Running a business requires patience, hard work and the ability to work under stress. It also usually requires partnering or working with other people. Because of all the pressures that mount, and differing visions and strategies that emerge, these relationships are often very rocky and met by bumps in the road along the way. Some relationships survive; others crash and burn.
But what happens when families work together? How is this bond kept intact amidst all the business drama?
We talked to the founders of some of the most successful businesses in Egypt today. All siblings, we asked them to tell us how they are able to balance between their personal relationships and business partnerships; how they prevent their close business interactions and inevitable differences from getting the better of them.
Here’s what they had to say:
Omar and Moustafa El Shenety – Multiples Group
Multiples is an investment group whose practices include both investment banking and private equity. Perhaps most known of Multiples’ holdings is the famous bookstore chain Alef. Successful by all standards, Alef has over 30 stores across Egypt as well as a recently opened branch in London! Co-founding Multiples, siblings Omar and Moustafa also share the group’s management, with Omar heading the investment banking branch and Moustafa managing private equity. When Omar decided to build an investment company, he realized from the start he could have no better partner than his brother.
“In our case, the partnership is very interesting,” he says, “Moustafa is very good at the things that I am not good, so we are kind of complementary. We support each other.”
A key part of what keeps them a strong work duo is their ability to separate work from family. “We can disagree at work and maybe even fight, but this ends as soon as we leave the office. We also learned not to engage our family in our business issues so that work issues are really left at the office. Through our partnership, we learned to respect the differences, as differences can be very helpful for the business”.
Moustafa focused on the fact that working with your brother means you have a partner you can always trust. This is very important when there are important decisions to be made. He told us, “No one is perfect at everything. Each one of us is focused on an area of business where he is good at, while trying to support the other in his area of business. We take many decisions every day and it is good that we get to discuss together until we reach consensus. If we don’t agree, we wait and discuss more. We always invite other senior team members to discuss with them and open the discussion. Nothing personal in professional disagreements and differences can enrich the discussion and work environment”.
Mounaz and Aya Abdel Raouf – Okhtein
Okhtein is a luxury brand, introducing art in the form of fashion products, including bags and, most recently, scarves. Launched in 2013 by sisters Aya and Mounaz Abdel Raouf, Okhtein quickly emerged to become one of Egypt’s leading trendsetters. It has since gone international, with a shop in Spain, an online store, and on display at stores in places as diverse as London and Jeddah. Okhtein’s products are also popular with many fashion icons and celebrities seen wearing them, most notably Emma Watson.
On working together, Mounaz and Aya said it was the best thing in the world, because they know each other better than anyone else. Their brand, literally meaning “sisters”, works and is as successful as it is because of their bond. The sisters attribute their strong bond and ability to bypass their disagreements to the way their parents raised them.
“Our parents raised us to love, support and share with one another. They taught us there was nothing more important than family. Our grandmother – after whom we’ve named one of our bags – always said families who weren’t good to one another eventually lost their success and died out.”
Problems are bound to arise, though, but they fix them because they’re family. When they disagree, Mounaz and Aya channel this spirit. They also say they’re blessed with people in their lives who remind them that they’re sisters, which is the main reason they’re working together in the first place.
Basima and Kadria Daoud – Lavish Events
Lavish is one of the top event organizers in the industry. Bringing together the joint talents of sisters Basima and Kadria Daoud, it puts together some of today’s most successful exhibitions and bazaars for different occasions. These include furniture events, as well as themed bazaars for Mother’s Day, Christmas, Winter, Halloween and others. Lavish has had events at Palm Hills, Designopolis and Arkan, among others.
The secret to Lavish’s success, according to the sisters, is that it combines their different experiences and points of view. The oldest, Kadria, is very good at budgets, whereas the younger Basima is a social media addict – by her own confession! This allows them to merge their different talents and avoid huge disagreements, because each of them is assigned a role based on her experience.
When they fight, they are able to forget anything happened in little over an hour. They say they’re lucky that their third partner, Ingy, helps them solve their problems. “She is actually the problem savior!” says Basima. “Working with your sister is actually a bonus because you are guaranteed that, at the end of the day, all the problems will be solved and the business will continue to grow stronger. God bless our sistership.”