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Thu 26 Nov 2009 04:00 AM

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Transparent leadership

Hassan Al Nowais is the chairman of Transparency, an Abu Dhabi-based group of companies specialising in premium car care solutions.

Transparent leadership
Hassan Al Nowais says that CEOs should know every aspect of their business inside out.

Hassan Al Nowais is the chairman of Transparency, an Abu Dhabi-based group of companies specialising in premium car care solutions.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

I wanted to have two very different jobs when I was younger. I am a very people-orientated person so wanted to work in government, where I could work with, and have the authority to help people. The other was working with cars, which have always been my passion. Transparency provides a good mix of the two - I get to meet other people who are passionate about their cars and provide them with a service to help them protect their cars and keep them looking great.

Who was your mentor?

My mentor is my eldest brother, Hussain, who runs his own business which spans a large number of companies. Business runs in my family and before I set up my own company, I used to accompany him to meetings in order to learn from him. I have applied many of the things I learnt from Hussain to how I manage Transparency, most importantly that a CEO is only one part of a larger team.

What three things did he teach you?

- Learn as much as you can from people on the way up.

- Be honest with yourself as well as others.

- Respect your employees.

What were his best and worst words of advice?

I don't think he ever gave me any bad advice but his best piece of advice was to support and respect your employees no matter what their position is. He told me that I should always work closely with them, make time for them, listen and give guidance where necessary. Transparency works on a fairly flat structure to ensure each member of staff is empowered accordingly.

Name one example when you have made a difference to your business?

Since I started the business in 2008, we have experienced a huge growth in demand and have expanded across the UAE. There was one day when one of our workshops was completely overrun, so I dressed in the same uniform and helped our employees on the ground. It was one of the best things I have ever done; my staff now respect me far more knowing that I am happy to help them than they would ever have done if I hadn't helped. What makes a good CEO in the Middle East?

The opportunities available in this region are endless and I think a good CEO is one who is able to see and capitalise on these opportunities. Transparency was started when I took my own car to a garage to get the paint protected. At that point I realised that there was huge room for improvement in the products and service provided compared to other markets, and pursued the opportunity to make it happen.

What three qualities should every CEO have and why?

CEOs should be able to give their best at all times and know every aspect of their business inside out. They should also have a clear mandate of where they are going in order to guide and help their employees and should be open and accessible to everyone in the business to create a team who are all working towards to same objectives.

What advice would you give to any aspiring CEO?

Be a good listener and listen twice as much as you talk. Every member of your team has an area of expertise and will have ideas on how to improve the business.

The people who deal directly with the customers will know the real frustrations their customers have, and this can help you shape your business to offer the best possible customer experience.

Are a CEO's skills easily transferable?

I don't think so. I think most skills come naturally, although it is easy to learn some from others.

What should a CEO never do?

They should never neglect their employees. At Transparency every member of staff is a valued member of the team and I try to ensure I visit each of our workshops every day whenever possible to meet with the teams. Every member of staff has my mobile number should they need to contact me for either work or personal reasons. By making myself accessible to the team, we all work towards the same goals and can provide the highest levels of service.

Which business leader do you most admire and why?

My brother because although he is good at delegating accordingly, he also tries to know every single detail of his business, no matter how small. He has taught me to master each part of the business in order to see ways to improve it, and to be a perfectionist to succeed.

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Sultan Al Nowais 10 years ago

Good job Hassan , keep the good work coming , hoping to see you a CEO of more companies soon. So proud of you uncle.