One of the challenges of leadership is to build an organization where people enjoy what they do and actually want to show up for work and give it their best. This is no easy task and many organizations struggle with a “punch the clock” culture that ultimately results in mediocre performance and results. We are learning more about what really motivates employees in today’s economy. Author and speaker Dan Pink captures a lot of this in his book “Drive.” In this book, he argues that the best way to lead is to create an environment where employees have autonomy to do their work, the ability to develop mastery in their craft and have a sense of purpose in their jobs.
Daryl Cornell, CEO of Triton Systems, leads an organization where employees are working together to be a world-class company. Triton is based in Long Beach with offices in Europe and Canada. The company sells ATM machines and other financial self-service products globally with over 200,000 ATMs sold in 24 countries worldwide. Triton is one of the largest employers in Harrison County with 267 worldwide employees and is the sole surviving retail ATM manufacturer based in the United States. The 30-year-old company had been a subsidiary of Dover until a recent management led buyout. I visited with Daryl recently to learn more about how a company in a mature industry was continuing to grow and thrive.
Daryl grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and went to Florida Institute of Technology on a ROTC scholarship. After college, he served five years in the military with the U.S. Army Finance Corp. Upon completion of his military duties, Daryl received an MBA from the University of Florida. He started his business career with Ryder and went on to serve in leadership roles for a number of private equity portfolio companies until he was brought to Triton by the former CEO to help restructure the company. Daryl ended up staying on and being a part of the management buyout in 2009.
As we visited, I was struck how Triton’s organization had already been implementing the recommendations that Pink had put forth in “Drive.” At Triton, they hire great people, establish clear objectives and “get out of their way.” They have created a very flat organization where employees are given a great deal of autonomy to perform their jobs. Daryl noted to me that the management team “strives to create an environment where employees can do skilled and meaningful work.” The result is a culture that feels like a family and has very little turnover.
Daryl and I also discussed how his military experience taught him a lot about personal discipline, leadership and how to build teamwork in a diverse environment. He shared a great quote with me about leadership that his uncle taught him, “You can have anything you want, but not everything you want.” In other words, if you want to be a leader you have to harness the power of focus and be willing to make hard choices along the way. Other advice he noted for up-and-coming leaders was to remember the basics including, “learning how to listen carefully, how to write clearly, and how to speak confidently.” Daryl also recommends that leaders “seek out a wide variety of positions and experiences, preferably outside of your comfort zone.”
The culture that Daryl and his team have created at Triton has them poised for continued success. Their talented and motivated employees are finding ways to help the company reinvent itself by producing new and innovative solutions. In addition to manufacturing ATMs, the company is a premier retail ATM software developer and the company’s VersaLink is a web-based, total cash management solution for smart safes and ATM’s. I noted that Triton was not resting on its former success, but trying to look ahead into the future to create tomorrow’s solutions. Triton serves as great example of how Mississippi based companies can have a global reach.