A Tribute to Company Founder Tony Tirollo
Anthony Tirollo was born on December 4, 1940 in New Haven, CT. At a very young age, Tony discovered his talent for math and engineering and was always the one his friends would copy high school and college notes from. "He was the one who would figure out the treehouse measurements in his head at 8 years old," says Tony's lifelong friend Gerry. "Then he'd tell each of us how to put everything together and he was always right !" After deciding to major in Engineering, Tony worked full time during the day and attended night school, all while managing a family that included his 3 daughters Robin, Tracy and Maureen. After graduating from New Haven School of Electronics with a Bachelor's in Engineering, he began working for a large electronics company. Concerned by the direction the organization was heading, Tony decided to follow his entrepreneurial spirit and at the age of 29, started his own high-end electronic component business. In June 1970, Technical Research and Manufacturing, Inc, was born.
In 1998, he married Wendy Tirollo who was HR Director of Quantic TRM at the time. Tony was highly regarded as a genius in his field - known for his laser focus and ability to solve the most complex problems. "We would have major prime defense customers come to us with their roadblocks," Tirollo says. "Tony could look at a design specification and immediately come up with a solution. He just saw things differently." Because of her extensive management experience and decade-long tenure as HR Director, Tony asked Wendy to consider taking over the business, allowing him to become CTO (Chief Technical Officer) and focus on the technical work he loved. She accepted and after an intensive 5-year mentorship, Tony appointed Wendy as CEO in 2010. "Tony put me under his wing for all those years. He gave me a 10-point strategy. Number one is to develop a mutual respect with your employees, customers and suppliers," Tirollo says. "When recruiting, 'Always hire the best of the best within their respective fields and trust and empower them to make decisions that prove beneficial.' His advice to me on management was 'Consistently keep your finger on the pulse. Initially attend every meeting, then focus on the strategically important ones. You're not going to be an expert in every department, you just need to know how to expertly manage the business,"' says Tirollo. "What's most important is finding joy in your work. We work at least one third of our lives so it's important to spend that precious time doing what we love."
Tony had a passion for guiding his engineers and instilling a sense of excitement when coming up with solutions. For Tony, the more challenging the problem, the more intrigued he became in solving it. He felt that no matter how hard it was, if things were in the realm of physics, there was a solution. "That was the ethic he indoctrinated in his engineers," Wendy adds. "He loved passing on his knowledge and wisdom because he cared about what we do and wanted everyone to succeed in their role."
In addition to his hard work ethic and heavy technical involvement, Tony was known for his quick, dry wit and joking around with everyone in the office. He showed a keen ability to make the atmosphere lighter under even the most intense project pressure. As Wendy explains, "Tony's favorite phrase was 'Keep Smiling.' That was his attitude. He didn't let anything get to him and never worried. The world could be crashing down and he'd be totally calm and cool. Tony loved sharing his sense of humor because he knew how important it was to keep the company culture enjoyable, even when there's stress. Tony used to say, 'If you don't have employees, you don't have anything.' Today, we encourage the same positive outlook he always emanated."
In 2015, TRM celebrated its 45th anniversary by hosting a gala event at the Manchester Country Club and officially announced to the industry that they had become officially certified as a Woman-Owned Small Business. Senate representatives, media, employees, customers and sales reps were all in attendance for the unveiling. Sadly, it would be the last company event Tony would attend. After a courageous and valiant battle with heart related issues during the last two years of his life, Tony passed away at his home on 5/21/2016 surrounded by his loving wife, dear friends and all 5 of his beloved pets. A Celebration of Life event followed for family, friends and employees to attend and not only grieve, but also to honor a life of success that was full of much love and laughter.
Just a few weeks later in extraordinary timing, Tony's final achievement would be commemorated and TRM's spirits lifted. For the prior 3 years, he had led the company through a challenging vetting process to be involved in the U.S. Dept of Defense Mentor-Protégé Program. In January 2016, TRM successfully beat out over 20 competing businesses and finally granted participation. A celebratory event had been set for June 15, 2016. When Tony passed just a month shy of the date, Wendy and COO Mark Schappler decided to go on with the bittersweet and momentous occasion in honor of Tony's memory. Mark said, "Tony would want us to celebrate. He was passionate about the Mentor Protégé program and stayed on top of everyone to ensure we met criteria and that we were fully engaged in the process. He was so proud of this accomplishment." The ceremony included guest speakers from the U.S. DOD program, TRM's mentors from Raytheon, and video messages of heart-felt sympathy and congratulations from both U.S. Senators of NH Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte.
Still grieving the loss, but determined to move forward, TRM saw big improvements under the program including AS9100 certification, a 7500 sq. ft expanded manufacturing footprint that included programmable machinery and exponential sales growth. In August 2018, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems and Quantic TRM were awarded the 2017 Nunn-Perry Award. The award is given to Mentor-Protégé teams by the Department of Defense for Outstanding Execution. To top everything off, TRM just signed its biggest order in their 48-year history, a three-year $20 million contract for a custom beamformer with one of their key prime defense customers. "Tony would be so proud of our recent accomplishments. We still sense his creative spirit and positive presence within company walls," Wendy says. "In our strive for excellence as TRM moves forward, we will continue to adopt his attitude and 'Keep Smiling'."
Tony lives on in the hearts and memories of those who were privileged to know him. He experienced a fulfilling life and will always be warmly remembered as a mentor, friend, husband and family man. He left a unique professional legacy including a business that is critical to our nation's defense and an inspired team of dedicated and loyal employees who share his vision to support America's safety.
To learn more about Tony's life, Watch The Founder's Story.