Sam Ovens: Hey, everyone. Sam Ovens here, and today, I've got Mohammad Khan on with us. Mohammad is a student of Consulting Accelerator, and he joined early this year in January after he had resigned from his job, and he was looking at some different ideas to start his own business, and he stumbled across Consulting Accelerator, and he joined Accelerator. Since then, he's been able to start his consulting business and grow it to $100,000 a month. What Mohammad does is he helps Fortune 500 companies optimize and systemize their processes through analytics. Congratulations on growing up to that level so far, and I'm really looking forward to digging into your story and seeing how it happened.
Mohammad Khan: Thank you. Great to be here.
Sam Ovens: So, let's start with why you quit your job before and why you wanted to start out on your own.
Mohammad Khan: I think I really peaked sort of at what I was doing, and in terms of growth, I didn't really see the opportunities to advance at least in the directions that I felt were important, and more importantly, I had a certain vision as to how I should do business, specifically, how I should handle certain types of services for my clients and working in an organization under the auspices of that leadership limits my freedom and the ability to execute the way I feel is appropriate. Also, I feel that I've grown to a point where I specialized in a certain way of doing things, and I wanted to maximize the potential of that.
Sam Ovens: Got it. So what were you doing in your old job?
Mohammad Khan: I was looking after an operation with about 2,000 people doing complex order processing and ensuring the performance of those processes, all the customer experience associated with those processes, supporting the executives of a Fortune, let's say, 20 company. Essentially, ensuring that they were in compliance with the regulatory requirements and other sort of strategic goals.
Sam Ovens: Sounds very corporate-y.
Mohammad Khan: Yeah, it is totally corporate-y. Yes.
Sam Ovens: I haven't heard these words since I was last in a corporate, which was a long time ago.
Mohammad Khan: Yeah. Well, that's ... Yeah, so the corporate world doesn't really change all that much. It's the same sort of problems, statements, and challenges. More or less, when you work in these types of organizations, you're a functionary. Not really so much geared towards being an entrepreneur, which is what drove me towards the consulting content that you publish.
Sam Ovens: Got it, and so how did you come across Consulting Accelerator?
Mohammad Khan: It was in my feed on Facebook, to be honest with you. I just clicked on it out of curiosity, and as I was listening to some of the details about the course, I became more interested in it, and I just followed the path.
Sam Ovens: Got it, and like why were you interested in joining? When you went out to start your own business, what interested you in the Accelerator program? What did you think you were going to get from it?
Mohammad Khan: Well, to be perfectly honest with you, I think that when you spend enough time in the corporate world, you start thinking a lot along those lines. You lose a little bit of your entrepreneurial instinct, and to some extent, you need to recalibrate that psychology and those methods. Also, I think that businesses evolved quite a bit since I started, and so a lot of the modalities that you deal with in terms of digital footprint and methods of marketing, and then the methods of engaging with customers has changed quite a bit, and so for me, learning all of those things was really important because the corporate world doesn't work the same way.
Sam Ovens: Got it, and so after joining Accelerator, what ... Tell me what that process went like.
Mohammad Khan: Well, it was interesting because you start with the top-down sort of approach where you talk about mindset, you talk about the approach, you look at the strategic part of, "What is your niche?" and the cycle of your hypothesis, what evolves into your value prop going to market, and so forth. That was a good method of aligning my thought process to begin with, and then it was a matter of distilling what I brought to the table in terms of the niche that I was pursuing and what their needs are, what their behaviors are, what their beliefs are, what their desires are, and all these sorts of things will be covered in the first couple of weeks.
That enabled me to find an understanding of what I presented to the market from the point of view of the customer's perspective, and so when the opportunity surfaced, I was able to articulate what I brought to the table in a manner that made it accessible to the customer. Then, I was able to then engage the customer in a very precise way and really short-circuit that whole process to convert them into a deal in which I've been servicing since then.
Sam Ovens: Got it. One of the first things we get you to do in the program is pick a niche, so how did you go about doing that?
Mohammad Khan: Well, I looked at my credentials, and I looked at my experience, and where I was reputable, and where I had strong contribution historically speaking. I looked at those things, and from the standpoint of a customer, naturally, the first thing that they'll probably want to know is what have you achieved up until this point and why I feel I can bring value to them beyond what they can do for themselves, and so that helped me frame my thinking in terms of the niche to start with where I had strong credentials and where I had some recent skills and experience that would immediately transfer over, so that's the way I went down that path.
Sam Ovens: Got it, but we're speaking very abstract. Like what actually happened?
Mohammad Khan: Well, it's interesting because when you're in the corporate world where I was, and essentially, you travel worldwide quite a bit, and you spend time away from family, and so forth, your lifestyle suffers quite a bit, and so I've made the decision that I wasn't going to follow that same trajectory, right? I knew that where I was over the course of the last 12 years was helping companies with finance and accounting as a niche, specifically, companies that had order processing within finance and accounting as a more refined niche, and then areas of opportunities where there were problems within that order to cash space, right? This is a very narrow band of the overall market.
When I present myself, I say, "Okay. Well, I can help companies that have order to cash. I can help companies that have order management issues from a process perspective, and what I bring to the table is the experience to fix those things to turn things around," and there's a revenue benefit to that. There's a profit benefit to that. There's a customer experience benefit to that. When I put it in those terms and I'm speaking to somebody who's, let's say, a finance controller, or a CFO, or a CEO for that matter as is the case with my current client. Then, it resonates because they're experiencing those precise issues.
