Triose’s Ira Tauber discusses mission, vision and core values – Reading Eagle

Like many businessmen during the coronavirus pandemic, Ira Tauber was faced with a very unfamiliar situation.
As the president of Spring Township-based Triose Inc., a company that helps health systems manage their supply chain operations and gain visibility over costs, the pandemic provided a special urgency.
“There was no playbook for us,” Tauber recalled. “We were right in the thick of things trying to make sure we were providing the materials, supplies and medicines to healthcare, and all of a sudden things just stopped. It happened so quickly. I tell people, it’s similar to driving in your car down the highway at 60 miles per hour, hitting the emergency brake and stopping quickly. As an organization, and as a leader, we had to be very nimble. The nice thing about our company is that we have the spirit to be nimble and be focused on employees, team members and clients.”
Tauber recently talked about how Triose weathered the storm of the pandemic and how the company’s values played a big role in that journey before an audience of students at Alvernia University’s Francis Hall Theatre. Tauber took part in the university’s annual Executive in Residence Lecture, moderated by Dr. Travis Berger, assistant professor of business and leadership.
Tauber, who joined Triose in 2003 and has more than 35 years of experience in supply chain management, spoke for more than an hour. His responses have been edited for clarity and length.
“There really wasn’t a playbook, so we go back to ‘what’s the right thing to do?’ What our mission, vision and what our values are. We used those for every decision we made, whether it was dealing with an employee, that was a huge, huge concern. We were concerned about their personal lives. How would they work remotely? How were they going to take care of their families and extended families? We said our guiding principal was to continue focusing on making sure we support our core values and mission.”
“Yes, I’d like to talk about that, but I’d like to go back to people who talk about purpose-driving an organization, and certainly from a pure business standpoint from providing shareholder value and economic value to the entity. . . .these things don’t need to be mutually exclusive. That’s where we try to connect the dots. Though we provide a lot of community based giving, but to do that we as an organization have to perform. We have to make money. We have to provide a good return. It’s a balance, but we say we’re a purpose-driven organization that has to perform. We’re not a charity, we’re a privately held organization. The people we serve are our clients, our employees, but you can be both.
“What we try to instill in servant leaders is to give more to others because you want to do it, not that you’re told to do it. It has to come from within. It’s about creating this culture of being a certain leader and allowing your team members to thrive. Making sure they really have the ability to think and have ideas. Have the ability to develop people. How do you develop them? Being a servant leader is also making sure your team members have the ability to develop.
“Lastly, it’s not about me. It’s about the people who work. It’s an interesting dynamic and it’s not for everybody. We try to develop that and promote that and find people that have the core values. Does it come from your core values, or because you are told? You’re inspiring people. That’s what leadership does. You set the goals and inspire them.”
“In terms of accountability, it’s really setting people with, and holding them to, a common expectation. You set the expectation and hold them to it. Right? It starts with understanding what the expectation is, what are you trying to accomplish. You have to be real clear on that. Not only do you do that, but you also have to go to individuals and they have to hold themselves accountable and they have to hold others accountable. You have a common mission, common goal and common expectations and everyone understands that clearly. You can hold yourself accountable to the outcome and hold others accountable. It’s not only what we need to achieve, but how to achieve it. That goes back to having a clear mission, vision and value system in the organization.”
“They are two different things, and with our team members, when we go through our training, we talk about those things because there’s a misconception. With responsibility, you’re following the rules and process or the system to do things you need to do to get an outcome. There can be shared responsibilities, but there can’t be shared accountability. It’s just yourself, while we can both have a common responsibility. The other mindset, is the accountability happens at the end of the outcome.”
“It’s not as easy as putting words on paper. It’s a journey, an evolution. Triose has, fortunately, had growth over the years, so that adds another dynamic in challenge, as you grow and have more team members and clients, it makes it harder to keep up and sustain. Early on, we were consistent. We put it on paper, we did communicate it. Not a plaque in the lobby. We communicated it.
“It starts with hiring and we look for people and there are clear-cut with job responsibilities — not only what you have to do and why you have to do it, but what is the expectation. Not the Superman expectation, but the Clark Kent, everyday, expectation for the job. We put that in the hiring process. Are you committed to doing what it takes? That’s the aptitude, is sometimes you get handed a big binder telling you what to do. Are you committed to continue to learn and to serve each other and doing the job? The chemistry, can you thrive in an environment like that? We train our folks on finding the right people and we ultimately hope that we are finding people that believe what we believe in. It’s a common value system and creates a good foundation.”
“That’s a great question. We didn’t know it, but we did these things from the get-go. We had a common value-set, do the right thing, serve, lead. Because we were small, we didn’t evangelize it through the whole organization. We had a couple of employees and owners and just did it. As we started to add people and grow, customers and team members, we needed to have a deliberate focus on that. We provided training in the development of people and leaders. You have to care deeply for your organization. I’m not the individual that’s going to go to everybody and say ‘this is our mission.’ I want our people to know, all they way down to our frontline workers, they need to know why we’re doing the things we’re doing. It’s not easy and you have to continue to work at it.”
“Do we do these things intentionally? From the beginning we always had this ‘make a difference’ type of mentality. In order to get, you have to give and giving comes in different forms. Back in 2010 we formed a program as one of the pillars at Triose and we call it Give 5. Some people call it corporate social responsibility program, it’s really the avenue for our team members to put into action, should they want to, how to make a difference.
