The Trudel Group - Company Information


John D. Trudel is Founder and CEO of the Trudel Group (TTG), a consulting firm that he established in 1988. TTG's clients range from new ventures to Fortune 100 companies. John has worked for Rockwell Collins, Sanders Associates, E-Systems and Tektronix. He has also helped start several new ventures. He writes a popular column, "Innovation In Sight" for IEEE Engineering Management Review. John has written for Electronic Design, Upside, IEEE Spectrum, Barrons, Analog, and many other publications. John is the author of High Tech with Low Risk and Engines of Prosperity. He gives keynote talks and has been quoted (and sometimes misquoted) by media including Electronic Business, Fortune, and Wall Street Journal.


The Trudel Group (TTG) assists clients with technology strategy issues. The deliverables range from strategic plans and developing business models and plans to requirements definition and helping with the specification and implementation of new products. John provides expertise to companies to establish breakthrough results and makes a company's strategy, technology, and implementation come together. All the work by TTG is "full custom" and under nondisclosure agreement (NDA). TTG also assists with judging for the "Outstanding Corporate Innovator Award," given by an organization called the Product Development & Management Association. Past winners have ranged from U.S. Robotics and Hewlett-Packard Company to Cincinnati Machine; from Maytag and Fluke Corporation to Kodak.

The Trudel Group (TTG) helps you exploit technology for business advantage. We've helped create over $2 billion worth of business based on innovative products. We have helped clients develop winning strategies and move to more prosperous markets. We have helped them tune their "innovation engines" and speed their New Product processes.

TTG has a solid record of product, new venture and market creation successes. Our proudest possession is our clients' belief in the integrity and value of our advice. There is much confusion about what professional consulting is all about. Some managers confuse consultants with "hired hands" or temporary workers. I prefer Alan Weiss' definition of a professional management consultant:


"A consultant is someone who provides a specialized expertise, content, behavior, skill or other resource to assist a client in improving the status quo. This intervention focuses on a specific client need."

                                                                                                        Alan Weiss, Million Dollar Consulting

Successful consulting depends on establishing mutual expectations and then meeting them. We are pleased to discuss our practices and how we might help you.

Q. You use some unfamiliar phrases. What do you mean, "Achieve sustained prosperity?" Are you just saying, "Increase our profits?"

A. I don't recommend taking actions that will damage your firm long-term to achieve good profits short-term. In every story about deals with the Devil the bargain is the same. The victim trades his long-term happiness for short-term gratification. The lesson is always the same: "Not real smart."

Recent years have seen many "quick fix" business fads. All have been plausible and some have had merit, but none produced lasting value. To me, sustained prosperity goes far beyond tweaking numbers or cutting costs. Many firms are learning that they cannot downsize their way to leadership.

In my best assignments I have helped clients improve both their top line and their bottom line, and in ways that helped them develop self-reliance and let them keep improving indefinitely. "Sustained prosperity" implies improved profits, but the concept goes much further.

Q. How long have you been in business?

A. A long time. I founded TTG in 1988, based on over 20 years of high tech business experience.

Q. Who are TTG's clients?

A. We'd like the list to include you. We can provide suitable references, but don't publish client lists. Most of our work is done under nondisclosure agreement.

We've worked for well known firms such as Bellcore, Cray, Exabyte, Intel, National Semiconductor, Sun, and Tektronix. We've also worked for small firms, new ventures, non-profits, and investor groups.

Q. What is your business specialty?

A. We help our clients make money through Information Age technology. Our philosophy is business innovation -- simultaneous innovation in technology, market, and implementation to maximize competitive advantage. My practice, experience, and qualifications cross the traditional functional boundaries.

Q. How large is TTG?

A. We are small, smart, and quick with low overhead and maximum flexibility. Most assignments are done as a sole practitioner, but we maintain a worldwide network of resources that can be tapped as appropriate.

Q. We are a large corporation. Can a small business handle complex, high stakes work?

A. We helped Intel with the P6 processor, solo. They do not get any bigger than that.

Q. What methods do you employ?

A. Part of the value we add is choosing the proper tools to best serve the client. No two assignments have been identical, and some clients prefer their own processes be used.

