Tony DiBenedetto: Spend Time Listening to Customers
Who Am I?
NAME: Tony DiBenedetto
TITLE AND COMPANY: Chairman and CEO, Tribridge
YEARS WITH THE COMPANY: 12
YEARS IN TAMPA BAY: 23
NATURE OF BUSINESS: Business and technology services
EDUCATION: Bachelor of science degree in business management information systems, Florida State University
WHERE YOU GREW UP AND WHAT IT WAS LIKE: Brooklyn and then Fort Lauderdale. I was raised by my grandparents. Life in Brooklyn was a lot like a Neil Simon movie, a typical Italian upbringing. After we moved to Fort Lauderdale, my grandmother died and it became very tumultuous. I lived in server different homes throughout middle and high school.
Tips of the trade
How do you manage the information flow? Our business model promotes open communication and collaboration. Team members can say and challenge anything. Despite having 300 people in offices across the country, we still come together every month for a companywide conference call and share ideas, results, etc.
How do you keep yourself current in your field? I read a lot, but I also spend a lot of time meeting with our customers.
Where do you get new ideas? I belong to a CEO group that provides a lot of new ideas. I also meet regularly with my mentors and people outside of the business.
How do you organize your “things to do list”? I actually keep written lists and goals on paper, but I try to create a daily list to stay focused.
What’s a valuable lesson a mentor taught you related to your profession? Years ago, I pitched a business idea and asked for funding from my mentor, Tom Wallace. He told me to talk to the customers and listen to what they want. Build the business around their needs.
How do you measure your own success? The numbers are a given, but I derive more value from the qualitative data from team member and customer feedback.
How are you and your business dealing with the economic downturn? We’ve continued to grow, but not as quickly as before. We listened to our customers and responded with the cost-reduction IT services they want.
What was your first paid job? I had a paper route for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel when I was 12 years old, complete with the three-wheel bicycle and pouches.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be an astronaut until I found out that I have a fear of flying.
What’s the most personal item in your office and why is it there? The 15 photographs of my daughter
If you weren’t in your current career, what would you be doing? Something in the arts, like writing a book or screenplay
What is your favorite activity with your family? Any sports activity: skiing, basketball, Wiffle ball
If you could have dinner with one person you’ve never met, who would it be and why? Julius Erving. Dr. J was such a great player but also very humble.
Who are your heroes in the business world and why? Local business heroes and entrepreneurs, Tom Wallace and George Gordon. Their leadership styles and abilities have always been something I can look up to.
What do you read for business and pleasure? Business: stories about companies that are the best at what they do. Personal: comedies.
Words to the wise
Tell about a sticky situation in your life (business or person) and how you got through it. I stayed in about 15 different house during high school. At one point, I had to sleep in my car because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Throughout my childhood, there were always one or two people who told me I was different and had potential. They encouraged me to believe that I could rise above the situation; that just because I was surrounded by chaos didn’t mean I had to be part of it.
How could Tampa Bay change to be more business friendly? It would be great if larger companies and the local government would give higher preference to local vendors. There are a lot of small companies in the Bay area that are great, and we should support them.