CEO of SellAnyCar.com Saygin Yalcin believes inspiration can strike anywhere, even at the back of a textbook on Quantum Mechanics
Tell us about the business.
SellAnyCar.com is the largest car buyer in the country. We started less than three years ago with a single promise: to guarantee to purchase any car within 30 minutes. Today, we have built the biggest marketplace for used cars with close to 20 percent of the country’s entire car population having used our services already. It all started when I tried to sell my car through online classifieds and realised that the whole process was broken. I saw the opportunity to solve a major problem in the used car industry. The best part about SellAnyCar.com is that it naturally identifies the best price for your vehicle anywhere in the world and buys it straightaway.
Assuming all goes well, where do you see it going in the next five years? The next ten?
Over the next five years, SellAnyCar.com will buy 10 percent of all the cars in the GCC. The next decade? We will be purchasing 5 percent of all the cars in the Arab world.
What's the biggest challenge in the industry at the moment?
Both transparency and liquidity. We deliver a solution to this with our instant market coordination mechanism; it solves a major challenge for the consumer. At the same time, we allow for on-demand sourcing – which again solves a problem in the used automotive trade.
How do you come up with ideas within the organisation?
We get things done! There is nothing more frustrating than having a great idea and then no one listens, or it takes years to develop. Speed is one of our core values. For example, we have over 180 IT projects delivered annually. Moreover, we have a dedicated communication channel to every decision maker in the business, to make sure good ideas are heard.
What's your decision-making process?
It varies. However, we generally try to gather as much data on a subject as possible. The more important the decision, the more members of the team we try to get involved, even if they aren't directly connected to it.
How has social networking impacted your business?
I think it has affected the entire world. It has brought us forward as humanity, connecting everyone through real-time information. I think it's one of the major drivers pushing us towards a creating one planetary civilisation.
What's the best part about working at your company?
For me, it's able to true ideas into reality with the people you work with. Those ideas solve problems and bring rewards to the problem solvers. Occasionally, I like to look back and see what we've achieved, and then share them with the team.
Do you have a mentor?
Yes, but not a single person but a collection of several people. It is one of the most important factors for success, to find people who influence you to become a better person, to encourage you to achieve your goals and to show you that anything is possible. As a young boy, my parents gave me something that still drives me to this day: confidence.
What's the first thing you say to new employees?
Welcome to the team. Then, I say let's get things done. Fast. Let's make everything scalable, sustainable and technology-focussed. And let's do it together.
When faced with two equally qualified job candidates, how do you determine which one to hire?
Simple, we'd hire both.
What are three characteristics that all leaders should possess?
The ability to share the credit, but take all of the blame. The ability to inspire and create other leaders. And they should be confident.
Would you give any advice to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
I would tell them to take the word 'leadership' literally. You have to lead the ship, and it requires leading through example and teamwork. Set a meaningful goal, focus on it, and then build the best team possible to make it happen. Ensure you have enough financial resources, make data-driven decisions and show perseverance. Remember, you also require loyal team members to make your vision a success. To purchase loyalty is very expensive and not sustainable. Instead, build an inspiring vision and give meaning to your work. Oh, and appreciate and celebrate your team's accomplishments regularly.
What's one mistake leaders make more frequently that others?
There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance. Not admitting mistakes shows the latter.
How does your company prepare for uncertainty?
The best way is to understand that it is an integral part of business. Our risk management strategy takes into account the four types of risk: in the market, products, team and financial. Each one of them can be minimised, meaning the business is prepared for the future.
What inspires you?
Quantum mechanics. A century ago common sense was suddenly not applicable. The status quo was disrupted, and classical physics was not the only game in town anymore. Particles behaving like waves, conscious observations having an influence over reality… Quantum mechanics reminds me that the world is full of opportunities to change even the most deeply routed convictions the world might have. This is the same as entrepreneurship, proving that nothing is impossible. If the behaviour of a tiny subatomic particle can change our world, then we can to. It's this mind-set that has led our relatively small team to become market leaders in markets traditionally led by huge incumbents.
If you were to give someone just starting out in business one piece of advice, what would it be?
I would ask them to answer six simple questions. Does the idea solve a problem? Is the idea profitably scalable? How can it be monetized? Are you passionate about it? Are there any regulatory showstoppers? And is the timing right? If it's six yesses, then it's time to build a plan.
Why do you get out of bed each day?
I chase my ultimate 'then, what?' Let me explain, one day I started asking myself what my goal was. If it was driving a nice car, I would ask myself 'well, then what?' If it was owning a big house, 'well, then what?' Having a lot of money? What next. If you keep asking yourself this questions you will one day reach the thing you most dream of. That is what I do each day.
Do you have a quote to live your life by?
I don't live my life based on a single phrase, but I do enjoy the quote 'life is short'. But I prefer to make it, 'life is good'.
What advice would you give your 18-yaer-old-self?
I would tell myself to be surrounded with intelligent, ethical and ambitious people. You have all the tries in the world, so get out there and embrace every opportunity you can. You only need one success, but it could take many failed attempts.
What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to become an aesthetic plastic surgeon. It promised a lot of money and was glamourous. I researched it and talked to industry leaders. They disagreed. I ignored them and applied for an obligatory, unpaid nursing job in the central hospital. I was accepted but failed miserably at the job. I remember one nurse at the hospital telling me that I would probably make the worst doctor in the world, but I'd be very good as a business man.
How do you manage a large company and still find time for things like family?
I must admit that I never find enough time for my family. It's an area that I must improve upon. Building companies is not a sprint; it's a marathon with several sprints thrown in for good measure.
How do you switch off from the office?
Late at night, I focus on completely different topics, such as quantum physics or my medical research. I also like to spend time with friends at dinner; it further takes my mind away from work.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don't like the concept of sleeping, so I always try to sleep as little as possible. My days are usually very busy with meetings, and I sent hundreds of messages to my staff. But I think being healthy is the key to my success, so I try and exercise for at least an hour every 48 hours. I also watch my diet as much as possible, which is a challenge. Why are the best tasting things in the world the worst for you to eat!
If you were to find a lottery ticket on the street that ended up winning a million dirhams, what would you do?
Nothing. I wouldn't change my life. I would do exactly what I do now.
Finish this sentence, 'the world would be a better place if only…'
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