Hungry for feedback

Listening to criticism from a customer
isn’t easy, says Scott Berman.
Especially when that customer is a longtime friend.

Berman, president and founder of the
The Florida Window Co., a $10 million
Riviera Beach construction firm that specializes in structural hurricane protection,
was handling a project for a client who also
happened to be a friend.

The project didn’t go as smoothly as
anticipated, and the friend became
frustrated with how Berman’s company was handling it.

But Berman didn’t dodge the situation. He met with his friend and was
forced to endure the discomfort of
taking professional criticism from
someone he knew beyond work. But
in the end, he says, the two came to
an agreement on how to improve the
project, and both Berman’s company
and his friendship emerged stronger.

Though it’s sometimes tough to
endure, Berman says customer criticism is an essential part of the feedback you can use to improve your business.

Smart Business spoke with
Berman about how to create a culture that values feedback from customers.

Q: Why is customer feedback a
key part of your business?

My priorities as a leader are to
establish or to try and explain the
vision that I have for the company,
and to get my employees to buy in
to that vision and solicit their advice to better the company, both in terms of the products we deliver as well as the strategies for
growth for the future.

A big part of that is constant meetings
and solicitation of advice through customer evaluations of our staff and our company, and it’s a commitment to continuing
to improve yourself. So if a customer says
something that you don’t like, rather than
being defensive, which is what most people get, you listen to it as constructive criticism to get better, and to educate your
staff as to what went wrong and how to fix
it. You can’t go back, you can only go forward.

Q: How do you coach employees to not get defensive in the face of criticism?

You ask that they take a step back from
the situation and put themselves in your
customers’ shoes, as if they were the customer, and what did we do wrong or right.

In any business, I’d imagine you very
rarely hear about it when people do a good
job because (your customers) expect you
to do a good job.

But if something goes wrong or the perception of what was delivered isn’t right,
people can get upset, and my staff gets
upset because all they want to do is please
people. So they have to take a step back
and evaluate the process, evaluate what
went wrong and how to fix it.

But they have the ultimate accountability,
and they are empowered to make the decisions to correct it.

Q: How did your experience with your
friend’s complaints help make your business better?

We made changes immediately. We hired more supervisors and responded to the
points that he made, on the basis that when
we met, we recognized that we were lacking in supervision in one of our departments and needed more hand-holding to respond to customers.

Obviously, it’s an uncomfortable situation
to sit through a meeting with a friend of
yours and hear him say, ‘Well, let me make
a suggestion,’ or, ‘Let me tell you my experience.’ But if you step up to the plate and
admit you were wrong, people appreciate
the honesty and the commitment to
doing the right thing.

Q: Why is it important for business
leaders to be able to humble themselves and listen to customer criticism?

If you don’t listen to customers,
you’re gong to be out of business. It’s
very simple. We’re in a service business,
and we need to service our customers.

That’s Customer Service 101, but
that’s the hardest thing to teach.
People, in general, feel that they have
done a better job than what they’ve
done in communicating to customers.

If you’re in customer service, you
always think, ‘Well, I called as many people as I could, I’ll let this thing wait until
tomorrow,’ rather than doing it today.
We’re all guilty of it. But you have to find
people who care, and if you find people
that care, you have to cultivate that attitude, and that’s a responsibility throughout
your company. One bad person can spoil
an experience, and that can be painful to a
lot of people who work for you.

Q: How do you find people who are customer-focused?

Hiring is always the most difficult proposition, but the thing is, you have to hire slow
and fire fast. If they don’t fit in to your culture, it becomes very obvious very quickly — it’s not us typically having to get rid of someone.

We have a very stringent hiring process
and a very quick evaluation period, in
terms of the personality and if this person
fits within our company and what we’re
trying to achieve.

HOW TO REACH: The Florida Window Co., (561) 848-4900,
(954) 489-0200 or www.floridawindowcompany.com

Creating win-win situations

Mike D’Apolito believes that to be successful, you have to surround yourself with successful people.

But he says it goes deeper than that.

For your business to be truly successful, you have to align the goals
of your employees with the goals of your company. At Beverly Hills
Weight Loss & Wellness, the company started in 1998 by D’Apolito, the
common goals include creating a compassionate environment in
which to serve customers.

