"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Sudheer Koneru is an engineer, who did his engineering in computer science from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. Later, he went to pursue post graduation in computer science from The University of Texas at Austin.
Over the years, he has gained vast experience as an engineer and as well as at corporate level. He started his career with Microsoft and spent about 8 years with the company. Then, he became the CEO at Intelliprep. The company later merged with Click2learn Inc, making Sudheer the COO of the company. After that brief period, he went on to work for SumTotal Systems.
Sudheer and his brother, Dheeraj, co-founded Latitudes Health Club and Tangerine Spas, a chain of fitness centres, spas, and salons, in Hyderabad. Upon realizing the loopholes in the health and fitness industry, Sudheer conceptualized Zenoti, which is a cloud-based solution that addresses the needs of spas, salons, medical spas, yoga studios and other service businesses in the beauty and wellness space.
Please provide a brief overview of your product/ service.
We wanted to power spas and salons with an effortless business management experience to enable them to concentrate on providing an impeccable service instead of wasting their time on admin work.
Zenoti’s cloud-based solution addresses the needs of spas, salons, medical spas, yoga studios and other service businesses in the beauty and wellness space. Zenoti’s technology is based on three principles – reliable and speedy service, capabilities that support end-to-end business processes, and ease of use. The core solution enables a spa or salon to personalize guest experiences, automate daily operations and grow revenues. The all-in-one software includes capabilities for appointment booking, a CRM, built-in marketing, back office capabilities, mobile solutions, analytics and more.
What inspired you to build the above product/ service?
I started my career in Seattle at Microsoft. After an 8 year stint there, I went on to work for SumTotal systems for 9 years and grew the business to US$100 million. In 2004, my brother, Dheeraj Koneru and I co-founded Latitudes Health Club and Tangerine Spas, a chain of fitness centres, spas, and salons, in Hyderabad.
During this venture, we experienced first-hand, the complexity and challenges involved in managing operations for a wellness business without having the right software. The industry lacked reliable and easy to use software that supported the whole eco-system of operational tasks in a spa and salon, especially the needs of a multi-location chain.
This experience gave me an intimate understanding of the challenges in this industry. So we went back to our roots in enterprise software and founded Zenoti.
What is your life mantra?
Live and be present to the moment
What was the most challenging part of your journey till now?
We’re constantly in the process of transitioning a number of large, multi-location spa and salon chains to the Zenoti platform. Effortlessly moving a large network of spas or salons is our priority and also a challenge when it comes to facilitating the transition without hindering their daily operations.
Further, the market lacked a reliable robust cloud-based enterprise management software. Many existing solutions were built in the 90s and use antiquated technologies. The comparisons with these solutions are striking with fundamental differences that go beyond just POS. Zenoti’s cloud software offers marketing capabilities, mobile apps, and analytics, among others as extensions, which are usually unheard of with old desktop systems.
How did you overcome those challenges?
We take pride in our ability to manage the smoothest possible transition as this is not an easy task while working with a brand that is geographically dispersed across a country or a few. We have a number of tools and processes in place to train a large, distributed group of staff and support them in switching over to Zenoti. We manage the switch-over across the entire network within a short time span, and provide very personalized support during the first few weeks after the transition to Zenoti.
We know we’re successful when C-level executives, center managers and front desk staff are all happy with the transition.
Other than that, our solution is architected to handle scale very well and that is crucial in Asia with rapidly growing brands as well as in the US, where technology is a significant competitive differentiator. We are particular about educating our clients of their potential to run at maximum productivity on our platform through blogs, training videos, and a number of knowledge articles. It’s important to let our clients know that being on Zenoti is not just a way to perform daily operations, but to grow and succeed as a leading business with newer and efficient business processes.
How do you protect yourself from the problem of Brain Drain?
Employees want to know that they work in a place where they are clear on what is expected of them in terms of results and that they are actually rewarded and recognized purely against those metrics. As a company, we are passionate about ensuring we have measurable metrics, which define great, average, and poor performance for each role and department. Further, we publish these metrics internally each week openly across each group. This ensures that all employees always know in real time how their work is yielding results and impact in the company. There is no need to wait for a magical performance review essentially at the end of six months. I believe doing this right is the core to employee retention. Yes, there are several HR practices and benefits. However, running the company with transparency around performance of each organization and individual is at the core of retaining good employees.
According to you, what are the three qualities an individual must have to achieve success?
- Ability to listen well to all folks at work: To really internalize what one is saying both in their emotion and in their content of conveying something
- To be humble: The most successful people are always very humble and don’t brush off anyone, no matter how senior or junior they are
- Constantly unlearn and learn: In today’s technology world, life has taken a huge paradigm shift. Successful people always have a craving to learn and approach everything with a desire to learn from every experience.
Which online tools/ services/ apps do you use the most and would like to recommend as well?
LinkedIn for sales, hiring, and networking for the industry. For personal use, I’d recommend Uber, Yelp, Food apps, and workout apps like Nike+ are great to track my workouts.
As an organization, we use several online tools/services like ZenDesk, Zoho, Basecamp, NewRelic, and Pingdom to help us stay on top of our business.
Share any one habit which you think makes you more productive.
Being clear on what needs to change in the organization to move towards achieving goals: This clarity helps me remain focused. I start the day early, which ensures I have at least an hour of quiet time before any employee comes into the office. I can plan what the day should look like and be prepared for my meetings with each person. I ensure that I make good use of any time that I ask of others by being prepared ahead of time. I expect the same of others.
Share any one habit which you wish to change in yourself.
Being more positive about employee performance and taking the time to acknowledge individual performance: I tend to be more focused on what an employee could do better than on what they already did, even with my best employees and managers. It probably came from my childhood. Even if I got 99 points in Maths out of 100, my Dad would be focused on where the 1 point went and analyzed that with me. There never would be reference to the fact that 99 was still top of the class!!
Answer in less than 50 words
- One tip to success:
Don’t follow any role models. Just do what you are individually passionate about. Each individual is completely unique and there is no point trying to copy someone. As long as you enjoy what you do and are passionate about what you do, success in whatever form one desires, will arrive eventually.
- One mistake you believe every individual must avoid:
Being complacent or arrogant. Often as we grow in careers, our positions/titles get to us and we think we know better than our junior employees. Always being humble and really learning to listen to people will ensure you don’t miss a beat on your work. Listening, is another trait that people need to inculcate in themselves to be a valuable professional.
- One most important lesson that you have learnt till now:
Life is not all black and white – there are shades of grey too. Growing up as an engineer I always believed in right and wrong, but working in corporate environments, one of my managers that I respected made me recognize that there are shades of grey and to work effectively with people we need to acknowledge that. In essence, we also need to be ready to “unlearn” and “re-learn” constantly. The more I learn I realize how much less I know!!
What are your plans for next 3 years?
Making Zenoti the leading enterprise software solution for the wellness industry globally. Spending quality time with my kids before they disappear on me by leaving for college! Help my employees grow and evolve to being more effective contributors in their professional lives, because I believe doing this is essential to Zenoti becoming a leading enterprise.
If you get a chance to start your career again what would you do differently this time?
What are your top three getaway destinations?
- Bali for sure: The place has an energy and peace that cannot be explained in words. My favorite place being Ubud, a small town in Bali.
- My own farm house: It’s a peaceful place where I can be one with nature. When I choose not to read news or watch TV, Yoga allows me to be present to what is happening inside me alone. So I often tell my friends, “I AM the News”, because I’m constantly discovering what unfolds within me.
- Grand Teton Mountains: My experience here was very magical and the mountains put things in perspective very beautifully.
Share a quote that inspires you the most.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein