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September 12, 2023
Sardor Akhmedov

How to Start and Scale a Profitable Agency Business

How to Start and Scale a Profitable Agency Business

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Show Notes

Mudassir (00:01.786)
Okay. Please do a clap for me.

Amazing. So this one actually helps us in syncing the video and sound. So the moment your hands are clapping, the moment the sound is like, OK? So yeah, that's that.

Mudassir (00:18.733)
All right. OK. Hey, Sardar. Thank you for joining us today. How are you doing today?

Sardor Akhmedov (00:22.594)
Good good, how are you?

Mudassir (00:24.538)
Amazing. Thank you for the time. Yeah, really nice to meet you. Where are you located?

Sardor Akhmedov (00:28.938)
Yeah, currently Miami.

Mudassir (00:32.882)
How's Miami doing?

Sardor Akhmedov (00:34.574)
It's lovely, it's a great weather, although in summer it's a rare thing, but today is a beautiful day.

Mudassir (00:39.074)
Yeah. Okay, amazing, amazing. So I'm a big fan of context. Generally when I talk to anybody, I feel like all the things that have happened to us in our past, that shapes us, whoever we are today, and probably going to shape us how we're going to be in the future. So speaking of context, give us the earliest context of your life. Who are you? Where are you from? What's the oldest memory you have of yourself? And how did you actually become?

this guy today that you are today.

Sardor Akhmedov (01:11.234)
Yes. So I grew up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, it's in Central Asia. It's a very new country because it came off as a product of independence from Russia 30 years ago. And I was born in 1998, so I'm 25. And still very early days of the country being shaped, right?

There was a lot of entrepreneurship going on in the country because the opportunities just started out. Just like my father, he started his business in the 90s. Actually the moment the country went independent and capitalism came to the country, he started his business. So when I was growing up, my dad was still in his early days of starting his business. So I grew up watching him start his business and watching a lot of other people.

doing businesses, right? So it only made sense for me to develop a passion toward business through that. And also I developed passion to technology as well because it was the moment when personal computers were just being introduced, the internet was being introduced in the early 2000s, right? It was a very rare thing still to have a wifi at home, to have a, I still remember the day when we connected wifi and it was exciting because

Nobody, literally nobody in our neighborhood had Wi-Fi and when we started it was like it was the only one connection that popped up and it was even like a little scary to have Wi-Fi. We thought it's a very dangerous thing. Probably it's like a lot of radiation coming out from it and whatnot. And my relationship to computers was also very unique because again, because computers were brand new.

My parents' perception of it was very much like a dangerous thing, especially my mom's. She thought personal computers and everything that's basically virtual and technological is very harmful for kids. She never got me a personal computer up until I was maybe 13 or 14 years old. I had very limited access to technology. Although I did get my first...

Sardor Akhmedov (03:38.818)
phone when I was 10 and even that was kind of late compared to my classmates who already got their phones earlier. So I think that in turn pushed me to kind of really want to have technology in my life because whatever is limited, you know, you want to have that more, especially as a kid, right? So that to me was that, you know, forbidden fruit, so to say, right? I had very limited time with technology when I used to come to my dad's office.

computers there and I loved using it. So that kind of shaped who I am and long story short, I grew into becoming a tech entrepreneur, who I am today. I run an agency in software development. We have over 100 employees and to me, I grew up wanting to be in technology and I did end up in technology, in business, doing business in technology.

Right, so I came to the US when I was 16 for high school, when I got a scholarship. And then I went to high school here for two years. I went to the university in New York for a year, another university in LA for half a year, and then ended up actually dropping out of college after a year and a half. So that's my story, yeah. And then I got into business, so we can talk more about that.

Mudassir (05:03.271)
Why did you drop out?

Sardor Akhmedov (05:07.924)
It was a long time coming. I didn't even actually want to go to college in the first place. Even when I was leaving to the US, my parents were sending me to study in the US. I thought, I'm going to be an entrepreneur. I read all these books about Henry Ford, how he never went to college or dropped out. I was romanticizing Bill Gates and all these...

tech guys that dropped out and I thought, hey, I don't even need to go in the first place, right? Although my mom was very persistent on that and she told me like, I should at least give it a try. So when I did, I realized actually I don't need it because I'm not being taught entrepreneurship here and I wanna be an entrepreneur. So what they're teaching me instead was business administration. Literally that's what my major was, right? And I realized in business administration, you don't learn entrepreneurship. You learn how to be...

an operator in the business or at best or just being an employee of the business, right? So that wasn't something that was really clicking with me. And I had a business that was already running while I was in college. So in my first and second year in college, I had a profitable business that was in the sport nutrition distribution industry. And I was already making money. So I would sit in my, in my like.

classes and basically run this business online. I was taking orders, selling things, you know, it was a wholesale distribution basically. So I'm being taught how to be an employee while I'm actually running a real business, something that the professor himself hasn't done in his life, right? So I thought it just doesn't make sense for me to stay and pay all this tuition when I can actually go and spend more time running a business.

