Cook the Soup Slowly
A colleague of mine named Rob Betsill – who’s been with TEOCO almost from day one – is fond of saying: “Atul likes to cook the soup slowly”. He’s right. I don’t believe in frenzied decision-making and dramatic midnight announcements. I take my time, and consult with my senior colleagues, before taking any ‘big’ decision.
Consider, for instance, the decision in 2007 to set up TEOCO’s offices in India. Given my Indian origin – and the many benefits of off-shoring work to India – I should have moved in a lot earlier. But I didn’t rush into it: first I had to be convinced that the proposition made business sense in spite of on our modest size and scale at that time. Did I have the right team, the right leaders, and could we ensure the right network connectivity?
I was even more concerned about corruption in India: could I set up operations without encountering serious bureaucratic hurdles? I therefore waited until I was reassured that it was indeed possible to do so while preserving our corporate integrity.
Another example of our slow and steady approach would be the delayed decision to grow TEOCO through Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A). For the first 10+ years of TEOCO’s existence, I felt that there was sizable risk of compromising the company culture if we went down such a path. In 2006, when we had an opportunity to acquire Vibrant Solutions, our Executive Team advised me to take it on.
I remember meeting the Vibrant Team in Rochester and feeling that we could earn their trust, and that as a company we were finally ready. Not only was the Vibrant acquisition successful, it also strengthened our corporate culture. Fifteen years later, many of those employees form a key part of TEOCO’s backbone.
While I may devote a lot of time and attention to the ‘big’ decisions in business, I hate to lose time over the routine day-to-day ones. I prefer to quickly get the soup to a boil and move on. I may occasionally fail to make the ‘best’ decision … but I don’t let that bother me. I’m happy to make a ‘reasonable’ decision and then direct all my energy towards making it work.
I am not good at many things, but one of my strengths is the ability to distinguish between ‘big’ and ‘small’ decisions, and I make sure that 98% fall into the ‘small’ category. The ability to make small decisions swiftly – often with limited information – helps an entrepreneur succeed. Instead of wasting too much time and effort focusing on making the ‘right’ small decisions, we unify behind the path we choose and ensure that things work out as best as possible!