10 Questions for Synergy's Sridhar Guduguntla
Name: Sridhar Guduguntla
Time with company: Founded Synergy Software Solutions in 1995
Education: B.A. at Osmania University, in Hyderabad, India; master's degree at New Jersey Institute of Technology
Company headquarters: Bingham Farms, Michigan
Countries: U.S., India, Australia
Number of employees total: about 350
Number CFO oversees: 3
About the company: Synergy Computer Solutions provides IT consulting, outsourcing and staff augmentation. Guduguntla is the CEO and he also serves the CFO role for the company, whose website is http://www.synergycom.com/
1. Where did you start in finance and what experiences led you to the job you have today?
I started out at a company called Anatec. I was a program manager there. They're based out of Bingham Farms, Michigan. More and more, as we were growing, finance was something that intrigued me, so I learned more and more. I'm not an expert in a lot of Wall Street numbers.
2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?
I had a boss called Gary Gentry when I was at Anatec. He was my mentor. He took me under his wing and showed me around. He taught me a couple of points -- one is trust, but don't trust. Trust enough of your team that you can delegate, but don't trust blindly or they can take you for a ride. And the second is believe in people. We are a service business so we have to believe in people.
3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?
Definitely the economy. Especially in our business, it is [dealing with] growing costs in different areas like health care. Basically the margins are coming down because of the competition, so we really need to be on our "A" game to cut costs and to make sure we are going to be [financially] healthy. Fortunately, we've been very healthy in the last two years and we've never had red years in Synergy's history. We also were able to invest. We were ahead of the curve. We very cautiously spent money.
4. What is a good day at work like for you?
A good day of work is when we can provide better service for our customers, and when our people have a productive day and a no-down-time kind of day -- that makes me smile. We're very technology-focused even though we're not a technology company. I am delighted when we can say we saved some money for our customers and that we gave them what they wanted.
5. How would you characterize your management style?
I would say I lead by example and lead the way. I'm a very compassionate man -- my primary goal is always about the good of the company, so I try to teach my same philosophy to my management team. The second thing is I'm very open, I try to take everybody's input, but the final decision is with me. Everyone has a lot to offer -- my primary motivation is multiplication, not subtraction.
6. What strengths/qualities do you look for in job candidates?
I've done quite a few interviews over the 15 years and hired a lot of people. I like to see their body language, how confident they are and how are they answering. I see how they handle the interviews and based on that I make notes. Some can be vague but others give a lot of information about their experiences. I see their passion in how they answer questions.
7. What are some of your favorite interview questions or techniques to elicit information to determine whether a candidate will be successful at your company and what sort of answers send up red flags for you and make you think a job candidate wouldn't be a good fit?
I generally start with the technical questions depending on the expertise we are hiring in and then go into their personal life a little bit. I ask, "How would you deal with this situation and what are your hobbies?" What gives me a red flag is that some people just become blank. I just want to see how sharp they are in answering those questions. When they start becoming vague and they start becoming a little philosophical then I know we are going down the wrong path.
8. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other jobs?
One thing is our dedicated focus on customers -- our quality and our customer service stand out over our competition. That's where we excel. That is what motivates me, given the challenges and trying to resolve those challenges in the right way that benefits our customers. I really mean it when I say that the customer is number one for us in our focus.
Our goal has always been that we provide solutions not just based on technology but on the needs of the customers.
9. What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?
I do a few things. One is that I'm a big golfer, so I play golf in the summer. We have a short season [in Michigan], so we try to do that as much as possible. The second thing is I do meditation. I've been doing meditation for the last 20 years. It calms me down. I have two wonderful kids and my wife and I spend time with them, so family life is very important, to spend time with them.
10. If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?
I would say I would probably be working for some technology company doing god knows what -- maybe at a CIO level. I really love what we're doing, the company, and I think that maybe it's in my blood. ... We take some risks, but the rewards are beneficial too.