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Wed 11 Jul 2018 12:58 PM

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What makes fighter pilot turned startup investor Jalal Al Hadhrami tick?

Brand View: After helping rehabilitate over 20 companies, the founder and CEO of venture capital firm Celebrity Global Holdings, Jalal Al Hadhrami, has grown his business to hold roughly $320 million in assets under management. He's done it by cutting past the fluff and getting straight to the point.

What makes fighter pilot turned startup investor Jalal Al Hadhrami tick?
Jalal Al Hadhrami says the goal has always been the same: to file for an IPO by 2023

What’s the story behind your business?

After retiring from the Omani air force, I decided to continue my education. I always loved strategy so I decided to do my MBA in strategic management. This was during the 2008 global financial crisis. I found a niche I enjoyed, so I began thinking about starting a consultancy company that can help others write their business plans. After a while, people started asking me if I could advise them on how they could fix their troubled companies, and that then became my core business. A few years later, and as I had built a cash chest, I decided that it would be even better if I bought into these ailing companies and help steer them from the top before selling them.

If all goes well, where do you see this going in the next five years? The next decade?

Our aim was and still is the same, plan to file for an IPO by 2023.

What’s the single biggest challenge facing your industry today?

Lack of talented professionals who are dedicated to a company and its success.

Where do great ideas come from in your organisation?

It depends, but mostly they emerge during brain storming sessions. However, I also do have a provocative way of engaging my team members which sometimes brings them out as well.

How do you then encourage creative thinking within your organisation?

By empowering everyone in the company, regardless of which unit or part of the organisation they work in. Everybody needs to be empowered and made to feel safe to innovate and experiment. The culture in our part of the world is still not well adjusted to this method, but as millennials join the work force, I’m sure a large cultural transition will take place and my method will serve as a proof of concept.

What is the most important in your company – mission, core values or vision?

There is no way to divide them, they are all interconnected. Our core values are what define us and distinguish us from our competitors.

What is your decision-making process?

This is a complex question, we do have a decision making matrix which I feel helps make things much more systematic. We draw process maps for everything. For us, we believe in a centralised command structure with decentralised execution roots, so we are both lean and strong at the same time. The lines of communication that help draw our accountability structure also help empower teams to make their own decisions as long as they are within their boundaries.

What do you enjoy the most about working at your company?

Every day challenges including buying new companies, and concluding new mergers or acquisitions.

If you were to explain your job to an 8-year-old in three sentences, what would you say?

We fix companies, just how doctors medicate patients.

Can you name a person who has had an impact on you as a leader?

My self, 15 years from now, that’s what I would say.

What is the most important decision you’ve ever had to make for your company?

Knowing when to pull the plug on a deal and cut my losses.

What would you say to a new employee about the culture of your organisation?

We are a family, we are as strong as our weakest link, and there are no bosses here.

When faced with two equally qualified job candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?

I ask for a second opinion.

What are three characteristics that you believe every leader should possess?

Be a mentor, charismatic, and set an example.

What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Buckle your seat belt, it’s going to be a fast run.

What’s one mistake that leaders make more frequently than others?

Thinking they know it all.

What’s your greatest fear in business?


What’s the best way to prepare for uncertainty (which is increasingly relevant in today’s market)?

Keep ahead of the market and predict the unpredictable. There are many tools that can be used to help keep you and your organisation ahead of the market dynamic. Study them and use them.

What inspires you?

My dreams.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I hated the world of business when I was young, I never even imagined I would venture into this life until the day I retired from the air force when I was 29 years old.

If you were to give someone just starting out in business one piece of advice, what would it be?

Plan, plan, and plan. I can’t emphasise it enough. The more you plan, the more you mitigate risks, the smaller the chances of failure.

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