A sense of purpose and urgency to achieve your goals, awareness of your surroundings – local and global – focus and discipline – that’s the recipe for success, says Kamal Osman Jamjoom. And you’ve also got to create a business with a clear mission, an ethical work environment, employee-friendly policies and a customer-first approach …
Many of us wake up in the morning with brilliant ideas that we’re keen to implement. Little do we realise some of these ideas are achievable while some aren’t. At such times, it’s the company’s mission statement that brings you back on track. That’s why every organisation – big or small – must have a mission statement. It isn’t limited to retail but applies to every industry – and even individuals for that matter. I’ve noticed people who have a mission to accomplish tend to stay focused and on track. Similarly, an organisation with a clear mission statement can always explain its goals in an articulate manner. That’s crucial. Such a business will not drift from its core competencies, particularly in a highly competitive environment. Its people will remain goal-oriented and focused on what they have to achieve, accomplishing the greater goal of the company.
In the mid-to-late ’80s, there was a move among companies in the US and Europe to develop their mission statements. Huge and complex documents were written to explain what the company stood for. It’s important to have a mission statement, but it’s equally crucial to put it across in simple words for employees to easily understand and grasp. That’s what we’ve done at Kamal Osman Jamjoom (KOJ) Group. Our mission statement is simple – build a successful retail business that improves the quality of life by creating meaningful jobs in our communities, challenging people to grow in an ethical and fair environment.
Even that’s not enough for an organisation like the KOJ Group. That’s why, along with our mission statement we have a certain set of values the company stands for and believes in. For us, the most important thing is to take care of our people, offering them a friendly environment. It’s obvious people are keen to work in an environment that’s safe, secure and ethical. That’s why our values remain constant even if, like any other company, our budget, business plans, marketing activities and product development change every year.
We’ve developed these values over the years and they’re simple and straightforward – good people first, begin and end with good customer service and profitability for all our stakeholders. It’s these values that reflect what our organisation stands for. They offer a sense of belongingness to our people, instilling team spirit in them – which, we consider, is important for the growth of any organisation. When your business grows and more and more people join you, it is important to help them understand the company ethos. We believe in creating an environment that our people feel proud to be a part of.
Another crucial element of any business is its customers. Whether retail, hospitality or real estate, it’s crucial to ensure complete customer satisfaction. That’s the reason why we emphasise 100% customer satisfaction through our products and services. When we create a fragrance or apparel range and the collection clicks with our target audience, we feel proud. The second and the third time it happens we feel even better.
But with time, any business needs to understand that, along with creativity, what’s important is to offer your customers what they like. That ensures longevity for the brand. As a business we need to remember that customers come to us for a reason and we’ve to keep them happy and satisfied. It’s important to understand what leads to brand affinity and loyalty among customers. You must gauge their preferences, needs, lifestyle and income levels to devise your offerings accordingly. In addition, you need to understand their emotions to build a strong connect. However creative or good a product may be, it is sure to fail if it doesn’t click with your consumers. That’s why we closely monitor our organic customer growth – it indicates if our brands are attracting new customers.
Before getting into any business you need to be clear in your mind that someone else is doing the same thing, probably even offering the same product. So you’ve got to develop a recipe for success. We started out in 1987 with a single store. Today we have a strong network of over 700 stores. We started with a franchise brand, The Body Shop, in Saudi Arabia and began developing our own brands later in the ’90s. We now have nine brands – Mikyajy, Nayomi, Nayomi Abaya, Nayomi Beauty Salon, Soiree, Mihyar, The Body Shop, Early Learning Centre and Neals Yard Remedies.
Our endeavour with these brands – franchised and home grown – has always been to create a proposition that clicks with our customers. It wasn’t easy to develop everything from scratch – products, operations, store design as well as visual merchandising. But we thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. The excitement has always been palpable and there’s been so much learning. And today, to see all the brands successful in their own way is a different feeling altogether. We maintain the success of our mature brands while optimally nurturing the new ones. It’s like a big family where you offer a sense of direction and coaching to your older children while taking good care of the needs of the younger ones.
It’s true we’ve developed different kinds of brands ranging from beauty to apparel and more. We’ve also maintained some amount of cross-over. But we haven’t gone into something that’s drastically new, such as food and beverage or leisure and entertainment. As an organization, we concentrate on our core competencies, acquiring the right knowledge first and venturing into something new only after acquiring the required knowhow. But we always ensure innovation within our businesses, bearing in mind consumer tastes, market and fashion trends, fabrics and technological changes. Take the example of Mikyajy, where we launch new colour collections every season, or Nayomi, which also launches seasonal collections in sync with on-going fashion trends.
We believe in giving back to the society in which we operate. One way we do this is by creating meaningful jobs. Every year we grow our store count by 100-to-150, which creates at least 500 additional jobs. Lack of employment most often leads to social issues. You’ll notice that in any successful nation, children get a good education and are able to get meaningful employment later. An economy is about employment and employment, in turn, gives people the opportunity to be successful in what they are good at.
However, creating jobs alone isn’t enough. You need to keep your employees engaged and satisfied. Having been in business for so many years, I’ve realised one way of doing this is by offering them challenging opportunities to keep them motivated, opening up pathways for them to grow within the business. If you’re able to do this, your employees will feel their skills are valued. They then perform better with time, building a sense of purpose that enriches their career and the business.
One can’t deny the fact that people like us, born and operating in the Gulf, are blessed with several opportunities – a vibrant economy, stable government, hydrocarbon resources, and a competitive business landscape. However, that’s doesn’t in any way imply that every business will be equally successful. Several retail entities have been wiped out in the last 15 years even as others have been immensely successful. That retail is lucrative in the Middle East is an assumption – a dangerous one, I feel. Those who assume retail is lucrative and jump into business without doing the necessary homework, market study and business planning will face difficulties. You have to be careful to leverage the right opportunities to build on good planning.
That’s been the recipe of our success over the last 27 years that we’ve been in business. It may seem like stating the obvious but I do feel the need to stress on a few other things that lead to success in any business. Every morning, without fail, you’ve to get up and start your day early to ensure putting in the maximum productive hours at work. You’ve got to be disciplined, focused, and aware of your surroundings – local and global – and have a sense of urgency in achieving your goals. These things will take you closer to success – As told to Rupkatha Bhowmick
Kamal Osman Jamjoom is chairman of the Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group, which has over 700 stores and employs more than 3,500 professionals, offering them a multicultural work environment.
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