Changes, Challenges and Commitment — a Reflection on 25 Years

Changes, Challenges and Commitment — a Reflection on 25 Years

This October, Tricom celebrates 25 years of serving the staffing/consulting industry. Over the years, we’ve talked to thousands of staffing company owners and managers about who Tricom is. As I reflect on those conversations, it’s not so much what we do, but how we do it.

While we’ve had to adapt what we do for staffing companies (in the area of technology alone, the changes have been amazing), how we do things – with a focus on service and values – hasn’t changed.

The last 25 years in the staffing industry have been an exciting, amazing journey.

We get a lot of looks and comments about our most recent marketing campaign featuring our different Tricom Funding “personas” that ask, “How well do you know your funding provider?”

It’s a fun, unique way to talk about Tricom Funding and what makes us different from other funding providers out there. I’m the “Yoga Master” — not because I practice yoga, but because one of the key benefits of working with Tricom is our strength and flexibility when it comes to providing funding options for our clients. You’ll also find the Coordinator of Chaos (handles important business needs so you don’t have to), the Straight Shooter (honest and forthright), the Lifesaver (keeps things running smoothly), and the Swiss Army Knife (a host of tools and resources). We also have “personas” to illustrate what Tricom isn’t – namely a Magician whose best rates disappear when you become a client, or a Smooth Talker, who offers a lot of talk instead of solutions.

We have a lot of fun with our “personas” and always enjoy when someone stops to ask about them or even strikes the “tree” pose my persona is demonstrating. It may even be the start of a great relationship.

After 25 years, we know that funding relationship aren’t just about rates. At least that’s the case at Tricom. It’s about relationships. And that comes down to service. It’s about how the little things — like picking up the phone when it rings, answering questions, and proactively looking out for our clients’ needs — add up to the big things like trust, respect, and growth.

This is one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced over the years – and it’s not unlike what staffing company owners face in their own businesses: the commoditization of services. Like staffing companies, we face an industry where other funding or factoring companies are using price as their sales proposition or differentiator. The danger is that selling on price desensitizes the buyer to the true value proposition. So just like staffing companies need to stress the value they bring to their customers, Tricom is taking an active role in educating staffing company owners on their funding options and what those options mean to their bottom line.

There is more to your overall cost of funding than just price. It’s important to look at the whole picture. Are you being charged fees just for the cost of doing business? These could include application fees, due diligence fees, misdirect fees, credit reporting fees, and (the always popular) “administrative fees.” With a bank line of credit, you may pay a line usage fee, lock box fees, line of credit increase fees, initial application costs, and more.

Plus, there’s the cost of your time. If you’re spending more time tracking down errors in invoices or billing, or following up on questions, that’s less time you have as a staffing company owner to focus on sales and growing your business. It’s a conversation we have often, and are happy to have it, frankly, because understanding the whole picture is so critical to the success of a funding relationship.

We believe that success starts with people.

Over the years, I’m often asked by our clients, “How do you train your staff so well in customer service?” I believe for us it starts at the very beginning, during the initial phone interview and continues throughout the various steps of the interview and on-boarding process. A lesson we learned over the past 25 years is that you can’t train strong customer service. Either a person has the innate drive and passion for high customer service, or they don’t. Service isn’t just relegated to the Customer Service department. We hire for a cultural fit for every position (a high customer service focus) and train the job skills.

As technology becomes increasingly important within our industry – and is another one of the biggest changes I’ve seen over the last several decades — it can become easy to lose touch with customers and allow technology to become a crutch or substitute for service. Yes, technology makes things easier (can you imagine life without email?), but it also results in security issues and challenges we’ve never had to face in the past. It can create issues where none existed before. For example, tone is hard, if not impossible, to judge in an email or text, whereas you know how a person is feeling when you speak to them face-to-face or on the phone. While we use technology to make things easier, or more secure or to reduce costs, it never takes the place of that all-important human contact.

In the early years, the entire Tricom staff was required to read The Oz Principle by Roger Connors. This book focuses on developing a Culture of Accountability in which everyone assumes personal accountability for achieving the organization’s results. At Tricom, it means that every individual takes personal accountability to think and act in a way that will achieve the company’s results.

In order to take responsibility for the company’s overall results, it’s imperative that each Tricom employee know what our company does. Recently, a staff-led team developed “The Circle of Success,” a series of department presentations and knowledge sharing that each and every employee goes through over a six-month period. It’s like Tricom’s own “Circle of Life.”

We start with Sales, and move through Payroll / Billing, Cash Management, Portfolio Management, Accounting, IT, Help Desk and end with overall Customer Service. This program helps staff members understand the functions of each department, and how their processes flow from one department to the next. The more knowledgeable our community is on how Tricom functions as a whole, the better our staff is able to provide a superior level of customer service — a recurring theme throughout the process.

We also stress throughout the program that values are at the heart of what we do – that we need to take accountability for the company as a whole (even when something is not the result of our direct actions) when dealing with both internal and external customers. This focus on values transcends our own business and industry, and is at the heart of another initiative that’s important to us — our community involvement.

We are aware of our social responsibility, not only to our own internal community, but also to the larger community around us, which includes the Menomonee Falls, WI area. We do this by giving back to the community through various donations and fundraising efforts. One of our major sponsorships is the Briggs & Al’s Run & Walk benefiting Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Tricom’s commitment to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin began in 1996 as a Water Station sponsor, then elevated to Bib sponsor, and recently we stepped up as a Team sponsor. Tricom matches dollar for dollar the first $20,000 in pledges, and donates for every registration under the Tricom team. Over the years we have had more than 9,000 total team members and raised more than $654,000. This year we’re pulling out all the stops with CHEERS FOR CHILDREN’S, a local softball & volleyball tournament with bucket raffles and silent auction items, with all funds benefiting Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

We also sponsor Season of Giving fundraising events in our office. These events have raised funds for Breast Cancer Awareness, the local Hunger Task Force, Alzheimer’s Association, American Diabetes Association, International Red Cross, Children’s Hospital, and the American Heart Association.

“Business is a partnership of people creating, in many ways, a better life for others as well as ourselves.” This quote by Tom Morris resonates not only with me, but also with our entire staff. We don’t just lend money to staffing companies. Every day, we help staffing company owners, their employees, and the staff they place, realize their dreams and create a better life. We make a real difference in the lives of those we touch – by giving staffing companies the resources they need, by paying their employees on time, by helping more people as we help staffing companies grow, and by giving back to our community in as many ways as possible. We love what we do, and we love this industry for these reasons.

From the beginning, Tricom’s vision for serving the staffing industry has not wavered, as laid out by our mission statement: “Tricom is the premier provider of meaningful, accurate, innovative and timely payroll, administrative, and funding services….”

Yes, 25 years feels pretty good.

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