CHICO — At age 7, Prem Chand had a deep acquaintance with farm equipment, helping on his family’s pumpkin farm near the Sutter Buttes, and later melon- and walnuts-filled land in the Hamilton City area.
It was the hard work in those early days that anchored the drive that Chand now has, and what he appreciates in his company’s employees, including the new ones in Chico.
Chand’s company, Milestone, opened an office on Rio Lindo Avenue in July.
“We struggled” on the farm, but that formed the foundation for a strong work ethic and drive, Chand told this newspaper during an August visit to the Chico office.
As president and founder of Milestone, Chand’s company overcomes computer configuration problems for large business clients throughout the world.
The company opened what it calls a resolution center in Chico to solve clients’ technology issues over the phone.
As the youngest of eight children, Chand admitted farming was hard work and not something he wanted for the rest of his life. While his elementary and high school years occurred in Biggs, he followed the path to the Bay Area, as did many of his sisters and brothers.
Chand calls his farm days “like getting a mini-MBA” considering the work and logistics of harvesting, handling and selling farm produce, not to mention managing 20 to 30 workers.
Later he ran a bread delivery route for Togo’s sandwiches, traveling from San Jose to the Sacramento area. He gained an understanding of finance from an accelerated course at Condie College in San Jose.
In 1987, he ended up with an accounting job for a transportation company, later getting positions as controller, partner and chief financial officer in the firm.
His company would often be hired when technology companies or others were relocating, but it was more than physical relocating. It was the behemoth task of getting the computer systems running where he found the niche.
“It wasn’t plug in and play as it is today.”
Milestone was founded in 1997, with four employees and was profitable the first year, says the Milestone website.
Then he bid and landed a contract with a “huge company,” which not only was a coup for the small company but showed great confidence in Milestone’s ability.
Because of that project — with Blue Shield — others followed and “clients started to roll in.” Another boost to his business was the Y2K fear, when companies didn’t know what their 1900s-based computers would do as 2000 rolled in.
The relocation part of the business dwindled as companies sought Milestone’s technology expertise.
Now with more than 800 employees around the world, Milestone works with giant clients such as Facebook, eBay and Cisco. Generally, the Milestone employee or team is based at the client company to deliver the quickest service.
Saying he didn’t want to send jobs offshore, Chand decided to shrink Milestone’s resolution center in Fremont and open one in Chico. He said he hoped to find employees more loyal to the company, rather than always searching for a different or higher-paying job.
His roots in this area helped, along with an unidentified contact at Facebook who lives in Chico.
In looking for its new office, Milestone examined about 10 communities throughout the country, weighing technology talent and wages, and finally deciding on Chico.
Chand did say applicants gathered by Chico State University and local businesses were excellent.
Ten have been hired in an initial round, and eventually 15 to 20 people will be based here, Chand said.
Employees go through about two weeks of training at the Fremont headquarters.
Chand talks about his vision for Milestone, for the next three years, including becoming the “company of choice” when it comes to clients selecting a company for technology issues or employees seeking the cutting-edge firm.
Chand said he’d like employees to realize their passion for their jobs is rooted in the value of their service to clients. Expanding on that, he said solving the client’s computer-related problem could mean a multi-million contract is saved. That could add more satisfaction to job.
It also means, he said, that potential clients realize the service they’ll be getting is extraordinary.
He also wants Milestone to understand its employees’ career paths, wages and challenges. A “vice president of people” has been hired to help with the process.
“Even if someone leaves, I want them to say it’s a great company to work for. We need to take care of people.”
That kind of enthusiasm shows in the company’s financial results. Without releasing revenue figures, Chand said since 2006, Milestone’s revenue has grown 30 percent each year.
Looking to the future, Chand said he’d like to double the company’s growth between now and 2015, and is working with a business coach to that end.
In 2000, Milestone earned the first of several fast growth awards from media companies after increasing revenue by 927 percent, says its website.
In 2009, Milestone was named to the Inc. 5000’s fastest growing private companies list.
Reach Laura Urseny at 896-7756, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @LauraUrseny.