Mudassir (07:01.386)
That's very true. I think, so it's funny that you read a book about all those people who never went to the college, built mega, mega billion dollar empires, big businesses, and you ended up following that path and successfully replicating that as well. So that's very interesting to hear that. Usually it's the other way around. So people tend to not do it and they end up doing it again. One question that comes to my mind is, tell us a little bit more about your first business, because you were like really, really early.

You're still 25, so it's still early, so you know. But tell us a little bit about that. How did you get started? What did you do? Where did you sell? How big the system was? And how did you eventually, you know, left that business?

Sardor Akhmedov (07:45.246)
Well, actually as a matter of fact, like I said, for as long as I remember myself, I always wanted to sell things, I always wanted to make money, I always wanted to do a business. I used to have like my mom brought groceries home and I remember I wanted to sell those groceries back to our neighbors, you know, or even find things at home that nobody's using and just sell those things. But my first profitable business was, believe it or not, when I was 10.

I figured out a way how to sell video games virtually. And this is 2008 we're talking when we had the Nokia phones and Sony Ericsson phones when everybody was using like those punch phones with the buttons. So the only way to get video games on those phones, which is what all the, I guess, 10 year olds wanted at that time, was if you had an internet at home.

You could download it and then you had to figure out a way to then upload that file into your phone. So not many kids knew how to do that. Most people didn't. So a lot of these stores started offering this service of uploading video games to your phones. They used to charge 500 soms, the local currency at the time, which was around for me was a little more than my daily pocket money.

So I would save up just like other kids to download those games. But then one day I figured out a way how to upload a lot of games into my phone and instead of using a cable to upload it, I could send the video games via Bluetooth to other kids' phones. And that was revolutionary. Nobody knew how to do that. I figured out a way.

I thought, wow, I have a business here. So I started charging 300 soms. So I started charging less than the local competition, which was the store next to our school where all the kids used to go after school. I started selling that in my classroom, literally while in the class, I was selling video games. I remember my biggest deal was I sold like a wholesale deal to one of my classmates for 10,000 soms, which was a lot of money for a kid at the time.

Sardor Akhmedov (10:03.826)
I sold all my 300 games, but I sold the copy. So I still kept my copy. And the thing is once he receives the file, he couldn't distribute it anymore to anybody else. He could just install it and keep it, right? And I was the only distributor. So that was my first business. I started making money when I was 10. Then I knew, hey, I have the skill to actually sell and do business. And then, you know, my other hustles involved.

You know, selling ice cream for my dad, he owns ice cream business when I was 14. Then when I was 16, I had an e-commerce store where I used to sell things from the US to Uzbekistan. But my first, like, so to say, like a serious business was, I think it was 2018, when I partnered up with the wholesale distributor in Uzbekistan. And I started selling wholesale nutrition, sport nutrition, you know.

talking like protein shakes and things like that from the US. I became the exclusive distributor of I think it was 12 different brands in the US and I started exporting that from the US to Uzbekistan and I was revenueing around $50,000 a month and the time I was 20 years old. The margins were about like 10-15% only so I was making like around $5,000 a month but I was in

So that was probably so far by that time of my life, it was like the biggest money I've made. So I was able to cover all my expenses and everything while I was in the US. And I wasn't even legally allowed to work yet in the US, I was a student, I was an international student. So yeah, it was exciting, it was a good business, but I always wanted to be in technology. So I knew this is, even though it's profitable, it has growth potential,

Mudassir (11:51.838)

Sardor Akhmedov (12:03.254)
does not align with my vision of being a tech entrepreneur. So I exited that business in 2020. So I ran that for about two years and then left that to my partner. And in 2019, I joined my mentor who's my business partner currently. I started just doing sales for him and then grow into a partner with him. So we co-own this current company and we run it together.

right now, which we currently employ over 100 employees. And we have a lot of notable clients. Yeah, that's how I got into what I'm doing right now.

Mudassir (12:46.022)
Yeah, man, what a story. Normally, you don't expect that kind of story. It's just more like people who have, like that's like 80s, 90s story. Like, you know, you listen to that, but this is pretty new. But so happy to, you know, for your success and all the things that you have done. I wanna ask you something, but you know, probably gonna ask you for the podcast episode. So just coming back to, you know, whatever. So...

You own this particular company or the other one? So I think you own just one company or two companies now? I think you're running two companies now.

