Ask The Exec: Ahmed Abou Hashima, CEO and Chairman, Egyptian Steel, Egyptian Cement, and Egyptian Media

What are the factors that count for successful leadership in today’s business world? We chatted with enterprise head honchos in the MENA region to learn how they managed turning their driven personalities, high-risk tolerance, and strong work ethics into a competitive advantage. In this edition, we talk to Ahmed Abou Hashima, CEO and Chairman, Egyptian Steel, Egyptian Cement, and Egyptian Media.

Q How has your leadership approach contributed to the realization of your company’s goals? Also, what are some of the challenges you currently face with respect to running your business?

A “After January 2011, I took a calculated risk and pumped a US$1 billion investment into Egyptian Steel, which eventually paid off. By the end of 2017, Egyptian Steel and its subsidiaries will be producing 20%-25% of Egypt’s steel supply. So, my only competition is who I was yesterday. I never compare myself to others. My ambition has no limit, and I will always work on improving and expanding until the group is recognized globally. Beating my own records is what keeps me motivated. Today, as a well-established business, our biggest challenge is to not fall into a comfort zone. No matter how successful a business is, if it does not keep the pace with the ever-changing market demands, it will eventually fall. For that reason, I delegate much more now than before. The business has expanded enormously and it would never have succeeded if it had been run with a ‘one-man show’ strategy. I have a team now that has been with me for years. I call my employees the dream team. They are the group’s biggest asset. We recruit and maintain the highest calibers in every field. I also adopt an open-door policy. It’s not difficult to reach me or talk to me about any problem in the work place. The best strategy to lead a team is to make each and every employee feel ownership of what they do. They are not merely employees, they are a part of the bigger family, each with an effective role. The higher the loyalty you build within the workplace, the better the work environment.

"For example, the biggest problem now is the current devaluation of the Egyptian pound which has caused lower purchasing power, but we will overcome it, as we have overcome worse problems in the past. Egyptian Steel, my first company, had been established only a few months before the January 2011 Revolution started. I believe that was the biggest challenge any company could have ever faced. The market was unstable, the political and economic scenes were in turmoil. People called me crazy for investing more than US$1 billion in Egypt after the revolution. But I believed in the resilience of the Egyptian economy, and I had the team that helped us sail safely through this storm. Yet, here we are six years later, with two new steel plants that are considered the biggest in the world in producing green steel, and with a new sister company Egyptian Cement, as well as a project for the full building materials complex on the way. Lastly, we have also started Egyptian Media.”

TAKE THE LEAD
Ahmed Abou Hashima’s tips for entrepreneurs fronting their enterprises. 

1. Invest in your team “Choosing the right talent is the biggest investment any businessman could ever make. The recipe to success cannot be complete without a properly qualified team to reach the vision set for the company.”
2. Always have a vision “Think 10 years ahead, what you want, how it can be reached, and then act upon it. You can’t let your future be played by ear.”
3. Understand your competitors, but do not imitate “Do not compare yourself to others, and always aim to create a competitive edge for yourself instead of imitating someone else’s success story.”
4. Have a plan, yet remain flexible “Circumstances do not always go as planned, the skill to adjust your sails without changing your destination is vital for survival. You might need to adjust your method, but do not give up on your goal.”
5. Protect your reputation in the market “During rough times, your positive reputation will be your only savior. Guard and keep your reputation, no matter what it costs you. It is one of the most valuable intangible assets.”

Related: Follow The Leader: Elie Khouri, CEO, Omnicom Media Group MENA

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