The Opening of this Show
Go for What May Seem Impossible
In the Studio
I'm Hattie Bryant. What happens when we genuinely celebrate the success of
others and we open ourselves to learn from them? What is our path to wisdom? To
a fulfilled life? In this week's episode you meet a person who is open to
learning from everyone and he encourages that same attitude among his
employees, his suppliers, and his customers. He mentors people and he is always
open to being mentored by others.
great thinkers are Washington, DC trademarks. We discovered a few miles a way
in Vienna, Virginia great thinking in the work of this man and his award
winning information technology company, INDUS Corporation.
came to this country in 1979 with virtually nothing, and today he has 500
employees and 80 million in annual sales.
(Voiceover) You do not build a business to be a small business. You don't build
a business to be this or that. You build a business to be a sustainable
business entity that can keep going on and on and on. That doesn't happen
(Voiceover) Shiv Krishnan, a soulful person from India became a classic
American entrepreneur. He launched INDUS in 1993, quickly focused on web
enabling static information, then grew and grew and grew - over 1,000% in three
There is a special joy of life in this
now include SAIC, the General Services Administration, the Departments of
Commerce, Justice, Transportation (and) his first homerun, MapQuest.
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Be Willing to Start Small to Prove
SHIV: We were
a $20,000 a year business, then a $75,000 a year business and then we've grown
steadily. The one key advice that I can give other business owners out there is
focus, focus, focus. Do not try to be everything to everybody.
(Voiceover) Shiv and his wife Meena have two daughters. The family lives just a
few minutes away from the office in a new 10,000 square foot home they designed
themselves for maximum family fun.
SHIV: I count
my blessings every day for what I have been able to do. I do honestly think
that it has been given to me through the good things that my grandfather, my
grandparents and my parents -- others before me did.
(Voiceover) Shiv earned a masters degree in chemical engineering in the US and
that led him in 1980 to a job working for the state of Virginia.
SHIV: My job
was to figure out, what kind of chemicals are they going to be using? What are
they manufacturing? How much is it going to go into the air? How much into the
water? How much is going to be hazardous, and I figured that with my education,
I can probably build a model and model this whole thing and wrote a computer
program and using punch cards -- type it up and then it'll punch all those
holes in those cards.
We'll get a stack of cards and literally take it
to a card reader machine and put it in there. It'll go flap, flap, flap, the
cards will be read and the program can be printed at the time. And then a
company named Versar hired me and they were in the business of working with the
government on the other side as a contractor.
HATTIE: As a
SHIV: As a
consultant. So, when I went there I kept up with my computer skills. In the
meantime I took some additional computer courses and all of that and moved on
to generating computer graphics, showcasing how all these chemicals and the
hazardous waste and all of that moved through the environment using computer
So, I got
really challenged in understanding how to do all of this and got really
fascinated by the material. And that's the time when probably my internal
desire to, 'Hey, I can do this by starting a business on my own.'
opportunities here are for you to take.
So as an
opportunity, where a very small company (Versar) in Hampton Rhodes, Virginia
they approached me. I'd known the principles over the years.
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Take Advantage of Leadership
let me understand this. They wanted you to sell and service their products out
of the Washington office and it would be your office and if you made money,
great, and if you didn't you'd fall on your face.
Absolutely. I did that from the second bedroom of my apartment.
what year was that?
1987, how old were you in 1987?
SHIV: I was,
maybe 14. (Big smile.) No, I was 31 years old.
Thirty-one years old. We are in the business of selling our intellectual --
deploying our intellectual capital. You don't need a fancy office. You don't
need a fancy anything. But you need the tools, a computer and maybe a printer
or other storage. Then you need to have your brain. The ideas. I mean this is
where it all evolves from. And the ones that have their feet on the ground, and
continue to focus on the fundamentals of what do you need to develop and grow a
business, they will be successful whether they have the money or not. The money
is just a byproduct of success. If you don't have this, money cannot just buy
I had a
$10,000 contract within a month of starting. We delivered a system and a report
which evolved into a half million dollar contract and then in a matter of about
3 or 4 years, I had about 100 people and several contracts.
that was that other business.
was the other business.
That's not INDUS.
not INDUS yet. But those were building blocks of that, and I parted company
with them on very good terms and then said I'm going to start on my own. That's
when I started INDUS.
(Voiceover) Shiv chose the name INDUS in honor of his heritage. The INDUS
Valley civilization flourished around 2500 BC in what today is Pakistan and
Western India. As Shiv points out the name combines his homeland of India with
his new land, the US. Mike Mullen was an INDUS first hire and today he is VP of
So when I found out that Shiv wanted to build a real business, I asked him what
I could do to help, and since then back in 1992, '93 timeframe, he just
continued to give me the challenges in the learning environment for me to
continue to work with a growing company.
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Find the Good in People and in
challenge was, how do I completely leave all those trappings behind and then
start from scratch all over again. You start thinking ... am I doing the right
thing? You know, that was a very, very difficult time. And my dear wife, Meena,
she said, "If you don't do it now you will never do it."
