The ups and downs of business Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2008

Zafar Khan says that building a company can be like riding an emotional roller coaster. Positive things can happen, but you also may face challenges.

“It’s having persistence, so that you can make sure that you drive through any tough situation that you’re in and keep focused on what the goals are,” says the founder and CEO of RPost US Inc.

That persistence and focus have helped Khan lead the 50-employee company, which provides software-based business communication services.

Smart Business spoke with Khan about how to be persistent, focused and have the courage to take risks.

Q. What are the keys to being persistent?

It’s continuing to think of ways in which you can reach the goal or accomplish what you need to get accomplished. There might be five different ways or five different things you need to try, but if you hit a brick wall, you don’t stop, you think of other ways to get around it.

In growing a company, often it’s those who can keep you to plug forward that will eventually be successful. Those who give up at the first sense of challenge are certainly not going to have followers who join the team and are not going to be successful.

People generally forget about the hurdles that one has to get through to get to where they’re going and focus just on that success story.

It’s easy to dwell on a specific situation, but if you do, that will eat up too much time and energy. It’s much better to focus on, ‘We know there’s an issue; now, what’s the solution?’

A lot of it is about having a clear mind, so you don’t let any stress or pressure get to you, and you can again focus on what needs to get done. Sometimes, it’s just thinking it through — where do we want to be, what has to happen at the end — and then work your way backward. These are the first things that we need to put in place before we worry about the fourth, fifth or sixth thing that needs to be done.

Before we even think about those, we need to get these three things done first. It’s — at least in your mind — having that map in place of all the things that have to be accomplished and then building the detail as you get closer to approaching those specific tasks or initiatives.

Q. How do you keep focused on reaching goals?

One of the issues that you have to watch out for is setting too rigid a path. Early on, we set the objective of the company, and the objective has not changed. And we went down one path to work to set the foundation.

For us, it was making sure we were nimble enough or agile enough to shift directions and constantly evaluate is this the right thing we should be doing to get to where we need to be as quickly as we can for the least amount of cost and resources? It’s being nimble and agile, not afraid to switch directions, in order to take the steppingstones that you need to take to get to that ultimate goal.

Q. How do you decide when it’s the right time to take risks?

Sometimes, you have to look at all the data available to you, but often, you don’t have all the information that you would like to make those decisions. It’s about taking a calculated risk, understanding all the information you have, and trying to think through and evaluate the overall picture.

You need to make that decision quickly, you need to be able to shift directions quickly, and you need to make the best decisions with the information you have, You can’t get into the cycle of worrying about overanalyzing everything. Some people do dwell too much on is this right, is this wrong?

Sometimes, it’s not a straight line, but it’s continuously adjusting the sales and marketing approach and the methods, the market and so on, because you’re working in a dynamic environment.

Q. If you take a risk and it doesn’t work out, how do you deal with it?

You just can’t dwell on it. As soon as you know, as soon as you have a hint that this is not going to work or this initiative is not going to get us to where we need to be, you need to be able to make that shift again and adjust.

It’s being able to adjust as soon as you believe, through the data or experience going in this new direction, that it’s not going to work. Keep in mind that things don’t happen overnight, so it’s a fine line of not being fickle, being persistent but fine-tuning your approach as you are able to gather more and more information.

You need to adjust with that and adjust as you learn more of what’s going to be successful and what’s not.

HOW TO REACH: RPost US Inc., (310) 356-6536 or www.rpost.com