Sam Ovens: Got it, and what sort of issues does one of these Fortune 500 companies experience when it comes to processing orders?
Mohammad Khan: Well, to some extent, I mean, the market has become so commoditized in terms of the types of things that people buy from large organizations. I mean, there's hyper-competition, and so customer experience becomes the major theme because without ensuring that you're taking care of the customers be it for a product or for a service, what happens is that it's very easy for a customer to find an alternative to you, right? The customer experience dimension is extremely important.
The other thing is obviously with hyper-competition. It comes ... Profit challenges. How do get cost out of your business? How do you ensure you maximize revenue? Analytics becomes a key part of the method by which companies can adapt themselves to changes in the marketplace, so when you talk about those things, and then to some extent, companies are looking at digitization in a way so that they can eliminate paper-based or manual-processed work, and so talking to companies about the ability to shrink the cycle time to realize profit from their revenue stream or improve their working capital. Things along those lines makes it extremely attractive for organizations to talk to somebody like me who's had to face those types of challenges.
From a practitioner's standpoint, I can identify some of the same challenges that they faced, some of the same pressures that they faced. Obviously, the management's credibility is on the line, and so it comes very visceral for them when they know that they're getting a hundred emails a day from really angry customers or they're seeing that they're losing market share, or they're losing revenues, or their profit margins are eroding, and they know that it takes so much time for them to bring a new product or service to the market because they have so much capital invested in legacy systems that don't respond or change as quickly as they'd like to adapt to the market.
What I bring to the table is a conversation around how I've done that in some number of different places, what I've learned along the way, and the value to them is, "Okay. Well, first of all, we don't have the bandwidth to tackle this type of issue ourselves. Secondly, there's a learning curve associated with all this, and third, do we really have the passion for solving this problem ourselves? Can we dedicate the time to do it?"
The answer is probably no in all those cases, and that's where a person like myself comes in and brings a group of people together that have specializations in different areas. We look at the problem statement, and we dedicate an intense amount of effort towards solving those problems for them. Our maiden voyage here has been a tremendous success. In the course of a matter of three months, we've managed to find $13 million worth of benefits to my client, which is a fraction of a fraction of what they spent on our time, and they clearly see the value in it, and so that's what makes us unique and different.
Sam Ovens: Got it, and how did you ... So, you joined the program. Then, you thought, "I'll go into this niche because that's where I've got experience in." I mean, you've been doing it, which makes sense. How did you get your first client?
Mohammad Khan: Well, it was through a partnership. I mean, what happened was that I started networking quite a bit. Anyone and everyone who had experience working with clients who would be my end-customer, I started to meet with, talk to, see if they had heard or spoken with somebody who had issues along these lines, put the word out by way of presenting my credentials, and sure enough, with the number of interactions that I had, there was a response back from an accounting firm with whom I struck up a partnership.
They had been contacted by this client that I'm working with now, and they reached out to me to say, "Hey, listen. We can tackle one side of this problem, but we're really not experts in this other area. You have those capabilities, so what would you recommend we do?" I said, "Well, let me take a look at your proposal and see what it's covering." I identified some of the lapses in their proposal and supplemented that with my capabilities, and so when we went to the client collectively, I was umbrella-ed under their contract, and then I brought my team together, and that's how we started.
Sam Ovens: Got it, so you basically met with other people who work in these businesses and who work in this field, and you just ... Like how did you say to them like, "I want to meet up with you and discuss?" Like how do you convince people in the corporate environment to want to do that?
Mohammad Khan: To some extent, I mean, it's a matter of finding some commonality with those people. I look to the folks that I've partnered with in this particular case. They were in an ... Sorry. They were in an adjacent area. They were accountants, and this happened to be one of their clients, and so I connected with them and said, "Hey, look. I mean, this is what I do," and I started asking them questions about what they did, and just understanding what they did, and bringing up on what they publish online and what customers have to say about them. I really helped them understand that I recognize who they are and what they do, so it wasn't really so much me going out and hard-selling as much as it is, "These are my credentials. This is what I've done. This is what I do. This is what I'm intensely interested in," and I show a certain degree of enthusiasm for what they do and understand their business in a way that opens up the conversation.
It just goes from there, so I don't really have a formula per se. I just tend to read the person that I'm interacting with and see if there's any chemistry. If I feel any kind of chemistry, I'll maintain a contact with this person, and sooner or later, they'll know someone who knows someone, and the conversation just expands from there. But if there's no connection, and there's no commonality, and there's no chemistry, then I obviously keep them in my Rolodex, but I don't waste any time going down that way.
Sam Ovens: Got it.
Mohammad Khan: I'm not sure if I'm answering your question. I guess, for me, it's all about building relationships rather than selling, selling, selling.
Sam Ovens: Yeah. I think it's very different in the corporate world because I've noticed you've mentioned the word "credentials" lots of times.
Mohammad Khan: Yeah. I mean, because in the corporate world, oftentimes, it is about, "Let's see. Let's take a look at your resume. Where do you work? Who are your clients? What did you do? What did you contribute?" It's a procurement mindset, right? In the corporate world, essentially, it's all about qualifying, qualifying, and so coming in with case studies, and credentials, and referrals, and references, and all of these sorts of things are extremely important dealing with big business.
