Team building Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2007

When you’re the boss, you’re busy. But Saru Seshadri, president and CEO of Ultramatics Inc., says you need to make time for one-on-one meetings with employees — tee time be damned.

“Even from a pure gesture perspective, everybody realizes my time is very precious,” Seshadri says.

So by meeting with each of the $10 million tech company’s 50 employees one on one, Seshadri is reinforcing Ultramatics’ commitment to personal service. If the CEO makes time to communicate the employee’s role in the grand scheme, that employee will be more loyal and more likely to go the extra mile in serving a client, too.

Smart Business spoke with Seshadri about why he values independence in employees.

Q: How do you empower employees?

At different levels, there are different types of empowerment. Certainly on the technical side, they are empowered to create the best solution for the customer. Usually they view me as a senior technologist in the organization and bounce ideas off me.

It also depends on setting the right rules of engagement. The customer comes first. Everybody in the organization understands that. We are a customer-centric organization. By being flexible to the customer, we are achieving our goals as well as the customers’ goals.

Once that ground rule is set for everyone in the organization, everyone knows by doing the right thing for the customer, the organization is going to support those decisions. As long as you make the customer happy, you don’t have to come in for approvals — that sort of thing. That is a continuous thread that runs in how we do our business.

The second part of it is ... you have to have the right people to empower.

Q: How do you find the right employees?

When we attract and recruit folks, we look for the capability to independently operate — what we call not demonstrating passive dependence. Passive dependence is when you have someone who needs to be told on a daily basis what to do and when to do it.

By looking in our recruiting methodology for such behavior, we inherently recruit folks who are motivated to do the right thing by using the common culture of Ultramatics, which is customer care comes first. They need to pursue excellence and be passionate and proud of what they deliver for Ultramatics and the customer.

Since those characteristics are already built into employees, the empowerment part of it becomes easier. You know that inherently they will make the same choice, whether or not they are told to do it.

Q: What has been your greatest business challenge?

As you start growing, the ability to delegate and ability to create a team around you has been my greatest challenge. Recognizing that you cannot do it alone, and then having the right approach to building a team around you has been the greatest challenge.

One way I’ve overcome it is by methodically building a go-to team, identifying the right team players who have the right set of philosophies and have goals that are synergistic.

The second way is during the time of building up the team, having the external counsel, the set of mentors to guide you through these challenges.

Q: How do you build a team?

First of all, it comes through years of networking and building a profile of identifying people who complement your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.

Don’t be afraid to hire people who are smarter than you. It’s a challenge, but the key is also to have the recognition that you cannot do it alone. Put a plan in place that starts building on the capabilities that you have as a backbone.

Finally, the same value system is a key. If the value system does not match, that’s when you have the biggest problems.

Q: How do you manage infrastructure growth?

First comes the recognition. Many companies fail because they do not recognize the inflection points.

The ability to recognize inflection points is the first instrument for managing growth. Each stage of the organization’s growth, you hit these inflection points. You have to recognize them before they come and start putting things in place before you hit them, so when you hit them, the ensuing risks are mitigated.

Once you identify these inflection points and you see the right steps to take, it becomes more manageable. In our case, we matured from a start-up company that was in the early stages of growth in terms of finding the first customers to a fairly recognized entity with good brand equity.

We have been profitable since Day One, and we have been growing every year, either doubling or more than doubling every year.

Now, we’ve come to a stage where we have to scale this beyond the initial phase. That’s when the expansion phase starts, and we recognized the inflection point about a year back.

HOW TO REACH: Ultramatics Inc., (877) 862-8427 or www.ultramatics.com