Paul Younkins

TRULY INDEPENDENT ADVISORS

Paul Younkins
Founding Principal and Senior Consultant
TriBridge Partners, LLC

TriBridge Partners, LLC prides itself on its ease of access for clients – both through its local expansion efforts and through its culture of making principals easily accessible. At the same time, TriBridge is committed to being independent in its advisory capacity, rather than beholden to specific brands or profit margins.

Q: What are the most exciting things happening at TriBridge Partners at the moment?

A: Firstly, we are very excited to now be serving as the exclusive brokerage and consulting firm to the Maryland Association of CPAs — we have been officially endorsed to all the business and personal members as the brokerage of choice for HR technology consulting, executive and employee benefits and compliance, qualified and unqualified retirement plans, health insurance, life insurance, disability income insurance and long-term care insurance.

Another exciting update is that one of our principals, Dane Rianhard, has recently been elected as the treasurer to the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU). Dane is the past president of the Baltimore Association and Maryland Association. He is the past regional VP for the Mid-Atlantic area and his most recent engagement was serving on the board of trustees. Dane’s involvement and leadership positions in NAHU give our teams and therefore our clients a very early start on preparing for regulatory changes in the healthcare arena, and we are super excited about his accomplishments and national recognition.

We have also opened up several new service areas to our clients, and the adoption rate has been astonishing.

One area is our HR Tech Suitability Assessment — many of our clients are seeking better and better payroll, benefits and HR technology platforms to support their employees and streamline the workflow. With so many to choose from in the market and rather than hitching TriBridge to only one platform, we are able to conduct an assessment with the client to determine the most appropriate solution. Then, we set up the implementation.

Another area is HR support outsourcing – many of our clients have the ability to do all of the HR tasks but lack the time. As such, some things (while important) never get done. Examples are updating employee handbooks, updating the onboarding/off-boarding process, regulatory compliance, etc.

A third area is a focus on the needs and wants of the various generations that now exist in almost every workforce.  We now have unique and progressive benefits and compensation options that help to support the recruitment and retention of top talent, from millennials to the GI Generation. Stickisng with conventional and vanilla benefits and compensation programs has proven to be ineffective at addressing the work-life integration goals of every generation, so our customized solutions now offer a way to engage each employee based upon their phase in life.

Q: Can you share how this impacts your clients?

A:  Any new service or solution that we bring to the market is normally brought to us in the form of need by our clients. They have asked for assistance or help in a certain area — sometimes they have asked directly, and sometimes indirectly in that we “hear” what they seem to need. We begin to measure the volume of demand for a particular service and those in our firm charged with R&D are put to work evaluating the effectiveness of offering a particular service.  Once we have a suitable solution, we then roll it out to all of our clients so everyone can benefit from the new service.

Q: You direct TriBridge Partners’ stakeholder-relations team. What are the team’s responsibilities, and how do they fit into the overall TriBridge mission?

A: The team is responsible for thinking about, for exploring, and for meeting the evolving needs and expectations of our five key stakeholders: employees, clients, potential clients, service providers, and our community. The team does its own work and also oversees several internal committees focused on healthy workplace, awards and recognition, social activities and community concerns. We take our cues from leaders in the hospitality and guest services industries as we are always seeking better ways to anticipate the needs and wants of those around us, and to deliver on those needs and wants before being asked. Our goal is to deliver this kind of anticipatory experience to all five stakeholders at all times.

Q: TriBridge provides services in three critical areas. What are they, and how do they interact?

A: Our three focus areas were developed in response to the three dimensions of responsibility and stewardship that our clients have, with many clients who represent all three dimensions. The three areas or dimensions are 1) Employers who oversee the health, welfare, financing, HR and technology impacting their employees’ and their executives’ benefit and retirement programs. 2) Partners, business owners and family businesses that need to shepherd the continuity and safety of their enterprise or organization through the planned and the unplanned circumstances of the future. 3) People who face all the personal financial and benefit planning complexities created by asset accumulation, laws and regulation, tax challenges, and generational influences.

Q: How do you approach client relationships at TriBridge?