When potential franchisees contact D’Apolito, the company’s president and CEO, about opening a Beverly Hills Weight Loss location, it’s
their compassion for customers and their passion for the weight-loss
industry that drive D’Apolito’s decision about whether to pursue their
relationship. Their financial standing is second on the list of importance.

D’Apolito’s philosophy has grown Beverly Hills Weight Loss to a 50-employee company with nearly 20 franchises in five states along the
East Coast.

Smart Business spoke with D’Apolito about how to find the right
kind of people to help your business succeed.

Q: When it comes to employees, what are your priorities as a
leader?

It’s important for a leader to be flexible. My priorities would be
to create win-win situations in all arenas of a company. That’s how
you get the most out of people, by showing people that you are
flexible, willing to listen, you have an open-door policy, and you’re
willing to create a win-win situation for everybody involved.

You try to put yourself into the other person’s shoes, in their situation, and try to see the dilemma or the goal or the challenge from
their point of view. If you can do that, you have a better understanding of the chemistry of the situation. After the natural process
takes over, it’s easier to come up with that win-win.

It’s easy for me because I came up from the bottom. It’s easier for people to walk the walk, and I’ve done pretty much just
about everything in my company, so it’s easy to put myself in their
shoes. If I’m in a situation where I don’t have any experience, I put a
little more weight on the people I’ve hired and who have expertise in
that field to obtain that understanding.

Q: How do you find people who excel in areas where you might
not?

The old adage is that you surround yourself with successful people in order to be successful. But there is more to it than that. I
agree with that if you surround yourself with successful people,
you become successful. But at the same time, you have to surround yourself with people who have likewise goals, who are family-oriented, who have compassion. Those are the key ingredients
I look for in people.

When you find the basis for a good background, a good, moral
person, and they have the education and the knowledge that you
need to grow your company, then it creates a long-term relationship.

Q: How do you gain a read on someone’s potential through the
interview process?

By listening. If you sit back and let people talk, and you listen
long enough and get past the initial stage of their fear and of what
they think you want to hear, then their true self comes out. It’s a
natural process. Once their true self comes out and they open
themselves up, it really becomes easy to choose an effective candidate.

As long as I’m willing to have the patience to listen, and as long
as I have interest in them, eventually it will come out.

Q: How do you make sure your franchise operators are focusing on serving customers and
not just the bottom line?

Every day I’m reminded everywhere I go that people in this country are overweight, and I understand that it’s not just a physical
thing, it’s emotional. Once you understand the physical and emotional sides of the business, it’s easy to stay in that mode and be
compassionate.

Once you’re compassionate for your clients, the money will
come. I tell my franchisees, particularly new franchisees, this all
the time. Everyone is so money-focused, but I tell people to step
back and take care of your existing clients.

If you help them lose the weight, the money will come, the referrals
will come. It’s about stepping back and realizing the need you are filling for your customers.

Q: What are some important things to remember about effective
communication?

The most important thing is the old adage: ‘Keep it simple, stupid.’
But it really works, because when you’re dealing with a high quantity of people, you are always best to bring your ideas to the simplest
form.

You can relate it to people and always have steps that, if people
have concerns or questions or comments, that they can have
access to people who understand what we’re trying to accomplish.

HOW TO REACH: Beverly Hills Weight Loss & Wellness, www.beverlyhillsweightloss.com or (877)
800-4445

Engaged and enabled

The word “passive” is seven letters long, but to Bob Roepnack, it’s
a four-letter word in the language of business.

A company full of employees who robotically follow orders is a
company that will stagnate and eventually die, says the president of
Pompano-Beach-based Roepnack Corp., a 40-employee construction
management firm that generated approximately $12 million in revenue last year.

Roepnack wants active employees who bring new ideas to the table
and are constantly thinking of better ways to get from start to finish.
While personality plays a part in employees who are engaged and
enthusiastic, far more of the equation is based on the steps management takes to encourage, enable and incentivize talented team members.

Smart Business spoke with Roepnack about how to find great
employees and tap into their potential.

Q: Why is it important to keep employees engaged in their jobs?

