Oscar: I’d like to welcome today to the studio Rehan Khan, CEO of Acordis International. Welcome, my friend.
Rehan: Thank you. Appreciate it.
Oscar: On behalf of the Entrepreneurs Organization of South Florida, I’d like to congratulate you for earning your rank on the Inc 5000 2014 list of fastest growing companies in the United States. Congratulations.
Rehan: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Oscar: Tell us a little bit about Acordis International.
Rehan: Acordis International is an information technology company. We are an end to end service provider for technology. Our core business is networking in data centers, wireless networking, digital signage and software application business. We’ve been in the business since 2007 and we have consistently grown in the last few years and continue to grow.
Oscar: Is there a lot of competition in the IT space?
Rehan: Yes. The competition is very competitive and there is a lot of competition.
Oscar: What is unique or what’s different about your company?
Rehan: We are kind of a very exclusive customer-based consulting oriented company. We put ourselves in our client’s shoes and give them our honest proposals and opinions to what can help them in their business versus just trying to push a box.
Oscar: Interesting. What motivated you to launch your business?
Rehan: After working for 20 years in corporate America, I’ve come to a conclusion that entrepreneurship is something very important to your individuals like myself and many others and with being heavily dense into the IT world, I decided to become an entrepreneur.
Oscar: What does that mean to you to be an entrepreneur?
Rehan: It’s something very satisfying, I would say. It is challenging. It is difficult. Personal success, I would say, also comes in that being an entrepreneur. Overall, I think it’s very pleasing to be an entrepreneur and a successful entrepreneur, obviously.
Oscar: Of course. When you launched your business did you have a detailed business plan?
Rehan: I had a brief business plan, to be honest with you. I looked at some business plans that goes for few hundred pages, obviously. Launching a business is something very crucial, but my business plan was a small 30-page business plan.
Oscar: From the time that you launched with that plan, how has your business changed since you launched with the plan?
Rehan: I call it the change is part of our life kind of evolution. The business plan has changed dynamically as you’re uncovering the other aspect of business and the clients and the markets and many other factors that involve in the business. The business plan has modified from the beginning.
Oscar: Do you remember your first client?
Rehan: Yes, absolutely.
Oscar: How did you bring them into your company?
Rehan: It was a law firm that we have done business in the past to my past employers. I picked up a phone and I called and it was a very tough appointment to get. When we got the appointment, we met, we talked and signed our first contract with them. It was very pleasing. Breaking ice as a startup company, but it was very, very pleasing to see getting into the business and earning.
Oscar: How were you able to establish credibility early on?
Rehan: The credibility portion of the business, as you know, it’s all relationships based. What I feel is where we are today is being honest with the client, offering them comprehensive solutions and your relationships that makes a tremendous effect to your business.
As a new business, it’s always difficult to prove yourself to people and how people do business is by either knowing you or you’re offering a quality solution versus the competitor is just pushing boxes.
Oscar: It’s interesting, you’re in the technology business and you referenced relationships. I hear so often with technology there’s less and less personal relationships with clients. Is that the case with your business or are you the exception?
Rehan: We are the exception. I personally believe relationships matter. I understand we’re in the internet speed today and everybody wants things quick, but I think, at the end of the day, we are long term organization. I have a long term approach of thinking with my clients. It is not based on short term relationships and that what makes the difference who we are today. Our clients have become Acordis family and we are very close and engaged with our clients, making sure that they are satisfied and happy clients.
Oscar: Very nice. What habits do you think helped you make you successful?
Rehan: I think there are quite a few habits. One of them could be I don’t like to give up. The commitment. The performance. Our customers. Our relationships. Those are the factors that keep me going in the morning and not to mention, our employees are the biggest factor. The families. That I have responsibility of the employees and their families on me just keep me going.
Oscar: Let’s talk about employees for a moment. It’s a very tight work environment in terms of recruiting and hiring and retaining talent, fantastic employees. How do you do it?
Rehan: It’s one of the biggest challenging factors in entrepreneurship as far as I have seen. Finding people. Most people want jobs, but jobs bring responsibility. In my opinion, what I’ve noticed is is finding those quality people is the biggest challenge for any entrepreneur to launch business or carry on with the business. It’s something that cannot be explained in 5 minutes or in 10 minutes process.
We have a very systematic approach of who we want to bring in team Acordis and the reasons and what they bring on the table as far as their experience, their education level, their tenacity. Can they meet up our level of speed that we’re working on a daily basis? The commitment. That makes it more difficult to find and hire that individual.
Oscar: Sure. What was the most creative or unusual sales tactic that you’ve ever used?
Rehan: I think one of the most creative is using the social media these days, which is a great marketing tool, a great information-based and public relationing. We have used pretty much, you know, from Twitter to LinkedIn to the Facebooks of the world to market us and market it very differently where the followers are following you to see what’s new Acordis is presenting.
Oscar: Do you ever had to turn down a client?
Rehan: One thing that we don’t compromise is respect and integrity. There are clients out there that will push you to a point where they expect you to do certain things or certain pricing or certain things that we are not willing to. There are a few cases that we have decided to walk away because we’re not willing to compromise our dignity.
Oscar: In terms of your business, what are you most proud of?
