“She was the catalyst,” Chaudhry says. “She said, ‘You keep on talking about it. Either do something, or shut up.’”
So Chaudhry and his wife quit their jobs and founded SecureIT, the first of several Internet security companies that Chaudhry would start.
Today, he is founder, CEO and chairman of Alpharetta-based CipherTrust. Since its founding in 2000, the company has become the fastest-growing security software corporation in North America, posting a revenue increase in 2004 of 80 percent over 2003.
Smart Business spoke with Chaudhry about how he’s succeeded and the importance of hiring good employees.
What does an entrepreneur need to do to be successful?
Lots of people want to start and succeed, but not too many of them have the passion and burning desire to be successful. I think that’s the difference between real entrepreneurs. We all want to be successful, but the willingness and the desire to put the time and effort to do it is really what’s needed, and many times, that is what lacks.
Secondly, what has worked for me is I have never chased money. I had a desire to build something and have a sense of accomplishment, knowing that money follows if you do good work. Too many people chase money and it doesn’t come that easily, and then they get disappointed.
How did you find your niche?
I got into Internet security with my first company SecureIT, so I actually had no prior understanding of security at all. But I wanted to start a business in an area that’s a new business opportunity.
When you look at a new business opportunity, you have less competition. You are the trailblazer out there.
If you go back to late ’96 when I put that business plan in place, the Internet was all over, security was beginning to hit the front page of publications. No one really knew how to ... architect these security products. So we said, ‘Here’s an opportunity to learn and go and do it.’ That’s what got me going — the newness of it. Once you get into it, security has its own appeal, and not too many people want to leave it because it brings new challenges every day.
I have stayed in this niche because I haven’t gotten bored. And the problems have not been solved. They keep them coming.
What challenges come with fast growth?
The biggest challenge is you fix two things each month and then you break three, because you are seeing new opportunities and you are trying to tackle them. That’s a good thing.
What’s needed is a good team that understands that that’s how young, successful companies work. There aren’t that many processes in place, because processes can be stifling.
The biggest thing for me ends up being having people who have the right mindset to work with start-ups, who really aren’t too bureaucratic coming from a big company background and are keen to figure out the new challenges as they encounter them.
That’s what I look for from the team. You can only do so much. It’s the team that makes the biggest difference.
How do you attract a good team?
People who want to learn and grow are always attracted because the kind of stuff we do at these new companies is a lot more exciting than what they’re doing at their present jobs. I take pride in the fact that most of the people who come to work for me tell me that they learned more here in three months than they did in three years at their previous job.
Attracting is easy. Finding people who are really committed and passionate is a lot harder. I interview a half a dozen people every week whether I have an opening or not, just looking for somebody who is an A player.
How do you make sure that you don’t grow too fast?
I see some of these companies trying to go from 100 employees to 300 employees in six months. I call that indigestion. If I hire 200 people in six months, I know that my quality is going to suffer. I can’t hire that many good people, and I can’t train them and get them up to speed.
When we make our business plans, we look for aggressive goals, but we don’t look for growing from $10 million to $100 million in revenue in a year. That type of growth can break it. We look at bottom up and top down to see how we can get to a level that is a digestible growth plan.
HOW TO REACH: CipherTrust, (877) 448-8625 or www.ciphertrust.com