A: Our key differentiator is our process. Many consultants and advisors claim to know their clients, but we have designed a system that not only ensures we know our clients but holds us and the clients accountable to their goals. We are able to diagnose the areas of risk or need and then put in place the system to ensure each milestone is reached. It’s quite refreshing and a lot of fun to administer.

Q: TriBridge prides itself on its local access, innovation and independence. Why are these important to you as a company?

A: Because we believe that as the pace of the world increases and more and more information is hurled at our brains for quick assimilation, companies and people will demand credible and referable experts and tools within easy reach. While many other firms are offshoring or consolidating, we are actually expanding and making investments in local communities and people — both urban and rural. We want to be within reach.

This local approach is dynamically counter-balanced by a nimble and digitally competent team of experts who can deliver guidance and solutions that are high-touch or high-tech — depending on what is most suitable for the client. Independence is critical because we want our clients to know that to reach the top of our ladder, they don’t have to reach far. In a world of acquisition and companies where decisions are driven by inaccessible shareholders and distant corporate executives who are loyal to specific brands or profit margins, TriBridge is furiously dedicated to remaining independent, with principals who are involved with clients and who participate in driving our culture and vision for the future.

Q: You’ve helped found several companies throughout your career. What has that experience taught you?

A: Lots! The first thing is to always take your work seriously, but not yourself. Next, chasing technical knowledge can be an addiction. So certainly be competent in your field of expertise, but knowing your clients and their goals is far more important than overdosing on other technical expertise. With that, always be curious and keep your mind active — be refreshing! If you find yourself in a leadership position — be authentic! It is the only way to build trust.

Find heroes and emulate their best qualities — remember you are the average of those you surround yourself with most. If you want to pick three areas in which to build character, focus on love, wisdom, and discernment. Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration, but make it a goal to invert that ratio over time. Creativity and ideas are critical, but without a process of discernment and effective implementation, they are meaningless and even harmful. Make a list of all the important things in your life, prioritize them, hang them up, and sequence your priorities each day in that order. Rather than doing multiple projects at once, do one at a time. It is amazing how little you get done with multi-projects. You can sometimes solve an issue by meeting on it six days in a row rather than meeting once a month for six months.

When you read a book, write a summary when you are done and find ways to immediately put what you have learned into practice. Lastly, a benefit to this experience is hopefully a wiser and more discerning Paul who knows his strengths and weaknesses, can accept them, and asks for help or guidance where necessary. I ask for a lot of advice, but I also am more assertive when working in areas where I feel I am strong.

Q: TriBridge has completed several strategic alignments throughout its history. How have you managed to assimilate company cultures during those transactions?

A: By never giving up, by listening to the people, by making mistakes and learning from them, by not holding grudges, by staying focused, by being patient, by investing in your loyalists and wishing your mercenaries farewell, by communicating, by learning what transparency means, by learning to be authentic. As you can see, there is a lot of learning involved and sometimes it is painful — but totally worth it in the end. I am so grateful for the team we have today, but I’m also grateful for all the relationships that contributed to the firm over the years and wish only the best for each contributor.

Q: You expect employees to abide by the TriBridge Commitment. What is it, and how has it improved the company?

A: Strategically aligning different cultures is a challenge, and aligning new personalities into any culture can be a challenge too. To meet this challenge, we knew that we needed to establish a firm foundation of cultural ethics, expectations and behavior. We needed to create something that all employees could point to and know what was expected of them, and what they have every right to expect of their colleagues and leaders. So we wrote The TriBridge Commitment, which is a list of 14 characteristics and behaviors that we strive for in every interaction. We required every principal in the firm to sign the commitment first, and then we went to each employee personally and asked them to sign it as well. It is now a part of our onboarding process and adherence to it is measured in our performance reviews. We implemented the commitment about three years ago and with each passing year, its principles and tenets weave their way deeper into our methods and into treatment of one another and the world around us. It’s very special to me.

Q: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

A: Listen – really listen. Deny yourself. Seek simplicity on the other side of complexity. Laugh out loud and whistle while you work.

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