Yaniv Natan is the founder of Tek Experts, a multinational group of companies specializing in IT services. The business expanded to North America in 2016, its first office opening near North Academy Boulevard on Kelly Johnson Boulevard.
The global services provider partners with some of the world’s biggest IT companies and delivers services via eight locations, around the clock, and on every inhabited continent except Australia.
Natan, a native of Israel who now resides in London with his family, spoke with the Business Journal this week about why he chose Colorado Springs, as well as his plans to triple Tek Experts’ presence this year at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.
How did you begin Tek Experts?
For many years I had been working in African and European countries doing business development for construction and IT companies. In 2003, I decided to go out on my own.
The first thing I did was start a company that did computer centers — server farms. There was a need for multinational companies, such as AT&T, to have a single point of contact for bidding computer centers. I started with AT&T and was given a chance to do a small computer center for them in Bulgaria.
It went very well and expanded. From there, other business opportunities came. They asked if we could do maintenance and hardware and software installation. Because of that business, we’ve grown into other aspects of IT.
In 2010, I saw the biggest potential in this area. I was working with big, multinational IT companies and all of them were outsourcing to massive outsourcers. They were mostly doing consumer support — more transactional support. But there was a need for deeper support, the technical support they were doing internally.
So we started with one client and here we are now.
How have you expanded?
We started with 20 people [in Bulgaria] to do remote support and delivered beyond the customer’s expectations. We were asked if we could bring on another 30 [employees]. Then another line of business was added, so we were asked, “Can you add another 20 and can you also do it in Spanish?”
We said it’s very difficult to find Spanish-speakers in Bulgaria. So we considered opening another site that speaks Spanish and can support American time zones.
We opened in Costa Rica, but then clients wanted us to support them in Japan and China. We opened two more sites in Hanoi and China to support the East.
We’ve grown to support multiple languages in multiple time zones because, as a concept, we don’t do nightshifts. It doesn’t work well for the employees or our quality because the attrition is high.
We do handovers, so when one region is going to sleep, we hand over to the next region.
How do you decide where to expand?
We base those decisions on the area’s depth of talent. We just launched in Niger with 300 people, because now we have the bandwidth of clients.
Our clients couldn’t care less where the site is located. They just want someone who can speak their language and deliver high-quality work.
How did the Springs fit in?
Clients wanted us to have a U.S.-based location, somewhat because of federal contracts, and some clients just had enough hearing different accents.
We looked for a few variables. Again, talent — so we looked for colleges and universities.
The second thing was we wanted a time zone that was central.
The third thing we looked at was the culture of the place. The U.S. is not all one. You go to different places and find totally different cultures and accents. We wanted someplace neutral.
Finally, we were looking for a place with nice people. The business we’re in is a people business and our No. 1 thing is customer satisfaction — how fast we pick up the phone and resolve problems. Customer satisfaction comes from a combination of your technical skills and your personality. We think 70 percent is about who you are and 30 percent is about the technical side. We’re not doing rocket science. We can teach you.
We were looking for a place with the right culture and the right cost. We didn’t want to be on the East or West coasts because they’re really expensive. There are places that are cheaper than Colorado Springs in the U.S., but we decided to come here because, other than all the other factors we found here, we found everyone likes to come and live in Colorado Springs. So we can find talent elsewhere in the U.S. and easily relocate them here because they would all love to come here. If we went to Utah, which is cheaper, we wouldn’t necessarily be able to ask people to relocate.
This is why we opened here. It’s been a great success. The ease of doing business here is amazing. We had tons of help from everyone we’ve worked with, whether employment agencies or the mayor’s office. Everyone has been keen to support us.
How many are employed by Tek Experts?
There are 250 employees right now in Colorado Springs and, globally, we’ll hit 4,000 this year.
Any expansion plans here?
By the end of the year, we’re looking to hire another 500 people. We’re running out of space in this building. We bought it two years ago. We invest so much in infrastructure and the way the office looks. That’s really important for us. It doesn’t make sense to put so much investment in a property that’s not yours. We look for longer-term prospects, but if we feel we’ll stay, we buy. We have other tenants here, but we’re encouraging them to find other locations in order for us to expand.
But even with the entire space, it wouldn’t be enough. Now we’re negotiating to rent and buy another building in the Garden of the Gods area [at the former StarTek space on Arrowswest Drive.]
What sorts of positions are you creating here?
A mix of technical and non-technical positions, and if you look at our workforce, it’s really diverse. We have people from all walks of life because our clients are from all walks of life.
In order to get the best service, you need to have a combination of people who are very diverse. More than 40 percent of our workforce is female. We have employees from the ages of 20 to 73. … The average employee age in Colorado is in the mid-30s. … Diversity is key for us, but we hire based on competencies. If we find those, we hire.
Any other U.S. locations in the works?
Not at this moment, but it’s about the depth of talent we can find. If we find everything we’re looking for here, there’s no way we’d look for another location. Having another location isn’t an objective. It’s actually another liability.
Is the scope of work similar at all locations?
The objective is redundancy. We may start with a certain line of business, but the objective is to have all clients in all lines of business in each of our locations for the sake of handover. If you’re closing Asia and America is waking up, you need to be able to move all lines of business from one location to the next. The objective is — and we’re not always 100 percent successful — to have all clients in all lines of business across the world.
What are your thoughts about the Springs?
I try to be here every quarter. I love it here. You have very nice people and, again, that’s key. Having the right DNA, the right attitude, for us is a must in the business. People here care. And if you care or don’t care, over the phone, you hear it. If the person on the other end cares about your problem, it’s 90 percent of how we satisfy clients.
Opening here was a very good decision and we’ve had great results from this location.
How is this market different from others?
Many of our other locations are in developing markets where things are not as straightforward as the U.S. Processes take longer. Challenges can be things you never see in the U.S., like [access to] constant electricity. In some other locations, we have to have generators on hand.
What do you do outside work?
I don’t have a lot of time outside work, but I do martial arts — kickboxing, jujitsu, and I’m a black belt in Krav Maga and judo.