Published July 21, 2015
Volume 23, Number 7

Alay Yajnik of Focal Point Coaching Brings Big Business

Savvy Back Home to Pleasanton


By Jay Hipps

It was just a few years ago, after more than 15 years of a successful career, that Alay Yajnik, whose branch of Focal Point Coaching is on Willow Road in Hacienda, realized that there was something missing from his life.
Alay Yajnik“I lived in the Tri-Valley and I worked in Silicon Valley, and those two lifestyles did not overlap,” he says. “I didn’t know anyone in the Tri-Valley, I wasn’t involved in the community, I couldn’t make any of my kids’ events, and my entire professional network was out in Silicon Valley. I didn’t really like that very much, not to mention the crazy commute. So I thought about what I really wanted to do, and I realized that what I do best — a real passion of mine — is building businesses and developing people, and that’s what I decided I wanted to do full time.”
It was a realization that was long in coming. Yajnik was born in northern New Jersey and, thanks to frequent transfers due to his father’s career in the semiconductor industry, lived in southern New Jersey, Boston, Cincinnati, and Chicago before the family arrived in Pleasanton when he was 10. “It was kind of a nice way to see the country, but once we moved out here my dad was able to change jobs as he needed without having to move the family, which was one of the real benefits of living near Silicon Valley,” he says. “My parents still live in that same home today.”
Trial by Fire
After graduating from Foothill High School, Yajnik attended UC San Diego as part of the first bioengineering undergraduate class that the school graduated, earning his degree in 1996. “It was a trial by fire,” he says. “Since we were the first class, they had us taking courses with other disciplines. You would take, for example, chemistry classes with chemical engineers, engineering classes with other engineers, biology classes with pre-meds, and so we were typically outgunned from an expertise standpoint.
“Then, to shoehorn it into a four-year curriculum, they allowed us to do a couple of things which made it a little more challenging. The first thing they allowed us to do was to take courses that conflicted with each other, and of course that meant I had to choose which lectures I was going to skip and which I was going to attend. The other thing they allowed us to do was for certain classes, they waived the prerequisites.”
While allowing students to jump in the academic deep end made his studies much more difficult, Yajnik notes that what he experienced there, both in terms of coursework and environment, influence him to this day.
“I think one of the big things that college teaches you, at least at the big public schools, is how to learn on your own and to be exposed to different methods of learning,” he says. “The way that you learn, for example, for a pre-med course is significantly different than the way that you solve problems and learn for an upper division engineering course. Being exposed to that — the different mindsets, different ways of learning, different ways of applying the knowledge — was incredibly helpful, although I didn’t realize it at the time.”
His college years also broadened his experience in another way. “I learned what it meant to really work hard,” he laughs. “I thought I was a hard worker but I really had no clue what that meant until I got into this.”
A Return to the Bay Area
He interned for a San Diego startup as a senior and, after graduating, spent a year there as an employee working in nearly every aspect of the company, including manufacturing, R&D, tech support, and marketing. He missed “the energy of the Bay Area and all it has to offer,” though, so he took a job with a medical ultrasound manufacturer called Acuson. That company was acquired by Siemens and, after a series of promotions over five or six years and earning an MBA from Santa Clara University, Yajnik was running the group he was brought into as a new hire.
“It was really cool working with the people that had trained me,” he says. “I learned a lot doing that, and I think one of the reasons it worked out so well is that I had so much respect for the people I was managing. They had trained me, they knew me pretty well, so I had no opportunity to develop that mistaken air of superiority that first-time managers sometimes get. I was fairly humble and I think that worked out well.”
He would eventually end up running the service organization for Siemens ultrasound, which was a €100M business. “We had global service, not only from the technical support/field service standpoint but also all the service logistics and repair operations that went along with it, like inside sales and the refurbished systems business,” he says. “I learned a lot doing it, and it’s so funny because a lot of the problems we had at Siemens are a lot of the problems my clients deal with today, on a different scale.”
Despite his success at Siemens, he left to take positions with a series of startups. “I decided I wanted to move to a smaller company that was more nimble, where I could really build up an organization from scratch,” Yajnik says. “In all cases I was brought in to build the service business that accompanied a medical device product, so I got to run my own business within a larger business, which was terrific. Two of the three startups didn’t make it to market but the third one did, and we were able to build our service business up to about $5 million in annual sales, which was a lot of fun. We were able to build it right-sized, right-time, and most importantly with the right people. I was fortunate that the people I brought in were incredibly strong, and that really helped us get moving in the right direction and have a great deal of success, even though we didn’t necessarily have the largest staff to do it.”
