Mohamed Fakhr Eldeen is currently the CEO of Optima world Egypt.
Formerly CEO & founder of “Logos International Egypt”. Mohamed is a Certified Trainer in Change Management Strategies and Techniques from IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland 2005, and a Certified Trainer from Xerox Corporation.
Mohamed has a B.Sc. in Civil Engineering from Alexandria University, and has been enrolled in preparing Master of Management Learning & Development MMLD at Euro Arab Management School Granada, Spain. He has thirty two years of progressive hands-on experiences covering Strategic/Tactical Planning & Business Development in Service Quality & HR Management, Human capital Training & Development, Assessment & Execution covering areas of: Change management, Leadership, education, Retail & Corporate Sales, Marketing, Telecom & Delivery Channels, with a specific focus on enhancing Sales & Customer Service Strategy Centric. Mohamed has a wide-spectrum portfolio of Senior Management jigsaw components that interlock together to formulate a strong platform to Lead Organisation & Business Development as well as Total Business Results Management & Execution for different wide range of business enterprises, that experience domain results from smooth management and effective running of different business functions with multinational companies, mainly companies adapting the concept of the “Learning organisation”, “Human Resources Value Recognised and Consultancy Relationship” as well as “Customer Value Added Services”.
- Can you tell us about the shifting from engineering to the field of business and management?
Well you are asking a very deep question as actually what happened about shifting from engineering to sales and business is not only a career change it has been a full paradigm shift, and it happened out of coincidence after I finished my engineering school and graduated I worked for two and half years as an engineer in the Egyptian Army where I did practice technical engineering in some aspects. When I finished my military services, I asked myself is this what I really want; I mean working in the concrete field with all those workers, graphs, and grey-colour environment?
The real answer was a big sharp no; I wouldn’t like to live this for the rest of my life. At that time, I didn’t have any clue on how to shift, but by chance when God sends you some signals you must follow them. Later I met a friend who was working for a company in the field of sales, marketing & customer service and he was just chatting with me about my plans at that time as I was done with my military service; my response was that I am looking for a job as an engineer but really, I was not so happy with the technicality of engineering. I like the methodology and the way of thinking I gained from engineering, but I don’t like the technical part. So, he proposed to me that I come and join same company, I will tell you later what’s his company is as its one of the major tycoons. For me to apply for that company as a salesperson I had been shocked and told him that I have never studied business or sales or marketing. He told me that I have what it takes to be a sales person, you are a very social person, extrovert, you have a good connection, and you can do some extra connections, you can join this company and it called “XEROX”.
I said what’s XEROX; he told me it’s the biggest worldwide organisation selling documents solutions and at that time I was shocked to find myself lacking some knowledge anyway.
In the interview I was hesitated as deep inside I was refusing the change, I was refusing to get out of my pre-known comfort zone. The branch manager I had been interviewed by told me that you are here for the job of sales what can you offer us? I answered him that I knew you want a person with a good connection and PR skills and I am that person.
Then I chatted with him for the rest of the interview and at the end he told me “Welcome to Xerox”. So when I went to join the training course of sales, for three months I was telling myself that I have to return to engineering but when I practised sales out of the scientific base they trained me on then I started making some success I found out that I am in the right place, I am a person for business not a person for technical engineering. That’s my story of shifting from engineering to sales and marketing. Moreover, I want to add something as at that time when I quit my job and I had to travel to Cairo as I was living in Alexandria at that time, I was a little bit amazed and puzzled and I didn’t know what to do. So I had the luck to have my father as my mentor; he told me that many successful people and he mentioned some names in the field of press are very successful despite to the fact that they hadn’t study literature or press and he mentioned some glorious name in Egypt so my father told me go and try whatever you think you like and come back if you didn’t like it you can shift to something else. I was lucky to have a mentor in my life that is why I see that every young man and woman needs to have a mentor in his life to help him to take decisions.
- What about the challenges you have faced and how did you manage to overcome them?