Sardor Akhmedov (13:22.922)
Well, I have this company, we have another agency as well. It's also in a similar business. So we have a holding company basically. So Jaften is part of the holding company. Within that holding company, we have another agency called NoCo team. Then we have a product company called So there's multiple companies within this, but I consider this all one business basically. This is one and only business, yeah.

Mudassir (13:28.386)

Mudassir (13:37.512)
Got it.

Mudassir (13:40.988)

Mudassir (13:45.774)
Yeah. OK. Amazing. Got it. So talk to us a little bit about how did you get into scaling these type of businesses. So my perception was, and I think a lot of people have that perception, that agency business are hard to scale. Like, they're really, really hard to scale. So you can run a boutique, or you can run a wholesale, something like that. The cost margin are pretty low.

but you have ton of client, you have ton of team members, something like that. The other one is you can run a boutique where it's like you're charging, I don't know, a thousand bucks an hour, you have a handful of clients, and that's probably it. But this is like pretty big business that you guys are running. So how did you end up scaling it and like, yeah, tell us a little bit about scaling an agency business.

Sardor Akhmedov (14:37.459)
So yeah, a little bit of backstory into Jaften, right? So Jaften started 10 years ago in 2013 when Bobir, my partner, he closed down one of his product businesses. So he's always been in a product business, never ran an agency in his life. He's always been a product guy. He started one of the first social media websites in 2005 and has done like e-commerce businesses, many different things. He exited a few of them. So in 2013,

He started getting approached by his networks that knew that he's in technology to help them with their project. So even though, like you said, agency business is not scalable, a lot of people think it's not an attractive business. You know what's the best thing about agency business? That you can start it with no capital at all. You can start making money day one. So he landed a contract from this billionaire family.

Mudassir (15:26.447)
100%. Yep.

Mudassir (15:30.503)

Sardor Akhmedov (15:34.614)
that he knew and they were starting a pretty big project. And he basically took his team that he had from a product business that he wasn't using anymore because the product shut down. And he put it into this project and he started charging a retainer. It was a pretty big retainer. It's almost a six-figure retainer a month. That's how the agency started. But that business ran for about...

Mudassir (15:48.998)

Mudassir (15:56.23)
Wow, okay.

Sardor Akhmedov (16:02.186)
another three years until he moved to the US. Then he tried to grow with a little bit, but it was always like a smaller scale boutique agency, like you said, it was about 15 people, give or take, maybe up to 20 at some certain points. And then 2019, because up until 2019, he always treated this agency as a temporary thing. And he said, I'm gonna build a product because I'm a product guy, right? But in 2019, he realized, hey, you know what?

agency itself is a good business and I'm going to try to scale that and build it up. So, and at that point we knew each other for about two years. He was mentoring me on technology. I was like kind of working with him on a few different things, helping him out, learning from him. So he told me, Saurdor, why don't we build this agency to a bigger scale? You know what I said, I realized this is a good business actually. It's a profitable business and we can build a big company because there's a lot of like, you know, you have the eccentric of the world.

the Infosys, these are billion dollar companies that are agencies, right? In this space, you said, why don't we build the next Infosys or next Deloitte? You know, then let's join forces. Let's do it together. You do the sales and let's scale this company big, right? So 2019 I joined, I started doing sales. I had no idea about sales and I learned it myself. You know, I self-taught, still learning to this day. But in this...

It was all the attitude basically. I had the attitude, hey, we're gonna grow this company into a big company, right? At least $100 million in the next 10 years. So I sat down, I learned sales, I started making sales and we started lending clients. A lot of mistakes made, you know. I'll tell you, even up until like late two years ago, we were still getting some projects that were losing money, right? It's terrible. And that lasted up until this year that.

some of the projects were losing money. A lot of mistakes made, but I'll tell you at this point, because we decided we're going to focus on the agency business and grow it, we figure out a way how to run this business at a very good profit. So every new project that we sign, we have a very good profit margin, very healthy profit margin, probably above average than in the industry. And through the agency...

Sardor Akhmedov (18:24.682)
We were able to also build up a big network. We work with some very notable clients right now. We have Saudi Royal Family as our client. We have Patrick Ben David, who's a big entrepreneur in the space, founder of Aliexpress. Yeah, he's our client. And a few other celebrities that I can't disclose, but.

Mudassir (18:40.87)
Yep, yep, I know him, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Sardor Akhmedov (18:51.558)
It's a good business if you can figure out a good operations. It took us a very long time to be able to systemize the operations, but once you systemize the operations, it's a very good business. Now, we do still want to go into product though. Product businesses are most scalable, so we do have product that we built, that we're building. We always build new products internally.

Mudassir (18:57.582)

Mudassir (19:03.109)

Sardor Akhmedov (19:20.398)
So not only do we do that for clients, but we build internally. To be honest, none of them have turned profit yet. It takes a longer time. One thing about product you know is that, unlike agency, it takes a very long time to turn profit. But once you figure it out, then it's more scalable. So we're doing both right now, but we're not gonna kill the agency business. We still have a goal of growing this agency business. It's already a eight figure business if we were to sell it today.

