CEO Operates on Principle of Business Karma and Finds SuccessRamon Ray
From Corporate America to Helping Non-Profits
Raj had a comfortable career in the corporate world, but like so many other entrepreneurs, he grew tired of the corporate politics and decided to venture out on his own. He was particularly moved by one statistic he read about charter schools – one in seven charter schools are shut down and of those closures, 80 percent are due to financial mismanagement. It isn’t because these schools failed to educate students, it is because they didn’t know how to manage finances such as public funding, budgeting, payroll, reporting, forecasting and managing grants. Raj knew that he had the skill-set to stop these failures, so he took a huge pay cut (but a gigantic raise in motivation) and decided to start his first company.
Charter School Business Management (or CSBM) was launched in 2006in order to help charter schools succeed. As is often the case with charter schools and non-profits, the founders are so driven by their mission for the organization that they either don’t focus on or don’t have the skills to tackle the business and financial side of things. CSBM was designed with a model that “we can do it for you or we can teach you how,” offering both education and outsourcing for financial management.
In 2014, Raj decided to widen his original scope by creating a new business called FOREsight Financial Services for Good. The company operates under the same model but is open to a wider range of non-profit organizations.
(Listen to the full audio interview below)
Dealing with Fast Growth, Debt and Other Challenges
When CSBM opened, it had a problem that many business owners dream about – huge demand for the service but not enough people to do the work. While customer demand is typically seen in a positive light, it’s important to point out that not meeting that demand can also result in business failure.Raj handled the challenge by focusing on word of mouth marketing, and diligently looking for talent at networking events where he offered bookkeepers, accountants, and other financial professionals an opportunity to have a positive impact on society.
As he began to hire, he experienced a new challenge – schools were sold on Raj himself; because of his passion and experience, they wanted Raj to perform the work, not someone else. For this issue it was important for him to provide some comfort to the clients, and to assure them that no matter who performed the work, they were still getting the same quality and brand experience.
Debt was never a challenge for Raj’s business ventures; in fact, to this day they still don’t have any debt and only carry a credit line just in case. The guiding principle was to never incur any costs that they didn’t absolutely need to take on. However, Raj does note that debt is a personal choice and a no-debt approach will not work for every business.
One way Raj keeps costs down is to focus on predictive modeling. By understanding what potential business is out there he can estimate how many people he needs to hire, but hire them at the right time when demand requires additional supply. Forecasting is also a big aspect of what he does for his clients, helping them understand what they need to do today based on where the numbers are going to be tomorrow. The importance of forecasting reminds Raj of a quote by Wayne Gretzky, one of hockey’s greatest. “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”
The Importance of Networking & Entrepreneurial Opportunities
Raj attributes some of his success to the opportunities he’s taken. A little over two years ago he graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program . The program allowed him to work on a growth plan for his business over the span of three months, and he’s even going through the process again now to create a new growth plan for the next five years.
Raj also thanks his entrepreneurial networking opportunities for contributing to his success. He has joined the Entrepreneur’s Organization, or EO,which has allowed him to meet with other business owners, go to learning events and become part of a forum where business owners meet each month to discuss goals, successes and failures. There are a lot of similar organizations and opportunities out there for entrepreneurs, so he stresses the importance of finding these opportunities so you can learn and get support from entrepreneurial colleagues.
On Business Karma
Whether dealing with his non-profit clients or networking with other entrepreneurs, Raj believes in the power of business karma. “If we do what’s in the best interest of our clients and the best interest of our team members at all times, the universe will look out for us…in some way, shape or form, it comes back to you. You don’t do it because you get something back though; you do it because it’s right.” When you look at what Raj has achieved in the past nine years, you have to believe in the power of business karma. In those years, business karma has set up success not only for himself and his companies, but for all those around him as well.