In this age of knowledge workers, you likely understand the value of attracting the right talent. However, understanding and doing are different. One of the most important aspects of attracting the right talent is having a strong culture. The guest today is Mohit Vij, Founder of General Informatics. This company was #3787 on the 2019 Inc 5000 list. They have been blessed to be on the Inc 5000 list six times which is a testament to longevity. We look at the essential principles of attracting the right talent. We discuss how to shape the culture so that talented employees seek you out.
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Mohit Vij: The Transcript
Target Audience: Mohit ‘Mo’ Vij is the CEO of General Informatics. Technologically GI has established itself as a cloud & Telecom Leader by building and operating a geographically redundant cloud and communications infrastructure for its clients. The true testament to GI’s success has been its strategic support to its clients’ growth. Not only GI has grown but it has strongly assisted in its clients’ growth as well. Today GI has a record number of Clients as fastest-growing companies in the INC 500|5000 lists.
I think the leadership style continuously changes. And at this stage, you start finding out that, you know, it’s not just empowerment, you have to first build a context. You have to guide people. You have to bring clarity in what they need to do and how they need to deliver results, and then empower them. So I think the whole idea of your leadership changes that you want to put people in front. You want them to be responsible and accountable, but it cannot be without the context of having very clearly defined what their goals are and how they’re going to measure it.
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [0:47]
We all know its talent is very important to the success of our company. We have to be able to create an environment where talent is attracted to. We have to create space for them to grow as leaders. We have to attentional about creating that space for those people so that they can actually use that talent to move the business forward. We’re going to talk about growing by attracting the right talent. What are the things that you have to be paying attention to? How do you shape the company in such a way that the right talent wants to come here. We also talk about some of the details of leadership today. Our guest is the founder of general informatics. They’re a six Time Inc winner. They are really in a powerful company inside the technology space. The founder of General Informatics is Mohit Vij. And that’s a typical name for me to pronounce. But I wanted to share this with you because the interview I had with Moh will call him is really a powerful one. And there are some details inside here that I think you’re going to want to tune into. One of them is what happens if you’re in a meeting and some new person to the company or an outsider doesn’t know you’re the CEO Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Inside today’s interview, you’ll find out exactly why that’s important inside your journey of leadership.
Gene Hammett [2:10]
Before we dive into that. I want to make sure that you have already tuned into the free training we have. I talk about this a good bit on the podcast because I’m really proud of this training about helping you become the leader your employees crave, by addressing the three mistakes that are often come up inside of growing a company and scaling it fast. Just go to genehammett.com/training. When you think about leadership, I want you to think about this training and about what does it take for you to show up to be the leader that your team craves? Go to genehammett.com/training. Now here’s the interview with Moh.
Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to remind you that you can actually get a tool that I’ve been working with clients with for the last couple of years, I’ve refined this tool this gone through several iterations. Now we have it completely automated, you can actually go online and fill out the Leadership quiz to get the leadership quiz. Just go to theleadershipquiz.com. That’s pretty easy, right? theleadershipquiz.com. What you will get when you do that is you will answer a few questions, you will see where you rate based on the core principles of fast-growth companies. If you’re ready to grow your company or you want to see where you are, then make sure you go to theleadershipquiz.com inside it you will get insight into where you are, understand where you want to improve. And you will get them mapped into the 10 areas that are most specific to fast-growth companies. Again, go to theleadershipquiz.com and you can get that right now.
Gene Hammett [3:37]
Mo, how are you?
Mohit Vij [3:38]
I’m fine, How are you, Gene?
Gene Hammett [3:39]
Fantastic. excited to have you on the podcast to talk about growth and leadership. Tell us about General Informatics.
Mohit Vij [3:48]
Sure. So we were an IT services company but we’ve been you know, I’m in right out of school. I felt like we could do. You could re-engineer the corporations. That was a hot book at that time and then Uh-huh. He said okay with my degrees in operations research and computer science, I said, Okay, this is a right tail thing for me to take on. And I realized I couldn’t sell was as good. So ambit ever tried to do sell the reinjuring corporate core concept. They wanted us to come and fix their computers and or just servers and so we kind of pivoted and where the demand was restarted, plus setting up networks and things like that and then managing and then completely becoming IT department for a lot of companies.
Gene Hammett [4:31]
Now, we didn’t go into this because I didn’t understand that background from you. But operations research is something I studied in school. I was studying, and I didn’t practice either. I think they may be promised in science that I would not actually do the work. But I was an industrial engineer from Georgia Tech.
Mohit Vij [4:49]
I’m an industrial engineer too, Wow!
Gene Hammett [4:53]
The things we find out when we turn this on so I know our team has done some research with you. The company’s, you know, been around for a long time 2001 you would share when you’re an accidental founder? How does that happen?
