Interview With Fellow UCONN Alumni and Successful Entrepreneur, Ted Hsu

April 20, 2009
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It’s Interesting who you run into on social networks like LinkedIn. A couple of weeks ago, thanks to the University of Connecticut Alumni group on LinkedIn I moderate, fellow UCONN Alumni and RA from my undergraduate dorm floor, Ted Hsu, connected with me. It’s been over 15 years since I have spoken to Ted, but […]

It’s Interesting who you run into on social networks like LinkedIn. A couple of weeks ago, thanks to the University of Connecticut Alumni group on LinkedIn I moderate, fellow UCONN Alumni and RA from my undergraduate dorm floor, Ted Hsu, connected with me. It’s been over 15 years since I have spoken to Ted, but I remember him as being a very determined and tough individual. When he graduated from UCONN with a BA in English he had plans to start his own business. Amazingly, today he is President and CEO of the very same business he founded in 1991! The company, an eight figure business, continues to grow impressively.

He is currently writing a book on management. Today it’s my pleasure to share a few tidbits from a recent conversation we had about his experience starting a business right out of school.

Ted Hsu, President/CEO Horizon Services Corp.

TOM: Tell me a little bit about your business, Horizon Services Corporation.

TED: We send staff to corporate facilities to do cleaning, moving and landscaping. We also place administrative positions for facilities from our newly opened overseas call center.

TOM: I know you started the company immediately after graduating from the University of Connecticut with a BA in English. That’s quite unusual. Most people go to work somewhere first, what made you choose to go off on your own right away, and why did you choose the business you did?

TED: Tom, you may have remembered my bad attitude in school, well, self-employment is where those with attitudes end up, not corporate. I chose my industry randomly, facilities has low barriers to entry. It turned out to be a great industry because of the low quality of human capital of my competitors. Why enter an industry where everyone has high horsepower upstairs and are all out to kick your ass?

TOM: What kind of growth did you experience over the years. Was it fairly steady, exponential, or S curve growth?

TED: My growth was straight line, I used no leverage to grow. While I learned to expand my Myers Briggs spectrum, I kept my risk low. I will be employing leverage after this credit crunch is over to achieve that classic hockey stick growth.

TOM: What types of skills did you feel you needed to acquire along the way? How did you acquire them?

TED: My main skill acquired: “to not mind looking stupid while staying humble” How I acquired it: “frequent f***ing up”

TOM: Can you give me an example?

TOM: What resources, books, business gurus, friends/advisors or institutions have been most helpful to you over the years?

TED: I read everything I could and still do, were I wiser then I should have spent more time seeking out the advice of those who did what I was trying to do.

TOM: What is your competitive environment like? Are there any threats?

TED: As I grow, the competition & misc dark elements are getting tougher, but that’s how it goes

TOM: What do you mean by Dark elements?

TOM: Small businesses somewhat understandably don’t conduct much, if any, marketing research. Have you ever conducted any kind of research like customer segmentation, employee, or customer satisfaction studies?

TED: Great question, at Horizon we do spend a lot of time talking to our customers and they all want the same thing but only after talking with them a long time do you find that they want the same thing very differently.

TOM: “the same thing very differently” And what is that?

TOM: You’ve told me that the human resources factor has been one of your biggest challenges over the years. In fact I believe you are writing a book about this topic. Can you tell me a little about this?

TED: As we are rapidly moving towards a knowledge economy, the human resources and the management of hourly employees have not moved much beyond the factory days of Taylor and subsequent unionization. My book will address that a bit.

TOM: You mentioned that interns/co-ops have been a big resource for you. Can you explain your process of bringing these types of employees into the organization?

TED: As an intern, high ability is combined with absence of fear. This is the total opposite of someone on a downward career path full of fear and anger. Which would you rather work with?

TOM: Looking back, what if anything would you have done differently/

TED: I would have written more of my plans and goals down and dated them. I could have then reviewed them each year to see what total trash my earlier “great ideas” were and thereby taken consolation in the fact that I was indeed growing in cranial capacity despite all the while feeling like a rodent

TOM: What advice would you give someone considering going out on their own?

TED: Save your money until your brains can catch up.

 

Link to original postTom H. C. Anderson – Anderson Analytics