Ash Ashutosh | Crain's Boston

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Ash Ashutosh

Background:  

Based in Waltham, Mass., Actifio helps customers in dozens of countries around the world with cloud storage and data management.

The Mistake:

We were so delighted to see so many customers wanting to buy our stuff that we forgot to pay attention to the other metrics.

About five years ago, when our company was a few years old, ... parts of the business were growing much faster than the rest of the business. We were pioneers in this market, and that's the good news. But the bad news is we were growing so fast we didn't take the time go back and repair some of those parts where the business wasn't working.

We were selling in dozens of countries, and we were quickly spreading ourselves thin. We found ourselves growing well over 300 percent, but we also found that there was an enormous backlog of customers who truly needed to start using the product. It was like we were a truck, and the engine in the front part of it was just going amazingly fast and for some reason the rest of it was stuck in the ground and trying to catch up.

We had lots of customers and lots of happy sales people. The burden for us was to measure customer satisfaction. And we found that we needed to add in a significant number of people to help make that happen. And finding the right skills, the right people, that takes a lot of time.

So we ended up having to spend the next year and a half actually slowing down the business and making sure the fundamental business was successful. Now 70 percent of our business comes from existing customers, and that wasn't the case before we slowed down.

We had lots of customers and lots of happy sales people. The burden for us was to measure customer satisfaction.

The Lesson:

We had a lot of customers, and many were buying repeatedly, but we didn't check in on how happy our existing customers were. So we had to slow down and focus on that.

You have to realize that the success of the business truly includes every facet of the business. A lot of companies have this mentality that, “We're a technology company,” or “We're a sales company or a support company.” And the realization is that, at least in the technology sector, you are all of the above. You have to be incredible on the sales side, and you need to make sure that you've got all three pillars: your customer base, customer support, and your customer satisfaction. You almost have to watch all three align before you start expanding, because any one of them out of whack will throw off your whole company.

If I could do it again, I'd probably slow down and not rush into 50 countries as soon as we could. I'd say, “Let's stay with 20, get them happy, and worry about the other 30 a few years from now.”

 

Photo courtesy of Actifio

​Follow Ash Ashutosh on Twitter at @ashashutosh.