Mudassir (19:33.711)
It does. Yeah.

Sardor Akhmedov (19:51.151)
But we want to get into a nine figure area and then possibly exit in the future, but it's more of a longer vision.

Mudassir (19:51.259)

Mudassir (19:59.606)
Yeah, amazing. When I talk to most of the entrepreneurs today, I think it's fashionable to own a product company. I think so. That's my personal belief, because I think it's becoming more and more fashionable. Why? Just because running a SaaS company is sexy, and running an agency is not, or running any other business is not compared to SaaS companies. And the other thing that is very fashionable today is raising a whole lot of

cash, raising a whole lot of money, right? The trend is kind of going downward, especially in 2023. But if you look at the last three, four years, people have raised, I don't know, a few billion dollars at least. Yeah, yeah. Unbelievable.

Sardor Akhmedov (20:40.698)
left and right so much money. There still are so many of my friends are raising so much money right now.

Mudassir (20:47.022)
Yeah. I'll come to bootstrapping and all that, because that's one of the most important things I want to talk to you today. But before that, you mentioned something that once you figure out how to build the operations, how to build system, and systemize the whole process, that's when agency business is pretty powerful. So two questions that I want to ask you on that. One is, how do you pick a project that you know is going to make you money? So question one is.

how you pick up project that's gonna make you money. Question two is.

Mudassir (21:23.842)
I had a thought, I totally lost about that. But yeah, let's just start with how you pick a project that's gonna make you a lot of money. Like, yeah, what were changes now that you did not know before?

Sardor Akhmedov (21:36.054)
Yeah, so we make changes probably every month to our strategy. But one of the most recent changes we made is we actually have outlined which projects can we take that we know 100% are going to be profitable. And that's majority of projects at the moment because we've already done those. But what we decided on is if we are not sure if this project, if it's a risky project, you know.

that we don't know whether this can make profit or not because our model is very unique. We don't do time and material usually. What we do is we take a project base. So we define the scope and we tell you this is the price for the scope and we'll get it done no matter what, even if it takes us longer and more resources, you don't pay extra. That's our guarantee to our client. That's how we win deals, right? But it's risky for us because a lot of the times we went over scope or we've underestimated the scope and we went over

and we lost money. So now what we do is, first of all, our operations and delivery team is very, very strong. We have really good senior people that are controlling the processes, and most of the cases, we don't lose money. But now if we are not sure if this is gonna be profitable, there's some risk, there's a big risk that this may go over because it's a new technology. Let's say we've never done it before. We are upping the price a lot.

for the client and we're not negotiating. And that's it, we'd say take it or leave it. Or we offer a second option, we say, why don't you do staff augmentation with us where we just provide you the team and you pay us for each team member monthly. So basically renting the team from us, dedicated team. In that case, we have zero risk. They're managing the team directly. Or we can even put a project manager, but they pay us monthly. Instead of paying for deliverables, they're paying us per person. That way we offset our risks.

And of course that sometimes, you know, it will make us lose deals. It's a recent decision we made like two weeks ago. Because still rarely we were taking some risky projects. But now with this new sort of regulation that we made, we will be rejecting some projects, but we will make sure that whatever project we take is going to be profitable.

Mudassir (24:04.738)
Awesome. One of the biggest challenges I think in this agency business model is finding the right talent and then retaining the right talent. Like that's what I believe. And the biggest problem is that you could find somebody who is like unbelievable. It's a hot chart guy so you just hired him. So one risk that usually people run into is, you know, the guy that you just hired, he just wants to work with a client directly. So that's like very well-known problem.

The other one is that person is going to leave if somebody offers them more money or like, you know, more opportunities or like whatever, more growth or something. So you build it for like 100 people. How tough is the hiring process for you guys? What's the hiring process you have? Yeah.

Sardor Akhmedov (24:50.686)
Yeah, so talent is a very big issue. Of course, one of the downsides of the agency is that it's a people's business. And you're very much dependent on people on both sides, both on the client side, who is a human being who has emotions and feelings and can go crazy. And same thing on your own team internally. The people are vulnerable. They can get sick. They can leave you. They can betray you. They can do bad things. Or you can just lose them.

Like one of our very strong designers right now is leaving unfortunately, as of this week. We just learned that and it's sad, but there's nothing we can do. And it's not like we've been bad employers, but he just, he says he found a better opportunity. It's a normal part of business, right? So how we do that is, there's multiple factors. So obviously our HR team is very, very strong. Last week we had a...