It’s important to employees and the growth because they feel they
are headed in a direction that they have taken part in developing. Any
time someone is involved in the direction they are headed, there is
much more buy-in, and their ownership of where we are headed is
going to help you get there.

They’re not just along for the ride; they’re going to come up with
ideas and be creative.

Q: What qualities are you looking for in employees?

The people we are looking for need to be great, key, top performers.
In general terms, they’re excited about the work that they’re involved
in, they are enthusiastic about working with other people and they
have to be highly organized and creative.

We use a variety of techniques to go out and find those people. We
do multiple interviews, and we do some testing that will help us to discern what their predictions are for how they’re going to work once
they get in here.

As far as employees that we have, we make sure they fulfill the
expectations we have. We are constantly involved in the training. We
don’t really want to call them education programs because a lot of
people really come to us with a strong background.

But we constantly wok together to find all the new opportunities
and techniques and communication methods that are out there so
that information can flow, and we keep everyone on the same page
with our projects.

Q: How do you make sure employees aren’t overshooting or under-shooting what they are capable of?

From experience, mostly. Since I, too, have been in their shoes as an
employee working with them in the trenches as a project manager or
supervisor, I have a real understanding of trying to limit how much
they take on so they can actually fulfill the expectations, and not try
to overwhelm them so that they are unable to meet their commitments.

It’s a matter of making sure people don’t get overcommitted by
knowing how many projects is too many for a supervisor to be
involved with. If you let people take on too many things, it will stunt
your growth because you won’t be able to fulfill the expectations.

Q: What is the risk of setting the bar too low?

If you do that, you’re going to lose your employees because everyone functions a little better if they’re challenged. It’s a balancing act.
You can’t just overwhelm them because they’ll eventually leave or
burn out, and you want to constantly challenge them to the point
where they are enthused about coming to work and see that they’re
making a difference.

Q: Why is the cross-pollination of ideas among employees important?

It allows managers that are involved in the day-to-day processes to
show they are involved, so that everyone knows they are making a difference. It allows the upper management to be involved in the projects so that you have a chance to interact with everyone, all the dayto-day managers, and recognizing their support, what they bring to the
organization. It allows upper management to interact with the managers and provide constructive criticism for other opportunities and
allows everyone to kind of work together to find solutions for issues
that come up.

Q: How important is it to show employees your gratitude?

It’s important; otherwise their only sense of accomplishment, in our
case, would be looking at the building when it’s done. People need to
be recognized not just for that but for their contribution to the overall
success.

We have a review procedure and a structure of reward that is
twofold. One is on the overall success of the corporation as a whole,
so they can all recognize what they’ve done to make us successful as
a whole.

Then, people involved with individual projects, we’re able to recognize them individually for the roles that they’ve done and what they’ve
done to bring successful projects to completion.

HOW TO REACH: Roepnack Corp., (954) 691-2400 or www.roepnack.com

A winning workplace

Joseph H. Stadlen has a favorite saying when it comes to a company’s culture: “A rising tide lifts all ships.”

Creating a positive work environment that gives employees a sense
of ownership in their ideas, the freedom to come up with ideas and
the incentive to pursue them will make a company a healthier place
from both a morale and a financial standpoint, he says.

Stadlen, president of the $30 million, Hollywood-based Intertech
Construction Corp., believes in a work environment that is focused on
functionality over formality, on making the most of each employee’s
talents and giving them the latitude to balance the rest of their lives
with work.

Stadlen says employees need to feel they can grow and reach their
goals in their jobs, and a big part of that is maintaining open paths of
communication.

Smart Business spoke to Stadlen about creating a workplace that
allows employees to reach their potential.

Q: How do you make sure employees are maximizing their potential?

Jack Welch’s autobiography used a great analogy comparing a company to a bus. The job of any business leader is to not only get the right
people on the bus but to make sure they are sitting in the correct seats.

Here at Intertech, our biggest challenge is to attract and retain the
best people. You have to understand there are both tangible and intangible benefits to the workplace. First, we make our company an exciting and fun place to work — no real dress code, no one punches a
clock and we understand the time commitments of family.