The first challenge I had was the shifting of the knowledge frame I had acquired from typical engineering base, columns, ceilings, and concrete to knowing how to sell in a scientific way; that was really challenging as all I was studying was technical and I had nothing to do with PR, Sales, or Marketing. I overcome this challenge by something I advise young people to do which is listening effectively to my trainer and to any one with experience to learn, acquire as much knowledge as you can from your teachers or trainers, and applied what I did learn scientifically and that helped me much to overcome the gap between what I thought I know and what I thought I don’t know.
In addition to this an incident had happened to me in the training which proved that learning can happen scientifically and efficiently; a part of the training was technically about the features of copy machines and the trainer kept telling us about the features of machines and I really felt that I don’t understand anything I felt that I want to quit the training and the job and went out of the classroom and my trainer felt that I am not digesting what she explained so she told me to go and copy some stuff with different sizes and jobs too. When I got to the copy room I found myself suddenly recalling what she taught us in the training and start applying what she taught me so that was the first gap between what I thought I knew and what I thought I did know. While working I had some gaps too like applying the sales science I knew, I also had some challenges which small details and I were could overcome this by try and error accompanied by mentors or more senior people coaching.
I also overcame this gap by continuous reading and continuous self-development as Stephen covey said as I have to sharpen my own sew and continuous development of my own humble self-kept me always updating and always ahead of my colleagues and my fellows.
What also helped me is three things in addition to what I said; first thing was diversifying the field of knowledge I learn I mean reading and everything. Reading about business, technicality, finance, administration, engineering, politics, and even global conditions. So, reading to acquire different diversity of knowledge helped me a lot. The second thing is connecting myself to many people and making PR in different company departments, the company I worked for at the beginning of my career helped me to acquire a lot of knowledge which was beyond my core of business, I have connected with people in the field of HR, sales, finance, operation, and technical service. They gave me a lot of knowledge that broadened my spectrum of intellectual capacity. Third thing is connecting myself with some business and social communities; like the chamber of commerce, German chamber, Canadian chamber, and American chamber. All that stuff helped me to gain some connections, some PR, some business acquaintances. All of this was enveloped by the skill that my parents gave me which is reading; I always read a lot and acquire knowledge.
- From your own experience; what is your best success recipe and strategy?
Well; I do believe there are a lot of diverse aspects to success; I can remember a movie I have seen about 20 years ago which was “Secret to my success” which addressed one part of success which is being an opportunist. In addition to this I do think from my humble opinion is that success is the submission of totally integrated aspects that formulate success, something like six sigma concept, however I would add other factors. The first factor is learning; where it comes from acquiring knowledge from a knowledgeable people or during life incidents. The second thing is the trial under coaching which is an essential part of success. Then; thinking out of the box as for me I used to dream first then go and achieved what I am dreaming of I do remember while I was working in sales I used to dream of approaching specific client with a specific solution or product and everyone thought that it was impossible but I succeeded and I was awarded as being the first person to achieve top salesperson from the company outside the headquarters. Next is the smart hit, you must know where to hit not just hit. Another factor is PR where you must increase your social network and business network and as Philip Kotler said in his books “Marketing is Relationships” marketing is not only your products but also yourself. Also playing in a team is a very important factor besides believing in yourself. Finally; you have to know what the mission or vision of the company you work for and you have to make it your own motto. I think these are the magic recipe for success.
- What do you think about the youth inclusion in the Egyptian economic development?
First let’s talk about the idea of inclusion and integration in itself, you cannot have any sort of movement, change, or development unless you include all the stakeholder of that change. Our Egyptian demography consists mainly of youth; and those young people have inherited and took over the Egyptian economy of the past three decades so if you don’t include them and integrate them in the development plans there will be failure.
We can include them in two ways:
- First way is to get them prepared and that can be done through forums, conferences, trainings, and education to be ready to take over the economical platform in the coming decades.
- Second way is having them to mirror-image the role of the senior economists and I think that the government is doing a great job now in terms of preparing the youth. Examples are available as the presidential leadership programme. If you don’t prepare them; you will find two bad things. First thing is the negative momentum pulling us back as they refuse to go with the change and the second thing is wrong actions in term of economical knowledge which will take us back. In addition to that we will find something taking place which is very negative that these young people will refuse the actions that are done by elders and will formulate a resistance that will take us away from the development action plan that is being executed in Egypt now.
