Mr. Opportunity Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2007

Ian Andrusyk is no stranger to entrepreneurship — he started his first company in his parents’ basement when he was 15.

While running, a Web site that listed free goods available on other sites, the Iowa teenager found a reliable hosting provider was hard to come by, so he bought a server and started his own Web-hosting business.

More than 10 years — and a few businesses — later, the 26-year-old Andrusyk now serves as co-founder, president and CEO at FastServers.Net, a 40-employee dedicated hosting provider with fiscal 2007 revenue of $9.1 million, up from $5.9 million in fiscal year 2006.

“When we first started, we were at a ‘grow at whatever means possible’ operations mode,” Andrusyk says.

Today, the wunderkind takes a more calculated approach to finding outlets for growth.

Smart Business spoke with Andrusyk about how to uncover business opportunities by treating vendors as partners.

Q: How do you recognize business opportunities?

We always treated vendors more as partners. That’s given us opportunities.

Working with them more on the partner role, we’ve been able to customize a lot of our vendors’ offerings specifically to our needs to develop new services and offerings that maybe that vendor’s not offering to anybody else.

Q: How do you create that partner relationship with vendors?

Many of the products that we use right out of the box are not quite up to our specifications, or we or our customers find a few things wrong with them.

We always try to sit down and say, ‘Here’s the product you’re offering so far. Here’s what we’d like to do to make it even better, to customize it for us. How can we get there?’ If that involves jumping on a plan and sitting down with (them) for a little bit or anything along those lines, whatever the situation is.

The most important element is getting as much face time with these people as possible, making sure that you’re going to be at the same conventions and same industry-specific things that you’d expect to see them at.

Q: What else can you do to recognize opportunities?

Make sure to take what’s hot in the industry and try to capitalize on it. Start putting out offerings that match the buzzwords.

See what people are asking for. If we are getting consistent requests for a type of service or a type of offering that we don’t have, that’s obviously a quick way to recognize it.

Q: How do you keep that close eye on the industry?

There’re certain blog authors that I read on almost a daily basis. There’re certain industry forums that you kind of just page through. Obviously, you can’t read 20,000 posts a day. Just look for the main topics.

Keep an eye on your industry’s own specific trade publications and their trade magazines.

Take a look at your competition. See what they are and aren’t offering.

Anytime you have the opportunity to attend trade shows, get on a plane and travel somewhere and find out what’s going on.

We’ve got a lot of different people here to set Google Alerts for different companies and different products.

It’s just tracking as many different information sources as possible.

Q: What is the benefit of doing those things?

They let us know what direction the industry’s heading. It’s being able to know what the news is on your competitors, what the news is on your vendors.

The fast pace in which everything changes, you’re kind of left out in the dark if you’re not keeping tabs on it.

Q: You employ a talented team to help keep up with that pace. How do you show employees that you’re actually listening when they present ideas?

It’s the ability to not just listen to what goes on but to possibly craft changes based upon what you hear.

A few examples: after-work socialization. I’ll go out with a group of guys that I don’t do much overseeing. Someone might just get comfortable enough to say, ‘I don’t like this, this, this or that.’

If I just kind of blew it off on the spot, it probably wouldn’t mean much. (It’s) the ability to at least talk about it the next day: ‘This person brought this up. What’s really going on?’

There are going to be situations where people blow off steam, or people are going to have ideas that for whatever reason won’t work. Obviously, you can’t cater to every little thing.

(It’s) being there and showing that you’re interacting with the whole process, that you’re at least understanding what someone is saying. Maybe you don’t agree with it. Maybe nothing’s going to change, but you’re at least feeding it back to them and saying, ‘Well, here’s why this probably won’t work.’

Just that you’re there and willing to sit down and hear what they have to say; that does help lead to overall confidence in whatever your vision and mission is.

HOW TO REACH: FastServers.Net, or (866) 753-3278