Chris Pillay, Meridian Technologies
I learned the importance of execution among all the parts of my company and the need to build strong teams across management; getting all the right people into the right seats has been a big challenge as we’ve grown.
– Chris Pillay
Strategic Operations Take Meridian Technologies to Next Level
By Anita Warren; Getting Ink Done
It is said that adversity builds character. Sometimes, it can build businesses. The key is to recognize opportunity. Chris Pillay, CEO of Meridian Technologies, saw such an opportunity in the recession.
Meridian already was tracking success by the time the U.S. economy began its downhill slide in 2008. Pillay had partnered with his wife to found Meridian in 1998, capitalizing on their experience as consultants on data management projects, mostly in the banking industry. That first year, they logged $300 thousand in revenues. As the company gained momentum, they hired other experts to help handle the workload, which increased their ability to take on more projects around the country. But the growth was unstructured; there was no business plan. “We wrote some things down in the beginning,” recalls Pillay, “but we didn’t have a business plan because we actually thought of our work as just consulting. By the time we had structured a company, we felt we didn’t need one anymore because we were growing at a pretty good rate and we knew what we wanted.”
That changed in 2004 when he was nominated by the Central North Florida Minority Supplier Development Council (CNFMSDC) to attend Tuck’s Building a High-Performing Minority Business. The program encouraged Pillay to see his company as the sum of its parts: the different elements of his company, from marketing to finance to HR, needed to wrap around operations to help his business scale and grow.
“I learned the importance of execution among all the parts of my company and the need to build strong teams across management; getting all the right people into the right seats has been a big challenge as we’ve grown,” he says.
“Before I went to Tuck, I tended to think of the company very simplistically. Now I think of the company as a group of functionalized areas that have to cooperate strategically. For most of us who come from operations, I think that’s our biggest challenge: making sure you get all the parts and pieces working together the way they need to.”
Pillay applied what he learned at Tuck to plan for the future, plans that included not only the development of short- and long-term goals and forecasts but also the debut of a new line of business. Some clients preferred to run their own projects but needed help locating the right personnel to do so; Meridian’s new staffing service fit the bill.
The company grew. New offices opened. Things were going well.
Then the economy nosedived.
“The recession had a profound impact on us,” admits Pillay, “but while it had a negative impact on our consulting business because banks stopped spending money on a lot of things—especially the kind of work we were doing, which is about how you analyze data to expand a business—the staffing business actually picked up quite a bit during that financial turmoil. When the economy is uncertain, people are hesitant to hire full-time employees, so they bring in consultants to help them do work. If it doesn’t work out, they let them go, and if it does work out, they turn them into full-time employees. So while the recession hurt us in some ways, it provided some real opportunities in other ways.”
In fact, the staffing business rocketed from $8 million in 2009 to $33 million in 2013. Meridian’s total revenues are expected to be around $42 million this year. Ten of the top 15 U.S. banks are among the firm’s clients, as are some of the country’s biggest health insurance companies. Meridian now employs a full-time staff of 100, as well as 250 consultants, and maintains two offices in North Carolina and one in Virginia, in addition to its Jacksonville, Florida, headquarters. An office in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area is slated to open in 2014.
Pillay says he is grateful for the knowledge he gained from Tuck’s Building program, which was timely for him and his company. “I think it was a tremendous opportunity to go to Tuck. I would encourage anybody to invest in themselves and their business in this way.”
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