MEENA: I know
that he always had a passion of starting his own business and we were young at
the time. A very important quality that I've come to learn about my husband is
that he's very, very positive about anything and everything in life. He does
not let little things bother him. He does not read between lines. He just takes
as it is and no matter how many times he falls he has the energy and strength
to get up and run again. And I think that is the single most quality, single
most attribute that have enabled him to come up this far. So even though it was
a bit scary initially, we just got in there.
are some of the specific secrets that you use to help people use their
potential -- find their potential and use it, because one of your goals you
said is to find the good strengths of the people.
SHIV: The strengths of the people.
your workforce being very friendly. You know they smile. You walk around and
people are not always tensed up and working on deadlines. They are working on
you have to smile?
Absolutely, all the time.
does he smile at you guys a lot? Does he smile at you?
Employee #1: All the time. Oh my gosh, he loves to smile.
SHIV: I look
at the strengths in people. I do not dwell on negatives or failures. If I do
fail, I just, you know, get up and continue to go work hard; and fine, try
again. Technology is an enabler for us. The big break came in with a company
called GeoSystems which was a company owned by
R. R. Donnelley. They had maps of 2,000 cities all
around the world in intricate detail.
talking about street maps.
maps. Our job was, they said this is the whole project with 2,000 maps. We want
you to convert these maps into a digital format, put it on a computer and it is
available for us to see on a PC.
want to ask, did you know how right then how to do it?
Employee #2: I'm basically a spatial database manager.
does that mean?
Employee #2: Spatial data means what you would see on a map has to be contained
somewhere. It has to come from something and that is the data. So you would
think of data in a tabular format, but if you want to display something that
would be spatial data. Roads, something that exits in our geography around us.
(Voiceover) It was a fascinating project. The idea behind it was they wanted to
use the products of this into a very large airline's travel, a reservation
system. That did not go any further but R. R. Donnelley GeoSystems essentially
used some of that information and a lot of additional information and they
deployed a new product that became MapQuest.
(Voiceover) That mapping success established INDUS.
the team that keeps our Department of Education customers happy, they provide
(Voiceover) With happy customers in the private sector, Shiv went after
need to figure out what are the government agencies, organizations, departments
that will buy some of the technology services that you have to offer because
ultimately you need a customer that is willing to buy what you have to sell.
A Word from Uncle Sam: "The Government Wants You
to Participate, Too!"
HATTIE: (Voiceover) Tina
Burnette is with the US General Services Administration.
BURNETTE: Well $9 billion in fiscal year '03 was provided to the small
business community, 8.5 billion was awarded through the Federal supply schedule
and a half billion was awarded through the government wide acquisition
contracting program. We're trying to provide our small business industry
partners an opportunity to provide supplies and services to the Federal
government and at the same time, the Federal government customers and the
taxpayers ultimately get good service from our small businesses. And we save
(Voiceover) Mike Sade is with the Department of Commerce.
SADE: And I think what we've been able to demonstrate is that small
businesses can bring quality to the public sector and solve a lot of the
(Voiceover) There's more help for small business at doc.gov.
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Find and Depend Upon Mentors
one of Shiv's Key Mentors
George Otchere is responsible for the small business program at SAIC, a large
information technology company.
how are you? Good seeing you, welcome.
(Voiceover) INDUS has won many SAIC top performance awards for government
Traditionally companies have looked at small business as a compliance program.
I think what SAIC did a decade ago was to really make it part of the mainstream
business development too. Meaning that we really need a small business's
capabilities to complement our own, to be competitive. So we see this as a
competitive advantage. And it's not because the law says you've got to work
with small business, we do it because we see it as a competitive advantage.
And, that's where we're different. We, as a company that's committed to small
business development, would like to in effect duplicate this success with other
small businesses we work with.
the program that you have in place for the small business owners formal or
GEORGE: Well that's an interesting question --
really we have two flavors. One is a formal mentor-protégé
relationship and then the other is informal. And I suppose we have more
informal relationships in the company and that is really taking a small
business and helping them with the lessons learned. Over the years you learn
how to do business, how to do proposals better, how to do customer
do you measure INDUS' success with you?
we look at INDUS actually I would say a flagship, or a yardstick, in the sense
that we'd like for a lot of our small businesses to emulate what they've done.
The heart of a
(Voiceover) Shiv's grandfather dedicated his life to helping poor children.
powerful influence of that (learning about mentoring) was when I was growing up
was. I was maybe 10 years old. A white car pulls right in front of the house.
It was a very, very modest house that we lived in. And, the gentleman in white
traditional Indian garb -- he's maybe about six feet tall and he comes into the
house and goes in front of my grandfather and -- falls at his feet.
prostrating in front of elders in India is a tradition of showing their
This gentleman had received a call at six o'clock
in the morning from the President and the Prime Minister of India appointing
him the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India. And he was one of those
young people that was educated by my grandfather, and the very first thing that
he did after he received the news was get in the car and come to my
grandfather's house and show him his respects.
very, very powerful. That showed that when you do good things to people, it
always comes back to you and you have to give back to the community.
That was one
strong message. The other message is if you study hard and work hard, you can
achieve almost anything in your life.
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(Voiceover) And achieving for Shiv means helping others.
morning. Everybody's here.