Sam Ovens: It's interesting because we're now a company. We literally stopped asking people to submit resumes, and we got rid of it like we didn't even care if they went to university anymore because we actually found we got like ... like our best ones didn't. You know what I mean?
Mohammad Khan: Well, listen. To be honest with you, I'm not corporate in my approach either. None of the people that I work with today or the people that work for me today would tell you that we're corporate. We're just not. We just don't have that attitude. I don't look at their resumes. I don't treat them like a typical corporate lackey is treated. I don't have that attitude at all, but I know my customer, and when I deal with the client's organization, I'm dealing with functionaries, people that occupy certain office. There's a stack of bullet points that define who and what they are, and what they do. There are certain no-noes, which is don't bring somebody in cold off the street that knows nothing about this and give them free rein to figure it out. I mean, that's just not done. It isn't in ...
Sam Ovens: I think because in a corporate, like the biggest ... because you're not so much selling to their business needs. You're more selling to like the individual's career needs, right, because like they don't own all of the equity in the company.
Mohammad Khan: Correct. Yeah, absolutely. No, of course not.
Sam Ovens: It's not their company. They don't so much care about where it goes. More, they care about keeping their job, and getting promotions, and just not getting fired.
Mohammad Khan: Well, it's crazy, right? I'll give an example of that. I mean, I remember meeting with Verizon. Maybe I shouldn't give you ... You can scratch that. Hopefully, you can bleep that out, but I met with a Fortune 17 company some years ago, and they put out these like bills every month for your phone bill, or your cable bill, or whatever, and on the top left-hand corner, there will be like this little box that says, "Hey, did you know that we also provide X?" It was a very general sort of announcement. It wasn't even ... and I said, "Look. I mean, with a very little bit of modification, you could personalize this to say, 'Hey, Sam. Thanks for being a wireless customer. Did you know that we also provide cable? We could probably give you a discount if you're interested.'"
It's a very simple bit of logic. Rather than getting the pathetic 1.3% response rate on those bills, if they personalized it, they would have doubled or tripled that kind of response rate if they just personalized it to people where it was relevant, and their reaction to that was, "Oh, yeah, but then we'd have to staff our call centers to take those orders, and we don't know how to do that, so we're just going to stick with this 1.3% response rate because we're happy with that."
To me, it's crazy, right? I mean, why would you do that? If you just put in just a little bit of effort, the return on it is immense, but they just don't think that way. I mean, it's an example of how organizations are. You could show them the massive upside potential if they would just change certain attitudes and behaviors, but large organizations typically don't, and it's usually because you rock the boat, you get in trouble, and a lot of these folks unfortunately seem to think about cashing it in on their 401(k) when they turn 65 and a half. That's the mindset, which is crazy because really, you could be 30 years in a company and get walked out the door for some slight infraction because the leadership is changed and you're no longer valued, and that could be totally arbitrary.
I'm not trashing Corporate America, but I'm simply saying that the mindset of folks that are in the corporate world is very different to the mindset of somebody who goes into business with themselves. Like I had a conversation with a guy the other day who wanted to meet up for coffee, and he's an internal auditor of a big mortgage company here locally. He said, "How do I do that? How do I get into that? How do I promote myself?"
I had to explain to him that he's got to network, he's got to meet people, he's got to let people see that he's got a certain area of interest or specialization, that he's got a certain talent or certain unique way of doing things even if he's not selling to at least position himself effectively, and start prospecting, and meeting with people. This was all alien to him. I mean, he had no concept of how to do that while at the same time, he's also really unhappy with his job as a VP in this company because he just doesn't feel his contributions are valued. I'm not sure if this is along the lines of what you were trying to understand, but ...
Sam Ovens: No, it's interesting because ... I mean, there's definitely people who come from corporate who join the program, and there's probably a lot of people who are going to listen to this who are in corporate and are thinking of joining the program or something, so it's a good one. It's the first time I've ever had an interview though with a customer who's been selling into corporate because I have no idea how to do it and I don't like it, so that's why I never did it, and I tell people, "Don't sell into corporate," but you went in and did it successfully.
I know there's a segment of people out there that want to still ... like want to sell into corporate, so it's interesting, but the biggest thing I noticed was that, yeah, it's the ... The needs change. When you're dealing with small businesses, they are the business. The business is interested to their interests, but when you're dealing with corporates, it's like ... because I remember the best ad IBM ever ran like the ad for advertising IBM computers was, "No executive ever got fired for buying IBM."
Mohammad Khan: Okay. I mean, that used to be true.
Sam Ovens: That sold the damn computer. It's like, "Yeah, forget about having a good computer. You won't get fired if you buy this one." Like it's a totally different mindset.
Mohammad Khan: Right.
Sam Ovens: Whereas a consumer or a small business is like, "I just want a damn good computer."
Mohammad Khan: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: You know what I mean?
Mohammad Khan: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: Like it's totally different, but that's what fascinates me, and I guess you have to optimize more for that one to work. I guess that's also why corporates like hiring big agencies a lot of the time and why a lot of small young businesses can't get into corporate because they just mean too much risk for them.
Mohammad Khan: Well, the other thing about it is that there is a certain degree of political sophistication that you need to learn dealing with organizations. They say no a hundred different ways, and understanding exactly what those sensitivities are and where those vulnerabilities are. I mean, there's a whole different approach that you take because it is a surreal world. It's not the real world. When you go in there, it's truly an environment that is built on pretense, right? There's a lot of posturing, and there's a lot of grandstanding, and it is in many ways a lot of times a positioning of different egos.
