Lakshmi Kodali, a founder of LAD Solutions and of Privme.com, has always looked to learn the “next step” in his plan to be an entrepreneur, and to always be moving forward. Before beginning his own entrepreneurial journey, he set out to learn everything necessary. He advises that other aspiring entrepreneurs also try to learn all they can about business in their field – even work for your future competitor, pick their brains and prepare yourself for your future business.
It was always among Lakshmi’s goals to start a company; he wanted to be in the tech service industry. Like many entrepreneurs, his goal was not to simply make money, but as he says, to become something in life so that people will remember him when he’s dead.
Halfway through his Master’s program, Lakshmi met David, who was his mentor in an internship at David’s company. After his months of internship, Lakshmi was ready to move on, feeling that he’d learn what he could and was ready for the next step. At the conclusion of the internship, David and Lakshmi decided to found LAD Services, along with a third partner. The company would focus on digital marketing, expanding from mainly SEO at the beginning, to a wide array of services, including app and web development, e-commerce and remarketing.
In 2009, when they were getting starting, it was a new industry. They couldn’t hire “experts” because there weren’t any, so they looked for the smartest people, who at least had an idea of what a website was and how it worked.
Lakshmi recommends a structured training program, and includes the following important points:
- Develop a structured workflow
- Train one person, or just a couple, who in turn train and supervise others
- Train in person when possible; also use Skype, videos, notes
In LAD’s first year, there were about 15 employees and revenues exceeded $1 million, so that they were able to scale up. Their first clients came through word of mouth, and they were able to build and grow through the trust and reputation they built.
But they also had lessons to learn about marketing. They started by reaching out to whatever business they could find, but realized they needed to focus. Now, they only focus on prospects that need their services, that have the money to pay for them, and would be willing to start within the same quarter. Each salesperson is expected to contact 400 quality contacts per month, with the hopes of getting 10 new clients.Main responsibilities for e-commerce is to have product selection and have good marketing.
The year 2012 was brutal for SEO. Google algorithm changes led to about 80% of LAD’s clients dropping in search engine rank. Clients were upset; they were losing money. A lot of them dropped LAD completely. In order not to lose more, Lakshmi and the team offered deep discounts or sometimes even worked for free while trying to figure out the new set of rules. In the end, this year saw a deep drop in revenue, back under a million; it also led for the need to cut the staff by about half.
LAD has developed and expanded its services, and is always looking for more clients. At times, they can’t take everyone on, because too much is required in terms of resources to make it happen as swiftly as needed. But by 2015, they’d recovered completely and revenues were between $3.5 and $4 million.
Lakshmi’s latest project is Privme. It offers discounts similar to Groupon, but is much more focused, so that those who receive offers have shown the spending patterns and interest in the type of product being offered.
Lakshmi’s Advice for Entrepreneurs:
- develop a business that provides your bread and butter income, then move to a passion
- Have a mentor
- Make money for somebody else, so you can learn; but do it for 6 months then move on
Andrew Carnegie (biography) by David Nasaw
Lakshmi [at] privme [dot] com