If you're not a prepubescent boy, we forgive you for not knowing the story of Seto Kaiba, the Yu-Gi-Oh! antihero -- and CEO of his own multinational gaming company -- who holds the virtually undefeatable blue-eyed white dragon dueling card. It's the trump of the anime world, and it makes Kaiba the greatest gamer in all of Japan. He is both feared and respected.
Tel Ganesan didn't know the legend of Kaiba in 2010, when he asked his son, then a fourth-grader, for help in rebranding his business. He'd started the company -- originally known as Vision Tech Solutions -- back in 1997 as an independent IT staffing-solution provider for Chrysler, booking $500,000 in revenue. As the business grew, he invested its earnings back into the company, acquiring two smaller businesses in 2007 and 2008. But when Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, the auto industry was "hunkered down to minimize damage," Ganesan recalls. "As our customers went down, we went down with them. We were too exposed."
To bounce back and move forward, it needed a new, unified name. Ganesan had already paid a marketing firm $3,000 to propose 100 monikers, none of which grabbed him. "Perhaps my 11-year-old can do better," he thought. He was right. Vision Tech Solutions and its new acquisitions were soon reborn as Kyyba.
What's remarkable is that Kyyba has done far more than minimize the Chrysler damage. From 2010 to 2013, the company grew 123 percent. And with annual revenue near $30 million today, Kyyba is once again eyeing acquisition targets, Ganesan says.
What are the secrets to Kyyba's continued growth, even in tough economic times? Ganesan offers these three insights:
1. Treat everyone like an entrepreneur.
"I'm not a micromanager," Ganesan asserts, "because when people are empowered, amazing things happen."
To encourage employees' natural curiosity and drive, Kyyba pairs up each new hire with a senior team member and asks them to collaborate on a project. For example, a recent college graduate joined forces with a CPA on staff to implement the cloud solution SAP Business ByDesign. "I tell my employees, 'Make your own decisions,'" he says. "'If you're not creating problems, then you're not trying hard enough. Just don't make the same mistake twice.'"
2. Hire for hunger.
"Two to three years ago, I looked for all the standard things when interviewing a job candidate. But even with the great resume and interview, I found a lot of people couldn't move the needle," Ganesan says. "Now I look for one thing: Is the person hungry? Experienced people can be complacent. Who cares if they have rock-star experience if they can't put it to work? In my experience, passion and energy trump experience every time."
3. Diversify through acquisitions.
In the IT consulting business, a solid sales team can mean the difference between growth and stagnation. Hiring the right salespeople and getting them up to speed efficiently is perhaps the biggest talent challenge Kyyba faces, Ganesan says.
"By the time I figure out whether a sales guy is really good, a year has gone by," he notes. Bringing on strong talent -- and profitable clients -- through acquisitions generally means growth comes faster and with fewer risks, Ganesan says. Plus, acquisitions have allowed Kyyba to break into territories and industries (namely the financial industry in the Northeast and the oil and gas industry in Dallas) that it never could have organically. "That is where we should be, finding people in local markets with contacts and history."