Ajay Prasad is a serial entrepreneur, digital marketing strategist and founder of GMR Web Team, a digital marketing agency and RepuGen, a healthcare reputation management software. His areas of expertise include marketing management, business development, consumer research, market analysis, and strategic planning.
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Table of Contents
Welcome to your ValiantCEO exclusive interview! Let’s start with a little introduction. Tell us about yourself.
Ajay Prasad: I am an experienced corporate executive who became a serial entrepreneur in my late 40s. My corporate experience includes senior marketing positions at Denny’s, Mattel, Family Restaurant, NAVTEQ, and Magellan. I have founded/co-founded five profitable companies; independent team members manage three, and I manage the other two.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get to where you are today? Give us some lessons you learned along the way.
Ajay Prasad: I came from a middle-class family and got the value of education instilled from the very beginning. As a child, I was focused on finishing my education, and I looked for a good-paying job after graduation. I was fortunate to find my first mentor in my very first job. He encouraged me to think about where I want to see myself in my professional career.
Upon reflection, I decided to aim to become a CEO. My mentor encouraged me to identify some CEOs I admire and study how they reached the top. I studied several famous and some not-so-famous CEOs and picked and chose their attributes that I would adopt, and tried my best to follow those attributes when I reached the leadership role. I did become a CEO for a venture-funded company after 15 years of experience and later went to a consumer electronics company to head new product development. I started my entrepreneurial journey to get better control over my destiny.
I decided to develop several small businesses that can be managed by a small team independently rather than a huge one. Now that I have four profitable small businesses, I am attempting to grow my fifth startup to a large $100M+ market value company. My life lessons:
- – It would be best to think of a broader goal rather than specific ones for your life.
- – The secret of a happy life is making sure to enjoy your journey while pursuing your goals.
- – You can only connect dots looking back, so don’t worry about immediately getting a positive ROI from every activity.
- – Trust your gut, and you will be generally right.
- – The situation changes all the time, so you need to react and pivot if needed.
- – Follow your passion up to a point. It is easier to persevere about ideas you are passionate about, but you can also chase improbable dreams.
- – Improve your knowledge throughout your life, which will help you navigate changes better.
Tell us about your business, what does the company do? What is unique about the company?
Ajay Prasad: I have started five successful businesses, each inspired by the needs of others.
- GMR Web Team — A digital marketing agency for small businesses, later repositioned as a healthcare digital marketing agency.
- GMR Transcription — A transcription company for academic and business. I developed this business to test the marketing methods of the digital marketing agency because I did not want to make my clients a guinea pig for my ideas. My good intention paid off when the transcription business took off and became a profitable business.
- FirstBit Technology — A technology company to fulfill all development and marketing tasks of my other businesses and other digital marketing agencies.
- Transcription Certification Institute — A online training platform to train new transcriptionists for my transcription business.
- RepuGen — A SaaS platform designed to help healthcare providers align online reviews with their actual patient satisfaction.
Each business was developed to support other businesses and became independently profitable. I attribute the success of each business to our relentless focus on providing above-average returns for our customers’ investment.
How to become a CEO? Some will focus on qualities, others on degrees, how would you answer that question?
Ajay Prasad: The basic qualification to become is CEO to first master either operations, finance, marketing, human resources, or legal part of the business, depending on your organization.
You also need the following attributes:
- – Vision for the company and ability to articulate your vision to associates and the marketplace.
- – Empathy for your employees, needed to get them excited to follow you.
- – Build a strong team.
- – Let your team members run with the ball.
What are the secrets to becoming a successful CEO? Who inspires you, who are your role models and why? Illustrate your choices.
Ajay Prasad: I am inspired by visionaries who relentlessly pursue excellence. Steve Jobs is a perfect example of a CEO who focused on excellence to the exclusion of every other factor and managed to build the most valuable company in the world.
Many CEOs fall into the trap of being all over the place. What are the top activities a CEO should focus on to be the best leader the company needs? Explain.
Ajay Prasad: CEOs should focus on the business’s overall performance and not individual activities. The best leaders:
- – Trust their lieutenants and let them handle their job, not micromanage them.
- – Are low-key, let their people share the glory of success, and take responsibility for failures.
- – Manage their team such that everyone is focused on the overall business goal, not personal or department goals, to ensure optimal performance.
- – Are completely impartial towards their employees.
- – Don’t let their likes/dislikes dictate their decisions.
The Covid-19 Pandemic put the leadership skills of many to the test, what were some of the most difficult challenges that you faced as a CEO/Leader in the past year? Please list and explain in detail.
Ajay Prasad: The most difficult challenge was the disruption of my client’s business routine and my staff, including the sickness and death of loved ones.
We had to:
- – work remotely for the first time.
- – needed to support clients who were also facing the same challenges.
- – adjusted the services to pivot to the new client requirements.
What are some of the greatest mistakes you’ve noticed some business leaders made during these unprecedented times? What are the takeaways you gleaned from those mistakes?
Ajay Prasad: Some mistakes I observed were
- – Businesses did not pivot to the new situation quickly.
- – Businesses did not adjust to the new customer requirements due to the pandemic.
The difference between the businesses that disappeared vs. ones that survived the pandemic was their ability to quickly pivot to the new business environment created by their customers’ changed behaviors.
In your opinion, what changes played the most critical role in enabling your business to survive/remain profitable, or maybe even thrive? What lessons did all this teach you?
Ajay Prasad: We focused on customer retention instead of acquisition during the pandemic. For example, we quickly pivoted to add patient engagement features to our reputation management platform to help healthcare providers stay in touch with their patients to educate them about Covid-19 and encourage them to use telemedicine for treatment.
This pivot helped healthcare providers generate revenue when their offices were closed because of the pandemic and retain them through regular engagement. It helped RepuGen retain the clients who would have otherwise paused their accounts, thus kept on generating recurring revenue.
The big lesson is to always look for a win-win outcome in business.
What is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Ajay Prasad: Our biggest challenge is keeping my clients and prospects motivated about the benefits of our products and services despite the distractions of labor shortage, supply chain issues, etc., that they face post-pandemic.
You already shared a lot of insights with our readers and we thank you for your generosity. Normally, leaders are asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is the most useless skill you have learned, at school or during your career?
Ajay Prasad: The most useless skill for me has been connecting business results with macro events. I see it as an excuse for not taking appropriate steps in response to a macro-level challenge. My experience taught me that most businesses could navigate macro issues if their leaders had the imagination and foresight.
The best example is how the post-pandemic supply chain problem has devastated some retailers while others are flourishing because they foresaw the problem and took steps to work around it.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. We will select these answers for our ValiantCEO Award 2021 edition. The best answers will be selected to challenge the award.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make, this past year 2021, for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Ajay Prasad: My most difficult decision was the change of business model designed to adjust to the new norms, resulting in letting go of some associates because their skills did not match the new requirements. While it was difficult, the resulting reorganization resulted in better products and services for my clients and made my company more stable for the employees we retained.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Ajay Prasad for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Ajay Prasad or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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