Kamran Khan is the president and CEO of Search Technologies, the world’s largest independent provider of search engine expertise, consulting and implementation services. Kamran heads a technical team of more than 80 committed and experienced experts who help customers gain a business advantage through the optimization of search engines. He has been in charge of developing, supporting, selling and handling computer software and services for more than 25 years. Kamran talked with WashingtonExec about the technology curve and the most common mistake business owners make when buying search engine technology.
WashingtonExec: Please tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to become CEO of Search Technologies.
Kamran Khan: I have been developing, supporting, selling, and managing in the computer software/services industry for 25 years, however most of that time I have been working with search engine technology. During the 1990’s through the early 2000’s I was an executive at a leading search software company and one thing that I consistently noticed was that many enterprise search implementations were not generating the return on investment that customers hoped for. The reason, I thought, was because there just were not enough professional services expertise being applied to implement the software. As a result, I saw a lot of search projects failing or becoming under-utilized.
So, that was the genesis of Search Technologies – basically to provide expertise for people trying to implement search software. And, I am happy to say that now six years later we are a thriving company with over 80 employees and have helped more than 200 customers to get the most out of search software. We help customers with “enterprise search” or “intranet search” behind the firewall, and we also have customers who use search for e-commerce purposes, or on content-rich Web sites.
WashingtonExec: What do you think is the most common mistake business owners make when buying search engine technology?
Kamran Khan: Buying search engine technology is not an easy task, which is why it is imperative for organizations to work with experts such as Search Technologies to make the best decisions. Many organizations assume that search technology can do everything, and they don’t realize it is a technology that needs to be integrated into an overall solution. This takes planning, experience, and the application of proven methodologies.
We guide our clients through every phase of the buying process, so they won’t make any mistakes. Our first step is the Search Application Assessment, where we start from the beginning to understand the customer’s circumstances; business needs, data sets, user profiles, infrastructure, existing licensing arrangements, and so on. Based on a full knowledge of those issues, we provide our customers with turnkey design and implementation, hosting services, and “hands-off” managed services so all they need to do is use the search application and focus on their core business.
WashingtonExec: What are your thoughts regarding social media, do you think it is changing the way your industry does business?
Kamran Khan: Social Media certainly provides benefits for businesses like ours, but just like any other aspect of a marketing plan it’s important to be smart about how you exploit it. We are strictly a business-to-business company, and a lot of the social media hype is over in the business-to-consumer sectors. We use social media heavily in recruitment, and find it a cost effective way to identify potential new employees. We also use Twitter to keep our clients, partners, and employees up-to-date on our latest announcements. But in B2B, especially if you are a relatively small organization, it is important to keep the potential value of social media in perspective.
WashingtonExec: What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?
Kamran Khan: This isn’t really a piece of advice I received but something that I have learned through experience. From a business perspective, you cannot be all things to all people (especially when you are just starting out). You need to focus on what you do well. At Search Technologies, we are experts with search engines and we built a business focusing on just that. Still today, that’s all we do.
WashingtonExec: What advice would you give to future entrepreneurs regarding establishing and running an international small/mid-size business?
Kamran Khan: I can’t reiterate enough how important it is to focus on what you do well. But also pay close attention to your customer’s requirements and be good to your people. Communicate and plan with your staff, get them engaged and make sure everyone knows what part they play, and how vital they are to the growth of the company.
We’ve done well because we have focused on our customers and our people. We opened new offices only when we knew we needed them. We hired only when the justification was there and we listened to our customer’s requirements rather than just following industry trends. Those, along with sound financial management, are the best ways to grow a small business.