Be Prepared to Get Bossed Around

In an interview last week with India Knowledge at Wharton, Atul Jain, the founder and CEO of TEOCO, talked about the company he started 15 years ago and offered his thoughts about what it takes to run a successful enterprise. With global headquarters in Fairfax, Va., TEOCO’s core business is cost management for telecom carriers.

On the advice front, for example, Jain says that “every entrepreneur needs to understand why he or she is getting into business. What is the purpose and what are the values? If an entrepreneur wants to start a business with making money as the primary driver, I would advise against it. I have seen a lot of people get into business with that as the primary goal. It doesn't work as well as if you have a passion.”

In addition, he says, people sometimes “tell me, ‘I want to be my own boss.’ I tell them that when you become an entrepreneur, nothing could be further from the truth. Every single employee is your boss because if they leave, you have nobody to do your work. Every single client is your boss because they tell you what to do. When you work for a company, you typically have one, maybe two bosses. When you're an entrepreneur, everybody wants to tell you what to do. Your employees will tell you what to do, your clients will tell you what to do, even your vendors will tell you what to do.”

Jain’s reasons for going into business were clear from the start, he says. He wanted “to prove to the world that nice guys don't have to finish last, that you can build a successful business on a set of values and principles. We defined TEOCO's core purpose as advancing principled entrepreneurship…. Our four values are alignment with employees, clients and community; integrity, honesty and respect; acting with courage; and drive for progress through a sense of ownership. We try to live up to our core purpose every day. It's a tremendous guiding light for me.”

Finally, he says, “Have courage…. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to go into business and it takes a tremendous amount of courage to stay in business. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to stay true to your values because people will challenge them and ask you to compromise them to create a successful business.”

In the full India Knowledge at Wharton interview, Jain talks about how he built up his company, the impact of the recession on his business, the role his Indian roots played in his experience and the story behind the TEOCO name, among other topics.

For other recent Knowledge at Wharton network interviews with entrepreneurs, see:

Advice from Entrepreneur Sabeer Bhatia: 'Provide the Same Value at a Cheaper Price'

Ten Commandments from Entrepreneurial 'Evangelist' Guy Kawasaki

Entrepreneur Elon Musk: Why It's Important to Pinch Pennies on the Road to Riches