Again, I'm not trashing every client that I've worked with in the past, but you have to traverse those. When you finally do figure out who it is that is going to buy from you, it's a matter of understanding their agenda, and then aligning what you have to offer with that agenda, and then playing the politics in some ways, so the credentials piece is a qualifier. For me to go in and say, "Okay. I've worked with these 10 companies, and we did these projects," that's referenceable for them, and so if they hire me on, they've ticked off that box that says, "He's a qualified person, a professional."
Now, if I walked in and said, "Yeah, I'm a general smart guy, and I could figure out what your problem is," they're more worried about looking foolish for introducing me, a guy that's going to ask very basic questions that would make the person who brought me on look foolish, and so that is a non-qualifier, if you will, and so understanding this is really key to succeeding and selling into the corporate world. That's why I recommended going into a niche where you have referenceability. You have credentials. You have referenceability ... sorry, body of work and some degree of accomplishment behind it. Then, it's easier to navigate your way in.
Sam Ovens: Why did you choose the corporate world instead of the real world?
Mohammad Khan: When I first started off 20-something years ago when I graduated from college, I truly didn't want to go into the corporate world. I wanted to go and start my own business. The problem was that the people that I'd be selling into were largely experienced people and I would be behind the curtain had I gone directly to those people and try to sell what I had envisioned. That's what I was going to offer. I knew that it would take some years of experience to gain an understanding of how they think, what they will buy, how they go about buying it, how I go about specializing in a way that made what I had to offer a little bit unique and different to what, let's say, the next guy would sell and offer, right? That takes a certain degree of experience to do.
I would say that I probably started specializing into my area probably by five years ago, but I didn't trust myself to be perfectly honest with you to go venture out and do it on my own. I just didn't believe that I had the skills and experience to do it, so over the last five years, I made a concerted effort to challenge myself to do the things that I would find impressive in a peer or somebody that I would buy from. Thankfully, I was given the opportunity to do that, and so having earned my own trust, I then made a conscious choice to go into the industry as a solo practitioner and built a team and an organization around that because I do have that body of experience now and I do have some specializations that are unique.
Sam Ovens: Got it. Back on what you do now, can that be sold to businesses too that aren't as corporate-y, or is it only really a solution for the big corporates?
Mohammad Khan: I think that anybody that is probably at $100 million of revenue or higher could probably benefit from this effort, right? Anyone smaller than that, the economics don't make sense. In other words, if I find 1% or 2% of your profit, right, and you are under $100 million, you probably wouldn't breakeven on having paid me for my time and effort, so smaller companies could definitely benefit from this, but I would say that an even smaller than that would probably not just from an ROI perspective.
Sam Ovens: Got it. Yeah, so you can save about 1% of ... You can help them increase profits on their billing systems and things by about 1% and your price is X, so for it to make sense, it has to be of some scale.
Mohammad Khan: Yeah. I mean, we can give a company 2% of their profit back which ... I mean, for the current client that I'm working with right now, that's a $50 million return, right? For them, it'd be stupid not to do it, right? I mean, to retain somebody like me. Now, the obvious challenge is, how many other people out there can do what I do? Obviously, I'm not the only guy in the world that can do what I can do, but there's such a small pool of us, and also, the question is, are they available? Two, are they even interested in working for these guys at the rates that I would charge versus on what they would charge?
There are certain things that have to come together to make it work, but definitely, there aren't a lot of people that have fought the battles, so to speak, and have accomplished some of the outcomes that we've been able to accomplish, so that makes us very unique and interesting.
Sam Ovens: Got it, and how did you ... With this client that you've got, how did you structure your offer to them and price it? Like what are you doing for them for that price?
Mohammad Khan: Well, what I basically told them is that, "Look, I've got myself, and I would need a team of about four other people. These are their skillsets." We would essentially work over the course of X number of weeks in order to get them the results that they were seeking, and so we would bill them on average a certain amount per week. In essence, it was time and materials, budgetary time and materials week in, week out for the course of a certain span of time to achieve the results, and so it became a mix of the skills and the number of people associated with those skills, the amount of time that we would spend to do the work, and the overall duration of the assessment that we would do, which would trigger the results that they sought.
Then, we establish a weekly call with the client to review the results that we gained every week against the plan. We construct the plan, which shows exactly how we would get to the end result, so it was a matter of confidence-building from the beginning.
When we first spoke with them, I met with the CEO, the CFO, the controller, all these folks that run this company, and the first thing they told me is, "Look. I mean, I'm aware of your problems. What you need to know is these are resolvable problems, right? So, it's not like these are impossible problems to solve, but what it takes is obviously a very methodical approach to go about it. We need to be very scientific in our approach. We have to structure the outcome.
Sam Ovens: What was the problem?
Mohammad Khan: The problem was that they were essentially misconfigured in terms of their systems. Their systems were not reflecting the business logic that they wanted to use to actually build their end-customers properly. There were a number of things that they were delivering in the way of services that were not actually being recouped from the customer because of a lack.
Sam Ovens: What actual problem was existing?
Mohammad Khan: They were actually not ... They're even. Their profit line was flat. They were growing as a business, but their profit was stagnant, and they didn't know exactly why, and they suspected that it could have been because of accounting anomalies, or it could be due to some issues with their billing system, or it could be fraud, or there could be some kind of loss of inventory, and all these sorts of things, and so they were leaking profit, and they didn't know why, so they asked a guy like me and the accounting firm that I worked with to find out exactly what was the underlying reasons and how much of it was being lost.