By the way the Egyptian vision is named under 2030 which means they are preparing the youth for year 2030 so the youth by any means will take over their place. Final thing we will use is that we will not get the feedback of our real customers that will take over our economic platform who are “Young people” , so I do think that the government are doing some efforts to include the youth in major activities. Also, if we talk about the integration and inclusion of youth in terms of philosophy and concept itself there are some individuals’ trials in our community that have proved success of inclusion of youth, one of the success stories I know is about the Egyptian Scout & Girl Guide Federation which is part of the Arab Scout Federation and the world Scout bureau which has been working for years now to include and integrate the young leaders to take over the leadership and strategic management of the Egyptian Scout Federation this federation includes almost one million boys and girls.
Also, I would love to mention something I observed during working with young people for many years now; a new trend of the youth and we cannot neglect them as they are our customers. The new trend is the start ups and the small micro-businesses accordingly as this is the mindset of the young people we cannot even deny that a major part of our future economical growth will be composed of small and medium enterprises as these young people have the will to start up and they are succeeding in it.
- And what advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Well I cannot give an advice as it is a big word, but I can give some guidelines for success. First I say have your vision, have your dream, dream and don’t be afraid of dreaming, and if you dream work to accomplish it, think out of the box, think what others might not be thinking of ; so, my first advice is Dream.
Second advice is when you dream you push the walls far from you, break the walls.
Third advice is after dreaming and thinking out of the box, take a deep breath, go back and look from a very far and deep eagle-eye perspective and work out on how to achieve that dream in a practical way.
Another piece of advice do not refuse and always consider elders opinions, they might say old style wisdom yet the cheapest way to learn is to learn on the cost of others experience, elders made their mistakes and they don’t want you to repeat their same mistake.
Also, they must take into their consideration the definition of stupidity. which is doing things every time the same way and expecting different results, so don’t repeat what the others do in the same way. I mean get the benefits of learning and put your own hands to achieve it. Additional advice is don’t be afraid of trying, try, make mistakes, and get the benefits out of it.
Work as a team; you cannot succeed alone, have your own labelled idea, persona, style; even if it is different or considered wild or mad just have your own fingerprint. Another advice that might seem a little bit old, but once I read a book about sales and in page 2 there is a quote that said “ Customers like to deal with people they like and trust because they are professional and different” so my advice to young people is be professional do your job up to standard and books so you will be different and people will like to work with you or buy from you if you have something to sell; stick to the values and Good behaviours because still people like well raised up people, being out of the box or wild does not mean being impolite or rude. One very important advice is adopting the concept of quality which means doing things right from the first time and every time and have everything written and follow the recipe and what you promise is delivered 100 % of it. Believe in yourselves, believe in your GOD, believe in capabilities. Globalization is very good but doesn’t mean losing your persona or your own Identity.
- How do you evaluate the current Investment ground in Egypt?
Let me tell you my observations as a business person and sales trainer, I think what is happening now is that we are trying to shift our investment from consumer-based investment to real long term investment in the infrastructure which leads to better economic status and growth in the industry, I mean that investment in Egypt used to be for a while in consumer goods like FMCGs; of course I have nothing against them but what I mean is that they are just consuming goods. So, what we need now is to know where our strength is; I think our strength in this country comes from more than one factor. First factor is the Human Capital which if developed and led the right way will be a great power, we must invest in infrastructure and that’s exactly what the government is doing now. They are investing in electricity, water, new cities, roads, and all that stuff. Assessing our investment Geo-economic map; creating diversity all over Egypt as every governorate has its own strengths and opportunities for investment. We also must work on integrating all these investments opportunities all over Egypt in the main 2030 vision. I think we need to develop our people, know where to invest, how to invest, and know our strengths and work on it. I recommend not doing the investment in things that are not ours. Now we are shifting from economic situation of consuming to real production.
