Trissential

Cofounder Michael Vinje gets his business clients to see the fundamentals they need to focus on in order to grow.
Trissential

One could think of Trissential founders Michael Vinje and Keith Korsi as chiropractors for a company. After an initial evaluation, the business improvement consultants make adjustments in every essential area to bring an organization into alignment.

The partners coined the name (and the company) Trissential in 2003 to represent the three essential business areas: strategy, management, and execution. “Strategy is what to do, management is how to do it, and execution is doing it,” says Vinje, who titles himself “Chief Essentialist.” “There isn’t anything that an organization does, either operationally or executionally, that doesn’t fit into one of those three domains.”

Vinje and Korsi developed the Essential Business Model as a way to assist clients in selecting the right work, managing it right, and building it right. “Companies are really struggling with getting better at those three capabilities,” Vinje says. They’re often compartmentalized, and we help unify and align them.”

Trissential’s Essential Business Model correlates strategy, management, and execution to leadership effectiveness, project management, and product development. From there, it drills down deeper to help clients gain clarity about each level and sublevel.

“The executive level of any organization is tasked with selecting and prioritizing the right work—and making sure the business architecture is built to handle it,” Vinje says. “And with a better, more comprehensive toolbox, it’s easier to manage projects so they come in on time and on budget. Finally, our process identifies risks early, puts in place all necessary metrics, allows efficient design and development, makes testing more effective.”

Even if a company excels in one or two of the three essential areas, success will likely remain elusive until all three are mastered, Vinje believes. “Slip in any one area and the drag on business is immense, and sometimes fatal,” he says. “That’s why continual improvement has to be wired into your company’s DNA.”

Trissential’s goal with its clients is to work itself out of a job. “While our expertise is in consulting on your behalf, our value is in teaching and mentoring your organization to develop your own capabilities in the areas of effective strategy, efficient management, and exceptional execution—intertwining the three areas to work seamlessly,” Vinje says. “We want a client’s business to continue on a higher path after our engagement with them is over.”

According to Vinje, Trissential’s approach is particularly applicable to industries that have a high level of complexity, change, strong competitive dynamics, and deep technological reliance. The firm has specialized experience in health care, financial services, property and casualty, retail and distribution, manufacturing, and the public sector.

For instance, AQS, a Wisconsin-based provider of policy administration systems for insurance firms, was having difficulty making a profit, despite strong sales. Trissential came in and focused on identifying and prioritizing needed internal improvements—for instance, improving customer service systems—and completing these projects on time and on budget. The result of efforts like these: AQS experienced a $4.5 million gain in profits, and 50 percent topline growth.

A native of Brainerd, Vinje is headquartered in Minnetonka, while lifelong Wisconsite Korsi operates out of Milwaukee and Madison. “Our responsibilities are split both functionally and geographically,” Vinje says. “He’s the opener, I’m the closer. He’s the hunter, I’m the farmer. He handles business development, and I’m the management consultant.”

Despite the tough economy, Trissential believes it’s positioned well for continued growth. From 2007 to 2008, the company’s revenues nearly doubled, from $6.3 million to $11.7 million. “This year, we’re up 10 percent,” Vinje says. “But we were built internally to double again; so we’ve had to pull back and cut a few internal positions. But we’re debt free and starting to receive recognition. Our brand is reaching the tipping point.”