Success & Happiness

Rajesh Ahuja, president of Dependable Mechanical Systems, illustrates why he’s anything but hot air

In 2001, Rajesh Ahuja left behind an impressive salary at a renowned hotel company in Dubai and immigrated to Canada. Only nine years after arriving, his company Dependable Mechanical Systems Inc. (DMS) was listed on the Profit 100 as one of the fastest growing and most profitable companies in the country. DMS, which has posted a 697 percent growth since 2006, specializes in industrial, commercial, and institutional plumbing, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems, including design, installation, manufacturing, and management. Below, he shares his inspiring story.

Advantage: Nine years after you moved to Canada, DMS was ranked on the Profit 100. How did being a newcomer impact your success?
Rajesh Ahuja: Coming to Canada and trying to find my way in the initial years was a challenge. The first five months here were the worst of my life, with no job and having come from an excellent compensation package and lifestyle in Dubai. I used to think, “What have I done? Did I make the right decision?”

The first years here were tough, but hard work and perseverance paid off in the long run. I didn’t do anything differently from anyone else, but I fully capitalized on the first opportunity given to me. In my first job here in Canada, I spent long hours trying to learn while working for someone else. Within three months, I was running his business for him. How you integrate into society is a key aspect of success.

What makes DMS so unique in the marketplace?
We stand behind the quality of our work and offer our customers great value for their money. We won’t compromise on quality or cut corners. We honour our warranties to the fullest. In our industry, typically the lowest price gets the project, so we try to build efficiencies into every aspect of our business. Vertical and horizontal integration enables us to stay competitive over other contractors. For example, we manufacture our own sheet metal on-site. Process and doing things a little differently are important to stay competitive. We manage projects in real time, using software we built ourselves on the back end of our website. We track our projects from beginning to end, and after every project we always do a “lessons learned” to reference in the future. Excellent quality is built into our culture and processes.

What are the signs of success for you?
Reputation and recognition. I want to consistently build on a positive company image and hear good words from our clients. Success to me is not more money or bigger projects. It changes my whole outlook for the day when I hear good things about my company. This business is my third baby. For my life, a peaceful sleep and internal happiness is success to me.

CAREER MILESTONES

1993
Earns bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Delhi College of Engineering

1993–1998
Works in Sheraton Hotels’ projects division

1998–2001
Serves as assistant chief engineer at Kempinski Hotels

2001
Moves to Canada

2002
Starts Dependable Mechanical Systems Inc.

2005
Rents 1,000-square-foot space and hires first employees

2010
Ranks on Profit 100

2011–2012
Ranks on Profit 200

 

You have taken significant risks and seen significant growth. What do you focus on when you are faced with a risk-taking decision?
I have come across risky situations many times and have learned the hard way. I sit back and look at the big picture, at what can go wrong. I try to build in extra measures to account for all probable outcomes and assess how we should react should something happen. I try to preempt the risk and only take calculated risks.

After taking a risk, I find the means to manage it using sound judgment and skill. I try to use common sense to deal with things in the right perspective. I won’t take undue risks, because I care about the families of all the employees here, and, at the end of the day, it’s a team effort.

What keeps you going?
To see this business grow is my fuel—it’s like my child. When your children grow and win achievements, it gives you satisfaction. I wanted the business to grow in a slow and calculated way and see it do well.

Giving people the freedom, empowerment, and responsibility also gives me satisfaction. We are not just a company but a family. We are a group of individuals working effectively as a team. I trust my people here to manage.

My attitude is also important. People look to me to be motivated, so even if I’m off one day, I stay motivated and keep going. People look to me as the guiding spirit of the company. If my people can’t come and talk to me, there is something wrong.

I take my breaks now—I didn’t used to. I go on vacation twice a year. But there is no substitute for hard work. Nothing comes easy.