Founder of Tri Corporation shares his nuggets of wisdom
Dr Thomas E. Conine Jr is synonymous with the financial services industry. In a career spanning 40 years, he has galvanised the development of companies specialising in corporate education, experiential leadership and simulation programmes, and has been peerless in the creation of industry academia focusing on corporate finance and investments.
Appearing on The Leaderonomics Show, Conine discusses his transformation into an industry leader and his passion for executive education and simulations in finance services.
He also shares his opinion on the importance of establishing credibility within the business sector and how an experience in finance can get you a seat at the table.
Combining academia and business
Conine’s journey has been one of purpose and commitment, combining a love of education, academia and finance, with a determined business strategy to elevate him to his current guise as president, partner and co-owner of the world’s leading business simulations company, TRI Corporation.
After graduating with advanced degrees in finance, business and philosophy from New York University (NYU), including a PhD in Theoretical Finance and Statistics, Conine began his ascendency through the business simulation ranks, combining his roles at Fairfield University in Connecticut with consultancy at General Electric’s Management Development Institute.
“When I was at NYU I wasn’t really sure if I was going to go into an academic kind of career, possibly more consulting. But my time there kind of convinced me that I loved education.”
This passion evolved throughout the 1980s and eventually led to a business venture with simulations expert David Sims, where they began to form the seeds of TRI Corporation.
Combining Conine’s expertise in education and Sims’ knowledge of simulations, they soon became a formidable partnership, and by the mid-90s had built a reputation as one of the best simulations companies in the world.
Since then it has been an upward spiral, providing experiential type learning and business simulations to 14 of Dow’s 30 companies across the globe.
And if that’s not enough to impress you, Conine has all the while maintained his position as professor of finance at the Dolan School of Business at Fairfield University.
He has demonstrated an unrivalled knowledge in the fields of Customer Economics, Risk Management, International Privations and Meeting Commitments in the Financial Framework of Variance Analysis and has co-authored the American Institute of Certified Professional Accountant’s (AICPA) Shareholder Value Creation.
The key to success
Conine says the strategy behind TRI Corporation’s elevation to global powerhouse was never to become the biggest, but to be among the best business simulation companies in the world and to provide top quality services for their customers.
TRI Corporation’s list of clients, which reads as a who’s who of multinational corporations including Boeing, Microsoft, General Electric and Petronas, have garnered an organic growth like no other.
Their success has not only dictated the type of customers TRI Corporation has been able to attract but has established a level of integrity that is priceless. As Conine muses: “Most of our growth is through our network.
“If you look at all our clients today, and we have roughly 25 clients from around the world. It’s all through the network that we have developed.
“Credibility comes from making sure that whatever we’re doing is aligned absolutely with the client’s needs and their strategy.
“If you don’t have that alignment it will be a very short relationship.”
Conine believes it is essential to emphasise an expert understanding of finance within the business sphere and for companies to employ people who are not only passionate about what they do, but are passionate about sharing their knowledge with others.
He said, “In today’s world, if you don’t have an understanding of finance and accounting, essentially it’s the language of business, you’re not going to have a seat at the table.
“The average age of our employees is 56 or 57 years old. They are people with significant business experience, and they bring a love to the game I’ve never seen elsewhere.
“When we’re teaching business simulations, we have to have a passion for it, we have to have a love for it and it starts with us as the teachers. If we can’t convey that, we’re not doing our job.”
Inspiration and advice
So what’s the secret behind finding that passion?
Well, for Conine his inspiration started with a US$500 investment on the stock market as a teenager, but now reflecting on his career, the TRI Corporation president says soft skills such as relationships and inter-personal skills are equally as important as numbers and equations.
“Hard skills obviously can get you that first job but then they taper off, whereas the importance on soft skills goes up geometrically because business is all about people dealing with people,” he said.
“My biggest challenge at the start was that I wasn’t a great team player. It soon became very important that one needs to be able to work and build a consensus with a team.
“For any young person, the best advice is to get the most holistic type of education you probably can. It makes for a very well-rounded individual.”
And in terms of business leadership, Conine urges chief executive officers and chief operating officers to do just one thing.
“Why not say ‘thank you’ to people?” he said.
“We need to understand that at the end of the day, business is about people dealing with people. You get to the top and it’s easy to forget that. Hearing a ‘thank you’ is a very positive motivation.”
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