10 Lessons On Career and Leadership From Ashraf Bin Taj, Managing Director, IDC
Ashraf Bin Taj, co-founder and Managing Director of International Distribution Company Bangladesh (IDC), a fast-growing marketing and distribution company based in Dhaka, has seen both sides of the aisle. He has decades of experience in working with leading international and local corporations including Berger Paints, Nestle, ACI, and for the past four years, he has been building his own business, International Distribution Company Bangladesh Ltd (IDC).
Started four years ago with 26 people and one brand, today IDC is a team of 330 people, works with four international brands, has a growing business and eyeing the next phase of expansion.
Mr. Ashraf is a people’s person. In an interview with Future Startup, published last month, he says that his people skill, developed through extensive participation in extracurricular activities during his school life, has significantly contributed to his career, that there is a silver lining to every challenge we come across and it is ultimately about doing the work. We put together a couple of hand-picked lessons from the interview here.
Enter Ashraf Bin Taj (the quotes/description are directly taken from the interview and are largely unchanged.)
Pay attention to the details.
I’m a big believer in attention to details. I feel irritated when people leave out important things denoting them small. I prefer my people to prepare things in details and when planning, prepare plan A to C.
A good plan executed well is bound to bring you the result.
A good plan is imperative to success. If you plan well, visualize well, and execute well, you are bound to succeed.
Find right people. Invest in your people.
People make all the difference in every organization. You alone can’t do much. You must have right people around you. That said, finding good people is not enough, you also have to take good care of them, provide them personal development opportunities so that you could get the best out of them.
Honesty is still the best policy.
It is hard to overstate the importance of our values and principles. You can seek shortcuts and easy way out but that is not sustainable in the long run. If you want to achieve the success that lasts you have to be honest with yourself and others. You should maintain a high integrity. Honesty and integrity, I think these two things are of supreme importance.
Love your work.
This sounds cliche but I still would like to add it. Love your work or find something that you love. If you don’t love your work it would be impossible to do your best work. We spend a significant portion of our life at work if you don’t enjoy your work you joy in life would greatly diminish. I enjoy my work. I feel emotionally connected. As a result, it does not feel like work and I often spend extra hours at work and sacrifice a lot of comforts.
The importance of hard work is difficult to overstate.
The most important thing, however, I believe is hard work. We are a developing economy. We have a lot of catching up to do. I’m not of comfort-seeking, holiday mongering camp, I believe in working hard. Achieving anything worthwhile takes a lot of hard work. I come across many young people who seek extra holidays, extra comfort but if I don’t work hard how would I make a difference. Good work is what makes all the difference at the end of the day.
Entrepreneurship is hard work.
Contrary to the current popular wisdom that portrays doing business as something fancy, entrepreneurship is hard work. It is not for faint of hearts. You have to know when to act and when not it. Timing is, in most instances, everything. You have to develop a sharp observation capacity and be able to recognize patterns and identify opportunities and challenges.
You have to put together a solid business model in place, understand your customers, understand the nitty-gritty of the business and then you have to translate all these understanding into execution. No matter how good your business plan is, failing to execute often leads to trouble. When you are doing business, you can’t think like an executive. You have to, to some extent, think like a dokandar.
There are a lot of seminars and programs on entrepreneurship nowadays, sometimes what I feel is that most of these programs are designed to inspire and motivate young people to become entrepreneurs and all that, which is good, but you also need to develop skills. If the skill is not there then motivation can take you only so far.
People often don’t think much about the challenges they might face when they actually start a business or underestimate the challenges and overestimate the positive scenario. It is very important to be able to visualize what is going to happen in the future. Although it is impossible to do that accurately, it can give you a head start about how to approach it.
Deal mindfully with your self-doubt.
Self-doubt is a common plague for many ambitious people. We sometimes fall prey of our self-doubt when our journey becomes fraught with difficulties. This limitation causes failure to more people than anything else. Invest in developing clarity and have faith in yourself- the greatest remedy to self-doubt- and believe in your work. You will succeed today or tomorrow.
Our ability to understand people is a huge upside we seldom take seriously.
For marketers, you have to be good with people. I think this is equally important when you are designing a product or innovating. You have to be empathetic towards your users and understand them.
Develop a knack for observing consumer behavior. See your consumers first as human beings and then as consumers. Only then you will be able to come up with great ideas to solve their problems. Without having a deep understanding of your consumers, you will not be able to come up with winning ideas or propositions.
Read and learn more.
Be hungry for knowledge. The Internet has brought us the unprecedented advantage of access. Take full advantage of it. Read, read some more. Reading is the most joyful form of intellectual exercise. Finally, never ignore your creative self. Always nurture it.