Second, we use several incentive programs giving key team members a financial stake in the projects that they control — as it has been
said, ‘A rising tide lifts all ships.’

Q: Why is it important to consider employees’ ideas, even if you
don’t use them?

Everybody wants to be part of the team, and it’s a matter of that, yes,
while we are paying for a person’s time and labor, the most important
asset any team member has is their brain, and we want to tap into that
huge resource. Or at least give them positive reinforcement in that,
‘Yes, this idea might not have been used, but you might have another
great idea, and I want you to feel comfortable coming forward with it.’
Considering an idea can be a form of encouragement in and of itself.
My father told me that there is a different value to working with your
back as opposed to working with your mind, and everybody has both
attributes.

Q: How do you keep the lines of communication open with employees?

You keep your corporate structure very linear. The fewer hands a
message has to pass through before it reaches its intended recipient,
the better.

This refers back to when we were children and we all played the
telephone game, how after a message gets passed through a bunch of
different people, it changes at the end. In a flat organization, there is
no reason why a laborer can’t be talking with the president.

To maintain a flat organization, you don’t hire unnecessary people.
Everybody around here wears several hats so that it’s never a question
of, ‘That’s not my job.’ It’s everybody’s job, no matter what it is.

Some people might be more specialized to do one task or another,
but we’re all empowered to do everyone else’s job. Through a certain
amount of redundancy, we don’t have to compartmentalize.

Q: How has growth changed the way you communicate with
employees?

The communication change we have seen has not really been a
function of company growth but more of available technology. Here,
we are constantly looking for ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness of communication through technology, whether it be personal digital assistants, digital cameras, wireless laptops or a private-use FTP Web site.

I might be admitting that I’m a bit of a geek here, but I’m all over any
technology advancements.

Q: How do you make yourself accessible to employees?

It’s cliché to say you need an open-door policy, but it’s the truth. The
only time my office door is physically closed is when I’m discussing
personal matters with a teammate.

When joining Intertech, each new teammate is given a very informal
orientation in which it’s stressed that one of my main job responsibilities is to make sure that each teammate has the resources to grow not
only professionally but personally as well.

Q: How do you recognize employees for good work?

We make public mention of a job well done during our Monday
morning staff meeting. But also, one of the things we do is when a
teammate receives a letter of commendation, it’s posted right over the
watercooler, like a parent would put their kid’s drawing on the refrigerator. So there is no standard reward program, but we do like to mention it in front of the rest of the company.

HOW TO REACH: Intertech Construction Corp., (954) 989-3345 or www.iccbuild.com

The learning curve

Jim Riley wants Learn.com’s creative impetus to be driven by
two forces: The desire to compassionately serve clients of the
Sunrise-based work force productivity solutions provider and the
competitive drive to overtake the competition.

Both a sense of service and a competitive fire can spark innovation in your employees, says Riley, founder, president and CEO of
the 200-employee company. From the CEO’s standpoint, Riley
says, the job is to stimulate compassion and competition by making both a significant part of your corporate culture, then educating existing employees and new hires on your culture to the point
that they not just know it, they live it.

Smart Business spoke to Riley about how to make an innovative
culture a reality.

Q: How do you form and spread an innovative culture?

First off, you have to set up the basic principles of how the company views itself. It begins when you start the company.

How will the company fit into the competitive landscape? What
type of company will it be? A better thing is if you decide where
you want to go in the company and you put yourself there instead
of building it by happenstance and accepting the way that it is
going.

As you start the business, I think a mission statement is a critical
thing. The mission statement has to talk not only about the business and how you interface with your customers and clients, but
also what type of culture you are going to have and what type of
company you are going to be.

Q: How do you educate your employees about the culture?

For starters, you want a certain competitive personality. We all
want people that are very loving and caring of our clients, but here,
we want them to be out for blood from our competitors, as well.

It’s a certain type of individual that fits into that mold. I think
we’ve done a pretty good job of creating that atmosphere and getting those types of people on board.

That type of attitude is something that can be cultivated. Generally,
that type of stuff is part of the culture. It’s important as we’re building the business to make sure that as more people come in — last
year, for instance, we increased the work force by 65 percent — that
they conform to that way.

