Interview: Chintan Shah, President of KNB Communications
Chintan Shah is a native from Milwaukee, earning his bachelor’s degree in Communications and International Studies at the University of Wisconsin and his MBA at Babson College, before going to New York City.
As president and managing partner of KNB Communications, Chintan Shah oversees the company’s operations as a “marketing and PR firm exclusively serving the healthcare space.” Before joining KNB, he worked in the Power Systems sales division of IBM, while “working with clients in the healthcare, financial, and media markets.” He also managed marketing and sales for the Americas division of Unfors Raysafe, a “medical radiation management company headquartered in Bildall, Sweden.”
As a professional, Chintan Shah is “passionate about applying technology and innovation to solving problems, especially in healthcare applications.” Nothing thrills him more than “marketing new products and services that help people live better lives through disruptive, but easy-to-use technology.” He also understands that technology brings about new innovations every day, and that companies need to jump on these innovations and apply them appropriately or build them to improve the lives of patients “quickly and thoroughly.”
Before becoming president of KNB Communications, Chintan Shah served as Executive Vice President, where he focused on client services, strategic planning, business development, team development and coaching, among others.
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Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Chintan Shah: What makes KNB Communications stand out is what comes from within. It starts with the who, not the what. The people of KNB are entrepreneurial, compassionate, collaborative, and dedicated employees. We all come from different backgrounds with different experiences to bring to the table.
When I first joined KNB Communications, I knew right off the bat that this company was different. Different in the sense that there was an inviting atmosphere of people. Having a great team truly reflects the work we produce. I’ve fostered and grown this collaborative environment by being very selective in who we add to the team and putting resources behind internal marketing. A lot of my philosophy stems from being a mentor and true advocate for each and every person at KNB. I have an open door (and open Google Meet/Zoom/WebEx in today’s pandemic world) policy. We value one another here — and because of that — we value one another’s time, work, and effort, and it shows.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
- Stay even keel — enjoy the highs, but don’t overdo it. Take the lows in stride.
- Spend time learning about the industry at large and enjoy getting to know trends and innovations. Too often, we spend our time going from crisis to crisis and do not spend enough time thinking strategically. Reading industry publications, connecting with industry leaders via LinkedIn and Zoom, and participating in events will help keep ideas fresh and connect your work with opportunities in the market.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
- My parents
Business acumen runs deep in my family. My grandfather was an accountant and ran a small business in India and taught my father the values of the free market and importance of economic trends. My father came from Bombay to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on a harrowing journey in the mid-1960s. He earned his MBA and worked for several large companies before achieving his dream of owning his own health care consulting small business. When I was born, my dad even tried very hard to get my first word to be “entrepreneur.” Turned out to be “Mama…,” but the die was cast for me to love business and marketing in my life and my career. My parents certainly influenced me strongly in very positive ways. I intimately appreciated the strategic nature of business in helping my dad build his company and I enjoyed the challenges and triumphs associated with sales. Ultimately, he taught me that customer service was helping clients to solve puzzles together. I have made that the hallmark of my work throughout my career.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Chintan Shah: A good company is profitable. They are successful because they have a clearly stated mission, and they have set a strategy to accomplish that mission. A good company attracts good people with competitive compensation packages and generous benefits. It checks all the boxes.
A great company puts passion first. They have a vision and values. They attract other passionate people who understand and identify with the mission. They offer their employees competitive compensation packages and generous benefits because they value them, and their employees are loyal in return. Employees are drawn to and stay with the company because they believe in the mission and want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Great companies also attract and, more importantly, retain customers far more easily. They are profitable as a result.
Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Chintan Shah: Go back and review what got you to where you are. With growth, there is often a desire to expand beyond the core values of a company or the niche that made it successful in the first place. Recalling what made your company desirable and reestablishing that brand identity can help reorient a business. It also provides an opportunity to evaluate what is working and what can be cast off or adopted into other lines.
Jerome Knyszewski: Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Chintan Shah: Challenging economic times can often stress a company and certainly its teams and its leaders. However, some of the best ideas and opportunities for creativity arise from challenging periods. My father used to have a set of pictures hanging on the wall in his office. One of them showed a golfer in a sand trap with the headline “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Chintan Shah: It is always the people. Finding a strong team. Cultivating leaders. Retaining them. Motivating individuals at various levels and helping them find passion that is reflected in their work.
Growing from a small startup to a larger, established organization. The initial success of a company creates excitement and pride. Once that plateaus, the next challenge is figuring out how to take larger leaps to grow at a faster pace.
Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Chintan Shah: To wow someone, you must exceed their expectations. That means not only knowing what a customer wants but truly understanding their motivations. Often business metrics are lagging indicators for success. Showing a customer that you understand what is important to them makes the difference.
To exceed expectations, you must first understand what their expectations are. Conduct a competitive analysis to determine the status quo in your industry. Then, think of creative ways to outperform it. For example, many agencies only provide the data that is specifically requested by a client. At my agency, we provide weekly updates and written monthly reports with all the KPI’s and client requests as well as those we consider helpful or important. We also offer insights and recommendations. We pay close attention to the data and offer proactive advice if we see an area where a campaign may be optimized. Several clients have commented on how this level of transparency is unexpected but truly appreciated.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Chintan Shah: Social media is only a risk when it is handled poorly. Social media is not one entity and is certainly not an optional channel for communication. Individuals, companies and organizations need to determine how to get the most out of the various channels that social media offers. There is risk in every channel of communication from traditional media interviews, email and broadcast. The key is identifying the channels that will be most valuable, building a strategy of content and mitigating risk by anticipating how to respond when negativity arises. Avoidance is not a strategy. Instead, a proactive approach with thoughtful consideration for the risk will enable both individuals and organizations to get the most from these digital channels of communication.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
- Build a strong team. Select individuals who are both individual contributors and team players.
- Emphasize quality services/products and new business growth. Both current clients and potential new clients bring value to your business.
- Keep a close eye on operations — do not assume it will all work out on its own. Optimization, cost analysis and resource allocation are dynamic and ever changing.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Chintan Shah: Education is very important to me as I stated earlier. I would champion a movement that helps bring improved education to children and offer opportunities for career development. I have participated in formal and informal mentorship programs and find these to be incredibly valuable to both the mentee and the mentor.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Chintan Shah: You can email me at email@example.com.
You can also visit the KNB Communications website at www.knbcomm.com.
And you can also follow me on social media:
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!