To Find Long Term Business Success, Focus on Your People

Jack Ma, the founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, was recently asked to explain the secret of his company’s success. “Find the people who are smarter than I am,” Jack said. “My job is to make sure the smart people can work together.”

The quote has stuck with me. It reflects how we view the world at Alghanim Industries, and how I view my role as CEO. Find great people. Inspire them to collaborate. Business success will follow.

You’ll find evidence of this philosophy in many of our company’s most important decisions. Consider, for example, our Chairman Sir Kutayba Alghanim’s decision to invest in an IBM mainframe in the 1970s. It may surprise you to learn the goal wasn’t to modernize our technology systems. The goal was to build a company which hired on talent, promoted on merit, and improved continuously through constructive criticism. None of this would have been possible without automating financial controls, but the objective was always about people.

Intuition would suggest this approach makes sense, but now we have research to prove the value of investing in people. A recent McKinsey study[i] finds superior talent is up to eight times more productive than average talent. The more complex the job, the greater return on your investment in talent, as this chart suggests.

Our recent steps on gender equality reflect the same people-centric approach. We’re making our workplace more inclusive and diverse not just because it’s the right thing to do but because it broadens and improves our talent base. Diversity increases talent, and talent makes us a stronger company — now, and especially for the future.

As with talent and productivity, recent academic work supports the gender and diversity case. A study from the Amsterdam School of Economics finds that teams with an equal gender mix perform better than male-dominated teams both in sales and profits.[ii] And a study by a pair of MIT and George Washington University economists finds evidence that gender diversity makes firms more productive.[iii]

Our talent-driven philosophy drives our work outside the office, too. At the start of the year Alghanim Industries launched with the UN High Commission for Refugees an initiative to educate and train Syrian refugees across the MENA region.

We’re doing this first because it’s the right thing to do. If the private sector doesn’t step up, refugees’ needs will never be met. But we also know that to attract and retain a strong talent base — especially among Millennials — our company needs to stand for something.

A recent Nielsen study supports the point.[iv] It finds 81 percent of Millennials expect their favorite companies to make public declarations of corporate citizenship. I know that if Alghanim Industries is to continue to thrive, we can’t simply be a job. We need to be a workplace which provides our people a sense of meaning and purpose.

Putting it simply: investing in our people is always the right choice. It’s a thread that runs throughout the history of our company — and it’s more important today than ever before.

Sources

[i] McKinsey & Co., Attracting and retaining the right talent, November 2017

[ii] The Impact of Gender Diversity on the Performance of Business Teams: Evidence from a Field Experiment, March 2013

[iii] Diversity, Social Goods Provision, and Performance in the Firm, Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, 2014

[iv] Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 2015