They have to fit in to our culture and not the other way around.
When a company is growing up quickly, it’s very easy for new hires
to come in and change the culture. So we make a very conscious
effort of imparting that culture on our new hires.

It’s not an easy thing to do, and you have to work at it every single day. It doesn’t happen by chance. You don’t just start a business
and say five years later, ‘You know, I really lucked out and I have a
great culture and a great work force.’ It’s really something you
have to cultivate and build yourself.

Q: Once you’ve educated employees on your culture, how do you
keep them innovating?

It begins with keeping your mission statement simple. The message gets lost if it’s not simple.

I think people can remember three things. If you give them a mission statement with seven items, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
People can almost always remember three things, so we usually
limit all of our lists to three items.

Three is kind of a magic number that is built into the human
mind. If you try to read a story, you might get three points from that
story. If I run an ad, I might be able to get three points about my
product across. But if I have 30 things to get across, chances are,
you’re not going to get any of them.

You also have to reward good behavior. If you don’t reward
good behavior, you’re not going to get that behavior. If you want
them to innovate, you have to reward them for innovating.
Either cash or recognition, preferably both, but there has to be
some reward for the innovation.

It’s because we’re asking people to go above and beyond their
day-to-day responsibilities and duties. They are going above and
beyond for the growth of the overall business, and it’s our
responsibility to reward them.

Q: What is important about using different types of rewards as
motivation?

The monetary reward is important because it’s a nice way for
the company to say thank you, especially since a business is a
profit-making enterprise, and when the company hands someone a $500 check, that’s an important gesture. But it’s not necessarily the whole impetus for the creative, innovative environment.

I think verbal recognition is important also, so that people
know that their innovations and ideas [are] to be used, and they
will be recognized at some point.

HOW TO REACH: Learn.com, (800) 544-1023 or www.learn.com

The business of branding

By itself, milk doesn’t offer a lot of
unique branding opportunities. It’s
plain, it’s white, and it’s pretty much sold in the same jugs and cartons everywhere.

If you are in the business of producing
and selling a basic product such as milk,
Roy Warren says that it’s up to you to come
up with your own unique take on the product, and then sell it to consumers.

Warren, CEO and director of $11 million
Bravo! Foods International Corp., adds flavor to his milk products with co-branding
initiatives that tie his products to well-known brands of candy and comic book
characters.

To Warren, branding is no longer about
casting a wide net. It’s more like aiming for
a bull’s-eye by identifying your target demographic and then figuring out ways to reach
those consumers by tying your product to
other products they find attractive.

Smart Business spoke with Warren about
how to make a branding strategy a success.

Q: How do you identify the demographics
toward which you want to aim your products?

We look at what we have for products, see
what our current product line covers and
then see where the holes are. … The world
is changing.

It used to be that everybody drank the
same thing for all use occasions. All demographics would drink Coke breakfast,
lunch and dinner. … Now you have very
unique demographic profiles demanding
very different nutritional fortification.
What we’re trying to do is identify which
demographics meet which kinds of nutritional profile and then brand them accordingly.

While we know that every single demographic would have an interest in a different kind of milk, we don’t think that you
would drink the same milk as your mom or
your wife or your kids. So what we’re doing
is formulating accordingly and then branding accordingly.

Q: How important is it to find co-branding
opportunities?

It’s all about partnerships. We’re developing partnerships where we do things that
they don’t do, and they do things for us that we can’t do, but together, we come up with
an interesting proposition that makes our
product unique.

It’s all about relationships. In this day and
age, business is tough enough that you can’t
do it on your own. But if you bring an incremental value to somebody else, with their
help, you can be competitive.

Q: How do you seek out co-branding
opportunities?

We usually have a very clear path as to
where we’re trying to go and then look for
partners to help us get there. We learned
over the years that there is a real appetite
connection, a natural connection between
the flavor and the brand positioning and the
demographic profile of the customer.

By flavoring our products and developing
them from a nutritional point of view and
from a brand essence of that appetite-appealing intellectual property, we learned that we
really could make a big difference and have a
much stronger message about what our
products are because of what that co-brand
represents. It’s been very, very productive.

Q: How do you make your brand stand out
in a crowded retail marketplace?

