D. Raja believes that there are no obstacles in life, only opportunities. There’s no real secret to success, contends Raja, who has built 400-employee Computer Enterprises Inc. into an IT company that expects do $40 million in revenue this year. It’s all about hard work and good character. At the top of Raja’s list of business tenets is that integrity is a must because no business will be a complete success without it. Right behind a commitment to integrity is the importance of hiring the very best people he can find in the industry. Raja spoke with Smart Business about how to run a company with integrity, passion and teamwork.
Lead with passion.
As a CEO, you have to be able to motivate your people, get the right team and lead them with passion. You have to know what you want to accomplish and lead with passion.
I’ve heard the phrase, ‘You make decisions with your mind, but you follow through with your heart.’ The way this works in business is you can make a good, logical decision, but there are going to be roadblocks, there are going to be issues, there’s going to be stuff all the time, and unless you’ve got the passion and the drive to make it happen, it’s going to get muddled.
So you have to have the clarity of vision and the passion and the execution to follow through to completion.
Put your energy into the execution.
For anything to succeed, 80 percent or 90 percent of it is execution. You can have the most brilliant strategy, the most brilliant plan, and it will fail with poor execution.
You can have the most mundane idea in the world and you can make it a success. It all comes down to execution.
Emphasize the mission and objectives at every opportunity.
My role is really to make sure that we have the right strategy, hire the right people and motivate them to get their jobs done and to facilitate making the whole process as easy and streamlined as possible.
It’s really spending time articulating and communicating in writing. You get feedback from them to get what their understanding is. I do quarterly meetings, and at every one, I go over the mission and objectives every time. It’s a way to reinforce them, and it’s been tweaked over the years.
We tweak it based on the market conditions, our focus, change the emphasis a little bit, but overall, it’s to work with them day and night and make sure they understand it the way I understand it. Make sure there is clarity in mission and objectives. It needs to be simple; it can’t be complex.
If it’s complex, people will lose it. People have to see your passion, your enthusiasm. If they don’t see it, you’re not going to have them moving at full speed.
Create teamwork to align objectives.
Sometimes with different departments, there are different objectives, and sometimes these objectives aren’t perfectly aligned with each other.
From an accounting side, we care about collecting the money. From the sales side, you care about making the sales. You’re willing to take the risk, so you have to balance it out. You have to say, ‘Here’s the big picture, here are our objectives at the macro level’ and be able to put them into a tactical plan.
Teamwork is critical because the objectives across the board are not necessarily aligned. So unless people understand the overall objective, what we are trying to achieve, we won’t be able to be successful.
Integrity is above everything else. I tell everybody this. If you had the option of being a $100 million company and you had to moderately compromise your integrity or have a $10 million company with absolute integrity, choose the $10 million company. There’s no doubt.
Under no circumstances will I accept a breach of integrity. That’s the way to grow. You cannot grow a company without that as a fundamental base.
Integrity is hard to judge. You can’t measure someone’s integrity or their ability to work hard. I don’t think you’ll meet a person who will say that they don’t have integrity and they’re not hard-working.
Look for people with character.
I like people who have stayed with at least one company for four or five years in their careers because in that span of time, there will be good times and bad times, and do they have the character to go through the bad times.
That is what builds character. The tough times are when you can really make an impact.
Make it clear and simple.
It’s not how articulate you are, it’s more in your actions. You can lead by example by being involved. Maybe you’re not as vocal, but you can show your commitment by being at the meeting.
I don’t have to go call on all of my clients, but I do. You don’t have to be charismatic to visit a client, take them to dinner. You can talk all you want, but in the long term, you’re going to have to show them action, and those actions are what count.
It’s the action you take when things are not easy, being able to stand up and take responsibility and doing what’s right, taking the corrective action. Anybody can handle a good situation. It’s when the situation is not good, does your character come through, do you have integrity?
Undersell and overperform.
The fundamental thing … is we want every engagement to be a success, not just 80 percent. Every single one; otherwise, I don’t want to take the engagement.
Up front, if it’s not something we can do, we don’t want to take it. At every quarterly meeting, I say, ‘Let’s underpromise and overdeliver. That’s how you build long-term relationships. You don’t want to oversell and get yourself into a situation where you’re in a bind.
How to reach: Computer Enterprises Inc., www.ceiamerica.com