MO: Hi, there.  Today we are talking with Don and Anne Marie Truza and their company is The Transition Team.  Would you like to tell us about The Transition Team, what you do, and how the name evolved?  How did you come up with the name Transition Team?

DT: Sure.  Thanks, Marlene.  I appreciate the opportunity to be here and talk about us.  What we do is we help organizations as they go through transition, and that could be a merger acquisition, downsizing, could be a transfer of employees.  So, when an organization is going to be downsizing, we help that organization put together their strategy, their communications to their vendors, to their suppliers, to their customers, within the community.  And then after that we start working with the people, start dealing with the emotions with the job loss.  We help them put a plan together for their career and their life.  We help take them through a process called SHAPE.  The letters stand for their Strengths, understanding what they’re good at.  H is for their Heart, what they’re passionate about.  A is for their Abilities.  P is for the Personality.  And then E is for the Experiences.  Once we find out what they’re really passionate about and what they’d like to do and use the strengths that they have, we then put a resume together to reflect that.  And we help them to find opportunities within the community they’re coming out of or anywhere else, literally, in the world.

MO: Yeah.  Do the companies come to you before they even notify their employees?  How does that work?

DT: Yes. We are normally about anywhere from a year to six months ahead of time before the announcement is made because we’ll help them in preparation of that announcement.  And also sometimes we help evaluate which facilities. For example, a large client of ours, like TRW, they may have thirty facilities in the country, and if they’re going to shut down four or five, we’ll help them go out and do what we call due diligence.  We’ll look at the facilities, evaluate some of the people, what’s the best location so they can expand in, which ones probably, what recommendations maybe needs to shut down.

MO: I see.  Anne Marie, what part do you do?  What do you find you do most of with the company?

AMT: Well I think with me I do most of the sales and marketing and networking on behalf of the clients, and as a result of the networking, 86.4% of clients find something in less than 140 days. I attend a lot of HR associations and uncover opportunities and pass that along to our clients and help them get employed shortly.  So I get a lot of emails and phone calls of how people really appreciate the help and it just makes me happy.  I have a passion to help people and the end product is great.

MO: Would you repeat that?  What was the percentage?

AMT: In less than 140 days, 86.4% of all our clients get placed.

MO: That’s wonderful!  Oh, that is really great!  What do you like most about what you do?

AMT: Just helping people and being appreciated at the end.

MO: I would think it’s a relief, once they get the news that there’s going to be a downsizing, and then they know they’re not in it alone.  Somebody’s there to help you.

AMT: To walk alongside.

MO: Where all do you cover?  I mean, we’re in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Where all are you?

DT: We’ve worked in every state in the country.  I’ve personally have been to every state except for Alaska, but we have done projects up there.  I sent somebody else on that one.  We also have done a lot of work in Italy and Germany and the Great Britain area and Portugal.  Most of our clients are usually in about the Fortune 250-200, so they have international facilities.  In fact we just did a program not too long ago where people came in from China, Brazil, Germany, Italy, and we led some team-building exercises there.

MO: Wow, I didn’t realize it was that extensive!  What is your favorite part, Don, of what you do?

DT: One thing that is really important is we put our clients through the assessment, we’ve done that with all of our career consultants, we have about eighty throughout the country, and the thing that just really fits me is I have a passion to be able to help people.  We look, we tell them to look at patterns, all the way even from grade school, and I saw that pattern, trying to help others, trying to protect others, trying to get them through difficult times.  It’s something that either you have or you don’t.  We do that assessment with our consultants as well as the people going through the program so they have a real passion to be able to help people and always have.

MO: That’s great.  That is interesting.  How long have you been doing this?  How did you get started?

DT: I’ve personally been doing this since 1991, and the way that I got started is just like all of the other 80 consultants that we have.  All of us have gone through some type of involuntary downsizing in our career.  I was at Sea-Ray Boats, I was the Vice-President and ended up shutting down five of our eleven plants, about five different layoffs and then my position was eliminated.  That industry was impacted greatly in ’91 because of luxury tax.  So it was a tough time, but it was experience that allowed –if you’ve ever seen the movie “The Doctor” with William Hurt – you need to be able to experience what your clients are going through or else you really don’t know what it’s like to walk in their shoes.  Every one of us understands exactly what they’re experiencing.

MO: Oh. You started in ’91 and the name Transition Team because you’re dealing with people who …

DT: Right.  The firm actually started in 1979.  Our founder put that together because, he was actually speaking at a class outside of Detroit, Michigan, in Troy, and somebody in the audience, when he was talking about interviewing skills, came up to him and was an executive with Dana Corporation, he approached him later and said, “We’re going to be laying some of our employees off and I’d like for you to come in and talk to our people and help them through this transition.”  So, as they say, the rest is history and The Transition Team was founded in 1979 and has been going ever since.

MO: Tell me something exciting or new that’s going on either within your industry or specifically with The Transition Team.

DT: Another area that we’re really growing in is helping spouses, what we call trailing spouses.  We do a lot of work with companies like Bridgestone, General Electric, General Motors.  When they transfer a person from one location to another, or hire somebody and transfer them, the majority of the time their spouses are either employed or have a tough time in that move.  In fact, the American Management Association says that 60% of the reasons why they lose their number one candidate is because of their spouse not wanting to move, maybe afraid of a new location or doesn’t know about the new location.  So we help major corporations make sure that they get the very best candidate and not have to rely on number three, four or five just to have somebody to be able to fill that position.