The co-branding strategy is key. It’s one
thing to have a Slammers line sitting on the
shelf. It’s another to have a Slammers Milky
Way. You see it and understand it because
they spend $100 million every year over at
Mars telling everybody about Milky Way.
Secondly, you know what it’s likely to taste
like, and there is an implied endorsement
when somebody puts ‘Milky Way’ on your
product. In this day and age, when marketing and advertising are so prolific, when
there are so many messages hitting every
consumer every day, the battle is won or lost
at the point of sale.

We think our co-branding strategy helps us
to have a competitive brand awareness.
We’re effectively riding the coattails of these
other, well-known intellectual properties.

Q: How has branding changed over the
years?

It’s different today than it used to be. It
used to be that you’d build a brand name
and it would mean the same thing to all demographics. Now a brand has to be very
narrowly targeted. There is an old saying, ‘If
you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for
anything.’ You kind of have to be something
these days in the branding business. Our
marketing and promotional activities are
targeting a very narrow concentric circle.

If you hit the bull’s-eye with that, you’ve
communicated what the brand is, and then
others can understand what the brand is. If
you try to be everything to everybody, then
you’ll end up being nobody to anybody. The
key to developing a brand is understanding
who is the target, then speak to that target
and let the concentric circles fill in as they
may. There are just too many messages hitting consumers out there for you to try to
be everything to everybody.

HOW TO REACH: Bravo! Foods International Corp., (877) 625-1411 or www.bravobrands.com

Crossing borders

Nearly seven years ago, EDSA
opened an office in China, and Joe
Lalli faced a whole new set of challenges

The Fort Lauderdale-based landscape
and graphic design firm had found success in five U.S. cities and was ready to
move into the rapidly expanding Chinese
market, but had to adjust the way it
operated to accommodate another way
of doing business. But although the
expansion posed challenges for Lalli,
president and managing principal of the
firm, it also taught him a lot about being
a business leader in a global economy.

Smart Business spoke with Lalli about
the lessons he’s learned from growing
his company internationally.

Q: What has been the challenge of leading
an office as far away as China?

The hardest thing is really trying to introduce the EDSA culture from that far away.
If I didn’t go there, if EDSA people didn’t go
there, it would be impossible to have that
company over there.

It’s a matter of going there and working
with the people so that they know us, and
also bringing those people here.

We just had a group of 10 people from
Beijing come over here and work with us.
Some will be here three months, some five
months. It becomes much easier to work
with people because then we know who
they are, and we get a chance to spend time
with them.

Q: What are some other challenges of
growing internationally?

Ever since the company was founded, we
have done international work. Over the
years, we’ve learned a lot of things. First of
all, get big advance payments up front.
Second, do some research on the clients
you’re working for, see how (feasible) their
projects really are.

It’s really being more careful and identifying good clients and not getting far behind
in terms of payments.

Q: Have cultural differences been an issue
as you have expanded outside the United
States?

It has been, but we have one thing that
has helped us: We have over 34 different
countries represented right here in terms
of staffing. Just working around people of
different nationalities really helps us when
traveling to foreign countries.

I lived myself for two-and-a-half years in
what was then Yugoslavia, now Croatia,
working on a project, and I got to appreciate quite a bit what it’s like on the other
side of the fence.

Q: What has international growth taught
you about cultural differences?

One of the things is we really have to
study and learn the culture. Especially in
China, where the principles of feng shui are
prevalent.

When we go there, many times we are
working with what they would call a feng
shui master, and we’ve really learned how
they orient buildings around a lot of the
principles of feng shui and how we incorporate those into design. Once you understand some of their principles, it makes it a
lot easier to incorporate those into your
design.

Then when you present it, they’ll tell you
if it’s good feng shui or not. But that’s been
something very valuable, really, that I’ve
been able to take some of those principles
back here and use them on other projects.

Q: How do you incorporate the ideas of
international customers into projects?

One of the really important things is to
meet them and listen to what their vision is.
I ask them to tell me, in their words, what
their vision for the project is, and then really listen.

We treat every single project very unique.
Somebody says, ‘I like such and such a
project, we want one just like it,’ that’s not
possible. The programs and sites are usually different.