We went about actually investigating their systems and their process, and interviewing a number of different folks, and putting all the pieces together, and saying, "Okay. What are we missing here, and how much is it that we're missing here? If we do matching across different pieces of the puzzle, what are the blank spots, so to speak?" That's what we did.
Sam Ovens: Got it. They've got some problem with their billing system, and the money that's being collected, and all of that, but they don't even really know what, and so ... I get it now because, yeah, we started to notice that with our business even last year. We used to use Infusionsoft for our billing, and it broke even at our small size, and we had to build our own because we wanted a closed system that nothing could go leaking out of. So, what's in our merchant account is now a bank account which has to be what's in our system, which has to be what's in our box, and none of those can be out of alignment. They must mirror each other all the time.
Mohammad Khan: Exactly, and it's very difficult to do, especially when you ar requiring a number of companies, and you're operating a number of different territories, and they in turn have various other systems. There may not be a certain discipline in terms of how people do the actual accounting work or do the actual ... What do you call it? Reconciliation work, and ultimately, you're always trying to react and trying to figure out what the numbers are looking back, and so that's a very common challenge in the organization space.
Sam Ovens: All of these businesses deal with accrual too, so like they are issuing the invoice, booking that as revenue, and then they're letting that collect, so like that can make things messy too.
Mohammad Khan: Definitely. These are very common place problems. I mean, the challenge, of course, is that most organizations think in terms of just process improvement. Other organizations only think in terms of billing system improvements. Other people in turn only think about resource management in terms of the people as an area of improvement. What we do is we look at the entire organization and everything they do inside and out, and with the background that I have and the people that I work with, and I built a team of people that are specialized in different ways.
One of the guys that works for me, he's a black Six Sigma process expert. Another guy that works for me, he is an expert in the systems itself that this client is using. Another guy is a programmer, and then I've got a mathematician. Right? Between all of us, we look at the data that we pull out of the systems, and then we try to find within that the root cause of what's not matching, and then we go and ask questions, and then we pull more data, and then we sample, and then we test. We do all these things.
So then, now, we have actual data and objective facts to back up our theories of what's going on, and we show the cause and effect relationship, and this is all the analytics that we're talking about, which then tell the organization in question, "These are the facts. You think that you're facing these problems. What you're actually facing are those problems, and the magnitude of those problems is this." We can also extrapolate that out to say, "If you don't fix them, guess what? It's going to get bigger," and so the urgency is built in by design if they've got help, so it's using science ...
Sam Ovens: I've always ...
Mohammad Khan: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: I've always wondered. Why don't they just use like one online billing system where people have to put their credit card in and that's it? That's what I'd do. I'd just like close down the phones, close down the mail, close down sending money in with checks. End it. Just one way to pay.
Mohammad Khan: Well, part of the problem is ... and this is often times between businesses also, right? It goes back to some of the things that we were talking about earlier on. When we're dealing with organizations that are selling a commodity, let's say, okay? Let's say you're selling picnic baskets, and the customer base of all the people want to buy picnic baskets from you. Some say, "You know what? Sam, I want to pay in 30 days." Another guy says, "You know what? I'm going to buy two. Give me a discount on the third, and I want to pay you by wire transfer." Then, the third guy says, "I'm going to write you a personal check, but don't cash it for 60 days."
I mean, for you to serve that market, and these are the preferences that the customer base is demanding of you, you try to make your business, and your policies, and your systems all adaptive and flexible so that you retain that customer and keep them coming back and buying from you instead of the next buy because the next guy is willing to do it, right? If you say, "No, I'm only going to do it one way. You pay me cash upfront by way of your credit card," and if that presents for you a possibility of losing that customer, then you have to make a business decision, right, as to whether or not you do it that way or if you're a little bit flexible.
Now, if you're flexible, then obviously, your organization behind you has to change the systems, change the method of accounting, change the way they bill, change the way they collect. Right? How many picnic baskets do you let Sam have versus how many do you let this guy have? Right? I mean, all of those things behind the scenes have to then be adjusted to account for that kind of business.
Sam Ovens: What's fascinating is that like Amazon and Facebook, like two of the biggest companies in the world, they still ... Because their products are differentiated, they can force the whole market to do whatever they want, so like Facebook won't give you a discount. They won't let you pay by wire, or check, or credit. You got to put your credit card in and pay as you go. It doesn't matter who you are anywhere in the world. Same with Amazon. You know what I mean?
Mohammad Khan: Right.
Sam Ovens: I guess it's only an issue when you're undifferentiated, and then the way to differentiate is to just let people walk all over you kinda.
Mohammad Khan: In a purely traditional business, which is not digitized, and the difference is okay. Amazon can pull this because Amazon will deliver it to you by next day, right? I mean, if somebody out there wants to compete with an Amazon, they better have the wherewithal to have this broad catalog as Amazon. They have to have as easy and time selling to you by way of their portal. They have to be able to deliver to you within a span of 24 hours or the shortest time possible, and also, back up the entire experience with a no-questions-asked money-back guarantee kind of thing, and then you can get away with these sorts of things, right, because you've already built into your model all these other value drivers for the customer.
