|This is part of the “Moving Forward” series offering advice to small business owners on technology, mentorship, productivity, and growth. “Moving Forward” is sponsored by Ink from Chase®. More posts in the series »|
Himanshu Sareen was just 22 when he started web development and IT services company Icreon Tech in Mumbai in 2000. Despite launching just before the tech bubble collapsed, the company has grown rapidly. It now employs hundreds of people on multiple continents and is thriving from its new headquarters in New York City.
Sareen pushed the company forward with a smart management strategy to develop top talent and keep his people happily by his side.
After launching in India with 15 employees, Icreon swelled to more than 200 employees by 2009 and bought out a large partner in London. Now it has over 400 people and several major clients, including PepsiCo, National Geographic, and Fox Movies.
One of the ways the company has set itself apart is through a hiring strategy aimed at one of its biggest challenges. Like many small tech companies, “it’s extremely hard to find high-calibre tech talent,” Sareen says.
Smaller businesses simply can’t compete with the money, benefits, or name power of larger ones, says Sareen. So Icreon turns to other tactics to get good people. The first is hiring young people and training them rather than poaching them from elsewhere.
“We often end up bringing in very smart young kids with an engineering background and a lot of passion and help them get experience,” Sareen says.
The second is offering the kind of broad experience that big companies often can’t. At a major tech company, employees usually end up working on a small part of the business or for one client. They typically do the same job over and over because it makes the most business sense at that scale, but it also gets boring.
Sareen makes a point to actively move people around, and he encourages them to take ownership of their projects, which he says helps attract independently minded talent. Even as Google’s famously entrepreneurial culture is becoming more regimented, Icreon gives developers time and budgets to work on their own stuff.
Providing employees ample development and opportunities for growth also feeds back into Sareen’s customer strategy.
The mission at Icreon was always to become a value-based supplier, which meant moving towards closer customer involvement and is why he relocated headquarters to be near its clients in 2010. It would have been hard to rely on people to add unique value if they spent months or years on end doing the same task without additional training, he says.
As the company has grown, Sareen has also faced a steep learning curve. Getting people to take him seriously in his 20s, weathering the tech bubble’s burst, and competing in a crowded marketplace hasn’t always been easy. And, since he lacked early stage investors or advisors, Sareen says his blissful ignorance when he started out may have been a blessing.
“I would not have liked to know the crazy hours that I would have to work, the sleepless nights I would have, or the challenges that we would have to face,” Sareen says. “In not knowing, we were less fearful, and we just met our obstacles head on.”
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