Skip to main content

Back to Basics with Bob Trunzo

By Siddarth Upadhya

September 12, 2023

Bob Trunzo speaking on stage at the Wisconsin School of Business

The MBAs at the Wisconsin School of Business recently had the privilege of hearing Bob Trunzo, the CEO at TruStage, drop some serious wisdom. He was part of the Weikel Leadership Series this fall.

Bob was all about using common sense when it came to leadership. As he put it, “I’m going to talk about some things that you’re going to sit back and you’re going to say, ‘This is really common sense.'” But here was the kicker: he also touched on the gnarly part of being a CEO—the tough decisions.

Siddarth Upadhya
Siddarth Upadhya

According to Bob, the most difficult thing in an organization when you are the CEO is making decisions to shut things down. It takes more guts for a CEO to say we are not going to do that because we stink at it, or we cannot make money at it, or we do not serve our customers the right way. Leadership is not a spectator sport; it is about making the calls that no one else wants to make.

Bob was not telling us to forget the complexities; he was emphasizing not to forget the basics. Being fair, transparent, and talking to people are key. We were surprised how many “leaders” forgot this stuff.

Bob hit the nail on the head when he talked about culture. It isn’t some fancy term for the HR PowerPoint; it is the vibe of the place, the energy you felt when you walked in. But what happens when that vibe needs a shake-up?

Changes are difficult to accept. Whether it is restructuring or adopting a new business model, Bob said it takes a lot for a team to shift gears. And that is where leadership comes in again—to guide the team through the rocky terrain of change.

There is a sense of inclusion at TruStage. Bob’s goal is to make people feel that these organizations are valued within the broader TruStage family. It isn’t just about having diverse voices in the room; it is about making sure those voices are heard and valued.

He shared an anecdote about attending an insurance conference where nobody talked about inclusion. His takeaway: “How can you have a culture where you want people to feel that they can be their own self in the workplace?” At TruStage, they aim to create an environment where people want to come to work, want to participate, and are passionate about what they do for their credit unions and consumers. Bob was crystal clear: if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers. It is a win-win situation.

Bob had another golden nugget for us. Number one, you want to listen to the customer. Because at the end of the day, if you really listen and you ask the right questions, your customers will tell you everything you need to know about your products and your business. Loyalty scores would shoot up. Listening to your customers is not just polite; it is smart business. The customers share what is working and what is not, and that is priceless.

He stressed that everyone needs a coach. A coach is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned pro, having a coach to guide you could be a game-changer. So, if you are navigating the crazy world of leadership, you need to get yourself a Yoda. You will not regret it.

Bob Trunzo is a leader who gets it. He understands that leadership is not about flexing your managerial muscles; it is about common sense, making tough decisions, and being human.

So, the next time you find yourself stressing about KPIs, quarterly targets, or whatever fancy term is buzzing in the corporate world, remember what Bob said: “Sometimes, common sense is the best sense.”