Reena Gupta is CEO of TargetRecruit LLC, a talent management ecosystem built on the Force.com platform. Founded in 2008, Reena’s vision was to build an integrated platform for CRM and ATS.
Reena was running an IT staffing firm when one of the clients approached her and said, “We just purchased Salesforce.com and we don’t know what to do with it.” Reena instantly fell in love with the platform and specialized her company to be the first SF partner in Tennessee. In 2007, her company become one of the first ten companies to be incubated by Salesforce and there was no looking back after that. TargetRecruit is now an end-to-end talent management platform with an ecosystem of customizable apps, helping organizations make their business operations efficient.
Tell me about your early career.
I started working as an Access developer in the early years of my career for an IT company. I was always fascinated by programming and kept learning new languages, from ColdFusion to Java. My first entrepreneurial venture was starting a Java users group in Nashville, through which I built connections with leading industry experts. I kept taking aggressive career jumps and became a chief technical architect within four years. I started Avankia in 2002 as a consultant for McGraw-Hill.
How did the concept for Avankia come about?
I was working for a startup that was run by the mayor of Tennessee. It was later bought over by McGraw-Hill and I lost my job in the process. But that was the best thing that ever happened to me. McGraw-Hill called me back within a month, but I was pregnant. So, I established Avankia as a sole proprietor and joined McGraw-Hill as a part-time consultant.
I saw the need for more resources at the company, due to the aggressive growth plans for their product. I knew the product very well (I designed it), and I decided to scale the team. I converted Avankia to an IT staffing company and started placing resources on the project. My first employee was a stay-at-home mom who was a good friend of mine. Slowly, she took over my job and I started focusing on Avankia. In the first few years, Avankia grew tenfold and we added many more clients.
But more importantly, I consider 2008 as a milestone in my entrepreneurial life, when I founded TargetRecruit, an end-to-end talent management platform. While I was running Avankia, one of my clients said, “We just purchased Salesforce.com and we don’t know what to do with it.” I instantly fell in love with the platform and specialized my company to be the first SF partner in Tennessee. When the Force.com platform was launched, I thought of building an integrated platform for CRM and ATS. After that, there was no looking back, and I started TargetRecruit in 2008.
How was the first year in business?
The first year of Avankia was as smooth as it could’ve been. I was working with some very nice clients. For TargetRecruit, it was a product that I created, designed, and built. When you are so close to a concept and believe in it, the rest becomes easy. The company doubled in size in the first few years of operation. We are one of those handful of companies that made a profit in the first year of business.
What was your marketing strategy?
We do have a digital and field marketing strategy, like any other B2B company. But AppExchange, the business app store from Salesforce, gives us headway in achieving our marketing goals. I believe, “Happy customers are loud and unhappy ones are louder.” My team and I exclusively focus on getting good reviews from our customers and ensure that we have enduring relationships with them.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We were featured on the Inc. 500 in the first few years, so we were definitely doing pretty well, clocking double-digit growth, YOY.
How do you define success?
I tell this to my kids all the time. Spiritually, success is having a smile on your face in the end.
Success is beyond setting up a profitable business. It is being able to give back to the community and adding value to the society. I will consider myself successful if I am able to do my bit for women all around. In addition to activities like supporting girls’ education in India, I am working towards my success through mom-relaunch, a platform for women to get back to work after a career break.
What is the key to success?
The key to success is as simple as identifying opportunities, not letting go of them, and persistently pursue them. In addition to this, what keeps me disciplined is task prioritization and allotting my time to each task in accordance.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
“To let go at the right time” is the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned, the hard way. It is very tricky to understand when to let go of people who are unproductive and products that are obsolete. But if you keep clinging on to things and refrain from making decisions, it can be disastrous for your business.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed, nothing can be managed.” – Peter Drucker
I strongly believe in this and live it, day in and out.
What are some of your favorite books?
I have two children, so kids’ books are my favorite for a long time now. 🙂 However, whenever time permits, I make sure that I utilize it to read. I follow Bill Gates’ recommendations. Some of my favorites are Where Good Ideas Come From, Management Mantras, Rework, and What If?
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurial life is like a game of Whac-A-Mole. Every day is tough, and it gets tougher than the day before. The challenges that you have today will make you feel that what you went through yesterday was nothing. So, you have to always be ready.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Memories of my dad and his smiling face push me to keep doing what I am doing, and strive to do more. He is my inspiration. My “go-getter” trait, and many others, are his inheritance. He is the one who always pushed me to rise above normalcy in life, and to do something bigger and better.
In addition to this, I am an ardent follower of The Art of Living by my mentor Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Meditation and breathing have changed my life and has instilled in me the belief that everything will be okay in the end. That is a great motivation!
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
When you are in business, it’s not what you know. It’s who you know. So, my advice to young entrepreneurs is to network, network, and network. Never shy away from speaking about yourself and learning about others.
Technical folks turned entrepreneurs have to be careful. Even if you have a good product, people need to buy it. You should spend as much time marketing yourself and building a brand.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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