Triton Overseas Founder Taking Business Coach Lessons to the Bank

[Excerpted from an article that originally appeared in the Houston Business Journal, October 4, 2013]

Bill OnoratoWhen Bill Onorato left his job to start his own international freight services company, he was surprised at how quickly the business took off. But several years later, he was also surprised at how quickly things could fall apart.

Nearly two decades after Onorato founded Triton Overseas Transport Inc. out of the front seat of his car, the company had grown to more than $13 million in revenue and was flying high.

But almost a year ago, Onorato hit a rough patch that caused him to question his value as an entrepreneur and shake his self-confidence to the core.

Onorato and his brother, who had served as the company’s CFO, had a miscommunication and parted ways, a situation upsetting to Onorato on both a professional and personal level.

“I took it really hard,” he said. “It caused me to have a lot of self-doubt about the business and about myself.”

It was then that Onorato did something that can often prove difficult for many entrepreneurs — he asked for help.

Regular meetings with a business coach [Becky Robins of Mark Kamin & Associates] taught him how to manage his feelings of self-doubt and to approach the business from new angles

The coach gave Onorato advice ranging from how to really be present and listen during a business conversation to how to remove himself from the center of the company and allow his employees to step up and be leaders.

“The bottom line was that I couldn’t be afraid to ask for help,” Onorato said. “I had to know my weaknesses.”

He immediately started implementing some of the ideas learned during his meetings, and even set up regular sessions for Triton’s employees to also be coached.

One of the major changes he made was to allow his employees to take the lead in staff meetings, rather than himself. Although he kicks off each meeting with a few words, Onorato then steps aside and lets the employees take it from there.

“I do a lot of listening now,” he said. “I have to keep in mind that one day this company will run without me, so I need to put myself in the background and the employees in the light.”

That strategy has started to take shape, and although the company’s revenue fell last year in the wake of Onorato’s personal and business setbacks, Triton is on track to bring in $12 million this year, putting it back in full swing.

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