We had a client who wanted to add five engineers immediately to the team. And we found it within the same week. We found the five engineers directly to put them on the staff augmentation. And what also helps us is our personal brand. So my personal brand is more or less, you know, small still, but my partner's personal brand is very big in the region that where we hire. So a lot of our employees, they come because they want to work with him. You know.

He's like the Elon Musk of Uzbekistan. So a lot of, it gives us a leg in the negotiation because it's something that they wanna be associated with him and that's something that's non-monetary, right? That helps us. Plus we try to be very good employers. You know, we do have a physical office, you know, contrary to the remote. We don't...

force anybody to come to the office, but we have an option. If you want to come to an office, we have a very comfortable office with all the, you know, everything you need in the office. Plus, we have good vacation packages, you know, good bonuses. And we just treat people like human beings. We...

Sardor Akhmedov (27:05.37)
I think our culture is good. People enjoy working with us.

Mudassir (27:09.666)
Okay. You mentioned the thing which was making down on LinkedIn a couple of years ago, and that was physical office versus the remote work. And that post-COVID thing actually started that. So coming back to one thing, I'm not going to ask you why you don't have any more people. I'm not going to ask you why all of that stuff. My question to you, and it's actually coming from a curiosity standpoint. So when it comes, so you're on a very big team. So 100 people, it's like, that's not a joke, right?

And then you mentioned team culture. So when your team is remote, part of that is remote, part of that is you're in somewhat of a hybrid model. But there was a point that you were like, yeah, majority is remote. So how do you guys build a great team culture? And assuming this thing that most of the people have never met each other, most of the people don't know, what is it like to work with physically, to sit with each other, work with each other? So yeah, how do you guys build that sort of a team culture that you know?

Sardor Akhmedov (27:46.774)
Majorities are more kept. Yeah.

Mudassir (28:10.438)
that helps you in growth and in all these things.

Sardor Akhmedov (28:14.614)
Yeah, you know, we try to solve everything with one philosophy that, hey, if we have a task, if we have a goal, you know, our mindset is always instead of how do we do it, we ask a question of who do we get to do it, right? And our thing when we asked that was, hey, why don't we find a person who's going to be responsible for a culture of the company? So we have a designated person whose title is Chief Happiness Officer.

And that's what she does all day. She makes sure everybody's happy at the company. She organizes events.

Mudassir (28:48.786)
How does he make you out of that?

Sardor Akhmedov (28:51.318)
Well, she organizes different events. She does weekly get togethers at the office or remotely as well on Zoom. She makes sure everybody's birthdays are celebrated or at least like notice we order cakes and celebrate and if they're at the office, if not, we send them the cakes home. We'll make sure everybody got enough vacation. So she does it, I don't know exactly to the T what exactly she does, but.

Our solution has been, instead of us sitting and scratching our head and be like, hey, how do we make sure people are enjoying being in this company? We literally designated a person whose job it is full time to make sure that everybody enjoys being in our company.

Mudassir (29:38.238)
Okay, I'm just going back here, I just recalled the question that I want to ask you earlier. You mentioned that you've made a whole lot of mistakes and the earliest context you gave us is a few selling things to people. You still made a lot of mistakes in sales, which is common, which is quite normal as well. What's the biggest lesson you've learned in sales? If you can narrow it down to just one, what is that?

Sardor Akhmedov (30:04.334)
Yeah, so I learned that I should not underestimate outbound sales. And my opinion changed recently. That's one thing I love about talking to industry people and learning from them is that when I, like I said, four years ago when I joined the company as a partner, I did not know anything about sales. For three months straight, I had made zero sales.

I tried cold calling, I tried emailing, I tried looking for leads, helpless. So actually I hated outbound. That was my first experience. Thursday when I started, I decided I'm going to figure out the sales. My partner told me, hey, do cold calling. Just take this list and do cold calling. And I hated it, although it works. I made like a hundred calls on the first day and I got one lead and I met with them and

almost closed the deal, but it didn't work. So I hated outbound. So I said, hey, this doesn't work. I'm just going to sit and figure out how else to do the sales. Right. So I figured out inbound, you know, and then I figured out the game of AdWords game of lead purchasing, and I was purchasing leads for a very long time. And I said, hey, that's what I'm going to focus on because I first lead I got from inbound, I closed for, you know, ended up being a half a million dollar deal, you know.

I was like, wow, inbound works. So, okay, I love inbound and I scaled inbound to the point where we still receive over 200 leads inbound a month. And I loved it, right? But then at one point I started analyzing our clientele and I said, hey, we're not really working with the ideal clients that we want, you know. We have great clients, but not all of our clients are the clients that we want. And I'm talking about like small businesses that we don't really like to work with, to be honest. We still do work with them.

