For me I sum it up by these five words that push me every day: Vision. Passion. Determination. Execution. Strategy.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Reshma Moorthy, President and CEO of Frontier Technologies, Inc. with the overall responsibility for the strategic direction, vision, values, and goals of the organization. She is driven with the purpose of customer value through tech innovation as well as revolutionary and disruptive innovation.
Under her leadership, Frontier’s team has fostered the growth and profitability of new startups as well as well-established organizations. Always on the cusp of IT evolutions, Ms. Moorthy leverages her 13+ years of award-winning leadership with the latest advanced technologies on the market. Her passion is helping clients protect their present information and build for their future technological needs by managing and maintaining their data across platforms, software, networks, and the cloud. Her belief in a cybersecurity-first approach assures clients that their data is safe-guarded end-to-end thus protecting and fueling their competitive advantage.
A strong proponent of diversity and inclusion, Ms. Moorthy serves as Chair of the (EMSDC) Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council’s Minority Business Input Committee, where she leverages her talents to serve her community to empower other diverse businesses. She received the Minority Business Advocate of the Year Award from the EMSDC and led her team to receive the Diverse Supplier of the Year Award multiple times.
She developed a scientific background with a B.S in Biology and Health Sciences from St. Joseph’s University as well as mastering numerous executive educational programs at Tuck University and Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I am a second-generation family business owner as I was fortunate to join my parents in their family business about 14 years ago. Ironically, I graduated college with the intent of going to med school, but then questioned as to whether that was the path I wanted to take. When I took a hard look at what I wanted to do it was to find a career that was intriguing and that would allow me to grow. When I shared this epiphany with my family in 2007, I was offered the opportunity to join their (Frontier Technologies) and have never looked back.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I believe the most difficult challenge, even today, is when I am unable to control the outcome to achieve success. There were many times I questioned whether this was the right choice for me and sometimes whether I should move on to something different. However, my personality wouldn’t let me. I am way too driven. When I am committed to something I do not give up. This stems from my days as a competitive athlete — that desire to achieve. I believe this mentality is also linked to being an avid piano player and learning Spanish. No matter how difficult the challenge these brought, they forced me to keep going. It is this mentality that I bring into my everyday activities.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Not necessarily a funny mistake, it was a bad business mistake. We were selling help desk solutions to a major food company based in California. Anyone in business knows, that one of the biggest mistakes you can make when issuing a quote if the numbers are incorrect. When that happens it’s difficult to pull it back and correct it. Looking back, it truly was a simple math error, but a costly one. The realization of what I did would quadruple the cost to the customer. As you can imagine it is a learning experience that I never forget. The lesson is to always double and even triple check when working on quotes to ensure that all the important touchpoints are correct.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe it’s because we are agile, versatile, nimble, resourceful, and quick. A year ago, I worked on a bid for a client and later found out that we were not the successful bidder and lost that client. Disappointed I wanted to learn from this, so I requested a debrief with them. They said that the incumbent was someone that they had used in the past for this type of project, so they awarded it to them. About 6 months later, the client called us and advised that there were contractual issues with their incumbent and asked us to step in and take over the contract. To do this, we had about 10 days or so to revise our statement of work, submit it, sign the new purchase order, and schedule the kickoff call so that we could complete the project by end of the month. Challenging but the competitive drive in me knew we were going to meet their need even though it was given to us in the middle of the month during the holiday season. Because we successfully met the client’s requirements successfully, we are their go-to provider for these specific solutions. This, to me, is a great example that the size of the company doesn’t matter, it’s the work that we produce that does and that they can rely upon us.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
One recommendation is to always schedule out your time so that you have some ‘breathing’ space in between meetings and calls. if you are not good at it, then delegate it to someone who can. We all need to know our thresholds and be disciplined enough to stay within. With COVID, all lines are crossed and blurred, we aren’t working within a structured time frame. Sometimes it is challenging to find that “escape” as often as you would often like. One thing I do is to ensure I try to make sure every day I go for a walk, workout, walk the dog or even prep meals for a few days. Do something that gets me out of the house and not feel stuck. One other type of escape for me is to go somewhere else (even though that’s limited right now) just to change the scenery and rejuvenate. Also, a good rule to follow is to not be so hard on yourself. Pat yourself on the back sometimes and just say “I gave it my all today… tomorrow is a new day”.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are a few people that come to my head. First, are my executive colleagues, aka my parents 😊 They have been so influential on my journey to where I am today. They gave me the freedom to learn everything about the business and along the way I made a lot of mistakes. They did not get in the way of my learning process, which I am so grateful for. They allowed me to explore different business avenues that they did or did not consider.
