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Small Business Awards 2020 Midsize Finalist

MST Solutions LLC

Top exec: Thiru Thangarathinam, founder and CEO

Type of business: Integrated Salesforce solutions, Chandler

No. of employees: 300

What was the biggest challenge to your business as a result of Covid-19, and how did you deal with it? The biggest challenge was adapting how I was leading the team. This pandemic prompted me to reflect on my leadership style and adapt it based on the three foundational building blocks of leadership: Connection, communication and collaboration. We’ve always prioritized empathy, authenticity and transparency at MST, but I had to reframe how we were upholding those in the context of those three pillars.

Many businesses have pivoted from their usual operations into new revenue streams or products because of Covid-19. Did that happen to your business? Covid heightened the urgency for organizations across the public sector to digitize by adopting cloud-based solutions, and luckily we were prepared to meet that need with a licensing solution for public sector agencies we had developed prior. However, we realized there was a more widespread need for solutions like this in other verticals. So we have pivoted toward a product-based approach to solutions and focused on specific verticals like the public sector and healthcare, where digitization has become so critical.

What permanent changes to your business will happen as a result of what you learned in adapting during the pandemic? We’ve always allowed for remote work but working from home will likely be here to stay for a larger number of our colleagues. Similarly, I think much of our customer engagement will occur in a virtual environment from here out. Nothing will replace the benefits you get from in-person, human-to-human interaction, but I think we’ve all realized how much more efficient certain aspects of business can be when done virtually.

What was the toughest lesson you learned in the first year of starting your business? I didn’t know what I didn’t know, which I believe can be a blessing and a curse. At the time, I didn’t know how hard it would be to start and grow a business. There were a lot of tough lessons learned, but looking back I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything else in life considering the amount of learning and growth I’ve experienced over the last eight years.

Where do you want to be with your business in five years? We have a specific revenue goal of achieving $100 million and growth through acquisition. For us, however, it’s more about the deeper purpose that growth will enable us to serve. My goal is for MST to become a platform from which our colleagues can make a bigger impact in the community and among our customers. The way we see it, MST exists to leave a legacy through its three Cs: Customers, colleagues and community.

What is access to capital like in your industry, and what’s your experience been with it since you opened for business. (Also, did you get PPP funding or any other government assistance?) We’ve remained completely bootstrapped. There is access to capital in this industry, and we’ve had opportunities to tap into investment, but ultimately decided not to take outside funding. We did get PPP funding, however, which has allowed us to retain jobs, a majority of which are here in Arizona. But we haven’t taken any other capital assistance.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business? It may be contrary to the current climate of opinion, but this could be the right time to start a business. When there’s a lot change and upheaval, there can be more opportunity. It’s just a matter of finding the right opportunity and the right niche.

This content was originally published by the Phoenix Business Journal. That article can be found here: