EXECUTIVE PROFILE – PART 3 of 3
Seek first to understand
During his 15-year tenure as NetSapiens’ CEO, Anand Buch learned some lessons about leadership. When asked about his principles, the first thing Anand references is what’s on his office wall. It’s a framed quote from Stephen R. Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that reads, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”
Anand continues, “I also believe more heads are better than one. Another thing is that you have to continue to adapt to the way people operate over time. And you have to be transparent and have humility. Vulnerability is not a bad thing. We’re all human.”
David Wang says this about his cofounder, “Anand is reasonably well-known and respected in our industry, hence his leadership is way beyond just our company. As a representative of a small company, these achievements are owed solely to him as an individual, in how he articulates our values and causes to the world, and the rapport he established with others.”
From his experience of leading NetSapiens, Anand says he’s gained clarity about where it’s best to spend his time. “You may be able to do something better than someone else, but it may not be the best use of your time for the company.”
Another startup leadership lesson Anand wants to share, “Everything takes longer than you think. So your worst-case planning may in fact only be your mid-range planning.”
“I am a big believer in servant leadership, purposeful leadership, and that it takes a village to succeed. Profit is a means not an end. Profit to fulfill a purpose. But I do agree with Steve Mihaylo (Crexendo’s CEO) that ‘profit is not a dirty word.’”
Since the official merger of the two companies in June, 2021, Anand has relinquished his CEO of NetSapiens title and is now CSO (chief strategy officer) at Crexendo. Anand says his new role is to help guide the corporation. The challenge is the organization is now double the size and there’s a new set of people, new products, new services to become acquainted with.
“Obviously, there’s going to be a transition for both companies into one organization. We’re going to have to be patient. I’ve had 18 years of built up trust with my co-founders. We can almost finish each other’s sentences. So I expect it’s going to take a year or so before we are a unified organization with a new culture.”
Much more experimentation
When asked to share his thoughts on the future of the UCaaS (unified communications as a service) and NetSapiens/Crexendo, Anand offered the following:
“So much more experimentation with respect to applications needs to be done. This is what needs to happen now and continue to happen in the future. The industry should not be driven by the underlining tech. We need to truly understand the use cases. We need to look beyond commoditization of communications. It’s all about the uniqueness of individuals. One size doesn’t fit all.”
“There is a tendency to go after the vertical and build a product that meets the needs of 80%. It’s much more about the individual. I think we need to be slicing and dicing the end users differently. Not by vertical or region but by how people use the product.”
Why would MS cannibalize its revenue channels?
Regarding the threat of Microsoft someday successfully integrating unified communications with its Office apps, Anand says, “I think there’s a lot of opportunity in the fragmented space. No matter how big, a vendor is still going to need to access end users via the service provider. And the market is so big even if Microsoft takes 60% of it, the remaining 40% is still huge. Personally, I don’t think Microsoft will want to cannibalize its revenue channels. That’s bad business.”
“We have to continue to innovate and stay relevant. We have to play in the ecosystem. Collaboration is where things are moving to.”
When asked if there’s anything he would like the world to know about his co-founder that may not be well known or appreciated, David says, “Anand cares a lot about everybody that works for us, that are customers of ours, partners of ours, and the well being of the world in general. Over the years, many decisions have been made for the better of many others, at the expense of himself, but he’s never regretted it.”
Mamta Buch, Anand’s wife, echoes David’s sentiments, “I have seen Anand grow in his confidence in his own abilities and decisions. He truly cares about all of his employees and customers, and wants to find the right place/solution for them. In some cases, this has been at personal cost to himself. He is a man with much integrity and this is of utmost importance to him — as it should!”
Anand concludes, “I’ve always been a fundamentalist. I believe ‘You pay me and in return I give you value.’ It’s quite simple. Our vision has always been there to help small and medium sized businesses do the same as big corporations. We want to democratize telecommunications. NetSapiens has always been about giving end users choices by energizing service providers to innovate better and to create better offerings.”
Anand’s advice for budding entrepreneurs
Over the years, I have been asked to provide advice by other entrepreneurs and while certainly not ever formalized, I am happy to share some key points that are a result of my learnings after two decades of leadership with NetSapiens:
- Things always take longer than you expect.
- It’s extremely difficult without having the right support structure around you (i.e going solo is tough, so you need to have people equally committed that you need to jump in with you and that are like-minded — and you also want to have a good set of “not of like mind” advisors around you. Make sure you try to cover a variety of perspectives.
[We started NetSapiens with four of us taking equal ownership in the business. Of the original four, there are only two of us left. However, we still maintain the same principle with the only ”normalization” being taken place in the form of different risk/reward equations for people that join at different times in the company’s life-cycle. We have one other non-operating board member and probably around seven or eight advisors.]
- You need to focus on getting paying customers sooner rather than later. This is your window into understanding your market and testing any hypotheses that you may have about your business model — and the fundamental value you are proposing.
- You need to eat what you cook. You need to be your own customer. If you don’t buy in and use your own products, why would anyone else?
- Your reward in all of this may come in forms you don’t even know exist at the moment. However, you have to stay determined if you believe in what you do.[I had an 18-month personal economic window that I was still pushing almost a decade later. We were far from where I wanted to be “economically” when I set out. However, I had gained so much “wealth” in other areas of my life that I was very happy with my progress.]
- You should start operating like a business from Day One. Put all of your working capital in one place and start executing on your plan — including paying yourself something and paying some of your “infrastructure” right from the get go. This will help you get to your true cost management sooner than later (i.e. accruing and/or making sure you are writing personal loans from you to the company on the books and being tracked).
Start managing the P&L (profit and loss) to move towards cash flow from Day One. You need to do this by first growing your revenues and managing your expenses so you can get to book profitability followed by positive cash flow. The Sales – Expenses balancing act will force you to make business decisions based on fundamentals.
In conjunction, look at your long term vision ALL THE TIME and let this drive your investment decisions in the business. The balancing act will come from ROI (return on investment) and available resources to “invest” in a decision. This tactical versus strategic balance is essential.
- There is no “silver bullet.”
In Part 1 of Anand Buch’s profile, he discusses his life and career before co-founding NetSapiens.
In Part 2 of Anand Buch’s profile, he spills the tea about the beginnings of NetSapiens.
Meet the Team profiles offer insights into the backgrounds, experiences, and lives of NetSapiens’ founders and company leaders. We are always focused on the NetSapiens mission, which is to become the best B2B provider of unified communications, video conferencing and collaboration, and contact center solutions for service providers.