Q. What type of management consulting do you provide?

A. It is all custom. We help clients develop and market high value products. We have helped them in many ways, from requirements definition, business planning and technology management, to product and project management, multi-site teams, benchmarking, distribution, and financing. TTG can advise, coach, or help do the work you need "hands on."

I like collaborative assignments, but sometimes consultants can add high value through independent, objective assessments. For example, I can audit your R&D or New Product Development practices and make recommendations for improvement.

Q: What size and nature of companies make your best clients?

A. It varies widely. I target firms with over $50 million in sales who have strong desires to break out of commodity competition and into high growth markets. I sometimes work with much larger firms, though these assignments most often tend to focus on specific areas of need. Some of my best assignments have been helping to identify and grow small, innovative businesses for larger companies. These engagements often produce very high value.

I have also worked with smaller companies. These frequently have capital access or R&D funding problems in addition to their business problems, so these engagements tend to be longer and more complex.

Q. What if we need expert help, but cannot afford it?

A. Go to one of my workshops, and bring the questions that you need answered. Read my columns or writings. Offer me a lunch or breakfast when I am in your area, and I may be able to give some pro bono advice if schedules permit. Or, if you can identify a few crucial items, you can have me take a "quick look" at your business for a fixed fee.

In important matters, it is best to look at the value of a consulting engagement. In the end you tend to get what you pay for. If you don't invest, you will not prosper. When I have a major problem in my own business, I retain the best people available. I dare not do anything else.

One of my colleagues noted in a Wall Street Journal interview that "cheap" was one of the dumbest business fads in the last 30 years. As a rule, I advise thinking in terms of abundance, not scarcity, and of results, not cost savings. Would you knowingly hire an amateur or second rate brain surgeon? Does not a good farmer use the best seeds to plant his crops, and a good mechanic the best tools to practice his craft?

Q. What guarantees do I get as a client?

A. The best viewpoint to take for a consulting relationship is one of trust and collaboration. What you really need is results, not guarantees. We win or lose together, and our mutual goal is to significantly improve your condition. I do nothing for you, and you do nothing for me. We do things jointly for a common purpose. We don't seek blame; we seek cause. We don't relish activities; we rejoice in outcomes. My goal is totally satisfied clients, and I pledge to do my part to ensure that this happens.

Information Age business does not come with guarantees, but, again, my personal goal is total client satisfaction. That means we need clear expectations up-front. We jointly decide what needs to be done and how to proceed. Then we both do whatever it takes to get it done.

Q. Please say more?

A. For my business to prosper, I need to be paid for the value I add and you need to succeed and prosper. That is the basis for collaboration. I do not accept consulting engagements unless I am convinced that I can add value. In fact, the IMC code of ethics requires that I only accept engagements within my competency areas.

Q. How do we get started?

A. The type of consulting that I do is relationship based. Virtually all of my business comes from referrals. The best consultants are those who provide specialized expertise, content, behavior, skill, or other resource to meet a specific client need. That's what I do, and, therefore, we must start by carefully reviewing your needs and what I might do to help.

Q. How do we do that?

A. We talk. We meet. Many ways are possible, but they all involve talking and getting to know each other. That is the first step. Sometimes an in-house workshop is a good way to get started. It delivers value and starts a dialog. I often give talks for business and technical organizations, and you might want to attend one. If you have a specific need, a simple meeting to discuss your requirements and what I might do to help is more direct. The point is that personal involvement and mutual commitment is always needed. In general, I suggest that we should start with face-to-face, substantive, and strictly confidential discussions.

The next step is drafting a statement of work for discussion, review, and approval. Then we wrap a contract around that specific statement of work, to protect both parties and let the work proceed. This can all be done very quickly. If I cannot help you I will say so, and I might be able to refer someone in my network who can provide what you need. (I never charge for referrals.)

Q. How much will this cost me?

A. To answer that we must first talk about objectives and value. I have standard fees for lectures and workshops, but for consulting assignments I must understand your issues and needs. When we decide what needs to be done and have clear objectives, I can quote fees and provide a written statement of work. In general my fees are incidental, but not inconsequential. The first working meeting, where the project scope is set, requires only a minor investment on your part and can add much value.

