Greg LaLonde Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2007
Greg LaLonde wanted his company, Triplefin LLC, to extend into the mail-order pharmacy business so it could send drugs directly to patients. But there was one hang-up — the company, which provides solutions for pharmaceutical, health and beauty, and consumer product companies, had no idea how to get the ball rolling. So LaLonde looked outside his company for help. As the company formulated a plan, its talked about how others have done it, but with a sense of urgency, didn’t talk the situation to death. As a result, Triplefin, which employs more than 100 people, grew from 2005 revenue of $7 million to 2006 revenue of about $54 million. Smart Business spoke with LaLonde about how to build momentum and how to handle mistakes.

Build momentum. We’ve been able to enjoy some success and recognize the momentum by adding some good people and new accounts. We have to remain focused on certain initiatives because if you get spread too thin, you can lose momentum. It’s my responsibility to find some way to build momentum and keep it going.

A lot of it is luck and capitalizing on opportunities. Then, I boil that down to it’s my responsibility to help find those opportunities. Whether it is a new person to an account or an acquisition, then we get together and try to take advantage of that opportunity. I have to make sure we have the resources so my colleagues can execute their jobs.

Give employees opportunities to grow. It’s a continual emphasis. We want everyone to understand to be proactive. We try to make it known we want you to take that chance. To facilitate that, we randomly poll people at quarterly meetings about improvement and best practices. We also reward performance and share the profits of the company with the individuals.

There’s the monetary reinforcement that, if my team does better, I will be rewarded financially for that performance. So, it’s self-fulfilling. It could be, ‘We should extend our customer service hours because I am getting a lot of calls from Walgreens on the West Coast, and we aren’t open.’ Often, stuff like that can be an easy slam dunk, but we wouldn’t necessarily know that.

Be accountable for mistakes. You need to be decisive and accountable for decisions, especially the bad ones. We try to showcase failures or mistakes. We don’t want that culture where you bury it or hide it. We really pride ourselves on humility and to be the first to execute accounts for brands that have much more market intelligence than we could hope to ever have. We’ll try to throw out our ideas but, generally, we are there in a supporting role.

But if there is a mistake or an issue, we need to communicate that. One of my colleagues here said it best that, ‘The bad news flows faster than the good.’ That phrase kind of sums it up. We all know we’re going to do some good things and those will be understood, but if, and when, you or someone else makes a mistake, we need to communicate it.

Point out mistakes, but don’t embarrass people. Sometimes that is tough. But some of that is the sense of family. We have to be professional, and part of that is recognizing we will have our shortcomings. We don’t want to parade someone around.

It’s not just learning, but it’s a responsibility to communicate that. They’re not going to get fired, but they would have to take their lumps and recognize it, improve and move on.

Communicate your direction. We’ll do formal presentations to the company on a quarterly basis and review our strategy and solicit input along the way in both the formal meetings to the random polls. We are trying to grow.

The rah-rah speech that I have been trying to give has been somewhat constant. I don’t think it’s been diluted. Hopefully, in some facets it’s galvanized it because of the little bit of success we have had.

Share information to keep things fresh. One thing we realized we weren’t doing a good job of was sharing companywide the opportunities, either new business or new prospects.

It came out in these meetings that, ‘We didn’t know about Johnson & Johnson, or some new win’ and how much that means to them. Now we do a general business prospecting and new client wins overview and couple that with new employee orientation. It keeps the buzz around about new business. In turn, from an operations standpoint, it has enhanced the ease of transition business because you know about it.

Find energetic employees. Energy is something that is difficult to learn or teach. It’s there or it’s not.

I go with my gut or someone else’s gut. We’ve had multiple hires over the last year of, ‘I’ve worked with this person in the past and he/she has been great.’

A lot of that is trusting the current team and entrusting in them an important responsibility of helping us recruit, assimilate and then translate into better retention. We are trying to build a company and recognize it’s on their backs.

Listen and try to learn. The result of the decision can be most effective if you have the buy-in. The decision itself is best when I’m just agreeing or the other people making the decision are agreeing on a position advocated by somebody else.

We manage up, not down. The ideas come from direct reports and their direct reports, and that is pretty effective. It breeds a culture that is more respectful compared to just telling someone what to do.

Retain employees through culture and vision.

People who come aboard understand they want to grow. Our retention tool is a bit of our vision of jumping on something that is going someplace.

And the family atmosphere. If you are bringing someone in you know, that’s a nice sign and reinforces that, ‘We are all in this together’ mentality. Profit-sharing, too. People like to know that not only are they part of getting the job done, but they are also part of the success from a financial standpoint.

HOW TO REACH: Triplefin LLC, (800) 841-3055, (513) 794-9870 or www.triplefin.com