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Golden Nuggets on Applying Business Principles to HR Best Practices

As Co-Founder and CEO of Global Upside Corporation, Ragu inspires the employees that work within his conglomerate of brands to service the back-office needs of domestic and multinational companies. Ragu is the Co-Founder of Global Upside, Global PEO Services, and Mihi and Gava Talent Solutions with operations in over 150 countries.

Dr. Thelá Thatch, of the CAHR19 Writers Coalition and DEI Leader at Paychex, had the opportunity to talk to Ragu post CAHR19 and reflect on the lessons and experiences gained from the conference. During the interview, Ragu shared golden nuggets around his philosophy on entrepreneurship, leadership, and innovation. Here is an opportunity to learn from a master visionary on how to apply business principles to HR best practices.

CAHR19: What were some of the key takeaways from your session?
RAGU: #1 is Connections. Get connected to more people, more companies, and more service providers. It is not just about the tools and technology, but sometimes it is about knowing the right people. When you are connected, you understand a lot more about how the HR environment is changing. So, if I meet you here and get to know you, maybe I will have a question in the future, and I remember you may know the answer so I will reach out to you. Because eventually, no one person knows everything so having that ability to connect with people matters a lot. That’s why connectivity with all kinds of subject matter experts is crucial.

#2 is Building Relationships. From a business perspective, it is important to get connected with possible opportunities and possible clients. Global Upside had a great turnout at our booth, and we had a lot of people with very relevant challenges that we know we can solve. Even at our panel we had a subject matter expert that showed up and provided very interesting dialogue. All of that, to me, as a CEO matters in developing lasting relationships.

CAHR19: You have been described as a serial entrepreneur. How do you manage multiple businesses and the timing to do so? What is your secret?
RAGU: In my mind, entrepreneurship is about two things; one being able to see what the market needs, and two knowing where you think you have the expertise to solve a problem that somebody else faces. It is not a one on one situation, but it is a one on many situation. You need clients for it to become a business, which means it is not just about the vision, but when you are talking to your customers and partners, you can determine if you have a solution to their challenges. This allows you to see the opportunity in the marketplace big enough to launch a business around it. My vision is a little more focused in terms of the back-office needs of our clients and partners, so it is important to know what is going on and to be able determine where the client’s needs fit into one of our current brands. When we launched our Human Capital Management (HCM) platform, Mihi, because it was a software brand, we thought that doesn’t really fit into the professional services community. Now, when people buy our products they understand we are a software company or a professional services company, and this is how we differentiate the brands. We have four businesses, but in the back, it is all run as one company. From a customer-facing view, we have four brands, which allow us to market appropriately. If we think you need HR consulting, we can market based on the need.

CAHR19: One of your many accomplishments has been to take companies to levels of explosive growth. What are some strategies you use to position companies for sustainability and scalability when they grow from $20 million to $300 million?
RAGU: I never think about scaling as a one-time event, rather something to work on throughout the company’s life. So, when building your business, you need to think of three things; people, process, and systems. That is what makes up a business from an internal perspective. If you are building on any one of these aspects, you focus on all aspects. For example, when focusing on people, you want the best talent to help you grow not just today and tomorrow but also the day after. I talk about the 100-year company, and when we build for the 100-year company, I don’t know what our revenues will be a 100 years from today. But today I might have to make some hard decisions and spend some extra money and say I need a better, more robust system. Let us invest in it even though today we are not a $1 billion company; this system will scale us to $1 billion. Hopefully, in 100 years, we are a billion-dollar company. I hope that we are larger than that. Build your people, build your processes, and build your systems and everything around that. Most of us think in terms of our lifetime. I know I am not going to be around for 100 more years, but companies do not die when someone passes away or leaves. Look at GE, General Motors, and Disney that have been around many, many decades and have had many CEOs and many leaders. Somebody early on had a vision and said let us look at the long term. 1 to 5-year plans are important, but you need to have a vision of how your actions will impact the long term future so that it can survive 100 years.

CAHR19: In your opinion, what do HR leaders need to do less? What do HR leaders need to do more?
RAGU: HR people tend to fall into two camps; either employer focus or employee focus versus saying let us focus on the health of the business. You are actually trying to find the right solution for the whole business because eventually an employee walks in, and maybe this is not the right place for him or her. Or maybe an employee walks in with grief about the company and in fact the company’s wrong about how they are treating this employee. So, HR leaders need to keep that broader vision in mind instead of that micro-focus on how do I take care of just an employee or be a representative of management.

CAHR19: What are you reading, and what would you recommend HR professionals working in HR to read?
RAGU: Lots of newspapers on apps. The reason this is important to me is because the world is constantly changing, and while it is changing, we have access to all that information. So, yes, you can read very good books, and there are a lot of good authors. During the conference, we heard Dan Pink talk about his books and his view of how you should operate. It is all excellent stuff, but you have to be reactive about what is out there. For example, we hear about a possible recession coming. Are you aware that this is going on, and are you preparing your company and your team to deal with a recession if it actually happens? I read many different business books as I was transforming myself from being a CFO to being a CEO. I read a lot of books on management. I always thought that these were good from a long-term perspective, but we have to run a business day-to-day, and we need to be aware of what is happening because that can impact you and your employer, your team, and your employees.

CAHR19: What lessons would you want to share with the 20-year-old Ragu Bhargava that you learned the hard way?
RAGU: It is an interesting question because today, I look at my kids, 20-year-olds, and I see them having very different personalities from who I was. It was a different environment, different culture, and when I was 20, the only person I thought about was myself! I was self-centered.
When I look back at the last ten years that I have been running Global Upside, and I look back at what I could have done differently, some words of wisdom I have for myself is that I should have invested in sales faster and sooner and we would have been a different company today. That is one lesson that I have not forgotten over the last few years.