Ash Shah cut his teeth at a large global trading company that traded in petro chemicals and plastic polymers. After four years in the industry, he decided to start his own business, Impex Group Holdings LP, a worldwide supplier of plastic films and packaging products.
Shah, founder, president and CEO of the $28 million company, now had to deal with the tough entrepreneurial world and the challenges of finding the right employees and growth opportunities. Fifteen years later, he continues to keep those challenges his top priority.
“I think we have been very fortunate of having very good people work in our company,” Shah says. “It’s always a challenge regardless of how large or small or growing or not growing a company is. People are really the key asset more than the products and more than anything else.”
Smart Business spoke to Shah about how he has been able to find the right employees and take advantage of growth opportunities.
Find and retain employees. To retain employees, you have to offer the right package and so on, but it’s also the corporate culture and whether they fit well and you fit well and working as a team. Retaining is more important than finding, especially in the current economy. With unemployment, there are quite a few good candidates out there. So finding isn’t as much of a challenge as retaining them.
You have to make sure that teamwork is very important regardless of how small or large your company is. Having that team culture and that feeling of everybody being a part of the organization … that bonding or family-type togetherness goes a long way. Money is obviously important for everybody, but over the years I think it’s actually more important that they grow to enjoy and like coming to work and working with their counterparts.
It’s like any relationship: a lot of give and take, understanding, and appreciating. For every organization it will vary. It’s difficult to say that one rule applies to everybody, but you have to see within your organization what types of people there are, what their likes are, how can you make it a cohesive unit, and as an entrepreneur, having that cohesive teamwork is really what is going to help any leader grow. People are your main assets and you have to take great care of them.
You cannot please everybody. If an employee doesn’t fit within the corporate culture, despite trying a few times, if it’s not meant to be then that is a good time for them to depart. It’s not at any given cost you have to try and make sure you retain an employee, you don’t. In a genuine situation, you try to understand what their issues are. If they’re valid and if it’s something that a company can do to address that issue and as long as it all makes sense and within reason, the employee can be retained. You have to try to do anything within reason to try and retain employees.
Stabilize growth. The key factors of success in our case have just been responsible growth, keeping our eye on the ball and the matured product that we deal in. With the economy not being good, the basic staple food product packaging products — the plastics, the paper, the foil, which are the main substrates we deal in — actually have grown because more and more people aren’t going out to restaurants and they are buying food from the grocery stores and cooking from home.
As you grow, you have to sustain the growth and not grow too fast or too slow and you have to maneuver the ship in the right direction and that’s a challenge. If you grow too fast, it can have some negative implications and same if you grow too slow. When you’re growing at a pace of 50 percent or so … and you’re growing fast, just like we have for a couple of years, if there was a period of slow down or any major recalls, and you’re growing at a fast pace, it is difficult to pull back and try to maneuver.
Growth is obviously good and important and in most cases very beneficial for the company and its employees, but a sustained growth is even more important. That continued sustainable, matured, responsible growth for any company would be very positive. It is difficult to kind of benchmark or difficult to gauge the speed of growth.
To every specific industry, the leader has to focus on the basics of the financials. You have to constantly do checks and balances whether it’s monthly or on a quarterly basis. If the owner or the CEO feels like the growth is too fast, look at sales or accounts that are not much of a profitable account and whether you really need that account. It all goes back to checks and balances and making sure the bank mandated ratios are met and those ratios are not going too much into the danger zone. For every company, every industry, every sector, the leader has to see if this is a sustainable growth or not.
HOW TO REACH: Impex Group Holdings LP, (281) 416-4449 or www.impexfilms.com