(Voiceover) He not only mentors the hundreds on his payroll. He is a mentor to
graduate students and the leadership at George Mason University.
SHIV: How can
HATTIE: (Voiceover) Here he discusses curriculum
with the Dean of the School of Management, Richard Klimoski.
KLIMOSKI: We want to reduce the knowing/doing gap. So we're very interested in
both theory and practice. Practice and theory.
SHIV: Can you
give me an update on what's going on?
(Voiceover) On a busy day, Shiv is caught in the hallway by J. Richard Knop,
founder, Chairman and co-CEO of Windsor Group Investment Banking.
KNOP: They need to make over some infrastructure, need to add some business
(Voiceover) Shiv serves on his board, invests and they call on him to mentor
SHIV: Make it
into a win, win, win. We all make money and doing great stuff.
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Make Sure Someone on Your Team Is a
The Mentors' Circle: Mentor-to-Protégé
7 - The Lightblub
witnessing what could be called the 'mentor's circle'. To mentor means to tutor
or coach. This is different from teaching. While teaching is most often done in
a classroom, mentoring and tutoring are done one on one and all coaching
includes personal attention. Shiv is such a natural at finding good people and
mentoring them that we think he has a little trouble describing how he does it.
George said that Shiv is able to identify and cultivate the right people. Meena
says Shiv sees the good in people and doesn't dwell on the bad. We think he
must see right into the minds and hearts of people. While his grandfather
mentored poor children in India and watched some of them go to the top of their
chosen field, Shiv grasped the concept that every person has tremendous
potential. He believes his number one task as a leader is to find the strengths
of a person and mentor that person to achieve his or her potential and then
have that person mentor others. As everyone succeeds, the business grows.
Are you part
of a mentoring circle? If not, why not? It is the best way to grow your
At SmallBusinessSchool.org, there is self-help study for people who want to
start a business and for those who want to grow the business they have. To
learn more about this episode, choose the overview. You can read every word
you're hearing today when you choose the transcript and go deeper with the case
study. There's streaming video and access to interactive study guides
throughout the site.
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Demonstrate That You Are
Basically this is a war room. We're in the second and final stage of a
you win this contract, what's going to be the dollar volume?
add another $25 to $30 million in business to INDUS for five to seven years
potentially seven years. The contract that we got from the Department of
Justice Civil Rights, that was a $15 million, five year contract, (and that)
gave you the potential of up to $3 million a year in revenues. That can be the
death knell for some of the companies too because it all comes down to
cashflow. The bank took a look at our numbers, our business plan and then felt
comfortable about "I can trust Shiv. He's got a good solid plan", and initially
that's where it starts.
relationship is between the bank and the entrepreneur. So they gave me a loan.
They asked me to sign up my house, my wife, my firstborn, everything. Meena and
I, we still remember the look on our faces and we had to go there and mortgage
our house and everything that we owned. Internally we knew we were confident
that yes we will pay it back, but, when it really hits you and then you sign
it, the enormity of the burden, you know. If it doesn't work, yes you can come
to the street.
MEENA: It was
difficult initial years to run with him and share the worries of running a
business and having to meet the payroll on time and sign away everything that
you own, including the house and all that, the properties. It was a tough
choice, but we did it.
We did it
together and I held on tight.
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Create a Worry-Free Workplace for
SHIV: This is
a people business that we are in. So Bob is a key guy at INDUS. Al has been a
mentor and a friend. Jeff Rosolio is our Vice President of Human Resources. The
moment that you have the first employee the challenges start. We are hopefully
well positioned on the contract and if and when we win the contract that'll be
the next milestone for INDUS. We are in the business of deploying the
intellectual capital of our people to help our customers. So one of the basic
tenants of INDUS is total employee satisfaction.
Unidentified Employee #3: He wants everybody to do
a good job, he doesn't want to just win the contract to get the revenue. I mean
this company -- everybody here pretty much cares about their job, cares about
doing a good job, cares about making the customer happy and we don't over
with us if you don't satisfy the customer, we don't have customers. If you
don't keep the employees happy, you can't satisfy your customer. So really the
company is at the bottom of the pyramid when it comes to who you have to make
sure you take care of.
should not be worried about where my benefits are going to come from, are my
benefits being cut back? Am I going to have a good working environment where I
can continue to prosper? I'm going to say erase those routine day to day
concerns from their minds. I'm not going to be able to create an environment
where they feel that they can use their fullest potential to provide the
support that our customers need.
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Make Sure Your Spouse is Your
MEENA: He was
always passionate about going on his own and that's one thing that I always
believed that we all -- we needed to do what we really believe in.
SHIV: But my
desire to continue to learn and achieve and grow and help people and provide
solutions to our customers, that is a constant burning desire.
MEENA: If you
have dreams, go for it. If you believe in your dreams you should definitely try
it and hang tight, believe in yourself. You will be able to do it.
that burning desire comes to an end, that's when I will stop doing what I'm
you part of a mentoring circle? If not, why not? It's the best way to grow your
business. We'll see you next time.
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The Closing of the Show.
We invite your
comments, suggestions and
the other pages of this episode of the show:
Overview / Profile,