Mohit Vij [5:07]
Well, it was I was working for a company here. And you know, we started reengineering some of their concepts. And they ended up you can guess from accent originally from India and came here for graduate studies. And so the day I got my green card, they said, Well, if you start a company, we will be your first client. And I hadn’t thought about it. Until then I was like, Sure, I can start a business. And it kind of, and then, as I said, 911 happened. And so we started in 2001, but really didn’t start till 2004. I was the only employee of the company for three years. And then so we always say we started a company in 2004.
Gene Hammett [5:43]
Well, I appreciate that’s going that far back. Right now. You’re sitting at about 80 employees, you’re continuously growing the company, which is impressive. You’ve been on the Inc list six times. What is one thing you’ve learned about leadership? That is very evolved as you’ve grown through this company?
Mohit Vij [6:03]
That’s one of the questions I get.
Gene Hammett [6:04]
I know, it’s not one of the questions.
Mohit Vij [6:07]
But no. So I think the key is like any small business, you start you, you feel you can do something, and then you bring people in to help you and assist you, and it takes a while, then you start hearing empower people, and when you empower people. And that doesn’t work well. And so I think the leadership style, continuously changes. And at this stage, you start finding out that, you know, it’s not just empowerment, you have to first build a context. You have to guide people, you have to bring, bring clarity in what they need to do and how they need to deliver results, and then empowered them. So I think the whole idea of your leadership changes that you want to put people in front. You want them to be responsible and accountable, but it cannot be without the context of having very clearly defined what their goals are and how they’re going to measure it.
Hold on for a second. Mo just talked about empowering people. Let me put a spotlight on empowerment right now. The idea of empowering people is the opposite of micromanagement. the right talent doesn’t want to be micromanaged. In fact, they will leave under those circumstances. So what is empowerment? Well, one part of empowerment is letting people share their ideas, letting people openly talk about opportunities to solve a problem, let them create value for themselves. Let them create, in brainstorm together, it doesn’t have to be always your ideas that when, in fact, the strongest companies are built on a foundation of the CEO and the founders are not the ones coming up with the ideas and the strategies but employees are. The second piece of this sense of empowerment is letting them make decisions, empowering them to have those ideas, and follow through with it. make those decisions so that they know that you have confidence in them, you trust them. Overtime. what you will get is people that are willing to make those decisions when you’re not in the room.
Gene Hammett [7:59]
When you think About the growth of the company getting to 80. And people, a lot of people go, they don’t even want a company that big. But you have found that you’ve one of the key elements of this is the right talent. We all know we need to have talent, you’re in the IT world, we need those talented skilled people that understand the strategy and the execution of these things. How do you make sure you’re getting the right talent?
Mohit Vij [8:24]
So I think the first is Vienna. You’re always in a community, you’re part of a locality. And you know, it’s important to have the right image first of all the right people should apply or get to you, you know, are you approach the right people? So it was important to create an image of our company as the innovation leader locally here. And it was hard and IT services which are very generic areas. So we started working some software and started doing some cool things. So locally, here we are, you know, when it comes to innovation, I think people generally think of our company first. So in that sense, number one, to be creative Right marketing for the talent. And then second is every employee in informatics knows that you know, we encourage them to find the person they want to work with. So everybody’s always hiring. And that’s all. So we always call continuously interviewing people trying to see if we can find the right fit. I think between those two things helps.
Gene Hammett [9:16]
Are you did you say that you’re getting a lot of your new talented people from the inside of the company, they’re identifying their friends or they’re within their network, and they’re telling them this is a great place to work, we’re innovative, and you should come to come work here. Is that kind of the way it works?
Mohit Vij [9:31]
Absolutely. And you know, even not just studying people courses, they have their own interest in because, you know, you tell them that, who do you want to work with? Because once you get the right crop coming in, and they don’t want to be anybody, I mean, everybody says nobody wants to carry unnecessary rain, right? So they try to get the right people and then we also encourage them financially in some sense, you know, many companies do it. But there is some little or something if you get so many good people in the company. So that helps.
Gene Hammett [9:59]
Kind of curious here, moe, what would you share with us about, you know, things that you’ve learned along that journey of hiring people’s, quote-unquote, friends and letting them come in? Is there anything that you’ve mistakes? Maybe you’ve made that you’ve had to address?
Mohit Vij [10:14]
Yeah, sometimes it gets personal. And if you don’t hire somebody, friend, you know, even existing employees get a little offended on that, that, you know, I’m a member, I brought you a great guy. And the second is, you know, sometimes they want to bring their girlfriend in. And, you know, that’s not the best fit. And so we’ve had absolutely those things. And so you have to be balanced. You have to, you know, initially, we tried to kind of see that it’s not just them bringing the friends in the new candidates to need to qualify on a certain basis, certain aspects before we get in.