They don't like it. So long story short, I spoke with my friend who is a professional in sales and he has a platform called Salesfinity that helps you basically reach your outbound leads instantly with AI. So it's a parallel dialing powered by AI. So he does all of his sales outbound, right? And I said, hey, why don't you do inbound? Why don't you do marketing and

Sardor Akhmedov (32:31.21)
receive leads inbound. And he said, I will never do inbound, I'll always do outbound because when you're doing inbound, you're at the mercy of whoever comes your way. You open up your AdWords, you do some kind of targeting, but whoever needs your services will come your way and you will be at the mercy of whoever comes. He said, with me though, when I do outbound, I define my ICP, ideal customer profile, and I only target people that I want. I pick out the logos that I want, and...

If my close rate is 10%, I'll make 100 calls, I'll close 10 of them. And the 10 clients that I close will be the ones that I want. They'll be ideal clients. Versus with you, if you close 10 clients, maybe five of them will be ideal. Five of them will not be ideal. So I'm like, wow, that completely changed my mind. And so as of recently, we started doing outbound and it's working. And I figured it out more or less. I'm actually outsourcing it now, so I haven't figured it out. I'm not going to lie.

I'm outsourcing it to an agency who's doing outbound for me and they're doing a good job. But another philosophy we have in the company is we want to keep everything in house. So I'm going to be hiring someone soon who's going to do outbound full-time in-house for me. And that was the biggest lesson, basically, I learned that don't dismiss outbound.

Mudassir (33:51.614)
Okay, that's a very important one, because as you mentioned, you can pick the customers you want to work with, and you can pick the, yeah, you can just actually pick the customer, the right customers for you when you do the out bounds. So yeah. Okay, yeah, that's very helpful. I want to ask you something, because you mentioned something that, you know, you can start an agency business with zero. So, my question to you is, if you were to lose everything today, you know, for like

whatever happened and you were to lose like all the businesses and everything that you have started today and you have to just you know restart it again all over again how would you do and what would you start with

Sardor Akhmedov (34:31.35)
Yeah, very good question. So actually, yes, I would start with an agency probably. And the same thing because I know how to sell and it cost me zero to make sales if I do it myself. So I would close a couple of deals as an agency and I would do it on a retainer. So they paid me monthly for the service. And then on from there, I would just keep scaling it to the same way just like, because I did start with zero pretty much, you know, when I started.

Mudassir (34:47.969)

Sardor Akhmedov (35:01.994)
almost four years ago. So I'll do the same thing. I'll do the same thing. It just costs you nothing to do it if you know how to do it. It's another thing about human capital, I think, in this book, I think it was the Freakonomics. They mention how they explain human capitalism. They say if we took away Bill Gates' face and we threw him in a random city in the world, it would take him a couple of years until he becomes Bill Gates again.

Mudassir (35:02.715)

Mudassir (35:13.948)

Sardor Akhmedov (35:30.902)
So if you have the human capital and the knowledge, it's a matter of time until you regain everything.

Mudassir (35:32.731)

Mudassir (35:40.734)
That's a very, very well way to put it. One thing that comes to my mind when it comes to hiring, especially having that big of a team and all that, tell us a little bit about what were the first five hired that you made.

And would you know if you were to start it over again, yeah, first five people that you hired, and if you were to start it all over again, are those people gonna be the same people that you have hired, you can rehire them, or you're gonna hire them for different roles or something?

Sardor Akhmedov (35:59.254)
First five higher, let me.


Sardor Akhmedov (36:15.846)
Yeah, you know, it's a very good question because there's some magic in like starting over. There's a regret when you lose everything, but you know, there's a magic in starting over because there's some legacy things that you may have that are already working on the background that you're not noticing are no longer efficient, right? Or some people that are already working in the company, but they're not the best candidates for this role. So when you lose everything and you start over,

Mudassir (36:32.606)

Mudassir (36:41.576)

Sardor Akhmedov (36:42.39)
you will actually notice, well, why was I doing that thing that actually didn't make sense? You know what, this time around I'm gonna do better. So if you didn't start or you wouldn't notice those things. It's like a best analogy would be, I'm sure everybody has experienced this, when you accidentally close all of your tabs on your browser and you have like 20 tabs.

Mudassir (36:50.245)

Mudassir (37:00.378)
And then you realize, yeah, then you realize what the hell you had open. Yeah.

Sardor Akhmedov (37:02.55)
and you're like, oh crap, I lost all my tabs. What am I gonna do? I had so much important information, I had 20 tabs. But then guess what? Once you reopen your browser, you start opening new tabs, you're not gonna open more than half of them again. Because those were irrelevant anyways. They were just legacy tabs that were just staying there just because you opened at one point and you just thought it's important, but it's no longer important, right? Same thing with the company. So to answer your question with the five hires, well, I would definitely hire a

Mudassir (37:15.705)

Mudassir (37:24.443)
Yeah, absolutely.

