On the cusp of its 40th anniversary, we took a look at Trinidad Systems Limited and the TSL Group, speaking with its CEO Stuart Franco about the team’s recent changes, how the company stays ahead of the curve, and what sets it in good stead for the next four decades.
Established in 1979, Trinidad Systems Limited (TSL) has grown from an independent technology company to the parent of a branching six-company Group that serves the entire Caribbean Region from its two bases in Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados. With a range of prestigious technology partners including Dell, VeriFone, Entrust Datacard, Checkpoint and Xerox, TSL is doing well, but how did it get here? We spoke with Stuart Franco, TSL Group CEO, to learn more about the group of companies.
“The TSL Group is made up of multiple companies that span many industries. We’re all rooted in technology and create value by using advanced programs and technical methods that enable us to provide reliable solutions to our customers at scale. The diversity of the group allows us to provide services to practically every industry, which means our customers come from every professional background.”
This wide-reaching offering of technological support is split among the Group’s six companies, with each one focusing on a particular area of expertise. Directly under the TSL umbrella are Trinidad Systems Ltd, TSL Leasing, The DocuCentre, Meso and PetroCom. Separately, TSL International currently only contains TSL Barbados, but this separate bracket makes room for more overseas operations to be added in the future (and TSL has plans to do so).
Stuart went through each company with us and broke down what sets each apart. Trinidad Systems Ltd, the original company and in many ways still the heart and hub of TSL’s offerings, prides itself on offering top-level services in imaging & printing, hosting services (mobile phone top-up, gift card and loyalty applications), audio visual solutions, networking & structured cabling, and bank and credit card issuing & acquiring solutions.
“TSL Leasing,” Stuart went on to explain, “was established in February 1999, with its raison d’être being the management of operating leases inclusive of full-service maintenance, provided by TSL, to its most valued and credit qualified customers. Meanwhile, Meso provides outsourced payroll and human resource management services to companies to relieve them from the tedious, time-consuming processes that are involved in payroll and HRM.” In a slightly different vein, The DocuCentre provides digital printing services through retail, with its PrinTree branch offering the same online.
Lastly, there is PetroCom, which takes TSL’s IT know-how and applies it specifically to the petroleum industry:
“PetroCom is a geoscience and petroleum engineering consultancy group that specializes in petroleum-related project management; specialty geological and geophysical reservoir evaluation; 3D reservoir definition and seismic surfaces; and pre-interpretation processing and seismic precision software application training, all to enhance and streamline the exploration and production workflow of clients.” That’s a mouthful, but in summary, it means that PetroCom can take the petroleum industry’s exploration efforts to the next level through imaging and analysis software and software support – a highly specialised area that serves one of the key, if not THE foremost industry in the Caribbean. It is certainly the driving force in Trinidad & Tobago, which explains why this industry has a dedicated company catering to it within the TSL Group.
TSL has a long-standing history in an industry where experience is only half of the battle – you need to be constantly alert to keep up with the latest developments, and TSL know this. “It’s no secret that the technology industry is growing and changing rapidly and TSL is growing and diversifying with it. This allows us to stay buoyant within our market. It’s how we’ve made it to 40 years. We have competition in every area in which we operate, which is why we hire the most skilled people in their field. Our team of experts tackle these challenges head-on and are solution focused. We overcome obstacles with this attitude.”
TSL currently employs over 150 staff, but their numbers are growing fast. Hired for their expertise, staff are still regularly trained to keep them as up to date as possible. “Knowledgeable and empowered staff are happy staff and building on their skill set comes with a plethora of benefits to the company. Our staff are better able to perform and provide our customers with exceedingly great service, which furthers our differentiation from our competition.” As the TSL company websites states, their team is made up of “extraordinary individuals who share a passion for achieving the very best in everything they do, so you can be the very best in everything you do.”
This isn’t to say that mistakes and issues never occur; as any company knows, and especially an IT-based company, problems happen. Whilst a well-trained, expert staff can couple with proper procedures to greatly reduce these moments, they can never be eradicated altogether (much though it may be every IT company’s dream to reach that smooth, errorless existence). Instead, part of how one must assess a company like TSL is how well they respond when issues DO occur. This is an area in which TSL takes well-earned pride. “We have a very significant drive towards customer satisfaction. We know that things can go wrong, but what defines us as a service provider, business partner and most importantly, people, is how we react when thing do go wrong. This is a significant part of our character.”
