My Three Be’s

Aaron P. Graft

May 9, 2013

Tackle an uncertain future with these three decision making principles.

Triumph announced recently that we are acquiring National Bancshares, the parent holding company of THE National Bank, a community bank with a presence in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Some people have asked, “Why is Triumph buying a bank so far away?”

That is a good question, which brings me to the topic of this blog. How do we go about making good decisions when the future is uncertain? This bank pairing may seem odd on the surface, but each one has something from which the other can benefit. Triumph has proven successful at generating high-returning assets and THE National Bank has a core deposit base that is generating excess liquidity. It could be a winning formula. Or it could be a massive distraction that never creates value for either company. In either case, this decision has far reaching implications for both companies.

Do you ever stop and consider tomorrow’s consequences of the decisions you are making today? Or are you a person who struggles to make decisions at all? Being heedless about tomorrow and suffering “analysis paralysis” are both manifestations of less than optimal thinking about the future. The heedless person ignores the future and the indecisive person fears it.

Since none of us has a crystal ball to tell us what is going to happen, we have to make the best decisions we can in light of the facts we have. Here are the principles I use in making decisions:

1. Be Strategic.
Being strategic is thinking deeper than the surface. It’s thinking through multiple possible outcomes. It affects how we make decisions and how we approach the world. For example, according to traditional views, Triumph has raised more capital than it needs. Is this a good idea? I think so. Why? Because I have learned the hard way that the best investment opportunities come at times when no one can raise capital. To profit in distressed markets requires that you prepare in calm markets. It goes against the grain, but it makes sense when you apply it to growing a business.

Another fundamental part of being strategic is allowing for mistakes. At Triumph, I continually push our team to think about the long term. As a result, we could be right on the call and wrong on the timing. Or we could be wrong altogether since life rarely goes according to the script. In either case, by using moderate leverage and diversification, Triumph always leaves itself margin for error.

2. Be Excellent.
Excellence is born at the intersection of talent and preparation. Know the things you do well and pursue those things. At Triumph, we expect our team members to set the course for the desired outcome and then use all of their abilities to reach it. That’s why we say in our Corporate Vision Statement: “Call your shots correctly on a consistent basis.”

Once you understand the details and have diagrammed the play, make the call and run the play with precision and speed. Do that consistently and you will be excellent.

3. Be at Peace.
If you do number one and two well, number three comes naturally. Optimal preparation and productivity ultimately lead to peace; it really is that simple. Your job is to add value where you are, with what you have been given and not to worry about anything else. Indeed, the act of worrying is probably the worst thing you can do about the future since it disturbs the present and does nothing to improve the future. A very, very wise man once said “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Don’t misinterpret what I am saying here – if you fail to be strategic, you will not achieve all you could have. And if you fail to execute with excellence, the competition will almost always beat you. If that happens, you won’t be at peace, and you won’t get the rest and reassurance that comes from following the three Be’s.

Do these three things. Do them well. Trust the outcome.