Sardor Akhmedov (37:32.054)
a salesperson first, of course, to do the sale because that's the most important thing in every business. If you don't have the sales, doesn't matter whoever you hire, you're not gonna have any work for them, right? But after sales, I would obviously hire a very strong project manager who's gonna coordinate everything and a full-stack developer. If I was starting over on the smaller scale, instead of hiring like we do today, we hire separately.

Mudassir (37:47.357)

Mudassir (37:52.301)

Sardor Akhmedov (38:01.762)
front end, back end, QA, there's that. I would hire one really good full stack developer so I can stay lean, you know, instead of overspending on five different developers, I would hire one developer who can do the job of multiple. Of course they wouldn't be as fast, but they would take me money. And another thing I learned with this here is in this business, in the operations, really good, really good trick to stay lean. I'll tell you a mistake we made last year.

Mudassir (38:10.588)

Mudassir (38:16.071)


Sardor Akhmedov (38:31.17)
At one point we landed so many clients, we were growing like crazy. It was about late 2021, early 2022. We started over hiring. We started hiring so many people. At one point we had 150 people. And then we thought, okay, well, we're growing, we gotta keep hiring, we gotta keep hiring. So I had a lot of people, whenever we had shortage of people, we'd just add more, add more, add more, go aggressively paying them so much salary, not even negotiating, just throwing money at it.

to get it and then at one point when the sales plateaued a little bit, we were like crap. We have a huge burn rate. We have a huge team. How are we going to cover all that? So unfortunately, we had to scale down a little bit late last year and we had to cut some bonuses. It was painful. It was really painful to do that. We had to cut our own salaries first for the owners. We didn't pay ourselves for like a couple of months to be able to cover some salaries.

because we were losing money. So it was a big mistake, big mistake and big lesson we learned. And so now what we're doing is when the load goes up, when the sales goes up, instead of hiring additional people, there's a culture in developers. Every developer has a second job. It's just something that's untold in the industry. Every developer has a second job, but it's not a third one, right? So what we're doing now is we tell our developers, hey, we'll give you the second job.

Mudassir (39:51.942)
Yep. Yeah.

Sardor Akhmedov (39:58.178)
Why don't you take a second job with us? After hours, you work for us, do the extra projects that we're taking, and we pay you extra for that. So what happens is we're not hiring additional people. Now we're just like working the same people more, we're paying them more, and they know it's temporary. If the load goes down, we don't fire them. We just get them back to the old schedule, right? So it was a genius thing that our COO figured out. Kudos to her.

She made a really smart move with that. That's why I say our operations are really, really good right now. Our systems are so well. So that's how we're doing it now. So that's what I would do as well. If I were to start over, I would get a full stack developer and if my load goes up, I wouldn't hire another person until my person is overworked so much. And by overworked, I don't mean I'm gonna overwork them for free, I'm gonna pay them extra. But only when their capacity is like, oh crazy, so I cannot handle anymore, please hire somebody else.

Only then I hire somebody else, right? So I stay very lean this time.

Mudassir (41:02.658)
Okay, or you can outsource that. But anyway, that's a good idea. You're like.

Sardor Akhmedov (41:06.262)
Outsource actually, I wouldn't do that. I'll tell you, we had a very bad experience with outsourcing as well. We did subcontracting, our subcontractors screwed up big time. And we're not doing that anymore. We're keeping everything in house.

Mudassir (41:20.163)
Yeah, it's a risk. I agree. I agree. So, you know, asking this question from somebody who has been in tech or who has a lot of interest in tech for far as back as you can remember, what's your world view of 2050? Like, what do you think... How do you think tech is going to evolve and change the whole world that we live in today? Almost 30 years from now.

Sardor Akhmedov (41:47.862)
Yeah, wow, it's a tough one because it's really hard to catch up with the current rate of change with how things are happening, even the past 10 years, how so many things have changed. It's crazy. But if I were to make some predictions, probably, I think the world will be a much better place, as cheesy as it sounds, because of technology.

And that's on an overall scale. I'm very optimistic about the future. You know, a lot of people are fearful. I'm not, I'm very optimistic about the future. I think there's gonna be more wealth created and more equality created for the people that are currently very disadvantaged. We have, I think over a billion people on this earth today that are still living below power to level, right? That don't have.

clean drinking water, they don't have a place to live with the proper hygiene and everything. So I think by 2050, before we even talk about flying cars, I really hope and I do believe in this, that the poverty will be more or less eliminated. It will be more or less eliminated. There will be more equality and opportunities created for those people because everybody will be able to work and make money remotely.

or it will be able to receive the universal basic income. I think universal basic income will kick in 100% by that time because a lot of things are gonna be automated. So there's gonna be a lot more efficiency, a lot more margins in the business. So every business will actually be taxed with the universal basic income tax. So let's say you have a factor of a thousand people, all of a sudden now you have only 10 people left because everything else is automated with the robots. Well, you'll pay a robot tax.

