Van Sullivan Reveals His “Secret Sauce” for Success — Strategy

Using Strategy to Engineer Success

Show Notes: Interview with Van Sullivan

Traversing new territory is always frightening, but Van Sullivan didn’t get his company Trideum to where it is today by following in the same footsteps as everyone else. Strategy, planning, and innovation are the hallmarks of this company. A successful engineering services contractor for the federal government, Trideum provides high-end engineering for testing weapons systems and training military personnel. In helping to build and sustain the U.S. military, Van’s company epitomizes the place where the supreme importance of defending our nation meets the innovation and entrepreneurship of the private sector.

Trideum’s innovative approach has brought the company remarkably fast growth in an industry not known for it. Trideum has doubled in size over the last two years, and made the Inc. 5000 list in 2017 for the fifth time in seven years. Van attributes this success to his “secret sauce”— his willingness to grow the company strategically, even if that strategy takes time.

Van was gracious enough to join me on the podcast to share the steps he’s taken to make his strategic vision a reality since he completed the Birthing of Giants fellowship in April 2017. Here are a few of the insights into his company’s growth that he shared with me:

Implement New Strategy, Monitor Results

To support Trideum’s growth, Van developed a strategic plan two and a half years ago, along with a set of metrics to closely monitor the company’s progress. By carefully implementing that strategy, Van achieved the growth he wanted, and is actually looking for the next challenge now.

“It seemed rather overwhelming at the time. Guess what? Two and a half years later, we’re there. We’ve attained those goals. Now what?”

Leverage Your Strengths for Greater Productivity

Van realized that Trideum could harness the power of the intellectual capital it continually created for its customers to grow and expand itself. Since then, his team has worked tirelessly to perform market assessments and ensure that they retain intellectual property rights to the products they develop.

“We spent a lot of time transitioning new contracts and growing as a result of that. That’s been an all-hands effort.”

Reach for Continual Improvement

This new direction, while beneficial to the company’s growth, has been “staggeringly, agonizingly slow.” The good news is that the time has allowed Van to view the project in a different light, and to identify areas for improvement.

“I took a step back and I realized that we had no one in the company that had any experience with intellectual property, product development, support, et cetera. I thought, ‘Geez, no wonder we’re having issues.’ We’re making it up as we go!”

Van’s decision to develop intellectual capital for his business is one that all entrepreneurs can be inspired by. You can listen to my full discussion with Van in the latest podcast for my ongoing Birthing of Giants series.

Check out my extended interview with Van Sullivan on

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