- So, what is your opinion about the Egyptian sustainable development experience?
I think from my humble opinion it is the first time to have a real vision and a master plan for this country. This vision really contains many diverse fronts that we are working on, very integrated yet smart I mean some objectives are very smart, achievable, and measurable. My only concern is that according to the change management theories and concept, there will face some resistance people are not ready to share creating their stake in the GDP, some people are used to get paid without working. We are also facing another problem which the parallel economy is where people are working and not paying taxation and are working in an unorganized way. Anyway, this vision looks to be achievable, realistic, also tough because it contains a part which is letting people work, really work and not just having money without working. I went through the 2030 in every aspect and I think we will achieve it, yet I am focusing on the resistance that we might face.
- In your opinion; how can the Egyptian regime overcome the change resistance?
Let me tell you first where the resistance will come from, scientifically when a change happens in the beginning the population of change is divided into three sectors. Maximum of 25 % of the population is called “early adaptors”, minimum of 25 % of the population is called “resistors”, and 50 % of the population are called “inbetweeners”.
The inbetweeners are waiting to see the WIFM; what’s in it for me from this change. Either the benefit of doing that change or the loss of not doing that change.
The major vital role of the change steering committee is the will and the continuous process to convince many of those 50% people to join the 25% of early adaptors to formulate the big cluster that will achieve change. Yet at the end I think we will have refusers that will stay like this, unfortunately I have to say this, but they will be distinct, obsolete and they will not be considered in the future population of the change. We must know first why people refuse change where the resistance come from. The reasons are fear of loss, feeling comfortable in their place, not being convinced with the subject of the change, not believing in the steering committee, or even people that are not changers by nature; these are the main reasons of resisting to change and the steering committee must handle every refuser out of his own reason. Yet, we value resistance for some other reasons, because they must know that they are mistaken, they must know that they have to change a little bit to fit more, they might be reasons of raising up some extra questions that helps us to do the change in a better way, or the tactical benefit of showing themselves to know where the resistance is coming from. Every change is not a resistance and every change has got the distinct part of the population.
- Now let us talk about what is currently happening globally; What do you think about BREXIT?
I think in my humble opinion that politics is based on pragmatism which means where your interests comes or goes, you go after it. So, the British people as history proved; they go for the interest of their own country. Now the BREXIT is for the favour of the Britain and not to the other European countries, as they found themselves not having a lot of benefits from the political and economic point of view from being among the European Union, so they are quitting. In my opinion this Brexit will formulate two clusters USA and Britain in one party and the other European Countries on the other party. Germany and France will pay the bill as usual, the English people will refuse to share their part of the bill. Anyway; it is part of the new regime. The European Union might have the will to continue together, so they must again study their benefits, and what every country will add to this European Union. Also, what Britain took away with them during their exist should be compromised by the other countries. I can see also another formula or mirror imaging from this Brexit, which was what QATAR did in quitting the OPEC after 57 years of being a member. I think something is happening now intentionally to break the classical old clusters of this world, we will see in the coming days some counter actions and some corrective actions from the owners of those clusters to rectify their position.
- What about “Yellow Vests”? Do you think that Globalization is related to them?
well the yellow colour is always meant to be an alert colour “take care”, anyway what I say now is unfortunately the European Spring , it is phase two of what was called the Arab Spring as this is a movement of other bigger entities to take care of this mess or this chaos, what I mean that all of these are a bad expressing of anger and I think these yellow vests are moved by some other major movers who are moving them from behind the curtains, I am not sure if they are really expressing anger from the economic situation or from the high cost of living. I think it is an act that was intending to be part of the big plan of “springs” formula or phenomena.
Globalization is good; globalization is a mean of crossing the border, but it has a good part and bad part. Good part is like increasing the trade, the bad part is losing your identity. I think each country must have both sides of the coin. The global part in terms of relationships and trading with others, and the other side is the local part where you keep your identity. I do like the Japanese part of Globalization which is exceptionally modern and well related to western world and yet they still keep their Japanese persona and cultural depth.