http://www.foxsmallbusinesscenter.com/personal-finance/2010/06/23/tips-thrive-slowdown Also seen in FoxBusiness.com (June 25, 2010): Five Tips to Thrive During a Slowdown
At Avion Systems, technology is our business. As a result of our work behind the scenes at leading communications and wireless providers, you can download songs, videos and text messages onto your handheld device faster and more clearly than ever before.
We build wireless networks anywhere in the world for clients such as Sprint, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent. And we help communications giants such as AT&T expand their bandwidth so you can enjoy books and movies on iPhones and iPads. We also make sure you don’t drop your calls when you cross the country–especially in remote areas where coverage is still spotty.
As a woman business owner who launched this business 14 years ago, I can tell you that this takes discipline and focus. We have been successful in growing every year–including 2009, when most businesses experienced a downturn. Instead, we increased revenue, hired staff, awarded our people with raises and bonuses, and laid the groundwork for an even better 2010.
Avion Systems has two core engines of growth: Our people, who are the best minds in the business, and our technology, which allows us to optimize their talent. We use our technology to reduce our exposure to human frailty–eliminating overlap, redundancies and errors. And we use it to free up our people so they can deliver the goods and services our clients expect at ever-increasing levels of innovation and excellence.
Our clients move at warp speed. This means we need to move even faster to make sure we stay ahead of their needs. To accomplish this, I like to run our business as a perfectly calibrated machine, built for peak performance.
Here are five ways I keep the Avion Systems machine humming:
1.Always hire the best people for the job.I make sure that Avion Systems always hires the "10 out of 10. This is not always easy since we are usually under pressure to assemble teams quickly and ramp them up for the project at hand.
For example, we designed and switched on an entire wireless network in New Orleans on behalf of Earthlink and Motorola, delivering all elements of the project in full coordination with the municipality and ensuring that people could get continuous reception, even sitting in the middle of a city park.
To guarantee that kind of result, you can’t cut corners on people. You have to be able to rely on your team and know they will find solutions to whatever project is thrown at them.
Our teams are often made up of part-time and project-only staffers who regularly work on our programs. We can attract them time and again because we have a reputation for offering exciting, resume-enhancing projects. We make sure our team members have good experiences working with us–and they, in turn, will refer other good people in the future.
2. Invest in training your team.
We are firm believers in investing in education and training to make sure our people are prepared for success on the job.
Often the first phase of a project is training with the client. In our business this might mean learning WiMax, Wi-Fi or LCD. By educating our teams about the clients’ specifications at the outset, we lay the groundwork for a successful output. And we can assure the client that our people will hit the ground running.
We also give our people the technology they need 24/7, such as BlackBerries and laptops. There is no excuse not to produce.
3.Exploit technology to reduce costs and eliminate waste.
Microsoft is our certified partner for most of our internal systems and product-management tools. It provides customized systems for managing our internal database–which is the lifeblood of our business. This database holds information on all the engineers, tech designers and team members we hire to deliver our products and services. Our internal search engines also are crucial in vetting, locating and managing our talent efficiently.
Our internal systems also keep meticulous documentation on each individual’s work progress, so if someone gets sick or drops off the team, we can pick up the role seamlessly and instantly.
4.Bring market intelligence to your clients.
This can include industry trends or ideas that you heard at a conference. Meet a client for lunch and share information you learned on a recent trip. I make it a point to travel to international conferences. In the past year, I attended events in India, Spain and China.
Join national or global organizations that will put you in front of thought leaders and help you network withother business leaders. I am involved in the http://www.wbenc.org/Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, which certifies women’s businesses and is a trusted resource for 250 of the nation’s top corporations. This certification standard is being implemented around the globe through WEConnect International. It’s a great way to connect with women’s businesses and corporations in Europe, Canada, India and China.
After 14 years in this business, what I have learned is that no single person knows everything. You will bring tremendous value to your clients by keeping them informed.
5.Constantly challenge yourself.
In serving Avion Systems’ client base, I tell my people that it is important to raise the bar every day. We can’t think in terms of quarterly or yearly assessments. Instead, we are constantly proving ourselves in real time.
Today, every business exists in a fluid, competitive and fast-changing environment. As a technology and telecommunications company, we are especially motivated to evolve and adapt. But I believe that any business can benefit from the help of the best people, the use of smart technology and the drive to learn more every day.
Kanchana Raman is founder and CEO of Avion Systems Inc., a global technology company and WBENC-certified Women’s Business Enterprise.