One year after graduating from the Commerce School, Ankit Jain was ready to fuse his extensive work experience with all he learned at McIntire to launch his own IT consulting firm, 1MAGN8. A daunting undertaking for sure, but he was positive the timing was right to take the plunge.
His plan was built upon a solid foundation. For starters, Jain had the benefit of gaining an immense amount of insight about successfully running and operating a business, thanks to eight years spent working alongside his parents as they developed theirs from a self-started home office into a firm employing more than 500 people.
Equally important, he insists that his time at McIntire empowered him with the technical and management understanding that came from serious engagement with coursework in IT, management, global commerce, and entrepreneurship.
Now, he’s prepared for the challenges of striking out on his own, ready to position 1MAGN8 “to be at the forefront of modernization efforts and support for global companies.” Led by a core belief that “the best people produce the best results,” he has enlisted experts in their respective fields with decades of consulting experience to their credit.
We recently spoke to Jain about his venture and how McIntire prepped him for what the endeavor brings.
What have been the most challenging aspects of starting your own firm?
The most challenging aspect of starting any non-product-based firm is justifying your services before getting that first customer. It’s very much a chicken-and-egg scenario, because how can you claim you’re a better alternative before you actually provide a consultant and receive feedback? Thankfully, we were able to gain a few clients through word-of-mouth, and now we see people wanting to come to us. When they choose us, project managers with tight budgets can get the quality of work they need without sacrificing quality.
Another challenging aspect is being the HR department, finance department, and management all at the same time. In the beginning, there is rarely ever enough capital to staff a full-fledged C suite and middle managers. Taking on multiple roles can get frustrating at times, but it’s important for entrepreneurs to understand the complexity and critical value that every single future employee will provide. By playing all the roles, you get insight into what daily challenges others will have to face, and it results in greater empathy from a management perspective.
What do you enjoy most about the process thus far?
Starting my own company has been very rewarding. I think one of the things I enjoy the most about it is that I don’t have to wait on anyone to get something done. If I need something urgently, I don’t have to ask permission or wait for multiple mangers to approve it. The ability to take immediate action is something I really like about owning my own business.
Another thing I love about owning my own business is that I have gotten to meet so many interesting people along the way, including potential employees or other small business owners who have similar experiences and interesting backgrounds. A big part of starting a client-based business is networking, so meeting people from all walks of life who are extremely intelligent and down to earth has been an invaluable experience.
The last thing I really like about it is that, at the end of the day, I can look back and know I’ve made a difference. I can see firsthand that my firm is helping clients achieve their goals under budget and above expectations. I also see that some of our profits are going to the company’s valuable social initiatives to help the local community. It’s very rewarding to know that something you started impacted someone for the better.
What from your time at McIntire directly relates to what you’re working on now with 1MAGN8?
I think one of the biggest takeaways from the Comm School that I feel everyone should really improve on is communicating efficiently and effectively to your audience. Two professors in particular, Kerrie Carfagno and Jingjing Li, emphasized the idea of translating technical, internal information into something actionable and understandable. This is increasingly important when dealing with higher-end IT and project management consulting, as clients often lack technical fluency but need to be updated on what’s going on and the importance of every action.
We ensure our consultants are technical experts who are as comfortable in a server room as they are in front of middle management. This stems from the notion of knowing your audience that these two wonderful professors stressed to me; I know that for a fact. Also, the ICE [Integrated Core Experience] program is great, since it allows students to get insight into multiple business fields, making it easier for a student to juggle the multiple roles of a new business owner than if they had focused on only one, specific subject.
How can commerce be a catalyst for change? How do you see your personal success affecting the lives of others in a positive way?
I have long believed that commerce is one of the single biggest catalysts for change, since it allows people to bring together capital, human, and physical resources to improve the lives of others. Even if a business is not an explicit B corporation, money earned from a business flows back as investments into other startups, higher pay for employees, or donations for charity. I believe that if you can get money and people together to work towards a common good, nothing can stop you. Businesses all around the world, many of which are founded or managed by McIntire alums, are pushing the boundaries of social giving and problem solving for humanity’s toughest problems.
One of our big tenets at 1MAGN8 is using our profits to help lift communities. We try to dedicate a sizeable portion of our income each year to giving back to our clients’ home cities. For example, when we have clients in the armed forces, we donate to homeless veteran projects in the area. We ask our clients, no matter their size, what matters to them and aid their cause. The more clients we acquire and the more we grow, the more free capital we will have to give, and the more lives we will improve. We seek to be very transparent in our social initiatives, as we see it as part of our value proposition and not a marketing tool. We don’t want to just gain clients because of our social work, but maintain and grow our relationship with them because of it.
What advice can you offer current students about thriving during their time at McIntire?
The best advice I can give current students is seek out any courses that require you to learn how to communicate with stakeholders and speak in front of an audience. Being comfortable and confident when you make a presentation can make the biggest difference in how you and whatever you are trying to market are perceived. Whether you go into consulting, banking, or marketing or start your own business, being comfortable in your own skin and confident in whatever you present is critical.
I’d also highly recommend students consider the Entrepreneurship Minor so that they can learn vital skills that will be useful in any field. Even if you don’t want to start a business, knowing about fundraising, management, and how to solve problems is very valuable and will make you stand out among your peers.