Saagar Govil is not your typical millennial. After graduating college with an engineering degree, he had plenty of offers from fast growing software giants, but he chose instead to work as an engineer in an underperforming company in which his family had invested. Cemtrex, Inc. was focused on providing industrial environmental monitoring and control systems. They were only 10 employees, were losing money and had little direction on where to go. Govil dug in and learned the business from bottom up. Thanks to Govil's keen insights and strategies, he worked his way up fast through management, and at the age of 25 in 2012, he earned the top role of CEO.
Govil, an active member of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), has since grown the company exponentially in the green and environmental technology sector where many others have failed. He has grown revenues and profits while at the same time doing incredible things for the environment.
Govil's strategy was to re-focus Cemtrex products on emerging markets that were growing rapidly in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South America. He capitalized on domestic oil & gas fracking markets, mining sectors, and the power industry. Instead of providing piece meal products like his competitors, he now provides turnkey solutions for companies to solve their entire array environmental issues.
Govil's tactics were simple: target specific regions of emerging economies with growing middle classes that would demand a better environmental quality of life. Then, provide a low cost solution as entry point in those markets. As a result, each successful region Cemtrex penetrates opens others to its products.
Through smart acquisition and a dedicated customer focus, Govil has grown Cemtrex in three short years to be a $50 million environmental and technology conglomerate. The company is now on pace for $75 million in revenue this year. I asked Govil how he has managed to outperform executives with three times his experience. Here are his guiding principles that allow him to continually succeed beyond market expectations.
1. Take it on.
Govil has a clear view on accountability. He shared his perspective, "If you take ownership of something, it becomes yours." Like many millennials, he could have waited for others in the company to fix the problems and tell him what to do. He chose instead to step up and improve the company on his own. He saw the opportunity and proved to himself and everyone else that he was the best person to make the most of it. His father taught him: "Authority is not given, it is taken." Govil took the authority and made the CEO choice obvious to the board with his actions.
2. Power Through Your Problems
Govil took over the company with relative inexperience and faced challenges for which he may not have considered himself ready. But his life attitude allows him to push through those obstacles with strength and confidence. Govil states his simple approach to dealing with problems: "There is no value in worrying about something or stressing out, you just have to sift through whatever it is and deal with it."
3. Prioritize the work.
Running a company of hundreds with projects worldwide requires exceptional organizational skills. While many millennials are just getting their rhythms in place, Govil is meticulously organized so he can focus his brain on the bigger issues like growing the company. He values daily lists: "Lists are what get you done through the week and day, otherwise it's chaos." He believes strongly in prioritization as a key to success. "If you are not solving your top five problems, then you are not growing."
4. Empower Productivity.
So much is written about millennials wanting or needing to multitask. Govil doesn't subscribe to that approach for his own productivity. He advocates blocks of clear space, acknowledging that he cannot multitask and is most productive when he turns off the emails and puts on some classical music. "Don't check your emails every second because people can wait. I get my best done when I have undivided attention."
5. Ask the right questions.
He did not always have all of the answers to problems but noted having all the answers was not essential to being successful. He just needed to ask the right questions to find the solutions. "You don't have to be the smartest person and know every detail, but you have to know what questions to ask and that comes from the problem-solving mentality."
6. Use mistakes to learn.
As a millennial, Govil knows he still has a lot to learn and experience. Although he values reading Warren Buffet and Chet Holmes, he considers experimentation critically important and has a healthy attitude towards making mistakes. He believes that mistakes are inevitable regardless of age or experience. It is how you bounce back from them and learn from them that will determine success. He explains,"You are going to make mistakes and will learn the hard way. But that's the name of the game. You realize you have to step up your game and get better."
7. Respect Is Key To Victory
Cemtrex has acquired several companies, and Govil always has to make the new leadership comfortable with his youth. He understands that being a millennial often makes it more difficult to win over older employees and clients. He approaches the situation this way: "Demonstrate respect and concern for employees and customers and credibility comes along with it." Govil gives a lot of leeway to his acquisitions to continue doing what they do best and instead focuses on helping them do more things better with the company resources.
8. Give people ownership
Govil has 12 direct reports at Cemtrex. Most are over the age of 50 and have at least 20 years experience on him, but he sees the age difference as a benefit to everyone. The differing perspectives help shape a vision with that is both fresh and has a solid experienced foundation. To motivate his senior team he equates ownership with empowerment. His philosophy is simple: "Let your people all think like an owner. And once you think like an owner, it's not a generational thing anymore." He creates incentives for his team that are ownership based and allows them to grow the company as they see fit so everyone can win.
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