Q. OK, maybe we should retain you. We have been downsizing for years and we really need to do something to achieve growth. Can you fix our problems and turn us around without any additional action, investment, involvement, or commitment on our part?

A. Of course not! That is not how it works. I can help you renew your organization's ability to innovate and create value, but you must participate. It is your company, but I can help thorough my own experience, contacts, and objective outside research.

Q. How can we trust you with our secrets?

A. I am bound to serve my client's best interests, protect their confidences, and avoid all conflicts of interest. I will put that in writing and also supply copies of the code of ethics that bind me. I've been helping clients in confidence since 1988.

Q. Name some assignment areas.

A. Assignments have included computers, semiconductors, multi-media, software, communications, fiber optics, consumer products, test equipment, aviation, defense, energy, and medical products.

Q. What if we don't use consultants?

A. You are missing an opportunity. Today most firms (51.9% to be precise) regularly obtain assistance from outside consultants during the course of their new product development work. Let us demonstrate that we can add to your success. It is very difficult -- probably impossible -- to "break out of the box" from inside the box. We can help.

Q. Why do so many firms use consultants? What can consultants do that we can't do for ourselves?

A. Many things. This is a great topic to explore, and one that we should discuss face to face.

In the case of new product development, one of the main reasons to use seasoned consultants is the value of time. Today's markets just don't allow the time to learn everything yourselves. If you try, failure is almost assured. People use consultants to help new product development because it saves them time and money, and because it lets them get to market quicker.

I like to quote Joy's law (from Bill Joy, at Sun Microsystems), "No matter what the name of your firm is, most of the best talent in the world does not work for you." Access to additional first rate talent and experience is a precious asset, but it's not the only reason to use "outsiders." Some first rate thinkers, like Dr. Charles Handy who wrote The Age of Unreason, say that by the year 2000 most of the workforce will be outside the traditional corporation. This came true beyond anyone's wildest expectations.

An outside viewpoint is very valuable. In some firms managers have worked together for so long that they can almost finish each other's sentences. In some, there is so much overload and fear that life devolves into an endless string of crisis, leaving little time to craft a prosperous future. In some, managers may be new to their positions, so tapping outside knowledge can help in a different way. An outside, objective viewpoint can provide the "Ah Hah!" that sets you free.

There are many, many other reasons to retain good management consultants. You can use consultants for interventions, as honest brokers between organizations, as mentors, and to help you learn new processes. The latter is very popular in the United States.

The Europeans use consultants as "dialog partners" for their top executives. They benefit for having trustworthy, experienced, outside professionals to test and develop new ideas. A few U.S. firms do this too.

There are many ways consultants can add high value for you. Let's talk and see which are best.

Q. Anything you recommend that we not do?

A. Yes. Do not wait, and do not seek consensus on the topic of innovation.

If your firm is stuck in a low growth mode, you need to take action. The journey to the future starts with taking the first step. Do not wait, and do not put the "what to do" question to your staff or to a committee. If you do, it is unlikely that you will ever break out of the status quo.


Mr. Trudel enjoyed a successful early career in the defense sector, working as a technologist for Collins Radio Company, Sanders Associates, E-Systems and others. His specialty was real-time computer based systems and what would later be known as Computer Aided Engineering. In the post-Vietnam era, his efforts turned to the commercial sector. In 1971 he was co-founder of the first company to offer microwave CAE software, Scientific System Technology (SST). The company and the product proved to be years ahead of their time. (A decade later, Trudel's product directly inspired the formation of EEsof, now owned by Hewlett Packard.) SST secured national recognition for Mr. Trudel, but a separate venture had more commercial success. The second company Mr. Trudel started, Autotronics, developed and marketed the first successful automotive radar detector, the Snooper. This, coupled with passage of the 55 MPH speed limits, spawned an industry.

