G. Sumdany Don is the Founder and Chief Inspirational Officer at Don Sumdany Facilitation & Consultancy. He left his prestigious corporate career to start his own venture and make his passion a reality. Don says inspiring people to take lead in their lives is his mission.
Recently, I caught up with G. Sumdany Don to know more about his journey, what motivates him, what keeps him afloat during the time of personal doubt, and to understand what it takes to become a professional trainer. During our conversation Don walked me through his journey as an entrepreneur, spoke of his fear and risks he took, his passion and mission and more.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your passion.
I am G. Sumdany Don. I am a professional trainer. I train employees of different NGOs, corporate houses and conduct lectures in private and public universities. My passion is to train and teach people and to enable people for a better life.
I believe everyone out there has immense potential to do amazing things but we limit our potential within our own confinement. We put ourselves in a box and become comfortable within it and never want to get out of it. I am on a mission to inspire people to take lead in their lives and help them to rise above their own boundaries. I have trained over 10,000 people so far.
Please walk us through your path to becoming what you are doing today.
I used to work for The Daily Star when I was a student. After my graduation, I joined Adcomm (Lowe Worldwide) an advertising agency, and worked there for 2 years. In 2010, I was offered to join Philip Morris International (PMI), one of the largest multinational companies in the world, one of the top 100 Fortune companies, and I took that opportunity. Throughout my career, I have worked in the field of marketing and sales and human resource and as well as in advertising.
When I was a student at ULAB, the founder of ULAB, Dr. Kazi Anis Ahmed, conducted a workshop called the “Career Vision” which was a life changing event for me. That workshop inspired me to look beyond myself and taught me that human beings have immeasurable power to accomplish anything they dream of with their efforts and dedication. Once I graduated from ULAB, I went to Dr. Anis and conveyed my wish to continue the workshop that he had started. Being one of the most adored students of Dr. Anis, he appreciated my intention and granted my wish. That’s how it all started.
In 2011, I was invited by East West University (EWU) and gradually my career counseling continued to spread in other renowned universities such as Dhaka University, Jahanginagar University, North South University, and AIUB etc. Later on my students who joined other institutions and corporate houses invited me to provide counseling. The country manager of PMI, in the meantime, took notice of my passion for teaching and training and made me one of the regional trainers for PMI. He sent me to various international workshops on training which equipped me with 2 international certifications and the knowledge base to become a professional trainer.
In the meantime I started training and counseling in other public platforms. Finally in 2014, I quit PMI to launch Don Sumdany Facilitation & Consultancy.
How supportive have your family and friends been in your journey of becoming what you are today?
My family members are well aware of my persistence towards anything which I want. They know that I am highly driven by my passion. They are proud of me and over the years, they have become confident that whenever I indulge myself into something, there are strong reasons behind that involvement.
However, they were a bit hesitant when I left PMI and decided to start my own venture. But then it’s very natural as no one wants to come out of comfort zone and security and dive into pool of risks. I believe, even at that point of time, they had their confidence on me that overpowered their reluctance. So, yeah, without their unwavering support in every possible way, I couldn’t have reached where I am today.
Tell us about your venture, Don Sumdany Facilitation & Consultancy.
Don Sumdany Facilitation and Consultancy is a Dhaka based training and consultancy firm. In the core of this venture is Training. We have multiple NGO clients, and corporate clients, few of them are: Chevron, Perfetti, Envoy Group, Sheltech, Platinum Suites, Green textiles. I have also worked with United Nations, Democracy International, JAAGO Foundation, and Shishu Polli. Besides training we also provide Consultancy.
Right now, we provide brand marketing consultancy to ULAB and Omicon Group on a regular basis. We provide HR consultancy services and have recently finished a big project for an international electronics item selling company. The third wing is Don Sumdany Brand Building under which works 30 passionate and talented brand ambassadors who are chosen from various universities of Bangladesh. Plus there is “Donspiration” which is the live radio show on career and inspiration on Colours FM 101.6
How did you manage your initial funding and how did the first few months look like for Don Sumdany Facilitation & Consultancy?
The only investment I had to do initially was for a modem, a laptop, and my i-phone. More funding was not very necessary in my case since we are in the service business. I myself is the biggest asset and I consider this as an advantage. For the first 5 months, I worked all alone from my home. In November 2014, I hired my first employee. In January 2015, a lot of other people joined and now I have a 6 people team and the 30 brand ambassadors.
