This year marks a massive milestone for TRG – 21 years in business.
It’s actually very hard to wrap my head around and to think about all the growth, the failures, the massive wins and everything in between. I wouldn’t change one day of the work and I can honestly say that I still love walking into the office every day.
But on our golden anniversary, I wanted to share the lessons I have learned since starting this business and hopefully it will help other future leaders think about their journey as well.
From investing in a strong company culture to focusing on customer service, here are the 21 lessons I have garnered along the way and what I truly value as a leader:
1. Always say yes to trying new technologies so you can keep moving forward. The investment always seems painful in the moment (especially financially), but I continuously challenge the team to forecast the long-term value and the importance of staying digitally forward in our industry. For us, that is hard to put a price tag on.
2. If there’s one thing you can’t teach, it’s work ethic. If you need to have a conversation with an employee about their work ethic – that may be the last conversation you need to have. Hire for passion, not just skill set. And watch how a team member shows up when the business isn’t doing well. That speaks volumes.
3. Collaboration is the meat of any strong organization. You can have exceptionally strong leaders across all verticals and departments but if they are more individual performers – they will create silos in your organization that will inhibit growth.
4. Never overlook partnerships; it’s how you grow and learn from others in your industry. We look at our partners as extensions of our team and collaborate and groupthink with them all the time.
5. Customer service should be paramount. While there are new initiatives and solutions that our business implements, our customers are at the center of it all. We never forget it and it drives our decision-making process. When there is tough decision to be made - I often ask myself if this will end up making our customers’ lives better. If so – then I know my answer.
6. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from those who have been there before. I definitely lean on my leadership team when we are driving forward, but I also seek advice outside my office. My hometown is filled with successful entrepreneurs and CEOs, and I try to meet with a few a quarter to ensure I am hearing different perspectives and learning from some of the best.
7. Investing in your people will yield the greatest results, whether that’s additional training or a nice holiday gift. We never shy away from shout outs and spot awards at TRG. The smile on a team member’s face when you acknowledge them during a Town Hall is always worth it. Don’t be a leader who only calls out the opportunities to do better – be one that also shows up and acknowledges hard work in real time.
8. Stay agile and remain adaptable as the industry shifts. One of the only things I can guarantee in business is that change occurs rapidly. When markets move unexpectedly, don’t go quiet as you figure it out. Get in a room with your teams and proactively discuss ways to stay in front of it.
9. A strong quarter is not the time to get lazy. We celebrate wins in our office but we also regroup and make sure we understand what drove it and what we can build on to keep driving that growth. Don’t take a step back when times are good – push your team forward.
10. Create an office space and culture that makes your team excited to show up every day. We all ask a lot of our teams and I want them to be able to take a break or focus on their health when they can. We have invested in a state-of-the-art gym, a full basketball court and we have video games and putting greens. I know that doesn’t make a culture but we do try to give our teams ways to unwind.
11. Be flexible and understanding when your team relies on you; life happens. Sometimes the day is not about the numbers but it is about someone on the team that needs your support. As a leader, you need to remember that you are working with a group of humans who can have bad days and tough times at home. I try to remind myself of that and show up for my team as much as possible.
12. You are never too old or senior to learn. I try never to miss an orientation breakfast where we gather all the new employees. It’s my time to sit with interns and new colleagues and learn from their expertise and skill sets. I always walk out of that breakfast with a different perspective!
13. Over communicate, over communicate, over communicate. No matter how important the matter, I keep my team informed and let them know as processes change and projects develop.
14. Interview at all levels. I often push my way into interviews all the way up and down the chain. It’s pointless to only interview your direct reports. I want to hear what candidates have to say about our industry and the type of job they are looking for at all levels. It keeps me level-headed.
15. Give back to your community. This is something that is a no-brainer for me. I grew up and am raising my kids in the same hometown where I run a business. We give back, volunteer and support our community. If you can’t find time to help out a local school – I promise you, you aren’t trying hard enough. It can be done!
16. Trust your gut. There are times when data trumps anything and there are days when I throw out the information and I go on instinct. It’s served me well.
17. Sometimes less words go further. Turn the focus to the headlines. If I’m in conversations that seem to be going in circles, I think about the “why” and remind my team of it. Staying in the weeds for too long will only delay goal completion.
18. Diversify your meetings. If you are sitting in the same room weekly with the same five people – you are going to get complacent. Pull in different perspectives with different departments and challenge yourself to connect with the quiet team member in the corner. They often throw out the best gems when no one is paying attention!
19. Be humble. I have no problem saying when I am wrong or I made a mistake and it encourages your team to be brave that way as well.
20. Start a brewery! Ok, so this one is a little out there but we started a brewery in 2016 because it made sense for our family and helped enhance the culture of our businesses. When we have wins, celebrations and send offs, we close the brewery and bring everyone in. It’s a great place to spend time together outside the office and connect on that personal level!
21. Look around. I know this one is obvious but we all know life goes by too quickly. I try to remember to walk the halls, look around and thank people for showing up. I wouldn’t have had a business for 21 years if these people didn’t come in every day ready to work. And the minute I forget that is the day I should retire.
- SEAN KENNEDY