Bijan Khosravi founded Movaz Networks at the height of the optical networking boom in June 2000. Since that time, Khosravi has guided Movaz through the biggest shakeout the telecom industry has ever experienced. Along the way, Movaz has attracted over $150 million in venture capital. And today, Movaz stands as one the Southeast’s fastest growing technology companies. The Atlanta CEO High Tech Council invites CEOs to an exclusive CEO-only breakfast to hear more about Movaz’s incredible story from “Boom to Bust to Growing” 7:30 a.m. March 5 at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. Register for this event
Every CEO faces the challenge to deliver results every quarter, but the soft telecom and IT markets of the last few years introduced a new challenge for high-tech CEOs: Hold the ship together as you steer it toward your long-term goals.
In the process of guiding Movaz through the telecom bust and now to sustainable growth, I applied a few business lessons that played a key role in Movaz in surviving the market fallout and positioning the company for growth in the recovery. While these lessons make sense during any part of the business cycle, the spoils of a booming market too often leads executives to forget the basics.
Lesson 1: Never Say No
It’s always easier to see an account as too small, too far away or too challenging. While CEOs must manage their time wisely, executives can establish a “tone at the top” for everyone to follow. At Movaz, we were challenged to service two accounts that were located half-way around the globe at heightened times of concern, Israel in the midst of the Iraq war and Taiwan at the end of the SARS outbreak.
While neither customer was among our biggest accounts, we nonetheless went the extra mile. Both customers demanded onsite service, but we definitely wanted to minimize risk to our employees. Small groups volunteered to fly to Israel and Taiwan , respectively, while larger support teams back in Atlanta worked nights to fully meet customer demands
Lesson 2: Demonstrate Your Commitment to Employees
As an entrepreneurial company, Movaz relies upon the attitude of our employees to accept and adapt to change, innovate and find new ways to solve problems, and remain loyal to the company. While hiring the right people is essential, executives must develop, maintain and reinforce this culture.
Movaz made a commitment to our employees that layoffs would always be the last alternative. As the shifting telecom market forced us to alter our short-term focus, we made the decision to retrain our employees for immediate needs as opposed to eliminating positions in one area while hiring in another. For example, we moved employees from engineering to customer support. While this required costs for retraining employees, this decision boosted loyalty and in the end allowed us to hold onto the people we would need to propel the eventual company growth.
Lesson 3: Know Your Customers
In the early stages of a business’s life, CEOs have the luxury to know every detail about their customers. As business takes off, this becomes more difficult. While CEOs must balance their time between managing internal issues and sales, customers want to talk with the top guy, especially when dealing with a private company. With no brand recognition for Movaz, I needed to establish credibility with our customers. This could only be accomplished through personal relationships. Dinner with the customer proved to be a valuable method.
They say that the only thing that matters over dinner is the martini in the beginning and the handshake at the end. Eighty percent of business is done through personal relationships. This cannot be limited to only CEO-to-CEO ties. Relationships must be built with the decision-makers and influencers at all levels.
Bijan Khosravi is the founder, chairman and CEO of Movaz Networks. The Atlanta CEO High Tech Council invites CEOs to an exclusive CEO-only breakfast to hear more about Movaz’s incredible story from “Boom to Bust to Growing” 7 a.m. March 5 at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead.