ND Founders Profile #30: While Seeking a Notre Dame MBA, This Founder Discovered that Corporate Culture Is the True Measure of Success

Author: Melanie Lux

Facebook Web Nd Founders Bobby Achettu Bobby Achettu (MBA, class of 2007) founded Accelerated Growth in 2009


Company Founded: Accelerated Growth Year Graduated: 2007
Title: CEO Degree: MBA
Location: Chicago, IL Residence Hall: Off Campus

At age 31, Bobby Achettu had a great job in corporate finance in Chicago, but something was missing. He didn’t have a Master of Business Administration, which at his company, was a prerequisite for taking the next step up the corporate ladder. Several colleagues recommended the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business along with other local programs. He did his research and chose Notre Dame.

“I kept coming back to the school’s approach of mind, body and soul. It resonated and I enrolled,” he says.

Achettu was not disappointed. The exposure to his more senior-level classmates provided needed insight how to advance his career, but also unleashed a desire to launch his own company. Too, the idea of mind, body, and soul as the basis for a business was now ingrained in him.

After working within PwC’s consulting practice and later with a Chicago-based private equity firm, Achettu came up with a concept for a startup in 2009. “I saw firsthand that passion and brute force only takes companies so far. A lack of structure hinders growth. Drawing on my experience in private equity, consulting and industry, I founded Accelerated Growth to help entrepreneurs achieve sustainable growth by putting in place infrastructure and helping them execute.” 

For the first couple of years, Accelerated Growth had one employee, Achettu. While bootstrapping the company with savings, he formalized his business model which is based on the Enterprise Value Pyramid where accounting, finance, operations, and technology serve as the base and provide organizational clarity. He found that being a sole proprietor was challenging. 

“I didn’t have a mission or vision, and it took several years to craft them. It was also tough figuring out when to hire people, especially when you don’t have a mission or vision,” he says. “I could have easily said, we’re accountants or finance experts. But people need to believe in you if they’re going to make the leap and work with you.”

Eventually, Achettu articulated Accelerated Growth’s core values and culture, emphasizing diversity, challenging oneself to work outside the comfort zone, being badass problem solvers, and encouraging emotional intelligence. Too, he committed to placing employee growth, professional and personal, at the top of his vision and values pyramid.

By 2013, Achettu had built a strong book of business and equally important, a loyal referral base, and began hiring people who appreciated the job wasn’t easy and weren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and work in the trenches. A diverse group of smart young professionals answered the call to excel and be appreciated. Today, Accelerated Growth has a team of 60 people with offices in Chicago and Bangalore, India. 

Achettu says he’s really proud of the diversity and credits his early investment determining his company’s culture. “When you’re a pure startup, it’s hard to attract a diverse workforce. We make our values clear and emphasize a team-based approach so attracting diverse candidates hasn’t been a problem for us.”

The company’s “sweet spot” is companies that are beyond the startup phase and are focused on their second stage of growth. Industries range from food and consumer products to services and technology. Annual revenue ranges from $3 million up to $300 million. While 75 percent of clients are located in Chicago, Accelerated Growth has attracted clients from across the country. Achettu sees the relationship as more than that of consultant, but rather a true partnership.

“What sets up apart is that we’re not a strategy firm, we’re an execution firm. Our model is a hybrid and fits squarely between consulting and staffing, with the benefits of each. This has been well received as clients know they’re getting high-caliber people for the duration of the project and need. We also help clients hire internally if and when they outgrow us, which to me is a success. They’ve seen the value of what we do and want that skillset on their team,” Achettu explains. 

When the COVID-19 economic shutdown struck, Achettu, like most entrepreneurs, was not sure what to expect. Would business slow? Were furloughs in the future? Instead of slowing, business became incredibly busy.

“Our consumer-packaged food and e-commerce clients benefitted from the huge shift in consumer behavior. People who rarely cooked or ordered online were stocking their pantries and significantly increasing the volume of their online orders. This caused the supply chain to tighten, and in some cases, prices to go up,” he says. “Other clients needed more support in financial planning and cashflow monitoring to ensure they could make it through the shutdown.”

While the nation and the economy continues to recover from the full force of COVID-19, Achettu is thankful for his team. He has learned something surprising. By prioritizing what he learned while at Notre Dame, specifically the importance of mind, body and soul, he has experienced tremendous personal growth and development. “I have learned more and grown faster as a result of having my own company. The best feedback I’ve gotten was from my team and how they enjoy our culture. That’s humbling.”

Speaking to future entrepreneurs, Achettu stresses that every business is driven by its team. “Irrespective of the industry you choose, start with your culture, your mission and vision. That will set the course for your future success.”