It’s extremely important to listen to what
they say. If you don’t agree with something,
you can discuss it, but it’s important to listen to what they say, then turn it into goals
and objectives of what we’re trying to
accomplish.

Q: How do you identify what makes a good
client?

No. 1, it’s looking at the projects that they
have, that they’re realistic. Also, it’s getting
good agreements and finding people who
don’t have problems paying us in advance
for travel or to get something going.

There are certain red flags, things up
front that tell you right away that you are
going to have some problems on the
project as you move through it. I also
think life experience is a good teacher,
just being involved in this business such
a long time.

HOW TO REACH: EDSA, (954) 524-3330 or www.edsaplan.com

Over the horizon

It was a near-perfect opportunity, Abbas Sadriwalla says. India was a developing country with a booming economy but a minimal and
largely outdated communications infrastructure. Wireless Logix Group — the $10 million wireless solutions company that Sadriwalla has
headed since 2001 — had the services that could bring modern communications technology to India without having to erect thousands
of utility poles and pull miles and miles of cable.

Wireless Logix and India were a hand-in-glove fit. But that doesn’t mean going into the market has been simple. Sadriwalla had to establish a regional office in India, find the right managers to head that office, and figure out a way to bridge the physical and cultural distance
between Fort Lauderdale-based Wireless Logix and its employees and customers in India. Smart Business with Sadriwalla about the
right way to approach international growth.

Q: What are the keys to communicating effectively when your company covers such a large distance?

Over the years, having success and making mistakes, I would conclude that when you want to have offices overseas and run them successfully, there are several key components. It’s the type of people at the heart of these things.

The one important step leaders should make sure of is … if they have [field] offices, those offices are manned by people that share the passion, that identify with the product or services of the company. It’s not just a job or a paycheck, but that they are innately driven by that position.

It’s going to be impossible to sit at long distances and constantly motivate people. So in that type of role, you need to have motivating
leaders.

Q: How do you find leaders who can motivate?

It calls for a bit of luck, because every time you interview somebody, that person is the best actor you’ll ever find. Right then, they want
to secure the job.

I think a way to find good people is that you have to start by being a good person yourself. We are all capable of reading each other. So
one of the keys to finding good people is to provide them with good leadership. You have to give back what you expect.

Q: How do you take a wide view when branching into new markets?

I’m always thinking of solutions, and how does one solve the problem in an elegant way. Any problem can have 10 solutions, but the
solution that is going to be most effective is the solution that is going to be easiest to use and the least expensive to implement.

The important thing is that one has to be somewhat of a visionary, one has to look further down the road and ask, “What is going to happen, what does the marketplace need, how can life be better?” For that type of attitude, one has to be more than a salesperson; one has to
be passionate.

Q: How do you develop a passion for seeking out new opportunities?

Passion can be developed during success and during failure. Failure can be more of a teacher than success. Success tends to breed
complacency, but when people fail, they tend to become more passionate.

Normally, an entrepreneur is someone who likes challenges in life. When they fail, they blame themselves. They go out and ask how they
can do it better, where did they go wrong, how can they improve. For an entrepreneur, the challenge is within themselves, not in the outside world.

Q: How have you used failure to make yourself better?

In the early ’90s, when paging became very popular, I got into that field and used to manufacture a pager component called a pager
crystal. I was enormously successful in doing that. But success bred complacency, and I rode that down, not seeing that pagers would
evolve into cell phones.

After that failure, I decided that there had to be more to one’s planning about how one grows in the technology sector, because that is such
an evolving sector.

Q: How do you deal with cultural differences in a new market?

One of the things culture will dictate is how easily a particular technology is going to be accepted and adopted. You have to be pretty committed to these types of things because it might not necessarily happen in the time frame you want it to happen, or with the budget you want
it to happen.

You maintain patience by studying the market, and you make sure that the step you are about to take is something that is needed, will benefit you and give you a feeling of purpose. Also, I think that if you can partner with a local individual or company, that will certainly make
the process easier, less cost-expensive and sometimes quicker.

HOW TO REACH: Wireless Logix Group, (954) 566-0992 or www.wirelesslogixgroup.com