Rehan: I think the biggest thing I’m proud of is the value that we bring to our clients. The commitment to our employees. The job opportunities in South Florida. That makes me really proud for who we are being a local company and what are we doing for South Florida.
Oscar: Wonderful. It sounds like you have a fantastic a company and I’d like to make an investment. I like to invest $1,000,000 in your company. How would you deploy those funds?
Rehan: From the investment standpoint, we are not basically taking any investments from outside, number one. Number two …
Oscar: Are you playing hard to get now?
Rehan: No. I’m just trying to be an entrepreneur, the division where we’re going and what our future model look like. For hypothetical answer I can give you an answer your $1,000,000 investment can make you between 35 to 45% return with us.
Oscar: Great. If you had, for the next couple of minutes, some magical powers and you were able to go back in time from the day one of your company, you had the ability of reversing a decision, what would you change?
Rehan: I believe change is a part of life. I don’t look back to what I could have changed, but I constantly think about what I would change for tomorrow. In reality, I just don’t have the right answer for that question for you.
Oscar: Well, because I think you still have another minute or so with these magical powers, let’s look into the crystal ball and tell me what will change in the business climate that will affect your business five years from today?
Rehan: The technology business is rapidly changing as you all know. Everybody is looking for solutions. Everybody is looking to cut cost. What we’re looking at is some kind of a very unique online business model that can help businesses to reduce their purchasing or buying technology needs and that is something that we’re considering for next year.
Oscar: What one word describes you as an entrepreneur?
Oscar: Do you think entrepreneur are born or made?
Rehan: Made. Nobody is born.
Oscar: How do you define success?
Rehan: Commitment, hard work.
Oscar: If you want to brainstorm an idea, if you want to get assistance in solving a problem or looking for guidance, where do you go to for that?
Rehan: I have a group of individuals, my executive team, that we discuss. That’s the first option. I firmly believe, as human being, everyone is very creative. As an open forum, I take all the positive feedback that I can. That’s the first step.
Secondly, I do read a lot. I go back to the successful individuals in businesses and do read and look at their footsteps to get some ideas or guidance where I need to go.
Oscar: You mentioned you read a lot. Great business leaders universally share a passion for learning. What was the last business book that you read?
Rehan: Not just a business book, I would say. I do read John Maxwell. I do read the Think and Grow Rich from Napoleon Hill. Being a marketing major, it’s just something that I don’t go back to read how to market our products itself but I do read motivational factors or factors that can change or help me, guide me through the tough, challenged times in the business.
Oscar: Rehan, you’re a very seasoned entrepreneur. I also, as an entrepreneur, want to learn. Share with me a piece of wisdom that could benefit me and my career.
Rehan: What I’ve learned, to be honest with you, in full flash running Acordis is think long term. That something has given me a very different vision, perspective of business that now short term goals can be achieved in a short period of time. As the Romans say, “Rome was not built in a day.” Long term is something that each entrepreneur needs to think. Do not look or do not seek rewards in a day or two or three. It takes time to grow the business. Think long term.
Oscar: What piece of knowledge would you like to be a receiver of from other seasoned entrepreneurs?
Rehan: I think how they’re running their business. Obviously, the marketing aspect, the challenges they’re facing, hiring process because finding employees is one of the factors that we all are struggling, although market has improved but it’s just not easy to find employees. Those are the areas that I will be very happy to get guidance or assistance or knowledge or wisdom from other successful entrepreneurs.
Oscar: As a leader, how do you make a mark within your company?
Rehan: One of the biggest things I believe is the leader is not just having a title or a president or a CEO. I give a commitment of doing what I do for the clients and for the business and, in return, I expect same. My vision is very simple. I am a simple individual with an attitude of doing anything and everything to make it happen.
Oscar: Great. Can you share with me a cool or fun experience that you had either personally or professionally?
Rehan: Professionally I could share with you we were invited by one of the sports team here in South Florida about two weeks ago and had a fantastic networking event in Punta Cana and very pleased to say that it turned out to be a very, very positive networking even for our business as well as everybody kind of have to know each other.
Oscar: Fantastic. What would you say would be the boldest move you’ve ever done in your professional career?
Rehan: Leaving the previous employer and started everything from ground zero.
Oscar: If I say the words trust and respect, what do they mean to you?
Rehan: Trust means a lot. Trust is everything in my vocabulary in life, but the life has changed a lot what it used to be. Individually trusting people is difficult. Even commercially trusting people is difficult because you’re lending money and you’re lending products and services. You don’t know if you’re going to collect your money or products back. Trust is a very, very challenging and a sensitive subject. I’m a type of person if I trust an individual, I keep my both hands on my eyes and proceed.
In terms of respect, respect is earned. Our mother has taught me that. The respect what you give to others, they’ll give you back. It is very important part of my life to respect the elders, respect the employees, respect the families, respect the clients.
Oscar: Beautiful. If you woke up tomorrow and your company no longer exists, what kind of company would you want to start up next and why?
Rehan: I would start what I started three years ago. Information technology and solutions.
Oscar: Great. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you in the studio today. I really want to thank you on behalf of the Entrepreneurs Organization of South Florida. Again, congratulations for earning our rank on the Inc List of being one of the fastest growing companies in the United States and continuing the entrepreneurial spirit in South Florida. Again, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure having you in the studio. Thank you so much.
Rehan: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.