Create a personal brand. People buy from people they trust, so it is very important for entrepreneurs to form their own brand and thought leadership.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Maulik Shah, co-founder and CEO of Invonto.com, a boutique digital agency based in New Jersey. Founded in 2008, Invonto has grown into becoming a digital transformation partner for some of America’s most innovative enterprises including Transamerica, Comcast, D.R. Horton, Sharp, Sealed Air, and Epicor.
Thank you so much for joining us Maulik. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Prior to cofounding Invonto, I worked at the dot com startup, onProject. One great thing about working there was that I got to learn a lot about all aspects of technology and business management. I could be at a data center at the night time changing backup tapes, coding on our software products next morning, and be on a sales call later in the day. I was fortunate to work with some very talented and hardworking individuals. That really helped groom my skills.
At onProject, our primary focus was on home builders and construction companies so when the market meltdown happened in 2008, we lost a lot of business. At that time, my choices were to either find another job or do something on my own. While I was in the process of cofounding Invonto, my former employer decided to hire us for managing the professional services side of their business. And that’s how it got started.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were hard?
Like so many business launches, our journey hasn’t been smooth sailing. We’ve been fortunate to partner with some of the known names in the business and at the same time we’ve been through difficult situations. But I believe that if you are confident in your skills, stay persistent, make efforts, and have a great team, then you can overcome any challenge. There is no magic wand. Thankfully, we’ve seen new doors open whenever things get difficult.
So, how are things going today?
In the last 10 years, we’ve done a lot of work in the web and mobile app development space. Now we have expanded our service portfolio with emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and AI. Our expertise has earned us trust from many of our client partners including leading brands like Transamerica, Comcast, Sharp, D. R. Horton, Epicor, Sealed Air, YMCA, and many others. We are transforming our business for the next decade.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
Most of our customers have said their experience working with us has been wonderful. They’ve said that we excel at getting things done on time. When we do not know something, we figure it out.
Some clients appreciate us being local and some like the fact that we are a small, boutique style agency that is more personable and accessible than large agencies. To sum it up, we are a boutique style agency with a creative and passionate team that enjoys in making our clients’ business more successful. Our team being local just adds to the value that we already bring for our customers.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
- Stay persistent and patient. You might find instant success but chances of that are rare. Being an entrepreneur means staying prepared to weather any challenges you might face and continue to move forward.
- Don’t get complacent when you are successful. You can become obsolete and replaceable if you don’t continue to evolve. This might mean constantly improving your products and services or even offering something new and innovative.
- Figure out a good work-life integration. Work is a never-ending journey. You might never see an empty to-do list. If your work demands to be available during off hours, then make sure to attend to that but also balance that by attending your kid’s play even if it is during business hours. You can find a good balance by integrating your work and life.
- Focus on taking care of your team and customers first, money will always follow. Your team and your customers are what makes your business.
- As a leader, make it your priority to take care of your team and providing exceptional services to your customers.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
There are a few people that I would like to credit. First one is my wife, who encouraged that I start a business. She has been a motivational force and a great supporter in this journey. I am also grateful to the owners at onProject (my former employer) who took chances with me as an intern and gave an amazing opportunity to advance. Lastly, I have to thank my team and a few of our business partners. They’ve been strong believers in the work we are doing at Invonto.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company”?
- Delegate as much as possible — whenever you can. This will free your time to focus on the big picture and the most critical tasks.
- Find mentors/advisors. While you might know your products and services well, you might not have as much “operational” expertise and can benefit from having advisors that can guide along the way.
- Your business is no one else’s business. In business, you have to establish rules of engagement as you are the most affected party, so whether signing up a new client or hiring an employee, you need to make sure that you work with people that are a good fit for your cause.
- Create a personal brand. People buy from people they trust, so it is very important for entrepreneurs to form their own brand and thought leadership.
- Network. Whether on social media or at the events, entrepreneurs should be outreaching and forming alliances.