Now, if you're a mom-and-pop shop down the street, and you may or may not have the product in stock, or you may or may not have the same sort of collection or different catalog of products, and you're not able to keep up with the market in terms of pricing and, "No, you can't have it in 24 hours. It's going to take me a week to order it for you," then you don't get to have those types of policies, right? I think that these organizations have refined their business models in such a way that they can afford that type of thing, right, but until you have that kind of broad base of value props, you can't. You can't push those types of policies. They're differentiated on the entire experience for the customer.
Sam Ovens: Got it. Yeah, because it's definitely better to have it the other way, right?
Mohammad Khan: Yeah, but it takes a while. It took Amazon ... I'm not sure how long, but I mean, they've been working their business model for decades to get to this point.
Sam Ovens: They're the best in the world too, so I mean, that is a luxury.
Mohammad Khan: Definitely, but their business model is really unique. I think that the world is going to be divided into the Walmart and the Amazon space, and there's going to be a lot of fallout as a result of that, and we've already seen that happen, right? I mean, this goes back to, again, the point around the digitization piece. Amazon has got such an incredible sophistication around how they manage their inventory. We've got several warehouses in my neighborhood where I live currently like three fulfillment centers that are ... Each one is big as a zip code, right, independently, and they would even go about sorting their inventory.
It's just all automatically tracked, and there's no rhyme or reason to out ... These different bins are filled with products, but somehow, the entire warehouse is wired up in such a way. It's logistics that they can find whatever it needs within moments and get it to you within hours. It's just incredible, right? I mean, that degree of self-awareness and that degree of sophistication in their model, their whole supply chain, and their order management, so they've got both sides of the business covered really. That's one of the reasons why they lead in the marketplace.
The other thing is that they're constantly improving themselves. They're not complacent. So many clients I've worked with in the past that are at the absolute top of their game, they have a feedback loop where they're not just constantly evolving their business, but they're also taking inputs from the market as to what they're not doing or what they could do better, and then that feedback loop goes back into the business, informs the people that run the business, and they act on that, and they're constantly measuring themselves against that, and they're constantly evolving. Complacency will kill you in any of these industries, right? Being responsive, being thorough, being reliable, all of these things are extremely important, and of course ...
Sam Ovens: Not just in big business because I remember steamrolling tons of competitors who got complacent. They were the best, and then they stopped, and then they weren't, and like it happens so fast.
Mohammad Khan: Yeah. If you operate on ego ... I mean, your ego will get you so far, but when you operate from a place of being passionate about what you do, you can keep yourself going in a way that the other guy can't, right? That's the defining difference, I think. For me, consulting. When I first started off in the industry about 20-somewhat years ago, I worked for a big ... what was then a Big 6 Consulting Firm, and my clients at the time were ... I mean, EDS was my first client, right? They invented the outsourcing industry. Here, I was servicing them, and they in turn were doing business with General Motors, which was Fortune 1 at the time, right?
I got to see how they were doing things. At that point in time, if you told me that General Motors was going to be in Fortune 5 or Fortune 10, I would've thought you were crazy because, I mean, they were the best, right? They were the biggest, and EDS owned their industry. At the time, what I saw is that these guys were really becoming complacent. I mean, they thought that because they were so big, because they were so well-established, because they had defined the industry, so to speak, that they weren't vulnerable to all the things that were happening.
Sam Ovens: Henry Ford made the same mistake before GM came along and took him over. Like the exact same thing repeated itself. I remember when he thought the Model T was going to be the car for everyone forever.
Mohammad Khan: Right.
Sam Ovens: Then, General Motors started making new unique ones in different colors, and he thought everyone had gone crazy. But then, they took him over, and then they made the same damn mistake. People don't learn from these things.
Mohammad Khan: Yeah. We can't be complacent about it, right? If you're passionate, and you forgo the whole ego thing, and you paid attention, and you realized what's going on, and I think that you touched on this a number of different times in your materials, working with the market forces, right, and trying to capitalize on the trends and the things that are actually happening, and stirring and directing them. It's in that advertising book that I've purchased that you had mentioned in one of your videos.
Sam Ovens: Breakthrough Advertising.
Mohammad Khan: Yeah. I picked up a copy of that off of eBay and started going through that, but you're right. I mean, these forces are in play. It's reading the science. It's seeing what's going on, and then basically, putting some kind of structure around it, some kind of solution around it, but being self-aware and being informed, and being actively involved in the process. That's key, right, and so ...
Sam Ovens: I think it's what you align yourself with. Because I've never had any credit or I've never had any partnerships, or I've never had a network because I'm an introvert, I've never been able to like just network or get hookups from people, and I also haven't had credit or investors, so the only way I could ever make any damn money was if I satisfied the customer.
The moment I didn't, I was dipped, so I've always stayed on that razor edge of like, "Write what the customer wants," but I guess what a lot of these companies do is they get used to like credit and money, and like money from banks, or bonds, or things, or the stock market and like the perception of that and how it goes up even though the business might not be meeting customers' needs, and also, growing by acquisition. I mean, that can make all the numbers look good and impress everyone, but underlying at the bottom of it, we might start to be losing what the market really wants. I guess when you add all these other things in, people can get distracted.
Mohammad Khan: Well, it's not just that, but there's a fundamental difference here, Sam, between the mindset that you're talking about versus the corporate functionary mindset. Again, I'm an introvert as well, by the way, just so you're aware. It doesn't come naturally to me to go out there, work the room, and be everybody's best friend. I just don't think that way either, and to me, I say what I mean and I take people with a face value of what they say because I don't think along those lines.