Mudassir (43:17.351)

Mudassir (43:25.391)

Sardor Akhmedov (43:46.402)
pay a universal basic income tax to cover those workers that had to go out of their jobs. But I think we've got that proven during COVID when people were receiving money for doing nothing. A lot of people were receiving the subsidies from the government. They were fine. They were fine. I think government in a way even had a funny experiment. I don't know if that was intentional or not. I don't want to go into conspiracy theories, but at least even if it was like accidental, they saw that.

Well, if we pay people for sitting at home, it's still fine, they can do that, right? They're not going crazy. So I think that's what's gonna happen. Long story short, I think the poverty level will be at a better place. People will have basic needs at least. If you look at the pyramid of Maslow, the hierarchy of needs, I think the very basic one, first two levels will at least be covered for a majority of people on this earth, which it's not today, right?

And a lot of new jobs will be created for the knowledge workers. A lot of new forms of entertainment will arise, I think, because people always need entertainment in this life, especially those who are no longer working and just receiving universal basic income. They will need a lot of entertainment. So I think robots will do and the automation AI will do a lot of entertainment for us instead of humans doing that.

they will know your personalized needs, you know, hey, what do you like, what kind of humor do you like, you know, so and some of the stuff that we've seen in Black Mirror but more in a positive way, I think will occur just like, you know, if you've seen the last season, they create shows with people playing and then, you know, things like that. So very optimistic about the future and especially for the huge problems that we have and I hope climate change will be eliminated as well because

There are some good changes happening also by technology in the climate change space. I was just listening on a podcast the other day that scientists invented the new shade of white. That's the most white it has ever been. They invested a lot of money in that. And now what it does is if you paint buildings in that color, it reflects the sun back at a certain very powerful way, which offsets the temperature of the city.

Sardor Akhmedov (46:11.05)
So that July, this year July by the way, has been recorded as the hottest temperature in 150 years, I think, on earth. So that will be resolved, I think, through technologies like this that are being invented. So very optimistic about it.

Mudassir (46:28.506)
Awesome. Good to hear that. Usually when I ask somebody this question, people have like a very, very doomsday, some terminator shit going on, that kind of, you know, them. But it was good to hear that, you know, on an optimistic note. So thank you for that. Yeah, yeah, you have to. So we have this ritual on the podcast. So what we do is we ask all our guests a question for our next guest without knowing who the next guest is going to be. So obviously we got a question for you.

Sardor Akhmedov (46:42.238)
I'm here to balance that.

Mudassir (46:57.682)
I'm going to take a question for our next guest as well, which is not going to be part of the recording. So the question that the previous guest left for you is a very big one, if you think about that. So please tell us about one event that had the biggest impact on your life and why.

Sardor Akhmedov (47:19.778)
Wow, it's a tough one. There's a few probably.

been life-changing and some probably I might not even know until I look back at it in the future, in hindsight that might have happened. Some trivial things in my life that I'm probably going to look back and say those were the biggest events in my life but so far from what I'm looking back in hindsight.

Mudassir (47:30.119)

Sardor Akhmedov (47:51.242)
I think the random fact that I got into the US without the actual intention, that actually happened, you know, kind of last minute when I got to the US. I was planning to study and live in the UK. And then last minute, right before I was applying for my UK visa, I got a letter from this high school in Massachusetts that I got a scholarship and I have an opportunity to go to the US.

I think that one letter really changed my life. I would have been in a completely different place, a completely different person, wouldn't have met the people I've met that are an essential part of my life today. My best friends, my fiancee, everybody around me. I wouldn't have met had I not come to the US or wouldn't have been in the place where I'm at with this company. I'm sure I would have been in a good place.

Mudassir (48:27.227)

Sardor Akhmedov (48:48.906)
This was probably the biggest event in my life that changed my life that I came to the US because of that. Letter that the agency that we were working with that found the schools for us for no reason at all decided to apply to the US schools and we received that admission letter and that changed my life.

Mudassir (49:09.662)
Awesome. So thank you so much for the time. Appreciate it. Lovely talking to you. Really happy to see you having all this success this early on in the city. And I hope you would go on, do even bigger things. So thank you so much for the time. Please stay after the recording. So we're obviously going to talk, but yeah, we can finish it now. OK. So thank you for that. I appreciate it.

Sardor Akhmedov (49:31.894)
Thank you so much for having me, Murasir, and I'm looking forward to talking to you again. I really enjoyed this episode. Thank you.

Mudassir (49:40.151)
Absolutely. Thank you.

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