Lots of entrepreneurs will tell you that one impetus for starting their own business was a desire to be their own boss. But not too many come to that realization while they are still in college.
By the time he was barely past 20, Krish Patel knew that one day he’d strike out on his own. But he wasn’t content to wait. By the time Patel was approaching graduation, he was plotting how to open his first Verizon Wireless authorized retail store. Less than five years later, his company Wireless Communications operates 40 stores across four states. Between the stores and corporate operations, his staff numbers 300.
For Patel, running a retail business is the culmination of a lifelong aspiration. He started working in retail when he was just 13. In high school, he did a turn at elestronics giant Best Buy, where he learned to love the expanding universe of wireless technology.
During college, Patel juggled his course load alongside a series of gigs in Verizon’s corporate operations. "I worked my way up the chain," he says. When his business and entrepreneurship class assigned a business plan project, Patel realized he had an opportunity to work toward his dream.
That assignment turned into his first Verizon Wireless Premium Retail store, which he opened in October 2008--five months after college graduation. Funding help came via a Small Business Administration express loan.
Patel’s next goal--there’s always a next goal--is to hit 100 stores in the next five years. But rapid growth doesn’t come without challenges. He’s had to accept, for example, that not everyone who works for the company will bring the same sense of urgency that he does. He’s constantly trying to make sure that message isn’t diffused when it’s spread across geographic areas and business functions. "Now I have 10 or 15 or 20 leaders of the company who have to have the same sense of urgency," Patel says.
A born salesman, not every aspect of running the business is easy for Patel--namely, he’s had to figure out how to lead the non revenue-generating parts of the company, like operations. He’s had to figure out how to coach and motivate staff when there are no sales goals. When it comes to sales, "I know how to react and work on those types of scales." Operational efficiency, on the other hand, which is driven by softer metrics, "is a puzzle."
SIMONA COVEL is a senior editor at Inc. A former Wall Street Journal reporter, she has reported and written on a an extensive range of business and financial issues, from the bond market to small business. Her background also includes roles in content and marketing strategy.