interest: You can systematize its operation so that employees can run it “on autopilot,” meaning that you will no longer need to steer it on a daily basis.

Putting your company “on autopilot” allows you to put off selling if you’re not yet ready to fully retire, and it expands your options for selling your company on better terms.  For example, perhaps none of your employees stand out today as the obvious choice to become the new owner. However, in 3-5 years, personal growth and increased self-confidence can change that picture.

A few decades ago, Michael Gerber wrote “The E-Myth,” a book about systematizing businesses to make the owner’s life a lot easier, while increasing both profit and sales.  The concept was popular with owners who wished to get top dollar when selling their business because turnkey businesses, where the buyer doesn’t need the seller to stay on an employee, are worth more.

The most difficult part of being an absentee business owner is that you must work yourself out of your job as the “face of the company” and allow others to step up and take over.  You may need to hire a new leader if you can’t cultivate one of your employees to do it, because not everyone wants to be the leader, and most people aren’t wired for it.  If you’re going to step all the way out of your business, you may have to develop or hire two leaders: one who is a visionary who can grow the business and develop new markets and large customers, and another who is the integrator who manages the daily operations.

Get Professional, Experienced Help

Trilogy Partners helps business owners to sustainably maximize their cash flow while they back out of their business, either to sell or enjoy owning from a distance.  The main thing you’ll need to do is to allow us to help you step away in a planned fashion.  That’s easier said than done for most owners, so that’s where we enter the picture: unlike other consulting firms, Trilogy Partners doesn’t prescribe recommendations and then leave you to make it all happen.  Instead, we partner with you long enough to ensure that the implementation is sustained.

If you are considering a future ownership transition or if you would like to explore how to become an absentee owner, please contact us at results@gettrilogypartners.com.

 

A Business Case for Courage

by Trilogy Partners on Feb 01, 2018 9:11:13 AM

Business growth is directed through strategy.  This should not be news. Most business leaders have varying levels of implementation around strategy, but most agree that something has to be done with forethought and purpose.  But what really fuels this? At Trilogy Partners, we believe that COURAGE leads to passion that inspires growth.

In August 2015, Forbes published an article (A Measure of Courage) highlighting the American Courage Index.  The article outlined business-related questions geared towards courage, as well as those questions that spoke to the social, moral and emotional aspects of courage.  Not surprisingly perhaps, the results showed that business owners are more courageous than the rest of the US population.  And further, emotional courage increases with age.  Conceptually, these outcomes make sense and jive with many of our personal experiences in the business community.

However, not everyone who works for us is a business owner or of a certain age.  What do we do about measuring and developing courage in those folks?

Courage is a difficult trait to measure.  How do we measure fortitude or fearlessness?  What about bravery or gumption?  The metrics for those should be high in those leading organizations through advancement and change.  But how do we know who has it and who doesn’t?

The arc for this type of measurement is best found in situational and behavioral study.  Measuring based upon a range of responsiveness will serve to illuminate those innate skills and aptitudes.  Survey questions are fine as step one in the process, but it should not serve as the final marker.  Those questions should challenge people to face scenarios.  Those situations should force the responder to make a choice; refrain from the “middle of the road” options as much as possible.  By doing so, we can uncover the heart behind the answer.

To reveal the emotional understanding takes conversation.  These surveys ought to foster conversation.  “What did you pick and why?” is a great opening question.  And while this may seem overly simplistic, it is valuable to the natural responsiveness needed.  It won’t be manufactured if the question is open-ended and completely based upon personal action and opinion.  People like to share what they are thinking, by and large.  And having had a written survey already done gives the employee a heads-up as to what will be reviewed.

As a commodity, courage is something to cultivate.  It’s part of the fabric that organizations often are lacking. We’re such a fear-encouraging culture – retaliation, over-compliance, bad press – that we tend to stay in our lanes and avoid risk.  That fear cripples an organization’s growth.  We are even afraid to dream.

It is a business necessity to foster courage and at Trilogy, we tackle the behavioral dynamics that often hold businesses back. We believe competitive advantages are often born out of fearlessness, risk and passion.  It takes courage to walk such a path, and it takes a courageous company to light that path.

Ready to promote and cultivate courage in your organization? Contact us at results@gettrilogypartners.com or 609-688-0428.

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