REMARKS GIVEN BY
FRANK F ISLAM
TiE LEGENDS AWARD ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
Distinguished Guests, Friends, and Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for your kind introduction.
Thank you for your warm welcome. I greatly appreciate your hospitality.
It is my distinct honor and privilege to receive this award from TiE DC.
A sense of humility brings us together as we are linked by common cause, common values, and common goals and bonded by shared history and shared heritage and shared background.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to Paul Singh and members of TiE DC board for giving me this award. I also want to thank Paul Singh for his extraordinary leadership of TiE DC for the past year. Given his entrepreneurial instincts and performance, I am certain that at some point in the future Paul will be standing up here receiving a DC legends award.
But, for tonight I am one of honored recipients of the legends award. I have to admit that when I was first informed of my selection, I was a little concerned.
Most people who are recognized as legends have passed away. I hope that TiE’s picking me as one of the honorees doesn’t mean that they know something that I don’t.
Seriously, over the past several years, I have been given many awards. This one is extra special for two reasons. First, because of my personal connection to TiE. Second, because of the other two honorees who are receiving awards here tonight.
As some of you may know, I was one of the initial board members of TiE DC. Little did I think when I joined TiE several years ago that I would someday be getting an award such as this.
My involvement back then was to ensure that Indian entrepreneurs would be supported in their activities and have the chance to associate with and benefit from interactions with their peers. I am pleased that with the growth of TiE here in DC, across the nation, and around the world that has occurred – in even greater measures than I could have ever anticipated. It is definitely a privilege to be honored for my accomplishments.
It is even more-so to receive this award at the same time as Ken Bajaj and Sharad Tak.
It is said that you are known by the company that you keep. If that is true, I am uniquely blessed.
Ken and Sharad are exceptional company. They embody the American Dream. They remain a source of strength and inspiration to all of us. They shaped our history. They shaped our destiny. Their principles have always guided us. They are indeed legendary entrepreneurs and I am proud to have my name connected with theirs.
I have known them both for a long time. I admire and appreciate their leadership. They are friends and more. They are indeed true treasure. Ken is my next door neighbor in Potomac Maryland. So, I guess when they say there goes the neighborhood – if they are referring to ours, it is becoming a legendary one.
Ken and Sharad were my mentor in business. Sharad was my boss at STX. I can honestly say that without his example and assistance I would not be receiving this award this evening. (PAUSE)
We are here this evening as the invitation to the event states “Celebrating Entrepreneurship”. I want to lend my voice to that celebration by sharing a few thoughts on entrepreneurship; citing some amazing statistics; and, a call to action to those of you in the audience.
As I indicated, I wasn’t born an entrepreneur. I became one with the help of exemplars like Ken Bajaj and Sharad Tak, through the dint of hard work, and by creating my own philosophy and approach to business. At the heart of that approach, was one general guideline – think small to win big.
That meant focusing and paying careful attention to the critical few areas that made a difference for business success. For me in my business they were:
• Developing a distinctive core competence
• Establishing a laser beam customer focus
• Creating niche differentiation
• Ensuring perfection in performance
Those are the four areas in which I thought small to win big at QSS. They were Frank Islam’s entrepreneurial success formula.
I know that Ken Bajaj and Sharad Tak have theirs as well – as do all of you entrepreneurs in this audience. This brings me to the second reason for celebration and that is Indian-born and Indian American entrepreneurship.
Studies have shown, we are leaders in innovating, creating new businesses and revitalizing the American economy. A study released in 2012 found that while immigrant founded start-ups declined in the recession years, Indian start ups increased significantly. It showed that 33.2% of all immigrant founded start-ups were established by Indians – outnumbering the next 7 immigrant groups combined.
These are truly impressive numbers. Especially when one realizes that Indians constitute less than 1% of the U.S. population.
They are numbers which we as Indians and entrepreneurs can celebrate – and we should. But, small business start-ups and job creation here in the United States has declined substantially and significantly since the great recession began.
Because of this inadequate supply, our American economy while doing okay at the GDP level is not doing well at the micro-level for most individuals. This is an opportunity and a challenge for all of us Indian entrepreneurs to help fill that vacuum by starting even more businesses and investing in and growing our existing businesses at an accelerating pace.
Our track record shows clearly that we as Indian American entrepreneurs are difference makers. In my opinion, we have the potential to make even more of a difference.
So, I ask each of you to consider the next time that you are deciding whether to launch a new venture, add capacity to your existing business, or diversify your business lines – do it sooner rather than later. I am confident the benefits will accrue to you, your business, and our country. (PAUSE)
Let me leave you with this final thought. When I started my comments and as I look around now I see many younger entrepreneurs in this room.
To those of you, let me say I see me in you. Several years ago, it would have been Frank Islam sitting at a table out there rather than standing up here at this podium.
I have a piece of advice that may be helpful as you move your businesses forward. That is – make it your journey.
Frank Islam’s journey was Frank Islam’s journey. Just as Ken Bajaj’s was Ken Bajaj’s and Sharad Tak’s was Sharad Tak’s.
You time is limited so don’t waste it trying to emulate someone else’s business.
Don’t be a “me too business”.
Don’t be a clone. Find your inner entrepreneur. Chart your own path. Create a mission, vision and set of values that are unique to your enterprise
Be the best you can be.
Make it your journey. Stay true to you.
Never give up.
Write your own legacy.
If you do that, as the years pass, I know that some of you will be standing up here accepting a TiE legends award. I also know that many of you will be tremendously successful in business and continue to build our Indian-American entrepreneurial legacy.
That is why I say I see me in you. I see the future. And, am happy to celebrate and share my award with each and every one of you who will be creating new legends and legacies for America and the Indian American community in that future.
Thanks to TiE for this year’s award and to all of you being here tonight to recognize me.
God bless you all