A Change in Course
The opportunity to join a fourth startup spurred Yajnik’s realization that he wanted to relocate his career closer to his home. While pursuing corporate consulting may have been a logical next step, Yajnik wanted to take a more personal approach.
“One of the things I like to do, as I mentioned, is develop people, and the reason I like to do that is because I like to see people succeed,” he says. “I’d rather work with business owners who are already somewhat successful, who are very good at what they do, but are looking to grow their business or to develop their team. And what I mean by ‘develop their team’ is increasing the strength of the team so they can take on more of the tasks that the owner typically does today. I really wanted to take my skill set and apply it to local businesses, so they could bootstrap their way to success.”
After receiving certification from Brian Tracy, a noted business consultant and author of over 90 books on topics including sales, productivity, and achievement, he opened his consulting practice as a franchise of FocalPoint Business Coaching.
“The skills I bring to the table are everything I picked up over the years in my work experience, and that comprises about 75 percent of what I do, and the other 25 percent comes from Brian Tracy, who has a lot of proven, tested ideas on business development,” Yajnik says. “I kind of look at it as the best of both worlds, which is a little bit of a differentiator versus some others who do what I do — not only to bring my personal skills and knowledge to the table but also to pair it with proven best practices from someone like Brian Tracy is a pretty special combination.”
Helping Others Succeed
Yajnik’s clients would agree. He tells of a small law firm that he first started working with just 10 months ago, whose three partners came to him exhausted from working six or seven days a week yet struggled financially.
“They were looking for someone to come in and roll up their sleeves and really help them move forward,” he says. “I was delighted to be working with them because I saw that they had such potential, and we just had to do a couple of things to get them there.
“The first things I supplied were hope and motivation. I aspire to fill my clients with motivation, be their biggest fan, and see the potential that they don’t yet see in themselves. Then, I give them tools, techniques, ideas, tips that are going to get them to improve their performance closer to that level. In the case of this group, the first thing that was clear was their marketing strategy needed to be rebuilt. We really tore that whole marketing strategy down and completely rebuilt it, all the way from what was their message to their target market to the different tactics they were using. We redid the whole thing. In addition to that, we also identified some key metrics for their business that if they tracked them on a monthly basis, they would know where there business was and where it was headed.
“The third thing we did was I had them reprioritize how they were spending their time. They were doing a lot but they weren’t necessarily doing the right things, so I gave them a system that allows them to prioritize what tasks need to get done on a given day, and more importantly what tasks they don’t have to do. That way, they were able to focus on the few vital tasks that could really move the needle for their business.”
Although Yajnik has worked with this firm for less than a year, the results are remarkable. “Their revenue has grown by a factor of four, they’ve added a paralegal, they’ve added an admin, they’re looking at adding another paralegal, they’ve expanded their offices, and they’re probably going to move offices in 2016 to accommodate their growth,” says Yajnik. “Needless to say, they’re happy, they’re relaxed, and they’re absolutely loving it.”
Bringing it All Back Home
Bringing his professional life back to Pleasanton is benefitting Yajnik in other ways, too. “I have the honor of serving on the Innovation Tri-Valley leadership group. I really enjoy working with that group and building not only a better business community here, one that can retain businesses and also attract new ones, but also building a better quality of life for the Tri-Valley. We have an amazing area where we live, but it has an opportunity to get even better, and that’s part of what we do as Innovation Tri-Valley.”
Bringing his professional life closer to his hometown is having unexpected benefits, too. “Now when we go to farmers’ markets, I run into people I know,” he says. “It’s just been a life-changing experience, not only for me but also I think my clients have tremendously benefitted.”
He credits his success to his wife Anu, who runs the administrative side of his firm, as well as his daughter Anaya and son Avinash. “I couldn’t do what I do today without the full support of my family. Doing what I did, which is leaving a very successful career to start a business from scratch in an area where, although I’ve lived for many years I didn’t really know anybody professionally, that’s quite a risk to take, especially with a young family. Their support has meant the world to me.”
And that world, for the foreseeable future, will center on Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley.
For more information on Alay Yajnik’s consulting firm, access www.alayyajnik.com.


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