“Focus on yourself. Do not compare yourself to others. The only person you should aim to be better than is yourself. Any attempt to compare yourself with others is a waste of energy you should be exerting in improving yourself.”
For a company that was established only in 2010, the awards and recognitions that Egyptian Steel and its CEO Ahmed Abou Hashima has racked up already are definitely noteworthy- if the rate of growth of Hashima’s enterprise is any indication, then here’s an entrepreneur who’s well on his way to becoming one of the region’s most prominent businessmen.
But it’s not been a rosy path for Abou Hashima- after all, setting up a new enterprise when Egypt was in the throes of a political upheaval couldn’t have been an easy task. “There’s no doubt that Egyptian Steel was founded at a very critical time in Egypt; [it was] only a few months before the January Revolution in 2011, which led to several years of economic and political turmoil,” Abou Hashima says. “Yet, I consider that we were already in the middle of the ocean, [and] there was no way back. We had to believe in our country, and that we will bounce back even stronger than we were.”
It was a difficult period, yes- but Abou Hashima kept going with his eyes on the final goal. “Egyptian Steel did not lay off a single employee throughout these tough times,” he remembers. “Our strategy has been to always invest in our people, believe in them, and make them understand that they are the source of power for this company. My partners shared my vision as well, and continued their investments in Egypt, despite the rocky times. Having a common vision from the top management all the way to the smallest roles in the company is what made us survive and thrive, till we reached what we have today.”
Cut to today, and Egyptian Steel is still standing, and the enterprise now aims to not be known for just its steel, but instead as a one-stop shop for building materials. To this effect, the company is expanding in this regard, with the first of its ventures being Egyptian Cement. As Egyptian Steel thus scales up, recruitment of talent to fuel the enterprise’s growth remains a critical factor that Abou Hashima takes particular attention to. “I don’t believe in limiting budget when it comes to the employees,” he says. “They’re the group’s biggest asset, and if they function well, everything else will go well. I can spend billions on a steel plant, but with an inefficient team, they’d waste all our investments.” But while his endeavors in business continue to grow and make an impact, Abou Hashima is insistent on being concerned about a lot more things than just Egyptian Steel’s bottom-line. His success as an entrepreneur notwithstanding, this enterprising individual –winner of the Responsible Leadership award at Entrepreneur Middle East’s 2015 KSA Enterprise Agility Awards- has made it his priority to give back to the country he has set up his business in, and he has put into effect a definite plan for corporate social responsibility (CSR) as well.
“Starting 2014, Egyptian Steel halted any TV advertisements, which are known to cost millions for production and airing time,” he says. “This whole budget has been redirected to renovating and revamping Egypt’s 20 most impoverished villages. I created a concept that I like to call ‘socially responsible capitalism,’ which emphasizes that the civil society has rights that should be fulfilled. In my book, the business world does not revolve around materialistic gains. It’s our duty to improve people’s lives and to lessen their suffering as much as we can. It’s very flattering that our CSR efforts got noticeable recognition on a local and on an international level. But what actually keeps me motivated is the happiness I saw on the villagers’ faces when they moved into their revamped homes, that for the first time, they have ceilings, windows, clean tap water and electricity.”
And Egyptian Steel’s focus on CSR continues even today, Abou Hashima notes. “We resumed TV ads this year, because we needed to announce about our mega project in Beni Suief,” he says. “Yet this did not affect our CSR plans, which are continuing as usual. In fact, we have expanded our CSR activities to include paying debts of impoverished prisoners who were sentenced time for owing money (and not for any criminal offences) so that they are now free to go back to their families, and helping specific cases of ill people who cannot afford their treatment.”
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Ask The Exec: Ahmed Abou Hashima
The Q From a personal standpoint, what ’s the strategy you use for leading your company?
The A “Choosing the right people for the right positions, and then trusting them and delegating to them, is key. First of all, that gives them confidence and motivation to give their best at work. Second, I don’t believe in a one-man show method in running a business. Not every single detail must go through me, this will elongate procedures, waste time, and it will demotivate members of the team.”