Also, when I started early in my career, I was part of Women’s Professional Organization in Fort Worth, Texas. These women were like mother figures to me from a business and friend perspective. They took me under their wing and slowly explained how they grew their businesses, the obstacles they faced whether it was with their spouse or related to money, people, technology related, etc. They really opened my eyes to the struggles, BUT also showed me that at the end it is all worth it. This group of strong powerful female leaders were part of the most impressionable time of my career. I am still good friends with a few of them to this day!
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
A good company can have many different meanings. To keep it relative, I will discuss my business. When I joined Frontier Technologies, my parents had done just enough to be a good company. Theirs was designed more as a lifestyle business, one that gave them a good work-life balance. An opportunity for them to be leaders in business, but also be present for my sister and I growing up. To me, that defines “good enough”. They were able to thrive financially but never really took it to the next level. Once the discussions about me taking the company over, I realized that it was the right time to take the company from “good enough” to GREAT. To me, a GREAT company has most of their ducks in a row. I won’t say all because I believe that is when a company can become stagnant and cease to thrive. I took a deep analysis delving into their current market (at the time) which was focused on the federal government business and refocused my purpose to the commercial side of the business. I started pushing, finding, crafting all our relationships with our enterprise clients, and started planting the seeds to germinate. While I worked on that, I simultaneously assisted them on the federal side to continue to grow that business. Through the years and relationships, all the seeds became flowers, and we were able to take the business to the next level financially. With that, came growing pains, but now we have a much better handle of running the HR, Operations, Accounting sides while Sales and Technology is positioned to continue now properly to scale. I think what makes a company great is having the vision, strategy, and execution to achieve or surpass goals set.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
For me I sum it up by these five words that push me every day: Vision. Passion. Determination. Execution. Strategy.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
From my perspective, managing and maintaining a business is great because we are able to continue to hire people that are needed to support the business. These people are handpicked from different areas across the country for specific roles. Knowing that we have are bringing people from all areas of the community is important to us and helps us feel fulfilled. One of my bigger overall goals is to help take technology to areas that are not exposed nor even given the opportunity to understand the power of technology. As everyone knows, children are our future and that should include all children no matter what level of society they are growing up in. What we want to provide goes beyond putting the technology in their hands; it’s make them excited to learn what the technology can do for them to open doors many thought wouldn’t be available. Therefore, we are always looking for ways to engage in underserved communities or work with children in grade schools to show them what could be possible.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
First, I believe all companies experience this feeling at one time or another. When you encounter that, I think it is important to just stop and reflect. Take a moment and try to find out why you as a leader are here. Reflect on the past, what worked and what didn’t work, and how you got to the position you are in today. Then take a moment, and just pat yourself on the back. Once you get a smile on your face after you realize your accomplishments, think about your business future. What do you want? How do you want to get there? What are some quick 90 day wins you can get under your belt to feel confident again? I think it’s those little things that help.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
As we all have experienced, COVID hit the economy and people hard in a variety of ways. However, this pandemic also gave us the opportunity to look and our accounts and figure out where are we going to get the quickest sales and create some longevity within the accounts we are serving. Once we determined that, we dedicated a sales team to focus on just that, while myself and a few others handled the actual operations, HR, finance, technology, and other parts of the business.
