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Fri 29 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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My first CEO: Karim Firoz Merchant

Karim Firoz Merchant discusses his work philosophy, influences and inspiration.

Karim Firoz Merchant discusses his work philosophy, influences and inspiration.

Who was your first, or most influential, CEO or mentor?

My father, Firoz Merchant, the Founder and Chairman of Pure Gold Jewellers, has served as my greatest role model.

What set him apart?

As a leader you must lead by example, with honesty, fairness and respect.

My father's courage and unrelenting determination to succeed with his own enterprise has set him apart from other businessmen I have encountered. Many people dream of establishing their own company but only a few have the tenacity to realise their vision.

How did they mould your work philosophy?

He was a visionary who left behind his family's successful real estate business in India to set up his own jewellery retailing business.

His optimism and deep motivation, even in the face of the most difficult challenges, has greatly influenced my work philosophy and remains an inspiration to me today.

What key values permeate your business?

Integrity and respect are a few of the most fundamental values that I try to uphold in my business.

As a leader you must lead by example, with honesty, fairness and respect. You must show employees that no one is above the rules and that hard work is valued and rewarded.

In return for transparency, employees will believe in the company, fostering an environment of trust and strong interpersonal relationships, which together improve overall productivity.

What qualities do you look for in your team?

I believe excellent communication skills coupled with first rate professionalism are an integral part of any successful team. Human potential is central to corporate success but the only way to liberate this potential is through effective collaboration.

When a team is able to communicate openly and in a proficient and respectable manner, an environment is created where people are free to express their creativity and work towards a common goal.

What three qualities should every CEO have?

Openness to expect the unexpected - A CEO should be prepared to handle any situation that may arise when managing a business.

Even the most experienced executive cannot foresee all events that will emerge in the course of business operations, but CEOs can control their reaction and manage the consequences with rational decision-making.

Excellent time management skills - There are people who work very hard but do not use their time wisely.

Every CEO should know his/her priorities and set goals to improve efficiency that incorporate not only short term objectives, but also the long term projections of the company.

Great communication skills - A company's competitiveness comes from a combination of the potential of its people, the quality of information those people possess and a willingness to share knowledge with others in the company.

The challenge for a CEO is to secure these factors through effective collaboration and communication; that involves listening carefully and building trust.

In a few words, what advice would you have for an aspiring CEO?

Prospective CEOs should brace themselves for the difficult journey to the top but you can do anything you set your mind to. As my father once said, "90% of success depends on you, the other 10% is of it is left to chance."

There is a way around every obstacle. You must remember to think outside of the box and be prepared to make a lot of sacrifices.

PROFILEName: Karim Firoz Merchant

Title: Managing Director, Pure Gold Jewellers

Length of time in position: 7 years

Previous role: N/A

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