Controlled mania Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2007

When Ranjan Manoranjan and Nanda Nair co-founded 3SG Corp. in 2000, they planned for their group to offer three S’s: software, service and solutions.

Manoranjan, who serves as CEO of the Dublin-based business, says 3SG then had to change course to keep up with technology and customer demand. Today, his company provides document imaging, management solutions and business process outsourcing services to 400 clients. Its 300-plus employees are located in four U.S. offices and one offshore, and gross sales have grown 75 percent, from $6 million in 2004 to $10.5 million in 2006.

Smart Business spoke with Manoranjan about how he empowers employees to exceed client expectations.

Q: How can other executives grow their company the way you’ve grown yours?

Focus on what you do best and don’t get distracted by other opportunities coming through. [If] you are not the best there, don’t get into that. The other things can look easy, but it still takes a lot of your management time — that is where you lose the focus.

Empower others. It’s hard for a small business to let people make the decision and be accountable. My partner and I used to be in every operational meeting and (managers would) look at us to tell them what to do, even though they were qualified and sometimes more experienced than ourselves.

Now we don’t enter the operational meetings unless they need some help. And, to tell you the truth, they do better than us because their focus is only that. My focus is companywide.

Mentally, we had to prepare to let it go. It’s hard for a small businessman, but if you don’t do that, you can’t grow anymore.

Q: How do you exceed customer expectations?

Our company philosophy is based on a book called ‘Raving Fans,’ by Ken Blanchard, who co-wrote ‘The One Minute Manager.’ I would say for three full years, we did not have raving fans; we learned it over a period of time.

Keep the expectations clearly defined. Once clients know that this is what they are expecting in return, then it’s easy to exceed that.

We have a client service director who reports to the president. She will talk to the client during the project, get their feedback and pass it along to the people who are providing (the service). If there’s a shortfall, she’ll immediately alert the production manager. If she cannot fix it, she goes to the president.

The client knows up-front there’s a person — a customer advocate — whose job is to make sure the customer is happy at the end of it. Sometimes, we had to do work twice; we have minimized our rework.

After the work is done, and sometimes during the work, we send out a survey to every client to get feedback. I cannot say we have 100-percent happy clients, but the percentage of happy clients is much higher than it used to be.

Q: What can prevent a company’s growth?

Not being attentive to your associates. A happy associate gives you a happy return.

We started with two associates and we have 302 as of December. We must’ve done something right. Our first associate who joined is still working for us.

When you are growing, you sometimes tend to forget the associates. Reward them, recognize them and bring in the family atmosphere so every single person feels that they are a part of the company.

We have more benefits than a lot of companies our size. It’s a cash investment. Most companies don’t, and I think that paid off. Ninety percent of our cost is in our associates.

Q: What advice would you share with other CEOs of fast-growing companies?

Be honest to yourself. If you take a project that is bigger than you can handle, you’re going to fail and not only lose that business, but it’s going to affect your reputation. Always ask the question: Can you do it?

If you can’t, partner with a company that can do it. It’s difficult when someone’s knocking on the door, but you have to say no.

Look for controlled growth. Your growth is controlled by three things: your capital or available financing, people to manage the growth, and not just customers but good customers who are profitable for you.

Don’t oversell yourself or it’ll be a crisis. You need the cash to meet payroll, but you cannot bill that client until the work is done. The bank will only go along up to a certain place.

In that stressful situation, you will be firefighting more if you don’t produce the best product for your customer. When you lose focus on your customer, you won’t have a raving fan.

HOW TO REACH: 3SG Corp., (877) 761-8394 or www.3SG.com