If you ask Tony DiBenedetto about the importance of good management, he may tell you the story of an employee named David Long.
Twelve years ago, Long worked with Marine Max, a client of DiBenedetto’s company, to develop a tool that helped their business share information internally. And since the two companies continue to work together today, it’s safe to assume that the work was done well.
But DiBenedetto, chief executive officer of Tribridge, will tell you there’s more to the companies’ continued relationship than that. It’s not just about one-time quality; it’s about long-term continuity.
More than a decade later, Long is still with Tampa-based Tribridge, and continues to answer Marine Max’ questions.
DiBenedetto says Tribridge’s ability to retain employees gives it a “tremendous competitive advantage.” Over the last five years, Tribridge has maintained an average turnover rate of 5% — roughly a quarter of the national average in a typical year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Retaining talent is important for every company, but especially so for Tribridge, a consulting firm. “In a business like ours,” DiBenedetto explains, “the only assets in our company are our people.”
The consulting services Tribridge provides are technology-based, and DiBenedetto takes pride in his company’s ability to offer what he calls “a total solution.” That means working with everything from individual applications, like accounting or e-mail systems, to security set-ups for entire networks.
Using revenues as an indicator, Tribridge is filling a need in the market. Revenues have been growing at Tribridge, up tenfold in the past five years, from $6 million in 2004 to roughly $60 million in 2009.
While some of that growth has been organic, the company has completed some mergers and acquisitions as well, the most recent example being a merger with Navint Consulting that took place in January 2009. Today, 275 employees work under the Tribridge name, up from 180 a year ago, a more than 50% increase.
Any business owner that has completed an acquisition knows that the process has its challenges. And for a people-centric company like Tribridge, making sure the entire staff is on the same page is crucial.
Fortunately, the same type of management skills that motivate employees to stay with a company can help acquired staff fit in with a new company. To make it all work, DiBenedetto believes in the importance of establishing a strong base of corporate culture.
“Culture starts with a foundation of good values,” he says. By promoting concepts like integrity, respect, and open communication, employees are more likely to buy into a positive workplace environment.
But there’s a big difference between promoting certain values and demanding they be recognized. For DiBenedetto, only one works.
“I don’t believe the management of the company dictates the culture,” he says. “It really is up to the individual.”
That belief speaks to DiBenedetto’s overall approach to managing his company. Rather than force square pegs into round holes, his focus is on facilitating.
“My job is not about power,” he says. “My job is about removing obstacles.”
You could call it a free market approach to corporate culture — one that could help DiBenedetto manage continued growth. As Tribridge keeps adding staff, dynamics between employees will change. But maintaining an open approach to management will allow the culture to adapt to those new employees.
“We’re not interested in what the company was nine years ago,” he says. “We’re interested in what it will be like nine years from now.”