“It should be in the news in the coming days,” said Mahmood, in response to my question about what the firm he presides over as CEO was up to in recent days.
Mahmood – no, that is not his real name – runs what can be considered a family office belonging to a member of the ruling family in Dubai. He is the sort of guy that prefers to stay under the radar and just focus on doing a good job. But don’t think for a minute that he’s a dull administrator. No sir. There hasn’t been a time I came to see him in his office near Burj Khalifa that we didn’t share in a handful of laughs. He has an undeniable joie de vivre and an unforgettably dry sense of humour, making him a very unique individual. Our meetings are always great fun. It’s partly to do with the fact that we discuss business last. When we catch up in person it’s more about the fun stuff going on in our lives. I rarely pencil in meetings with him but just ring up when I’m Dubai and swing by. A few visits ago, I walked into the office. Sitting in the conference room next to mine was legendary Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan who happens to be a friend of Mahmood’s. This time around he was chatting on the phone with footballer Wayne Rooney while I sat a few seats away from him – we were social distancing.
What Mahmood referred to in the opening paragraph was the announcement which would come out about their purchase of a football club.
In the room with us was another individual Mahmood wanted to me to meet, Raja. I had no idea this individual would be present but that’s fairly typical of my meetings with Mahmood. I ring to see if he’s free and he tells me to come and when I arrive I find one or two people sitting in the room with him. Then we all chat.
Raja was a well-spoken, affable Englishman of South Asian descent who had done very well as both a real estate and medical entrepreneur in the US and UK, and had now settled in Dubai with his family. He rose up to his feet when I was introduced, placed his right hand on his chest and moved his head down slightly in show of respect. I did the same. We now of course greet from a distance given Covid-19.
Mahmood and Raja met many years ago when both men had no idea what commercial success tasted like. They were just getting started in their respective careers. But they got along and, over the years, encouraged one another, keeping in touch and nurturing their friendship.
That’s what this article is about. The long game.
See seldom does someone rise up on his or her own. Normally, you have a support system. A collaboration.
Often, many of us wrong assume that we must team up with someone who’s already at the top to succeed. Whilst one cannot deny you would benefit from partnering with a very successful entrepreneur, investor or financier, it is not the only way. Many people rise up together from the same starting point. So you could have friends who, like you, are budding entrepreneurs or business people, perhaps just getting started in their respective ventures, and with time, as your joint expertise grows and so does the strength of your relationship, you keep helping one another and pushing each other to more success.
During my meeting with Mahmood and Raja, I learned that the two of them just set up a London based investment vehicle which will be investing into both London property and UK technology start ups. They both own the entity, which they’ve raised money for, and are hoping to further grow it over the coming years.
The takeaway is this: nurture the good friendships you have now and help one another grow. Something magical happens as we get older and that is that we value our friendships more and more. Nothing replaces the history you have with others. Some things only time can help build.
Another way to look at it is by recounting something I once heard Danny Boyle (Film Director, Slumdog Millionaire) tell a crowd of young film professionals at the Kiln Theatre (formerly Tricycle Theatre) in NW London. It went along the lines of: “Don’t try to just work with me as it may not be realistic. I tend to work with people I’ve known for some time. Find your partners who are also looking to rise up in the business and grow together, over time.”
In short, you very likely already know the people with whom you need to nurture and grow the relationship.