Yogesh Khandelwal and Leena Madan, husband and wife, try not to talk about work once they leave their company, geoAMPS, on Friday until Sunday morning. On weeknights they focus on their kids for a couple of hours, until 9 o’clock when they go back to any work that needs to be done.
“I’m not saying it’s a perfect situation, but at this point they are equally important,” says Madan, COO. “We consider geoAMPS and all of our employees and our work our family, as well. So we just look at it that way, and we have to take care of both our families.”
Their work family has been expanding rapidly since Khandelwal and Madan started geoAMPS in 2011, increasing from two employees to close to 50.
Khandelwal, president and CEO, says he is surprised by the growth.
“We knew that this was an idea that could take footing, but the adoption has been at a much higher pace than we would have expected,” he says.
From the beginning geoAMPS focused on its product development, only marketing in select circles.
“We didn’t have salespeople going out and selling us,” Madan says. “It was really word of mouth that got us where we are today, which is why we know that our potential for growth is incredible over the next couple of years.”
Khandelwal and Madan are first-time business owners, but they have an entrepreneurial mindset and strong vision.
geoAMPS (AMPS stands for asset management and project solutions) started in the right-of-way space, making software to manage land records for acquisition, construction and operations of transmission lines, pipelines or roadways. And in the beginning, adoption was a challenge.
“The first question out of pretty much everybody’s mouth would be ‘Well, who uses you?’” Khandelwal says.
They were careful to focus on the product and make sure those who adopted it early were taken care of.
“We walked away from some big deals earlier on in the process because they were not organized correctly or they didn’t make sense for us,” Khandelwal says. “And as a young company that was tough to do, but I’m glad we did that.”
At the end of year two, the picture changed. Khandelwal and Madan were excited as work started to spike, but it became a challenge to keep up.
“We always have more work than what we can handle,” Khandelwal says. “Bringing in employees and continuing to bring in good employees, that has definitely been a challenge.”
As a result, they’ve had to stay cognizant of what’s on the table to set the right expectations for clients and not cause undue stress for employees.
Today the product has been customized and expanded for 11 different industries such as oil and gas, alternative energy and transportation.
On the right foot
Khandelwal may lead product innovation, but Madan has made her mark with company culture.
“Leena is very particular about not operating like a small company, even though we were a small company,” Khandelwal says. “Even from the get-go we had a really nice looking office space; things that seem trivial but are important.”
The company has standing desks, yoga classes, top-of-the-line furniture, few hierarchies and the important cool factor.
“The way we look at it is they spend more time here than they do at home, so we want to provide the best we can for them,” Madan says. “We want them to have a feeling of belonging. We want them to be proud of the fact that they are part of a startup.”
They didn’t want to get employees, build revenues and then give them a nice environment — just like they didn’t want to get clients and then start building a product. Instead, they focused internally on creating a top-class workspace and fabulous product, while betting that great employees and many clients would follow.
Khandelwal says they had a vision for who they wanted to be.
“It was not easy to make those investments early on, but we said we wanted to attract the right talent, to attract the right people and set the right culture from the get-go,” he says.
In hindsight, Madan says they didn’t always hire well at first. They had trouble hiring as a new company, so they compromised on skill sets and hoped people would work out. And if they didn’t, they took too long to lay off and try again.
When they did get a few of the right people, the value they brought opened their eyes.
“So we became a little more stringent in our interviews,” Madan says. “We started three or four interviews, just to make sure that they were the right people.”
geoAMPS also added internships through different Ohio universities, which provide a pipeline of talent — especially as the company is open to out-of-the-box hiring.
Madan says their youngest employee is 19 years old. He works for them full-time while going to school online.
That flexibility is a competitive advantage, and partly why geoAMPS is successfully competing against more established businesses. Their strong customer service and superior product help as well.
“Companies tend to get very complacent with the fact that they have a decent position in the market. They are doing well, and at some point they stop investing in building the future,” Khandelwal says.
“We’re constantly looking to build the next big thing,” Madan says. “We have a great product today and it’s a solution, but that does not mean we are not doing R&D.”