The lesson is that you must have the ability to keep grace and humor in all that you do.
As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company” I had the pleasure of interviewing Edward Shehab.
Edward Shehab is a serial entrepreneur. As the managing partner and co-owner of Memory Health, his interest in fighting dementia and the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease followed his mother’s diagnosis with the progressive degenerative brain disorder. By building Memory Health and promoting its product, Shehab hopes to protect others from living the heart-breaking scenario he experienced following a visit with his mother in 2018 where she didn’t recognize him.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Following the sale of the bank where I was an executive officer, I had to ponder my next step. My brother-in-law, an expert in fracking, approached me about a business idea in the oil industry. I knew the commodity from my trading days and did not have a strong understanding of the industry, but I do know how to build and run a company.
We drew out a business plan on a napkin and built a company surrounding his skill set. We were “an overnight success,” but it took us 13 years! The success of that company, Titan Global Oil Services, has availed me the opportunity to pursue other types of businesses, including real estate, forming a private equity group with two other partners, and now allows me to pursue my passion for Memory Health.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I learned about Memory Health through a partner in another company. I was drawn to it because of my mother’s illness, although I never intended to take over the management of the company. As an entrepreneur who learned how to slug it out, to fix things on the fly, I thought I could fix the issue that my mother was faced with, dementia. Perhaps naiveté allowed me to move forward, but the reality soon became apparent that dementia is very hard to fix. However, Memory Health has 20 years of research and development behind it and has proven results.
Specifically, clinical trials relating to Alzheimer’s patients showed increases in memory, mood and cognitive function, and in half of the respondents of the of the control group, forestalling the ongoing effects of the disease.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
When I worked for the bank, I was used to throwing out ideas and seeing them become a reality, because of their execution by support staff. In the early days of Titan, it was just my brother-in-law and me who were making it happen. There were many times that I wanted to leave, but I was always prevented by divine intervention. A contract was secured and it kept me going. It multiplied from there. You must have fortitude, confidence and something to believe in. And not focus on making money.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
As I mentioned, my success with other businesses has availed me this opportunity with Memory Health. It is my passion. We are a generation that believes in experiences, but we must remember them. It’s been proven that Memory Health helps forestall the effects of Alzheimer’s on memory and I want to share this product with others. That I’m associated with such a quality product makes me immensely proud.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Without a doubt, it is the quality of science behind our product. It is by far the most published, highly-studied product in brain nutrition for brain disease out there. There have been five clinical trials and more are coming down the pike, published in high-impact journals with peer-reviewed analysis. It’s proven that Memory Health helps not only those with demented brains, but also those that are healthy. It feeds the brain. We have two treatment patents, one in the UK and another in the U.S., for prevention of neuro-degenerative disease.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
We had opened an office in Siberia with Titan. I flew to London for a meeting, then flew through the night from London to Moscow. From there, I flew four hours into Siberia. I needed a meal and decided to go to dinner at a small restaurant nearby, in the pitch black. However, I soon realized that very few people in Siberia speak English. I spoke few words in Russian. When I tried to order dinner from a young waitress there, I heard Elvis Presley singing in the background, “Don’t you know I’m caught in a trap? I can’t walk out!” I texted a friend, not even knowing what time zone I was in, and said, “I found Elvis and he’s in Siberia!” My friend texted back, “Bring him home!”
The lesson is that you must have the ability to keep grace and humor in all that you do.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
I take the role of entrepreneur very seriously. As the founder of the company, the buck stops with me and I’m very careful about taking advice from people who don’t have a vested interest. Many people don’t understand what the world looks like from my side of the desk. I only listen to people who have a vested interest in my company and that I can share an idea with. They can go over the pros and cons with me — but I have to make the final decision.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Dedication. There are smarter people than me, but I’m not sure there’s anyone who would work harder than me. If I put my mind to something, I will be successful. If I am not successful, then I have learned a lesson for next time.
- Desire. I have passion. In this case, I have a passion for Memory Health because I believe it can help people. I want to help people.
- The ability to find grace and humor in your efforts. Also while in Siberia, I needed to return to the airport after my meetings and the hotel concierge said that he would find a driver for me. However, time was tight and he suggested that it would be better for me to take the subway. He gave instructions. The subway in Russia is built far below the surface because it was originally built to be bomb shelters. The signs on the platforms are in Cyrillic, not English. I was able to navigate only because I had counted the number of stops the concierge had provided me. God was with me, because I ended up at the airport in time!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
You cannot go into this thinking that it’s going to be a mere 40-hour work week, with guaranteed days off and no travel. If that’s what you want, stay in the corporate world. Sometimes things are really hard and there’s no linear movement up. You have to persevere during those times. Also, set up a good team and do not micromanage them, but rather empower them. And pay them well. However, when you begin to experience the fruits of your labor, don’t hesitate to take advantage of it. Some things you have to do for yourself. You reinvest in your company, but you also have to reinvest in your life and in your family, too.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
That they are bigger than the room. They don’t understand their strengths and weaknesses. Plus, not all ideas will work. Ideas need to be fleshed out, then you dedicate yourself to an idea, work at it, spend money on it. You need to surround yourself with quality people, not “yes” people, people you can have a dynamic conversation with and can balance each other out to get the job done.
For example, I think the world of my brother-in-law. He is a different cat than I am. An oil man, rough and tumble, extremely bright with a passion for what he does. He didn’t come through the corporate world. We’ve had knock-down, drag-out fights regarding where Titan should go, but at the end of the day, I have his back and I know he has mine.
Also, corporate America needs to take a step back and understand what role it has in the world. Corporations currently are polluted in greed, incompetence and a focus on quarter-to-quarter earnings analysis. This leads to the wrong steps taken.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
The amount of sleepless nights it takes to get to where you’re at. The fight it takes. The financial aspects, the fortitude. The only time the effort ends is when you sell the company. People see the bloom; they don’t see the roots.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- First and foremost, your timetable is not the timetable of your clients. You can’t force their hand. You can only advertise and educate.
- No matter what you say, sometimes people just don’t listen. That’s classic for Memory Health. I have a relative whom I know would benefit from the product.
Although I’ve shared with him how impactful and respected the product is, he’s in denial. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that maintaining long term brain health needs to start as early as a person’s 20s or 30s. That’s all I can do; I can’t hit him over the head with it.
3. Understand that your timetable for success is only meaningful to you, no one else. No matter how quickly you want to grow your product and its awareness in the marketplace, it might run at a different speed. You have to be patient sometimes.
4. Be prepared to spend a lot more time than you ever thought possible to build your company.
5. Treat people the way you want to be treated. I’ve always tried to do that and it helps build solid relationships.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
My movement is educating America and the world about Memory Health. Brain health starts at a young age and although it’s never too early to feed your brain, it can be too late, like in my mother’s case. I have an opportunity to help and this is my movement.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Readers can follow me online at:
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!