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Thu 16 May 2019 12:31 PM

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Sobhi AbdulJaleel Batterjee: Keeping it in the family

As he passes the baton of Saudi German Group to his son, Engineer Sobhi AbdulJaleel Batterjee shares his insights on succession and preparing Makarem to continue the family legacy.

Sobhi AbdulJaleel Batterjee: Keeping it in the family
Founder and President, Saudi German Hospital Group, Engineer Sobhi Abduljaleel Batterjee.

Eng.Sobhi, you established a huge healthcare empire. What are some lessons that you will pass on to Makarem?

Passion is key in taking my place. In our industry, passion for helping people is crucial. It’s why I always had my phone number printed in all our hospitals, so that when people visit us and are worried about their family or have any issues, they can call me immediately and we will always take care of the needs of the patient calling. That is the spirit I am trying to hand down. I believe that succession should be managed by example, not just by words.

What else is important to be a good leader in a family business?

If you want to be successful, the secret to ensuring that people buy into your vision is that you have to be the first to sacrifice. A leader must be the first to give and is the last to receive. Don’t think that just because you are ‘number one’ you deserve it all. When it comes to family, money is the last thing you should worry about. Losing the power of family relationships is wrong, if you lose your relatives you will also lose your business.

In your book, A Road To Success, you write that a person is the product of genes, upbringing and environment. Can you tell me about how you applied your philosophy in raising Makarem?

Genetics are very powerful. A goose will not give birth to a crocodile, but I also raised him by example. When my children were younger, I used to take them out of school on business trips so that they could see and understand the business world. At a big conference recently in Ajman during the opening of the hospital, I asked my youngest daughter, who is just seven: ‘What are you here for?’ She said ‘I am here to help relieve suffering’. That’s how you raise children.

You defined your own destiny, but was there an expectation that your son would continue your vision?

Not necessarily. I believe that we have given him a broad direction but he has been very determined to continue the family legacy and take our group to the next level. He is well-educated and he has a well-running organisation that I built from nothing. We are regional and I believe Makarem will take it global. The challenges he faces include paying attention to the family; this needs talent, patience and sacrifice. When it comes to family, money is the last thing you should worry about. The love and support of your family is priceless.

What is important in ensuring the best succession process possible?

Succession is not easy for the incoming leader. It is critical that the founder is there to make it easier. The senior people in our organisation still insist on calling me when a decision is to be made, but as part of succession I involve Makarem in these decisions.

What is your relationship with Makarem like?

Makarem is my teacher in many aspects even though he may not realise it. He is a thinker and is very well educated, he has an MBA from one of the most well-reputed business schools in the world, London Business School. He often applies tools that I had never heard of. He once told me to read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, the book blew my mind! The theory of my own book is inspired by what I read.

As Saudi German Hospital enters a new phase, aspiring to be global, what are your hopes for the group?

We see healthcare and education as our heritage. I believe that we have a higher purpose and a mandate to serve humanity. I will keep working towards that and passing this mandate to my children and grandchildren. Today we are operational in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Yemen and we are moving into Morocco, Pakistan and other countries… we will not stop. It will take a very powerful force to stop the Bait Al Batterjee group and our family drive.

Your son has established new ventures and been awarded internationally – what are you most proud of about him?

He is persistent; when he has a vision he will pursue it until it becomes reality. When our children graduated school, he was the first to come to work and wanted big rewards quickly. We knew he must earn them. He was to start in the kitchen of our hospital in Jeddah, but in reality, it wasn’t the place for him. A family adviser recommended a psychometric test and it revealed that Makarem is an entrepreneur.  One day he brought me the franchise for Gold’s Gym and it has been a huge success. He was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum at Davos and was the first Saudi member of the Bretton Woods Committee. I predict he is going to be amongst the leading healthcare personalities in the world; saying this publicly is part of building ambition in your children. You do this by telling your children how great they are, not how incapable they are. Who damages children? The parents make or break them. Even Makarem says: ‘Don’t fire your staff, fire them up’.


Eng. Sobhi Abduljaleel Batterjee (right) with his son Makarem Sobhi Batterjee.