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Trevor Turbidy Featured

7:00pm EDT February 28, 2007

When Trevor Turbidy was named president and CEO of Trico Marine Services Inc. in August 2005, it had been less than six months since the company had emerged from bankruptcy. Today, those problems seem a distant memory as the company — whose 830 employees provide marine support to the oil and gas industries — expected to post 2006 revenue of more than $230 million, well ahead of its 2005 revenue of $182 million. Turbidy says the key to the quick turnaround was the company’s ability to identify employees who wanted to be part of the solution and fix the problems to get the company back on its feet. Smart Business spoke with Turbidy about how to empower employees in challenging situations.

Find employees with the right attitude. Building the right team was critical to our success. We relied heavily on those people who wanted to increase their responsibility and brought in new people to replace those that weren’t up to the challenge.

The world is full of what I call idea assassins, dream killers or naysayers. Having employees who have a can-do attitude made the difference between success and failure.

I’ve seen numerous examples of people who thought because they were smart, they didn’t need to work as hard as their peers. They would glide by on intelligence.

What separates the good from the great sometimes appears like a small difference. What it means to us is you may stay a few extra hours to give the book one last read or look at the numbers one more time. People didn’t settle for mediocrity. They didn’t settle for good. They wanted to be perfect.

No matter how bright you are, everybody needs to have a strong work ethic and a positive attitude to drive change.

Push people to achieve. There’s frequently people who literally just didn’t have anything positive to say or would never have ideas on how to improve things. They could tell you how things were wrong, but they never came with a solution.

They didn’t want to take ownership of the problem. They didn’t want to help fix the company. There were a number of cases where people had the opportunity to increase their responsibility and chose to stay in their current job as long as the company would let them.

People who took on increasing responsibility got increasing reward. Give people increased responsibility. Push people to achieve more. You’re sometimes amazed by how much people can actually do. We amazed ourselves with how much we could accomplish in a short period of time.

If you let people do what they have been doing forever and people get in their comfort zone, change is tough. People don’t like change. The status quo is easy because it’s what you know.

Take advantage of the market. We’d be fooling ourselves to think that if we had restructured the company and the business environment for our services had continued to turn down, that we’d be successful. We wouldn’t be.

You need to have financial results. You need to have the ability to empower your team to take advantage of what’s going on in an improving market. We corrected the balance sheet and gave ourselves the ability to take advantage of an up market.

Keep it fresh. Empower your team to look at other opportunities. We want people to question each other, and we want people to challenge each other. It’s got to be based on forming a strong team, actively communicating with that team and delegating responsibility and holding people accountable.

What makes people excited about our organization is the ability to impact change. We look for people who embrace positive change. We allow them the running room to shape the company.

Typically, it means either changing someone’s title, area of responsibility or role. If people are in the same spot, doing the same thing, interacting with the same people, they tend to think the same. You’ve got to give people a new challenge, whether it’s a different geographic area to focus on, a different role or more responsibilities. That shakes them up, that gets them out of their comfort zone, and they’ve got to re-energize for a new challenge.

Be straight as an arrow. Put integrity and ethics first. We’ve seen the rollout of Sarbanes-Oxley. We’ve seen what that occurred from.

You’ve got to be ethical, honest and trustworthy ... with everyone in all your constituencies you interact with. We’ve seen numerous examples of people who bent the rules or ignored the rules and were able to convince others to do the same.

You have to lead by example. You have to be straight as an arrow. The world doesn’t expect anything less from people who are filling management at companies, and they don’t tolerate it.

If you’re a positive influence and you echo that through the organization, you find that people embrace that. People respect that. People want to be at a company that is doing the right thing and competing well.

We tell our employees every time we have group meetings , ‘If we can’t win doing it the right way, let’s not win.’ We don’t want to be on the front page of The Wall Street Journal for something that is inappropriate. We’ll win the right way, or we won’t win.

Admit mistakes. People like to think that people in senior positions don’t make mistakes. That’s just not true. The key is you’ve got to admit your mistakes and move on, whether it’s a business mistake for an acquisition or whether it’s a mistake going in a different direction for your business or whether it’s a hiring mistake. Admit you were going in the wrong direction, salvage what you can, and move on and fix it.

We’ve hired people that we thought had the right skill set, excellent industry experience, but they didn’t mesh in our organization. They weren’t going to be successful, and we weren’t going to be successful with them.

You need to move on. Waiting generally doesn’t help. There never appears to be a good time. You always worry about it being disruptive to the organization or about the fallout from doing something quickly.

If there is any fallout, it’s generally positive. What you saw was the exact same thing the organization saw, and the people they worked under saw. Make those changes, move on and then regroup.

HOW TO REACH: Trico Marine Services Inc., (713) 780-9926 or www.tricomarine.com