One of my former bosses, not in the last role that I have, but before that, he was a CFO of a company that was making like $2 billion a year, right? He ran this company for like three years, and he grew them quite a bit, and then he went to like this really, really well-known investor firm called KKR. I don't know if you're familiar with them.
Sam Ovens: Yeah, Henry Kravis.
Mohammad Khan: Yeah, so he goes to Henry Kravis' organization, right, and he asks for $300 million to build this like outsourcing behemoth that would be partially in one country and partially in another, and he would work with his existing customers in the US. They said, "Yeah, we can do the deal, but we're going to give you 3%." He said, "3%? What? Why did you come up with that small number?" They said, "You know what? You have never built a company from scratch. You've never gone out there and started something that had no brand recognition, no referenceability, no track record, and made that into something. If you had made a business out of nothing worth $15, $20, $50 million, we'd give you more than 3%. We'd give you heck a lot more than that, but since you haven't done that, all your credentials, and experience, and all this stuff is only worth 3% to us."
You have to put that into perspective because it's true, right? I mean, you watch Shark Tank as an example. I don't know if you do or not. I catch it on occasion. My eldest daughter watches it, and I've noticed something about that show, which is when a business person gets up in front of these investors and says, "Hey, I've got $10 million worth of sales last year," and they sit up, and they take notes immediately, and they say, "Wow, this person went out there, and actually created something, and is making $10 million a year? That person is interesting." Right? You contrast that with somebody who comes in off the street and says, "Hey, I've got a great idea. It's going to change the world and so on," barely has any customers, has practically no revenue to speak of. I mean, their chances of actually monetizing that idea are next to nothing. Right?
Sam Ovens: They have a delusion, not a business.
Mohammad Khan: Yeah, exactly. Look. I mean, for me, maybe it's a pre-occupation. Maybe it's a matter of paranoia, but for me, I wanted to be able to sit in front of a CEO of a multi-billion-dollar company, and I've been very fortunate that over the course of the last 20 years, I've gained enough experience to where I can sit across the table from anybody anywhere and have an intelligent conversation. I may not be smarter than that guy. I may not be a seasoned ... I may not be as talented as he is, but we can still have a meaningful conversation, right? I mean, I had to develop myself up to that, and it took a lot of failures and it took a lot of learning through I guess humble experience under more capable people to learn how to do that, but it takes a lot to actually go out there and actually create something of it.
I'm not saying this as a method of trying to punk you up. I mean, my hands off to you for having done this, but I've decided after my last role that ... I just wasn't interested in going up the corporate ladder, right? Especially after I talked to my old boss, my boss from two roles ago who said, "Yeah, I run a $2 billion company. I had this vision to create this $300 million company, and they're going to give me 3% just because they don't respect me. I mean, I have to go out and create something from scratch before they'll respect me," and it just woke me up to the realization that look, no matter how high I climb in that corporate scheme, I'd still never be an entrepreneur and still never have that sort of capacity, right, to monetize something of a concept into reality, so that to me is extremely exciting.
Sam Ovens: I think it's skin in the game that the entrepreneurship thing gives you because it's like you risk your whole life. Whereas quite a lot of the time, if you've come from a job and you're asking someone for a huge amount of capital, it's different. You know what I mean?
Mohammad Khan: Look, to be perfectly honest with you, I have zero intentions of going out in front of investors and asking for money. I just don't want to do that. I'd rather bootstrap and build my business up one client at a time and build it on the basis of a good word of mouth and referrals, and going out there and testing my own abilities to attract customers and close the deals.
Before I took on that last role that I ran all those operations, I did something similar to what ... albeit, obviously, not on the same scale, but what Rossborough did. I joined a company a few years ago that was not growing in the US, and they are trying for three years to open up a deal and they couldn't. Using this kind of consultative selling, I opened up a big deal for them, and it wasn't the first time I had done that, but going out there, and closing, and creating sales, that to me is like really exciting. You know what I mean?
If you don't have that enthusiasm, it's very hard to succeed as an entrepreneur. A lot of guys that I know, they're small-business people. They are so spendthrift. They're so penny-wise and pound-foolish. It makes no sense to me, right? I mean, there's this guy that's working in that same account I'm working for now. He's been working for like three years, and he spends more than a couple hundred dollars a month for office space. I'm just like, "Dude, seriously?" Honestly, I mean, I wouldn't even miss that money. I'm not like a rich guy, but they're just like ... They won't do the basic things, right? I mean, they won't go to Starbucks to have a meeting. They'll go to the public library to have a meeting to avoid the $5 that they'd spend on a cup of coffee. It's just like, "Why are you even in business if you're like that?"
What I did was, well, I had my job. I invested every month into the market, and I picked stocks, and I made money on that. When I left my job, I had a certain amount of money that invested aside, and I started my company with that money, and that kept me going and allowed me to pay for people on the side, and to buy a nice computer, and to buy all the services that I needed to get into business, to hire lawyers, and all these other stuff, but you've got to put that budget aside, and you've got to be willing to take a chance.
I think you're right. I mean, what separates the entrepreneur from the corporate guy or ... It is the appetite for risk, right, and the ability to materialize something. I mean, I just don't understand this mindset that people have that they want you to break things down for them into like digestible like pieces, and then they almost want you to chew it for them so they could just sit back and get nourished. I just don't understand that.