Gene Hammett [10:48]
Now, I’m going to tell you for a loop here because this is not in your pre-plan questions. But hopefully, it’s a pretty big layup. A lot of I think it companies see that you have to have certain skills Do the work, whether it be, you know, hardware skills, software skills, application development skills, integration skills? Where do you come down on selecting the right people when it comes to culture fit for the company?
Mohit Vij [11:12]
Yeah, no, that’s so and I think that’s part of the growth leadership journey for myself or our senior management team to that Initially, it was a very skill-based outing. And then we realized that it’s not so much about skills, it’s really the attitude and when we say attitude, in fact, you know, in our company values, that’s one of the first things he says he person needs to have the right attitude. And culture starts playing slowly realize that, you know, if you’re not affecting the culture, no matter how skilled you are, are you not going to succeed? So in that sense, you’re absolutely right. You know, any, I think part of the attitude is just for letting these people know that you are in a field, which is very, I mean, your global competition here connected to the internet. So it’s not you need to understand that apart and you need to understand that, you know, unless I deliver results, in the end, it’s not gonna work out. So the attitude, in that case, is really is that it’s not going to be that I’m doing eight to five every day is working an eight to five is good if you give good solid six hours in a day, but if you’re not, it’s about results in the end. So you know, that culture, if the skills are not there, people learn we brought people I’m going to give you an idea.
Mohit Vij [12:23]
We’ve interviewed somebody who had never done programming, we were looking for a programming job. He was a math teacher. And you know, and so we just basically asked him to write some algorithm how they would do in just pure English. And just seeing how he wrote, we put him in touch with another software developer for a month, gave him some PluralSight courses to take. He’s one of our most, you know, one of the best programmers we have today. So there are the skills that still trust. Second is also as a company, I think if we have structured our processes better, we don’t have you know, just do anything on everything, then it’s easier to bring people And into the right path. So then that helps.
Gene Hammett [13:04]
What uncommon approaches have you taken as a leader to try to create a place where this right talent can really flourish?
Mohit Vij [13:13]
First is they should know what I’m doing. It’s very important that you know, do people find that what the work they’re doing is important. And it’s important by the company, and it’s important by your clients, and often our clients end up being a community. So till they understand that you know that what they’re doing is important, becomes important. And then they’re more vested in it. And second, is, I think if we align them with a group, it’s almost that you know, the tribal mentality that you say, okay, your success or your failure is not just your success ability, it’s a failure or success of your team. So creating that bond between them and that their team and becomes also very important for us early on, so that people feel more responsible. It’s not just gonna be about a company is the close group of people they hang out with the need to succeed, you do what they’re doing, I think that hires.
Gene Hammett [14:09]
Mo when you think about your journey as a leader, give us a kind of a picture of a defining moment where something really shaped who you are today.
Mohit Vij [14:19]
You know, I’m kind of one of those leaders who essentially is like, if you’re taking too long, I’ll do it. Okay, you know, wants to jump in. And it’s very difficult to trust people to say if you can do it, right. And I think that goes impediment in our growth, too. We talked about, you know, that how the first few millions, that mentality can work, that attitude convert, and you’re just working hard, and you’re bringing a lot of help in. And then after a while, you get to a place where you realize things have to change. And, you know, that’s where I think the whole process of empowerment of people comes in. And luckily for us, we acquired a company and at that stage, and it was a good understanding.
Mohit Vij [14:59]
It was Anybody sees by the example, you saw that the leader of the companies that became a VP and came in and realized that he could run his own division completely the doubt, you know, by getting in or helping, and it was doing well. And that was an eye-opener that it’s not necessary. It’s just you know, that if you have the right systems in place, and you have clarity of what other person’s goals are, and actually you’re selecting the right person to but even if you take a little while with them, but very clearly hand-holding them, you’re coaching them, and that leadership style, I think, that was a moment for me, changing how I’ll lead the company after that. And I said, Okay, I’m gonna take a back seat here. And you know, and one of the tests became that if somebody comes from outside, they’ll they find out in a meeting who the CEO of the company is, and if they can, then you have succeeded. And, and so, you know, we’ve I would always be in the front and I started taking the back seats and our meetings and just letting people speak and, but always giving them feedback about what happened. So I think that kind of started changing our culture as a couple.
