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Grit and growth gas up MST Solutions


Prior to founding MST Solutions in 2012, Thiru Thangarathinam never thought of himself as an entrepreneur. When he launched the Chandler company as a Salesforce content relationship management, cloud and marketing consultant, Thangarathinam was looking for more flexibility to spend time with his family.

Thangarathinam saw an opportunity to focus on the customer experience of using Salesforce and other technologies to help companies achieve greater efficiency and revenue growth.

Despite a lack of experience in starting a business, Thangarathinam believes he has the right entrepreneurial mindset to lead his company to success.

“There are two key things that make up who I am as a person,” he said. “One is grit, and the second is a growth mindset where I don’t feel like I’m constrained by my limitations.”

Thangarathinam also was willing to take personal risks to keep his company afloat, including taking a loan from his 401(k) to finance the company payroll.

“What that taught me was to be frugal about money,” he said. “If you’re running a startup in a bootstrap environment, every penny counts.”

As a first-time entrepreneur, Thangarathinam said he made his share of early mistakes, including hiring employees based on technical expertise instead of whether they were a cultural fit for the company, and letting emotional biases guide some of his decisions.

“A key lesson that I learned is to be more mindful about the decisions I made,” he said.

Today, MST boasts a 95% employee-retention rate and has hired an employee engagement leader with the sole job of scaling the company’s culture and employee experience as the company grows.

“There is nothing wrong with the culture evolving, but we don’t want to the culture to change in an accidental manner,” Thangarathinam said.

Growth is rampant at MST, where the company saw a 45% jump in topline organic growth last year and is on track to grow another 60% during 2019, Thangarathinam said. The company is looking at targeted acquisitions to boost future growth with a goal of reaching $100 million in revenue.

Guiding this journey is a focus on the “three C’s”: customers, colleagues, and community.

“I look at all of them as equal stakeholders that we are trying to serve,” he added. “The customers are the ones that are paying the bills, but the employees are the ones that are making things happen and the community is giving us a platform to operate.”

On the community side, MST gives every employee two days a year to spend volunteering and backs an employee-created Kind Project to battle poverty by helping Arizona women obtain employment skills.

MST also supports efforts to boost women in tech and proactively examined and addressed an internal gender pay gap.

Looking back over the past seven years, Thangarathinam said his advice to new entrepreneurs is to have a constant appetite for learning.

“Be paranoid about what you don’t know,” he said. “That approach of always learning and getting better as a person will help in anyone’s entrepreneurial journey.”

This article originally appeared in the Phoenix Business Journal By Lisa Wirthman on