Smart50 Awards 2018

24 Idea 11

Revenue

$6 million

Growth

137%

Founders

James Kahn (36), Bianca Kahn (36)

Head office

Queensland

Employees

27

Industry

Information and communication technology

website

idea11.com.au

James and Bianca Kahn say their key to success so far has been having plenty of ideas, and evidently, their 11th one was the real winner.

That idea was to start managed services and IT consulting firm Idea 11, which the two got off the ground in 2009 after realising providing IT services to corporates was the area in which their company could really shine.

However, Idea 11 was the duo’s first (and only) business, and they tell SmartCompany a number of lessons were learnt along the way — some more painful than others.

One such lesson was what the founders label a “cultural crisis”. The Khans say this occurred about five years into the business, when Idea 11 had just nine staff members, and some poor hiring decisions led to a “negative, stressful” culture creeping into the company.

“An employee I had high hopes for handed his notice, and he provided me some open, honest, no-holds-barred feedback. That night I went home and wrote our first set of company values, and presented them to my team the next morning,” James says.

“The mood in the room changed instantly, like the sun shining through clouds. From that moment I started managing by our values, and have maintained a high-performance positive culture since.

“I still lost that staff member at the time, but he came back to us a few years later and is still with us.”

Idea 11 boasts a revenue of over $6 million and a three-year growth of 137%, but James Kahn recalls resorting to unique tactics in the early days of the business to get it off the ground — which included a lot of cold-calling.

The founder says he called “everyone he knew”, and while it was key to the business succeeding, the process took a lot longer than he thought it would.

“I was afraid people wouldn’t want to deal with us being just one person at that stage. But the ones that awarded us work did so knowing just that, and many are still customers to this day,” he says.

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