“It’s five pillars, first a national charity that we choose from the corporate side. We provide donations to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Through the efforts of profits of the company, we pledge so much. The second pillar is local volunteerism. We can choose a local charity, but you as a team member have the right to give to the cause of your choice. We allow up to an hour a week of paid company time to go volunteer. It could be an animal shelter, it could be Meals on Wheels, anything. We really don’t keep a scorecard. It’s not a requirement. Another part of the Give 5 program is veteran’s causes. We have many veterans that work for us, and volunteer or give monetary support through the company. The fourth pillar is environmental stability. There are plenty of folks in the company that believe that’s something they want. We do clean-ups and things like that. The last one is the commitment to ethics. Doing the right thing. That’s part of the culture. The Give 5 program is the rallying point to that focus. To be there, we have to perform. Priorities is that we have to provide the services to clients, so we can provide the services for people in need.”
“We’ve had people approach us about job opportunities, which is great. An interesting thing, when I talk about performance of the company, is that we have clients, healthcare providers, hospital systems, clinics, practices, this has been a great way to build relationships to attract new clients because a lot of those clients have common values. We provide supply chain solutions, but at the end of the day we are businesses with people and if you have a common foundation and your organizations are aligned it’s easier to at least get past the dating and introduction stage and have a business relationship. There are a bunch of children’s hospital in the U.S., we have a great foundation with like CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), Texas Children’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital. It wasn’t by design, it’s that you have a common value system.”
“Not only do you have to do the care and feeding of the cultural aspect of the organization, you have to make sure people are being taken care of. A few years ago, we designed and launched Triose U. We need to have a common language and platform for all of our team members and know about the different foundations about business. Growing, adding employees, we are up to over 100 now, but it started with two people. How do you make sure not only skills to do the job, but also about the culture, some of the other aspects of the business? The courses are all taught by the leadership and team members. We started with a foundation course, then started about leadership. If you’re a supervisor, how do you do an employee appraisal, how do you deal with difficult situations? We brought in an outside firm, but we invested back into the people. Some of these courses, we go outside into the market and community to supplement areas we’re not experts at. It’s important that some of the management team know what their aspirations are and subscribe courses.”
“The first is a history of Triose. Longtime employees may have a tribal knowledge, but a new person might not know. Some stories and anecdotes are important. The second thing is talking to every new employee about mission, vision and values. It’s an interactive course and I teach it. I enjoy it, it’s a passion of mine. When one of the co-founders teaches history. Every function of the company is an overview of what we do and how we do it and who we do it for. Everyone has to go through it.”
If you were my banker, I would tell you that we’ve been blessed with year-over-year topline revenue growth in the last five years of 20% to 25%. Sometimes we hit 30%. We’ve had measurable revenue growth, we’ve had measurable bottom-line net income, year-over-year. Our controllable turnover has decreased. We measure our customer satisfaction and employee engagement. We talk to customers, talk to customers that we’ve lost, but our customer satisfaction rating is almost at the top of where it can be. We do a semiannual employee engagement survey to get a pulse on what our team members level of engagement and satisfaction. We’re in the high 90% of satisfied engaged team members.
“You look at the positives, but also where you can improve. It sounds like you’re looking through rose-colored glasses, but this is the real world. You strive to be the best you can be, but it doesn’t always happen. You look at areas where you can improve. The voice of your customer will tell you something. We’ve been able to take that and clarify that. It’s not someone saying we need Pepsi and not Coca-Cola in the soda machine. That’s not the stuff we’re getting at. It’s themes and common blind spots that we have. We’re growing, that’s a challenge in itself. You’ve got to keep an eye on these things. You’ve got to listen and act when it’s appropriate.
“One of the unintended consequences of a bad situation like the pandemic….make sure our eyes are on the business from a communication and collaboration standpoint. We may have taken a bit for granted because we were growing and being successful with 25% growth year-over-year. Why is it good? You start peeling it back, during the time we started micromanaging a few aspects of the business and communication process and even took the collaboration among the team members more because we were working remotely and figured it out. We’re back in the office, some of those same things that were successful during challenging times we’re keeping going and its paying off. You can learn about things.”
“My preference is that I’m a people person and I think we do our best work when we’re together in person, collaboratively. That’s what my gut tells me. However, I’ve seen a lot of really impressive and innovative ways to work together virtually. What I also have learned is that I need to be open to continue to attract the talent and the type of people that there may be a need for us to adapt to some of that. Almost like a hybrid model. A lot of the work we do is to solve customer needs. We learned a lot and I’m open to it. I don’t know where it’s going to go. If I can look at the workforce and attract those type of people, I’ve got to be open to say ‘that’s the right way to do it.’ There is a way to accomplish both.”
“Customer service can be a department in a company, but that’s not what we’re talking about. How do you deliver and provide service? Fundamentally, we say customer service starts with one of us serving another team member. If we can’t serve each other, how are we going to serve a client or the customer or a supplier or a community? You have to serve each other first. It’s all tied into servant-leadership and accountability. It builds trust and you build trust. You don’t have that trust, it’s tough to perform and move forward.”
Sign up for email newsletters