If you're not grinding, if you're not working, if you're not earning it, are you even going to enjoy it? I just don't see how that's possible, so I think that's the defining difference, right, between somebody who ... And again, I'm not speaking from the standpoint of an accomplished entrepreneur. I'm just saying I don't understand the mentality of people that expect it to come to them on a platter, so to speak, right?
It's not fun going out there and prospecting with people that may or may not like you, and it may also be a little bit uncomfortable selling yourself to people because it sounds like you're boasting or it sounds like you're full of yourself and that sort of thing. I had to get over that. You know what I mean? It took me a while to get over that whole idea. I had to sit back and think about ... If I really looked at myself in the third person and I looked at the body of experience that I have, honestly, and said, "This guy is really good at these things, and he's a talented guy at these things," there's no boasting in that. I mean, everybody has a talent. Everybody has some degree of uniqueness about them, which makes them valuable to someone else.
Coming to terms with that and accepting it is extremely important, and then it doesn't feel like a risk anymore when you take that approach, right, but you do have to take an approach of risk. When I went into this client and they have certain systems I had to work with directly, I went and found the people to help me do that, and I took the customer's place of scrutinizing, ignoring the work that they did, and that's what enabled us to actually deliver what the customer expected, so I don't expect to have all the answers, but there is equally talented people out there in their own specializations that I can bring in to collaborate on on these opportunities.
Sam Ovens: Got it.
Mohammad Khan: I think the ... Yeah. I'm sorry. Maybe I'm just going on, but I just don't understand the folks that expect it to come to them without taking the risk.
Sam Ovens: Yeah. Well, they always ... Eventually, they end up ... Because they didn't take the risk, they didn't get near the reward, and then they see all the people that did, and they're like, "Shit." If there is no risk, there is no reward.
Mohammad Khan: Yeah, exactly. I mean, the thing that gets me is this whole idea of regret, right? I mean, I don't want to be the guy that like is looking back on his life and says, "Hey, I was in my 40's, and I had a third-degree of experience and knowledge, and I had a pretty supportive family, and good friends, and a lot going for me, and I didn't try." I think that'd be really hard for me to stomach to be perfectly honest with you, so I figured I would give it 100%, and I did, and long they had continue.
Sam Ovens: Nice, so what would you say ... Having got to the point you are now, like what would you say has been the most transformational part about the Consulting Accelerator program for you?
Mohammad Khan: To be perfectly honest with you, I mean, if I took feedback from my family, which is probably the most honest appraisal of how I've been ... I mean, they see me as way happier than I've ever been to be perfect ... and I'm not saying this as an endorsement of your program, but this whole path of actually being in alignment with what I wanted to do and being out there doing it has been the most transformational thing for me like I'm very comfortable going out there and doing the work the way I want to do it in a manner that I may believe in.
To me, it's just like ... I feel more of a real person as opposed to being somebody who had to fit in to the jacket or the environment that I was in, and my success or my survival depended upon my adapting to the environment that I was in. I feel a lot more free, and I feel a lot more optimistic. Definitely, my lifestyle has improved tremendously, and I'm actually planning for the future, and the goals that I write down today ... If I exposed those goals to the guy I was last year, I would have a really healthy amount of skepticism last year that it was even possible.
I'm looking at my goals now, and I'm saying, "There's definitely a way to accomplish these goals if I have the support, if I have the right strategies, if I'm able to adapt, if I'm able to recruit the right talent to work with me, and approach the right customers." There is definitely a way to get there 100%, and I think that that mindset and that attitude is 100% different to where I was, so I'm a different ...
Sam Ovens: Yeah.
Mohammad Khan: Yeah. I'm definitely a lot happier for lack of a better way to put it.
Sam Ovens: Awesome, and what would your advice be because you've been in the Accelerator program for a while, and I'm sure you've witnessed some of the other members and what they're going through? What would your number one piece of advice be for them?
Mohammad Khan: Be disciplined. I mean, if you treat this stuff casually as if there is no value to it on site and just an academic exercise, and it's a set of ideas that may or may not be true, and you don't put the discipline to it, you can't expect the results from it. You have to be disciplined, right? I went through all the exercises, right, throughout the entire process. I took it seriously. I took myself seriously because I took the work seriously, and it forced me to ask a lot of questions to myself, so I would say be disciplined. That would be the number one thing that I will take away with this.
Sam Ovens: I agree. Awesome. Well, thanks a lot for jumping on and sharing your story. I'm sure it's going to help a lot of the people in the program that are already in there, and we're going to put it on YouTube too so a lot of people, I'm sure, that are in a corporate environment, when they probably hear me speak, they're like, "Who is this idiot? Like he obviously has no credentials," because of the way I talk and everything, so it's good to talk to someone from that world because they'll be like, "Oh, this sort of stuff can work for us too," because they're so different.
Mohammad Khan: Yeah.
Sam Ovens: They both exist, and this is a huge world, the corporate world. I mean, it's massive, so I think it's going to help a lot of people over there too, so thanks a lot.
Mohammad Khan: I hope so. My pleasure.
Sam Ovens: Thanks a lot for jumping on and sharing your story.
Mohammad Khan: Yeah, my pleasure.
Sam Ovens: Awesome. We'll talk soon.
Mohammad Khan: Thanks. Bye. All right. Take care, Sam.