My Morning Routine: Dr. Asser Salama, founder and CEO of Easy Care
Dr. Asser Salama, founder and CEO of Easy Care: Each week, My Morning Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Asser Salama (LinkedIn), a trained cardiologist and founder and CEO of FMCG player Easy Care. Edited excerpts from our conversation follow:
My name is Dr. Asser Salama, I am a physician and CEO of Easy Care Group. I stopped practicing medicine 15 years ago to focus on business and then I finished my MBA and did my postgraduate at Harvard Business School. I am a certified instructor and I teach contemporary management at AUC, the Arab Academy of Science and Technology (AAST), ESLSCA and Alexandria University.
Easy Care is trying to make expensive products affordable to the masses and democratize non-food FMCG products. We are a market leader in sanitary products like baby wipes and disinfectant wipes as well as personal care goods like shower gel, hand soap and alcohol sanitizers.
We have been in the market for almost 20 years now, evolving from an SME into a market leader. We are one of the few companies that went from being microfinanced to being a holding company. Today, we have four factories across Egypt and we are in every household. We like to say that we introduced the culture of wipes in Egypt, and we sell 2 mn units of our hair removal product Easy Sweet each month.
I am an early bird, I wake up at 6 or 7am and I do my prayers. Then I ask myself two questions: How can we sell more, and how can we reduce our costs, without compromising on quality.
I am kind of a workaholic and work 14-15 hours a day.I believe that work-life balance depends on the person, but personally I find my passion in my work. Being a CEO is a little like being a theater director — you have to get people to do more and be more, and figure out how the people around you can help you achieve your goals.
I go to work everyday, but not necessarily to the office or to a factory. I’m a very mobile person and I love to move around and spend time with my customers. The market is my office. And technology allows me to do my business anytime, anywhere. My role is more strategic leadership than management. I’m not a GM and I don’t want to be. I have to dedicate more time to looking to the future to assess our weaknesses and strengths.
I am a hope seller. My responsibility is to lead the team amid uncertainty by giving them hope and setting the stage for them to perform better. Motivation is important, but hope is what creates excellence, positivity and security. You have to appreciate people for their work everyday. I believe that people perform better because they are appreciated, not necessarily because they are paid better.
I stay focused and organized by being clear about what I’m not going to do. You have to be clear about what you need to delegate. Any business owner can get caught up in daily operations and lose sight of the big picture.
I started teaching an MBA program by chance five years ago. At first, I wanted to quit because I was so awful. Then my wife told me to take a step back and reconsider my strategy, so I decided to treat my students like employees and it made all the difference. My nickname at university is professor chairman and 15% of my students have quit their jobs and are pursuing their own business.
Teaching has really changed my life. If you really want to learn about something, don’t read about it, teach it. There was so much that I thought I knew, but I understood it in a completely very different way when I started teaching it. Management is a social science and it’s a culture.
My favorite way to switch off is to watch a sitcom or read a book. I love to watch Modern Family and I like books on history and strategy, but that’s only if I have time. I also love to cook Asian and Indian food. It is a passion of mine and I am seriously thinking of getting a degree in cooking. It’s a kind of entrepreneurship in its own way: you take raw materials and limited resources and make something with it.
The best piece of advice that life has taught me is to give hope. You don’t lose when you lose business, you lose when you lose hope.