Andrus Bonds Trivalent

December 27, 2005
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GRANDVILLE — When Larry Andrus acquired controlling interest of Trivalent Group in 2002, he took a step back from the larger corporate world, but not, he believes, a step down.

"I felt pretty strongly that I wanted to do something entrepreneurial," he said. "I was in a position where I could step back a touch, but let me tell you, I'm working harder, for less money, and enjoying myself more than I ever have."

At the time, the Sparta native was already a 30-year veteran of the technology field. He spent his first nine years after college with the Burroughs Corp. in West Michigan, a branch renowned for its employee development, and then took over the Lansing office at age 28, becoming one of the company's youngest branch managers nationwide.

With a group of Burroughs alumni a decade later, he became one of 40 original shareholders in a computer leasing company acquired by AT&T Capital in its second year, and later acquired by CIT Financial Services.

For the last eight of his 15 years in the leasing industry, he served as vice president of the Midwest region. From West Michigan, he handled clients such as Meijer, Steelcase, Amway and Motorola, overseeing offices from Chicago and Bloomfield Hills to St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo.

In the late 1990s, Andrus said, the technology world changed, and soon after, he did, too. He grew weary of the fast pace and constant travel. His company, while extremely successful, was in constant flux, changing ownership five times in seven years. And he missed being a part of the West Michigan community.

He was proud of his past involvement with the Jaycees — for which he served as president in 1985 — and Catholic Secondary Schools. He missed that connection, and with an autistic son growing older, he knew he needed to devote more attention at home.

"It was something I had a burning desire to do," Andrus said. "I couldn't keep traveling all the time if I wanted to be a viable member of the community and help it grow."

One of his local accounts had contracted the original Trivalent to provide remote office e-mail. Andrus stepped in to provide the lease, and from there began a relationship with the company he would one day own.

For several years, he was a silent investor. Then, in 2002, he acquired the controlling interest of the company. A year later, it became the Trivalent Group.

"I really wanted to build something entrepreneurial, and it's easier to build something that already has a foundation than to build it from scratch."

There is a real word in Trivalent Group, he assures. From the scientific and sometimes linguistic "valence," it loosely means to be made of three bonded substances. In chemistry, this implies not only the state of being so, but also the potential for such.

By design, "trivalent" represents the relationship between his company's clients, people and partners.

"In the late '90s, anyone that could spell technology did very well," he said. "Today it's tougher and tighter. People are careful of what they spend. The hardest thing in the business world is to build a relationship you can trust and rely on — that's what we try to do."

Like its namesake atoms and radicals, Trivalent Group is a product of many more bonds hidden within its nuclear shell.

It offers the most comprehensive technology package in the region. Literally, it is a combination of eight different companies of communications, systems and capital specialties, bonded as one under Andrus and Illinois-based partner Lee Hofmann in 2003.

Trivalent Group is West Michigan's largest business-to-business ISP, with a five-state geographic reach throughout the former Ameritech footprint and an independent, robust communications network that extends throughout the state.

Its services allow clients to strengthen bonds internally and externally. Sometimes, it can even hold a company's bonds together, as it did with RoadLink USA a year ago, when the former CyberNET Group client was left high and dry by the technology company's demise.

And though the name predates him by a decade, Andrus is responsible for much of these bonding forces. His contacts within the capital business have created a surprisingly large leasing network for a company its size. Recently, it served as the marketer for a large equipment "win-back" from Merrill Lynch.

"That was quite an opportunity for us," Andrus said. "You wouldn't usually think of a company like us for something like that."

In his first year with the company, Andrus immediately set out to address the firm's weaknesses. Top on that list was a need to improve its sales organizations. In the wake of the dot-com bust, technology companies were anxiously seeking out partners and efficiencies.

He found such a company in Kentwood's Remex Corp., a reseller of Trivalent products with a strong sales organization and fewer than 10 common clients. Andrus engineered the merger, followed by several similar moves with companies throughout the state.

"We were quietly looking for pieces and parts of companies that would complement us and help us grow," he said. "Now, I'm certainly enthused about where we are in the marketplace. We've got ourselves positioned to execute on my initial vision."    

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