Side note, this pandemic reminded me of when my parents had to personally invest back into the company about 15 years ago. That was a lesson that taught me the company needed to have a nest egg within the business for the just in cases that can and will happen. To that extent, I have made it a point to move a percentage of money from the business and reinvest it into the economy for more future growth. Another lesson that COVID instilled was the importance of developing and maintain strong relationships with our bankers. This allows them to understand what we do, our technology delivery model, our customers, and how we operate internally. We keep an open dialogue regarding our financial posture and if any adjustments are necessary due to the environment. I know it may sound like a simple thing, but many companies do not have this in their playbook so when something like the pandemic hit, they weren’t financially prepared to weather the storm. This may not fix everything, but it can help soften a blow when things are rough.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Strategy, Operations and Execution. These three pieces pack some of the biggest punch for a company and are all required to keep the engine running. Up until recently, this was more difficult than it is today because I was wearing multiple hats, while also being depended on for sales. In 2020, a lot of my time was spent trying to really determine the strategic direction and focus that was needed for Frontier that would set us on a great journey from 2021 to ideally 2025 and beyond. Even though this took time away from focusing on the sales side, I knew that (and this is where the ‘saying no’ I mentioned previously comes in — I had to shift my focus to build the strategy and team needed to make us successful and allow me to focus on the sales side.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
You must do your homework and have a plan before you arrive to meet the client. Ensure that your team is going to present the company in a strong light. Present a confident but not arrogant image during the meeting. Make sure you cover the gamut when it comes to the solution you are being brought there to discuss and anticipate possible other concerns and solutions they may bring up. Finally, it is so important to LISTEN to them before ‘selling’ them. If they believe you are there to truly help them, the conversion is the likely next step.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
I keep a mental checklist that includes the following:
Show up at least 15 minutes early.
Be prepared, do not have a canned speech but know your stuff. Leverage social media when it comes to the specific solution you came to discuss. In this day and age, validation is critical, and most are turning to social media to find it.
Another way to validate is to come prepared with references to name drop that are relevant to that particular customer.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
One thing I know for sure is that we all need to listen. Don’t go into a meeting or discussions like gang busters — no matter how much you know — the first part of the approach should be is to let them talk. Then emphasize what they have said and then relate it to an experience or solution (whichever fits the best), so they know they have been heard. Don’t give the impression you’re pressuring them into a decision then and present information and ideas without talking down or up to them. Be relatable — impart the impression it’s a team not just a company that you’re presenting to them.
What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
I see social media as a necessary evil that can do wonders or a company or can create their downward spiral. It is so important to have social media gurus working for you that have your company’s best interests in mind. The messaging must be clear, concise, and consistent, otherwise it leaves the door open for questions that aren’t answered, information being misquoted or create an air of confusion that will turn people away. It’s also critical to know what type of messaging is best for each type of social media. For example, what I post on LinkedIn most times won’t work on Twitter or Instagram. It’s also important for companies to have policies in place regarding personal social media postings. As many companies and individuals have learned, an inappropriate post by one employee can ruin a company’s reputation by association. However, when each type of social media vehicle is used correctly, the return is substantial — I see it as today’s ‘word of mouth’ that so many companies relied on previously (mostly when they did not have marketing money to spend).
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
It doesn’t matter whether you start out as a small mom and pop business and grow large or start out as a large corporation, the CEO must surround themselves with a team that supports them. There isn’t a CEO around that hasn’t thought they could do it all and then reality hit. When you have the right team, you easily delegate tasks without concern which is critical for the CEO. My situation is unique because I joined a family business. I was able to see the struggles they endured and tried not to repeat them. Think about the rainy day and how to fund it. Whether it be through investments, creating other revenue streams, etc. it’s one area that I believe is underappreciated (at least before COVID hit). Take time occasionally, to evaluate how the money is being spent and are there better mechanisms to put into place that will save the company money.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
For me personally, that would be helping realize that the American Dream is still very much alive and thriving. There are so many more young entrepreneurs (and of course I have to stay many of them young girls) than when I was growing up which is wonderful; but I feel there are still many more staying in the shadows for fear of failure. What I want everyone to learn is that it’s okay to fail — actually to be successful you need to experience failure because that’s when our inner strength and determination kicks in and motivates to try again. With each failure comes great lessons that will eventually provide the greatest outcome.
How can our readers further follow you online?
They can follow me on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/reshmamoorthy
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!