Chintan Shah is managing partner and president at KNB Communications, a marketing and PR company based in the New York City metropolitan area. As a professional, he specializes in communications, marketing, and sales. He is also “passionate about applying technology and innovation to solve problems, especially in healthcare.”
As an executive in today’s hyper-competitive digital economy, Chintan Shah believes that technology will be the source of healthcare improvement, which is why he is thrilled “about marketing new products and services that help people live better lives through disruptive, but easy-to-use technology.”
Among Chintan Shah’s many specialties are “Communications and Public Relations, Global Sales & Marketing, Launching New Technology, Strategy Development” and “Value Proposition Creation.”
Chintan Shah has also spent a career developing “both short term and long term strategic plans to grow businesses and create specialized sales and marketing partnerships.” He also has extensive experience “building teams of professionals and setting targeted goals and objectives,” and “leading a team to overachieve results and drive growth.” Also, he has international working experience, after working for a Swedish company. He also engaged in partnerships with companies in the Netherlands, France, and Germany.
Before becoming president of KNB, Chintan Shah served as the company’s Executive Vice President.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Chintan Shah: I am a proud Wisconsinite, born and raised in a suburb of Milwaukee. My parents are immigrants from India and instilled in me that education is among the most important values in life. As a child, in addition to playing sports, I learned about business and healthcare. My father led marketing for Blue Cross Blue Shield and my mother was an x-ray technologist. I learned about HMOs and PPOs well before most kids my age. While other kids were on the playground, I read Lee Iacocca’s autobiography in the 4th grade. I was inspired by Iacocca’s dream; and my first business venture was selling homegrown alfalfa sprouts at a stand in our neighborhood! I wasn’t selling a brand-new car, but I had determination at a young age. Little did I know then that those business and healthcare lessons would serve me well later in my career and my life.
I attended the University of Wisconsin — Madison and always intended to pursue a career in business. As kids, my brother and I were taught to set goals — memorialize them in writing and they can become reality. So, we did. My goals after graduation included moving to New York City, working for a large company, and starting to build a successful career. Each one of those goals became reality.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Chintan Shah: With success comes obstacles — however, giving up was not an option. Earlier in my career I joined a mid-sized Swedish company and took on a marketing manager role tasked with bringing a new, paradigm-shifting product to the US market. My goal was to build a launch plan and commercialize the product to sell into US hospitals. I eagerly traveled around the country, demonstrating the product for physicians and department heads, believing that this new product would truly help reduce risks for physicians. After a couple of months, I had visited dozens of hospitals, many of which were in either urban centers with incredibly challenging infrastructures or rural areas with variable needs for new technology. About 3 months into this role it became apparent that commercializing this product would be much more challenging than I had initially anticipated — a feeling I clearly remember when I was a young boy selling homegrown alfalfa sprouts at the stand in my neighborhood. There were numerous meetings that were cancelled or cut short. I thought to myself, I must keep going. Finding time, especially enough time with physicians can be tough. While these experiences did challenge me, I never considered giving up. In fact, this challenge motivated me even more to make this product successful because of what I knew it would provide for those clinical staff members who used it. That’s important: believing in what you’re selling. I also knew that a successful launch would set me on a positive trajectory for my own career. I embraced the entrepreneurial nature of this business and ultimately made it a success.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Chintan Shah: My first job when I graduated from college was in sales with IBM. I was assigned a senior sales representative to shadow. After just a couple of weeks, I had learned enough about our product offering to be dangerous but hardly enough to speak to technical details. At the office one day, my mentor introduced me to another IBMer who took an interest in my role and started asking me questions. In my eagerness to show what I had learned, I started providing an in-depth overview of our product. That led to more questions and more specific technical details I was clearly unable to answer. It turns out that I had walked right into a little friendly newbie prank. The gentleman I had been introduced to was one of the most senior technical specialists for our product line. He had 35+ years of IBM engineering experience and he and my mentor were simply seeing how far I could talk before digging a big hole for myself!
I learned 3 key traits:
- Be humble — never assume you know more than someone else.
- Know to whom you are talking — always proactively ask who someone is, about their role and really listen so that you can know who they are.
- Do not take yourself too seriously — I could have been embarrassed and humiliated by that experience. Instead, I took it for what it was, a friendly prank and introduction to the team. I ended up building a great relationship with the senior engineer and he became a valuable resource for me who always made himself available.
Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Perspective — be willing to acknowledge that each person brings a different perspective. Companies that embrace varying perspectives and capitalize on them will be more creative, solutions-oriented and welcoming.
- Expertise — chart the course of the business based on a foundation of the expertise you bring.
- Excitement — always be excited about what you are doing. If you find that your work no longer excites you, change course and locate that motivation. If you cannot, it may be time to make a change. Life is too short to do something you do not enjoy.
- Effectiveness — great companies produce strong results. Measuring those results and reaching stretch goals separates the good from the great.
- Engagement — identify ways to make your customers into your advocates. The more you build a brand, the more your customers will help sell on your behalf.
Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Chintan Shah: Purpose gives your staff, your employees and your customers a meaning to coalesce behind. When that concept resonates, the brand becomes about more than the revenues and profits the business generates. It drives behavior, creates loyalty and often a satisfaction of providing to the greater good of the community. Our business is within the healthcare industry. Our team is passionate about improving how healthcare is delivered and the role technology plays in patient outcomes because we are all patients at some point in our lives. That is our purpose.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Chintan Shah: Your customers and your prospects are savvy. Provide them value and they will be loyal. Offer information, a tip, a free service or better way of growing their business. Give them a taste of how you can help them.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Chintan Shah: Trust, at its core, is about reliability. If a brand delivers exactly what its messaging promises, or works quickly to correct any instances where it falls short, a trusted reputation ensues.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!