MO: Do you have people in various areas?  Say someone’s having to move to Kansas City, they’re getting transferred.

DT: Absolutely.  We have people from coast to coast and border to border as well as the UK, because we have people that are transferred overseas, just like Bridgestone and TRW, they have a lot of facilities overseas.

MO: And so you have somebody that works with the spouse, whether it’s a male or a female.  Someone helps them get acclimated to the area?

DT: Absolutely.  And help them find new opportunities and be taken almost through the same process, except for probably the emotions are not as difficult, because it’s more uplifting, it’s more positive.  Hopefully they’re going to be making more money, they’ll be in a better location.  But everything else is the same, trying to find out their SHAPE, what they’re made up of and us finding an opportunity.  The majority of the time, if people are an accountant, they’ve been that for twenty years, most likely they’re going to be that.  But sometimes people just say, you know, maybe I don’t like this industry.  To give you a quick example, I’ll give you an account we’re dealing with in Detroit.  Loved the work, just hating going into a stamping plant.  It was very dirty and dusty, if you’ve ever seen one, you know they’re very loud.  So we talked to him about it.  “Yeah, I love what I’m doing, but I’d really like to be in better weather, I’d like to be around kids, I have grandchildren.”  We were able to transfer him down to Disney World and get an opportunity through our networking.  He’s doing the same job, but doing it in an environment that much more positive than a stamping plant in Detroit, Michigan.

MO: That’s wonderful!  Do you ever have people that are in transition and totally change their field?  Just completely change?

DT: Absolutely.  We have probably about 10% that will maybe want to start their own business.  And in probably the neighborhood of maybe another 10-15% that will say, “You know, I was in that job, I was stuck in that job.”  And particularly if they come out of a very large organization where they can not wear a lot of hats, their job is very narrowly focused, they’ll say, “Boy, I wish I was able to move over and do that,” but you just can’t do that in a large corporations.  In a smaller company, you can wear a lot of different hats.  So we look at that.  We look at the size of the organization where they maybe need to go, but also try to get them into an area that they’re really passionate about. And the assessment can help them in the interview process to prove to the interviewer, “Yes, this is what I’m really made to do.”

MO: And you said a certain percentage want to start their own business, you would help them find what they would be passionate about.

DT: Yes.  We take them through an assessment and talk about their strengths, their weaknesses.  Owning their own business, as you know, Marlene, sometimes you’ve got to have a special personality.  Some people can handle the stress better than others.  It doesn’t mean they can’t be successful in owning their own business, but they can lose a lot of sleep, and the more sleep you’re going to lose, the worse you’re going to be in the long run.  That’s why such a high percentage of small businesses go out of business, because they’re just not the right fit.  They’re technically qualified, but there’s a whole lot more to owning your own business than doing the job that they sell.

MO: That’s true.  A little joke I heard a long time ago: Own your own business and you only work half days, any twelve hours you want.

DT: (laughing) Exactly right.

MO: Don, I’d like to ask you, how do you think The Transition Team compares to other companies around the country or around the world that are doing the same thing, or say they’re doing the same thing?

DT: There are several professional associations that measure our quality and what type of response we get back from our clients.  One of the largest ones is what they call the Global Network Conference and it’s held every year in Dallas.  This is our seventh straight year that we’ve received the Platinum Award for Service Excellence.  We’re the only company in the world that has ever done that, seven straight years.  We were also voted the Best Family Support Program from the four among preemptive management and that was given to us just a couple of months ago in Vegas.  We also received what they call Achieving Exceptional Quality Standards and Demonstrating Outstanding Performance and Commitment.  That’s a long one, but that’s from the Association of Workforce Mobility, also given to us in Vegas.  The last one we got in the fourth quarter was the 2013 Excellence Award from the Business Institute of Excellence.  So we’re measured by several associations and forums about how we do our work, the quality, the feedback we get from our clients.  It really means a lot to us that these conferences, associations, and forums recognize our quality.  And again, even though we’re headquartered here in Knoxville now, these are global recognitions.

MO: I noticed that.  That’s outstanding!  Congratulations on all of those.

DT: Thank you so much.

MO: How long have you been with Knoxville Executive Suites?

DT: Since 1992.  I started with The Transition Team in ’91.  I went around and did projects on the road in New York City and in West Virginia and a couple other places in Ohio.  This is the very first office outside Detroit.  We found you in the phone book, that was prior to the internet.

MO: Boy, that does go back and really date you.

DT: Yeah.  So, we started our business in Knoxville right here at Knoxville Executive Suites in 1992.

MO: Is there one particular thing, one service, or anything particular that we offer that is most helpful to you?

DT: The thing that really helps, particularly with a small business, is cash flow.  Not having to hire somebody to answer the phone, not having to buy a phone system.  Some people, as you’re looking at starting your own business, a phone system can run anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000.  Buying copiers, again another $20,000, just all the equipment.  Having that available and having professional people to be able to answer the phone, all day, five days a week saves us a lot of money.  And then we can focus our resources more on giving great service.

MO: We run your office while you run your business.

DT: Absolutely.

MO: Now, tell everybody how they can find you.

DT: OK, they can find us at phone number (865) 693-3193 or the website is

MO: OK,, just spell it all out.  Well, thank you very much.  I enjoyed it and I learned more about The Transition Team this time, too.


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Out:  Thank you to our guest today from our Knoxville Executive Suites community for sharing with us their inspirational story.  We look forward to bringing you another guest next month.  Until our next visit, this is Marlene O’Hanlon with Knoxville Executive Suites.