Last week I
introduced Ajit Prabhu, the co-founder and chief executive officer of QuEST
Global. My interview with him was fascinating, and during our discussion, I
learned that the basic idea behind QuEST was born while Ajit was working at
General Electric. Whether Ajit knew it or not, he began employing the
time-tested stratagem – Exchange the
role of guest to that of host.
that his boss continually struggled with sustaining a sufficient supply of
engineering resources. Because GE lacked sufficient full-time engineers, the
company relied on relatively small, local talent agencies and consultancies to
meet its demand. But more often than not, the applicants didn’t actually meet
the needs of GE managers.
hear them complain about how the managers had to sift through piles of files to
only find one or two people who could actually fit the job requirements. Ajit
could not resist what he saw as an exciting opportunity. He felt he could do a
better job than many of these local agencies. Although Ajit enjoyed his work at
GE, he was only a guest in that company. He relied on GE, his host, to support
But Ajit could
not suppress his desire to start a business any longer. So after several months
toying with the idea, Ajit met Aravind Melligeri, another entrepreneur at
heart, and the men immediately clicked. Aravind agreed to take responsibility
for finance and operations. Ajit would handle sales and client relations. They
established their engineering outsourcing firm,
QuEST, and started working for their first client, Ajit’s previous manager at
their worth, won more work from GE, hired more engineers, and watched their
revenues grow. From the start, they earned much more from this business than
they would have as employees. They reinvested the excess money into the
company to fuel growth.
faced a critical strategic decision: how should we grow? They could either hunt
down new customers or seek out new work from their current client, GE.
Compelling arguments exist for seeking out new customers. This path reduces
risk. A company’s revenue is more stable if it diversifies across clients and
has thrived by adopting precisely the opposite strategy than the accepted norm.
Instead of seeking out new customers or expanding into new services, the team
focused on winning more of the same business from GE. They increased their
dependence on GE, but by choosing this unorthodox approach, they triggered a
strategic dynamic that has created superior competitive advantage.
engineer QuEST assigned to the GE account, QuEST strengthened its relationship
with GE. As the relationship deepened, GE began to entrust QuEST with more
complex and critical projects. After eight years, QuEST’s GE team has grown to
scope of supplying employees, QuEST has risen to be much more than an
outsourcer. It works on sensitive engineering projects. It has become
strategically important. It is no longer easily replaceable. Its revenue stream
grows more predictable.
have peaks and valleys,” Ajit says. “We have long-term relationships with our
QuEST will always remain a guest of sorts in GE’s home, but at least it
is a regular one who keeps a toothbrush there and has its own room.
Ask yourself the following questions to see how you can get
a room in your target clients’ homes.
Who are my
can I deeper my client relationships?
additional service can I provide that will drastically help my clients reduce
costs or become more efficient?