Initially, when I left PMI, people often mocked at me as I decided to leave a secure job and get into a risky venture. They asked me whether I left the job at my will or I was asked to leave PMI (!!). They fail to understand that the brand value we have in ourselves can get us any job that we want. These disbelief and mockery people shot at me were really discouraging. Another challenge was to onboard clients initially but fortunately I had some momentum in the market due to my passionate past involvements which helped me in attracting clients in a very short period of time.
Where do you see yourself and Don Sumdany Facilitation & Consultancy 5 years from now?
I personally want to become the no.1 undisputed trainer in Bangladesh within the next five years. People of certain ecology recognize me right now. And I believe that these people are already privileged as they receive good education, opportunities and amenities. But these are not the people who actually need me. In order to become the super brand that I want to become, I want to reach to the unprivileged people. I want to disseminate my services nationwide from cities, towns, to even the remotest villages. I am on a mission to redefine the training business of the country. To me training is similar to performance and I want to demonstrate that trainers can also be brands like musicians, comedians and other artists.
I aspire for Don Sumdany Facilitation & Consultancy to become the apex training and consultancy firm with many other revolutionary trainers. There would come a time when I would only involve in selective projects. But before that I want to launch as many ground-breaking trainers in the market and hopefully that day would arrive soon.
Has there been a point when you took a big risk for moving forward?
My whole life has been full of risks. When my friends chose to study BBA at North South University, I joined ULAB and that too in the Media, Journalism & Communications faculty. That was another time when people laughed at me and I had to endure awfully harsh criticisms. So, I think, not choosing a usual educational institution and a more mainstream subject to study was a quite risky move.
While I was a student at ULAB, I not only indulged myself in studies but also made time for part-time jobs and extracurricular activities. As I had to maintain a scholarship, bringing that equilibrium between my studies and my work was another risk.
There has been a point in my life when I had no sleep, no weekends, no rest and nothing. This was when I was working at PMI and at the same time I was teaching at ULAB and other educational institutions on weekends. And yes, leaving PMI to launch my own venture was no less than a risk. But somehow luckily, no matter how big the risks have been, I have managed to overcome them.
Have you had any mentor along the way?
I will always mention Dr. Kazi Anis Ahmed, founder of ULAB as my first and foremost mentor. I have learnt a lot from Ms. Rubana Haque, Managing Director of Mohammadi group. In my professional life at PMI, I have had the privilege to learn from Mr. Ali Hossain, who I unfortunately worked with only for 6 months. But those 6 months with him blessed me with the knowledge and skills that no one could have taught me in 6 years may be.
Is there any moment that changed your life forever?
In March 2013, my car was mugged and I was shot in my leg. I consider this as a life changing event. Right after the incident, I sunk into depression. But slowly, I realized that whatever happens, happen for a reason. After this incident, I still worked at PMI for a year but somewhere deep inside me I was not enjoying it.
That incident changed my view radically and I realized that one should live for today and do something meaningful and chase his/her passion. People mostly spend a large portion of their lives waiting for the future to come and remain unaware of how they can meaningfully contribute to today.
What piece of advice do you give yourself every day?
Live for today. Do not wait for tomorrow. You never know how much time you have in your hand.
Do you feel contributing to something larger than life?
I do not only inspire people but equip them with tools to help themselves. When people attend my sessions, more often than not people convey their gratitude to me for changing their lives, that’s where I find the fulfillment. At the same time, I am earning a good living and gaining popularity through helping people in different ways, be it developing communication and public speaking skills or teaching models and theories. I feel myself privileged in this case and all these have made life a lot more meaningful.
If you were given a time machine to go back to the time when you just started, what would you do differently?
I should have started my entrepreneurial journey earlier and could have started my dreams off in a more organized way. But won’t say that I should have left PMI earlier as in terms of creating the knowledge and experienced base that I have at this young age are all came from the trainings and experience that I have received at PMI. I also had great bosses and they have heavily contributed in making me what I am today.
How do you conquer yourself in the moments of doubt that often suppresses many entrepreneurs?
I often have doubts, just like everyone else on a regular basis. However, I counsel myself that negative energies and obstacles are always going to prevail. But if I can deliver authentic and high quality services that would positively impact people’s lives, I am bound to receive positive results in return.
Do you have any favorite book? Which book are you reading now?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. This book has helped me through thick and thins in my journey till today.
Right now, one of my core team members Sakia Rangoon has given me a Del Carnegie book as she thinks I would be the next Carnegie in Bangladesh.
Name few things/traits an entrepreneur should have to achieve success.
Credit: Interview by Fatema Mohammad for Future Startup, Edited by Sabidin Ibrahim, Images by Don Sumdany Facilitation & Consultancy