Mohit Vij [16:00]
Hold on for a second, Mo, just talked about the tendency to think I’ll just do it. Now, what does that mean, instead of our companies? Well, in the early days, it means you’ve got the ideas of how you’re going to move forward. But if you’re the only one coming up with ideas, you’re the only one solving problems, this can be very dangerous. I fell into this pattern when I grew my first business, I tried to resist doing it now. But you want to let your employees do it, instead of you thinking you can do it. I’m not doubting the fact that you could probably do it quicker. But eventually, you will have to let go of that. And I’m gonna encourage you to go ahead and look at all the things that you could be letting go, and who you would assign them to. There are some frameworks I use inside my coaching, that I would just urge you to think about this today is all of the things that you say, I’ll just do it is to look at that and examine it for a second and look at what you’re afraid of look at who you could give this to. and think about it, reflect it If you continue to do those things, when will they learn to do it for themselves?
Gene Hammett [17:04]
Mo, I can’t let you just pass that bias. I think it’s a very interesting element there. Inside the meeting, if a new person could not determine who the CEO was, you feel like that’s a success. And I get the concept, but I want to make sure that our audience is plugged in clued in to exactly what you mean by that. So take a little bit deeper.
Mohit Vij [17:27]
Sure. So you know. So I didn’t do it as a goal. But it was interesting because we had a meeting and we have some of our clients came in, they had never met me. And we were doing a demo of the software. And they kept asking questions during one of our senior engineers, and he’s very articulate and everything. Until the end of the meeting, they told me that they thought he was a CEO. And I thought, in a way, I was like, really, but alpha also felt good that you know, that they could Don’t realize who the person who was leading the whole show here. And that was a good thing for us because it meant I could take more vacations now. Right? So, but that was a good point. And then we said, okay, if our people can perform, especially when clients can come in, and they can go over the whole thing and introduce a company and everything, then I think it’s not a single leader, it’s a leader is a company led by leaders, a no and kind of thing. So that became almost an acid test for myself personally, that, okay, we need to be there. And I need to be in one of the people sitting in the audience at that time and see how it goes.
Gene Hammett [18:33]
You know this is a concept that I think a lot of founders are looking to get to, they’re looking to grasp, they no longer have to be in the meetings, they are there because they, they want to be a part of it, but they don’t have to be. And that’s kind of what you’re describing, though, are you being able to sit back and let the team step up to talk about the issues. Talk about the way we’re going to move forward, what you prioritize the different things and you’re able to just sit there and maybe even just be a part of it and not just be the person who directs it. That’s a big change.
Mohit Vij [19:08]
But you know, you’ve got the journey there too, because initially, it was not, it’s very hard to stay quiet when somebody something is being said, you can improve on that, right? So we realize that the key thing was, like I said, In the beginning, was having everybody on the same page and aligned, which means sharing at least your strategy, studying your string of goals and the vision more in a tangible way to the boys.
Gene Hammett [19:32]
I want to give you another one of those easy questions here. We’ve been talking about the right team and leadership. Is there anything else that you feel like has been, you know, critical as the company has grown, you know, over 12 million and hit the Inc list more than six times?
Mohit Vij [19:50]
Well, it’s not that was last year. We’ve done better this year. So I’ll probably be there have to be seven times this year. So I think our numbers are looking much better this year. So we’re so in that sense. I think it’s in this. Yeah, we defined our strategy again. So you know, we said, okay, so it’s almost important to see when you need to, I would say pivot as a more extreme thing. You don’t need to pivot, but you need to realign and you know, at times change some of the things you’re doing. And I think you get into new markets. As your site grows, you’re able to see new things and that opens up new opportunities. So you always want to make sure that you are tuning your strategy not very often. Do we know as you see some new inputs coming in that you know, the company is aligned to take advantage of the new opportunities?
Gene Hammett [20:41]
Well, I appreciate that. That’s probably, well, a good place to stop today because we have to realign to our strategy. Sometimes we have to recast our vision, given what we’ve all been through this Coronavirus and everything. Mo, I appreciate you being here on the show and sharing your wisdom.
Mohit Vij [20:59]
Thank you so much, Gene.
Gene Hammett [21:00]
I love talking about attracting the right talent. attracting the right talent is involves so many things around just the environment and creating a space for opportunity. Today we talked about some of the key elements behind that. But one of them is being the right leader for the right talent. You’ve got to be a strong, influential leader, you’ve got to have a vision, and you got to be able to align people together. The better you are at that, the more likely you can attract the talent that you need to move the business forward. And you can Marshal those resources to be aligned to a shared vision. All of those things are part of leadership. One of the things I love to do is work with leaders to help them through the defining moments of their leadership. If you haven’t already got the free training, make sure you go to genehammett.com/training. If you want to have a conversation with me about your leadership or a challenge you’re facing, I love to get to know you. Send me an email at [email protected].
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