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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.

 

 

 

Trilogy Partners – A 10 Year Journey

by Trilogy Partners 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 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.

 

 

Maximize your Business Value

by Trilogy Partners 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 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Build Your Business by Building Relationships

by Trilogy Partners 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 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.

 

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.

 

What You Said is Not what I Heard

by Trilogy Partners on Feb 28, 2018 7:01:33 PM

Has this ever happened to you? You are speaking with someone and their response is not at all what you expected based on what you said.  At least, what you thought you said! At Trilogy Partners, we frequently hear this frustration from business owners which prompts the question, do you communicate effectively?

Communication is complicated all by itself.
Imagine how complicated communication gets when we mix different cultural understandings, gender-speak, frustration, unhappiness, underlying tensions, and the pressure of expectations and deadlines. It’s amazing we get anything right with all the challenges of effective communication and these are just some of the barriers we face!

Communication ‘gaps’ create unexpected challenges – an example:
Recently, I facilitated a training class attended by leaders of a multinational company. Suddenly, there was a big “AHA moment”.  While watching videos of themselves in conversation with each other, one leader after another said, “Why do I sound like that?  That’s not the message that I was trying to convey.”

At that moment, it became self-evident that each person experienced a ‘gap’ between their intended message and their actual behavior when communicating that message.  Why does this happen?

Components of effective communication.
How we say what we say makes a big difference in others understanding or even listening to our message.  The value of our words is only one of many components of communication.  When speaking – words are not nearly as important as your tone of voice and body language.  It has been estimated that words account for only 7% of communication while tone is about 38% and body language is 55%.  (Albert Mehrabian, 1967). How we say what we say has more meaning than the words themselves.

What these leaders saw in the video was the impact of their tone of voice and their body language.  It was their tone that communicated most loudly.  It communicated how they were feeling in a way so strongly, the words did not matter. And when they added in their body language, such as rolling eyes, dropping or shaking one’s head and even the use of a cell phone, the message was even stronger.  One leader said, “I can’t believe I came across so harshly, so rude, so disrespectful. I really do like you guys, honestly!”

Remember, we judge others by their behavior; however, we judge ourselves by our intentions.  These leaders had a gap between their intentions and their behavior.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Tone is the most powerful tool when speaking. Being aware of your tone is critical to make sure your intended message is received the way you want.
  2. Feelings and attitudes beneath the surface show in tone and body language. Be aware that you may sound criticizing, attacking or even nasty when you are simply frustrated.
  3. Rely on others and check in with each other to ensure the right messages are getting across in the intended way. Asking others for feedback about your communication style is the beginning of changing the way you communicate.

Leadership is not about doing what is easy, it is about facing challenges and committing to change.  This change needs to start with ourselves.  Ask yourself how can you become a better communicator? And consider ways to gain an outsider’s perspective on your communication style.

If you are interested in improving your communication effectiveness, email me at results@gettrilogypartners.com or call 609-688-0428.

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.

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