Seeking experience with a large commercial firm, Mr. Trudel went to work for Tektronix in 1974, where he received extensive business training. Mr. Trudel played key roles in business venturing and new product development for several company divisions. He introduced the company's first telecom test sets. This product line grew into a separate company division with products for both telecom and LANs. During Mr. Trudel's tenure these products had the highest growth rate and profit margin of any product line in the company. He moved from this job to one in oscilloscopes, and defined and introduced the company's first digital oscilloscope. Mr. Trudel was responsible for planning the most successful product line Tektronix has had for two decades, the 2400 series. Mr. Trudel played a key role in a long string of product successes that generated close to $1 billion for Tektronix. His work in oscilloscopes represents one of the few cases where a Western firm has profitably recovered market share from the Japanese. Not coincidentally, he has spent much time in Japan hosted by Sony-Tektronix, and has given lectures on Japanese productivity and management technique.

Mr. Trudel left Tektronix in 1981 to become V.P. of Marketing for a small start-up company, CableBus Systems. The company developed and marketed advanced two way digital communications systems (cable modems) that piggy-backed into existing CATV systems. Again, Mr. Trudel was leading a new wave of applied technology. Consensus exists today that residential wideband services (e.g., the information superhighway) will be a major 21st Century industry.

When CableBus was sold, Mr. Trudel returned to Tektronix. He spent his last five years with Tek as Business Development Manager for the company's research laboratories reporting at the Vice President level. His responsibilities included providing strategic consulting for selected divisions, and the business development of technology enabled new ventures. Areas of success included advanced real time digital signal processing based on parallel computer architectures, CASE tools (sold to Mentor Graphics), AI based troubleshooting, object oriented workstations, and others.

Mr. Trudel left Tektronix to form a management consulting firm, The Trudel Group (TTG) in 1988, where he serves as managing director. TTG helps selected clients with product and business strategy, and he assists them "hands on" with product and business development to deliver compelling value propositions. TTG helps clients transition from the old business models and methods to the new templates for Information Age business. Mr. Trudel's methods are proven to allow breakthrough results in today's chaotic, competitive global markets.

TTG's work is in the area of strategic innovation, helping clients with strategy, technology, and new product development. Mr. Trudel also lectures and writes widely on these topics. TTG's clients range from new ventures and emerging companies to Fortune 500 companies such as Cray, Intel Corporation, and Tektronix. Most of TTG's work is under non-disclosure agreement, and some clients prefer to hold their identities in confidence. Trudel says his most prestigious assignments have probably been helping Intel plan the "P6" microprocessor and, later, develop their technology strategies for the Internet.

Mr. Trudel's book High Tech with Low Risk, published in September of 1990, discusses some of these topics and was at the leading edge of the new wave of "information age" management texts. His second book, Engines of Prosperity, was published by Imperial College Press in 1998. Mr. Trudel writes columns for Electronic Design and Upside magazines. He gives frequent lectures and workshops for corporations, universities, and trade associations. Workshop clients range from American Electronics Association, IEEE, University of California, University of Colorado, and National Technological University, to industrial clients such as Intel, Lucent, National Semiconductor, Southwestern Bell, Lexmark, and the Fluke Corporation. Besides TTG, Mr. Trudel has served as an officer in three new ventures, all of which did well for their investors.

Mr. Trudel's formal training includes the course work for a PhD and a MSEE from Kansas State University, and a BEE (Cum Laude) from Georgia Institute of Technology. He's had business training at Stanford, UCLA, and Columbia University. He has completed several management development programs including the Tektronix "Manager of Managers" grooming curriculum for upper management and the first (legendary!) Tom Peters-Regis McKenna "skunk camp."

He has served as an Adjunct Professor at the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Oregon. Mr. Trudel has been a member of many organizations including Who's Who; American Management Association; Product Development and Management Association; Association of Old Crows; National Avionics Society; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; American Electronics Association; Software Association of Oregon; and others.

Mr. Trudel was granted the designations of Certified Management Consultant and Certified Professional Consultant to Management. He's been a longtime member of the Institute of Management Consultants. He's been a designated examiner for Product Development Management Association's prestigious "Outstanding Corporate Innovator Award" and also served on PDMA's national board.


The Trudel Group
1102 N. Springbrook Road # 281
Newberg, OR 97132