“We also have an incredibly loyal team which is made up of more than 40% working with the company for over a decade. Our leadership is incredibly diverse and attracts and motivates talented people who share our values and goals. TSL’s staff truly care about the work we do, and this is what makes us unique.”
TSL makes sure to support its staff and show recognition to this dedication, which it does not only through in-house training and the availability of advancement opportunities, but also through events such as awards ceremonies. “Leaders often underestimate the power of a simple ‘thank you’ when someone has gone the extra mile in their job. We recently had a small prize giving ceremony where almost 50 staff members across all departments were awarded tokens for their daily involvement in getting jobs done with one of our longest partners which led to us winning the coveted distributor of the Year award. Not only did they all deserve the recognition, but exercises like this one foster productivity and synergy within our team.”
TSL has produced a family-like atmosphere where staff can come forward to make their voices heard, can have fun together, and know that they are in a safe and encouraging work environment. Stuart himself is a testament to team loyalty and enthusiasm, and the support that TSL gives: November will mark his first anniversary as CEO, but he actually joined TSL 17 years ago as a sales representative. This is noteworthy both because Stuart’s dedication shows what an excellent company TSL must be to work for, and because it shows how genuine TSL’s support of its staff is. Many companies boast about internal promotion prospects but tend to source much of their leadership team from elsewhere. For a sales representative to rise through the ranks all the way up to Group CEO proves that TSL walks the walk.
As well as the strength of its own team, TSL’s success is also thanks to a strong foundation of partnerships and long-term relationships that, in many cases, have spanned for decades. “Our partners are all leaders in their field and bring insurmountable value to our company and the services we provide. We are grateful to continue to build on our relationships with our valued partners. We are proud of these partnerships and are thankful for their loyalty through the years.” The Group has over 25 technology partners in total, and just to glance at the line-up, major names and familiar logos from the industry will leap out at you. Look up TSL yourself – it’s quite the collection of names!
As well as November marking Stuart’s first anniversary as CEO, it also marks TSL’s 40th anniversary! To celebrate the occasion, the Group has organised an event in October that will allow many of these partners to showcase how far they have each progressed since the relationship began, displaying and demonstrating their technology from 40 years ago alongside their most modern advancements today. Given how quickly technology changes within the span of a year these days, this event should be a real eye-opener (or trip down memory lane). For technology fans, imagine what an amazing temporary museum it would be to explore.
To celebrate the occasion, the Group has organized an event this October in collaboration with the American Chamber of Commerce in Trinidad and Tobago which they have called Rethink Risk. In the age of total digitization and highly publicized data security breaches around the world, TSL found the most relevant conversation to have is on security. Rethink Risk will explore cyber security trends and challenges faced by organizations worldwide, and their line-up of international experts will share their knowledge on how Caribbean organizations can take steps to avoid cyber casualties. These speakers come from some of the largest tech corporations in the world and are sector leaders in their fields. Their keynote speakers for the day include Maya Horowitz, Director of Threat Intelligence and Research at Check Point Software Technologies from Tel Aviv, Israel. Formerly Head of Intelligence Department of the Israeli Defence Forces, Maya is responsible for leading the intelligence and research team in finding new cyber campaigns and identifying the hackers behind them while leveraging her team’s analysis into threat prevention products at Check Point. Another big player in their event line up is Alissa Abdullah, who is currently the CTIO at Xerox and formerly the deputy CIO at the White House under the Obama administration. With six other dynamic tech and security experts to lead the day’s discussions, Rethink Risk promises to bring some of the brightest minds and most cutting-edge technology together for one day of learning, problem-solving and networking.
On the topic of new advancements, Stuart tells us that TSL has many significant projects currently in development, but it’s all extremely hush-hush and mysterious at the moment. “We are constantly working on new projects with the aim of diversifying and expanding our reach, but I cannot divulge them at this time. For now, the details of these projects are still in the confidential stages; we will share them with the public when the time is right.”
What they were eager to share with us was the recent founding of the TSL Foundation, a CSR-based branch of the Group that is currently focusing on a series of programmes in youth outreach and environmental sustainability. These projects should be just the start; as TSL continues to grow, it plans to keep investing in this area and to expand its charitable operations.
After 40 years in the industry, TSL is as relevant as ever, providing the Caribbean with the technology and software support it needs for a range of industries, including the all-important petroleum industry that Trinidad & Tobago is so defined by. If its team’s innovation and passion continue, there’s no reason why November couldn’t be the start of the next 40.