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EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

A Company of Their Own

Software provider Shipco Logistics offers employees a special perk: help starting their own companies and becoming SAP certified.

Talk about a hot perk: Abeezar Tyebji, the 35-year-old CEO of $3-million software provider Shipco Logistics, in Houston, is offering job candidates a chance to develop companies of their own someday.

His secret weapon: the company's products are certified by software maker SAP.

"To be SAP certified is like being the Rolls-Royce of our profession," crows Tyebji, whose golf shirts bear the SAP emblem like a crest. Tyebji believes that SAP certification is the key competitive advantage for his two-year-old company. Now he's leveraging that accreditation to find great workers.

Tyebji tells candidates that a stint at Shipco can help would-be entrepreneurs found SAP-certified businesses of their own.

"The deal is, if you give me a couple of years of your life, you'll have a business of your own," he says. "This is a fact, not just a cliché . I had a chat with someone this morning. When he opens a business, we'll throw him a party."

Tyebji has helped 2 of his 30 employees start their own SAP-certified businesses in just the past 18 months. He says, "Maybe 6 more are on the way." Tyebji provides a buffet of resources for these self-starters, including training, technical expertise, advice on dealing with SAP, and "a captive clientele in the SAP area."

That pattern not only attracts more brash stars to Shipco (for a while) but also helps Tyebji build and focus his business. It's a growth strategy generating not competitors but joint-venture partners that revolve around Shipco. "It is important to have alliances so we can go as a united front to our clients and leverage that," he explains. "We do warehousing-software interface for SAP. One partner does labor-tracking software, and another does manufacturing-execution systems."

The deals are relatively informal. Though Tyebji would like an equity stake in the start-ups, he hasn't managed to get one yet. "You must realize these guys are technocrats -- programmers," he says. "They don't have a very evolved view of how equity works in terms of the whole IT business. But we have a joint marketing effort in any case, so everybody makes money. We share revenues."

The downside, of course, is institutionalized turnover. But Tyebji says he's making the best of a highly mobile labor market. "We call it the extended-family concept," he explains. "You learned core skills with us, and we were able to nurture you in an entrepreneurial spirit. You get your own company and are able to contribute to our well-being, too."

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