Bashar Nejdawi doesn’t even pause when asked for an example of talent in action at North American Mobility, a division of Ingram Micro Inc., formerly known as BrightPoint Inc., a global leader in life cycle services for mobile devices — smartphones, tablets and accessories.
To him, a key differentiator for an organization is not how it operates when everything is running smoothly, but how it performs when things aren’t.
“That’s the true test of an organization,” Nejdawi says. “How you deal with it tells a lot about you as a team and also as individuals. That is where you see the key differentiator in terms of people where you have the talent, the way you handle crisis and the way you handle challenges.”
Take for example a recent power outage that interrupted operations at a facility in Central America.
“We lost power down in our facility in Costa Rica, and the power went down for the whole industrial area,” says Nejdawi, president of the firm that tallied $5.5 billion in annual revenue as BrightPoint in 2012. “The backup generators that we had were not enough to run the whole facility to continue production.”
Ingram Micro acquired BrightPoint in 2012 to build and develop its capability in the mobility business.
The pressure was on because Ingram Micro had a Tier II customer that was growing fast, was on a very tight schedule and needed the units “yesterday.”
“The team really pulled together both in terms of figuring out what we had that hasn’t been processed, figuring out the solution for the backup generator, but more important was getting the production back online quickly enough and then making up for it,” he says.
“Instead of everybody waiting for the process to take care of it itself, we really jumped in to figure out how to adjust the process to address the situation even faster. Then we managed it with the customer and caught up on the volume.
“Those are the kinds of things that will happen, and when they do happen, it’s also a learning exercise. That’s when you see how the team reacts, and you see the individuals in the team step up to those challenges.”
While challenges like that involve handling a crisis, Nejdawi says the biggest challenge facing a business is to have strong executive leadership and a talented team. “Talent is tough to come by,” he says. “As you grow a business, you obviously grow the team. You need to load up your organization, your team, to do more and more. The search for talent is always a big challenge for any company that’s really looking to grow.”
Here’s how Nejdawi puts together 2,500 talented team members, trains them and focuses them to deliver the goods.
Take stock of your location
While “location, location, location” may be the phrase often used in describing the most important factor in buying real estate, it plays an even more critical role in the high tech industry when it comes to talent.
“I put talent as No. 1 because if you have the right people in the right places and you have a talented team, then you will have lots of opportunities to grow,” he says.
“Focusing on talent and getting the right executive team in place is the first path to addressing challenges and figuring out the market dynamics and the opportunities and coming up with the right level of solutions, and the right solutions for the market.”
Nejdawi joined Ingram Micro Mobility in 2008 and served in several senior roles before becoming president of North America Mobility a year ago, which gave him a good grasp of the employment situation in Indianapolis — and he liked what he saw.
“That’s really been one of the great attractions for us being in the area,” he says. “We see a lot of good talent from a supply and services perspective. From a distribution perspective, Indianapolis really has a lot to offer, which is why we draw on that talent consistently and constantly.”
But even in an area that may be a talent gold mine, there is a task at hand.
“I have no special recipe for recruiting,” Nejdawi says. “I think like in a lot of other things, there are no shortcuts to hard work on that one. You have to be personally involved as an executive in searching out talent through connections, through local contacts, through universities.”
The presence of universities and educational programs is a big plus to consider, he says.
“We’ve done a pretty good job at Ingram Micro Mobility partnering over the years on a local level with universities, and we have taken on individuals through a fellowship program. That has been a tremendous source of talent for us.
“And having grown up in the Indianapolis area with so many distribution, logistics and supply chain service business — this has really given us very, very good talent to draw on.”
Within that talent pool, examining how its network operates may offer some opportunities. Nejdawi observes that the mobile device industry is actually a very small business in general and you are often bumping into fellow associates and former colleagues in the normal operation of business, creating opportunities.
The relationships that have been developed are valuable in generating everything from referrals for job candidates to those for potential customers.
“You could be a customer one day, you could be working for a manufacturer the next day,” he says. “I have been in the business now for over 30 years, and I continue to bump into people that I either have worked with during my time at Motorola or that I worked with during their time at a carrier.”
Invest in training employees
Recruiting the best talent available is one thing, but once you have your talent in place, you have to invest time and effort on training.
“There is a certain amount of training that you can put people through, but at the end of the day, the best training is on-the-job,” Nejdawi says.
He finds that a well-structured approach with a strong team that focuses on training and talent development is critical.
When new employees or new talent at various levels is hired — all the way down into the warehousing level — the company has a specific program for them.
“But the most important thing when you bring in new talent is making sure that you have a proper orientation. The worst thing that you can do is bring people in and then within the first couple of weeks they are trying to find their way around, to the restrooms or to try to figure out what they are expected to do.”
On the subject of job expectations, Nejdawi finds a mentorship program invaluable for employees and especially managerial candidates.
“I always have one person on my staff who is probably the most junior compared to other senior vice presidents and that individual is usually a couple of years out of the university and works with me as a business analyst in my talent development approach,” he says. “We take one person off their assignment, develop them and then put the person back into the rest of the organization over a certain period of time.”
Lead your mission so others can focus
Once the talent is in place, the task is to ensure a focus on your mission. Whether you choose to lead or delegate responsibilities is the next question. Delegation is often seen as an essential skill for any leader, but Nejdawi cautions against its ineffective use.
“My expectation is that delegation comes with a responsibility,” he says. “That has to be propagated throughout so people understand that you get a responsibility when something is delegated to you as well.
“Delegation also gives people an opportunity which I think is critical for them to take on the next role. People ask me, ‘How do I get promoted? How can I get to the next level?’ I say to them, ‘All you have to do is start operating at the next level.’
“So if you are a senior manager, and you want to become a director, start acting as a director, start working as a director, start behaving as a director. The ability to delegate to individuals who obviously are the right individuals allows them the opportunity to start operating at the next level, and therefore become at ease when the time comes, and others realize, ‘That individual is already operating as a director, as a senior director.’ It becomes a no-brainer.”
The other aspect is that there are times when you have to take the lead.
“I do that in front of my team, and my expectation of them is to do that in front of their teams,” Nejdawi says. “There are certain initiatives, certain activities especially when it comes to customers because if the customers see the senior individuals within the company personally and actively lead a particular activity that is important to them, that sends the message that nobody is too high up within an organization to not roll up his or her sleeves and get involved and engaged.
“That, I think, also brings a higher level of accountability to making sure that those customer specific initiatives and activities are really done with a high level of focus.” ●
- Take stock in your location and its benefits.
- Invest in training your workforce.
- Lead your mission so others can focus.
The Nejdawi File:
Name: Bashar Nejdawi
Company: North America Mobility division, Ingram Micro Inc.
Born: I was actually born in London. I grew up in Jordan, and I studied in the United Kingdom.
Education: I earned my bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from the University of Greenwich in London. I worked in Europe for a number of years before I came to the U.S. Then I went on to earn a master’s of business administration in international management at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz. After that I got a master’s degree in telecommunications engineering from Southern Methodist University in Texas while I was at Motorola. I got my doctorate in management from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? My first job coming out of Greenwich University in London was with a company called SyCon, which at the time was a consulting telecommunications arm of British Petroleum, believe it or not. I was a software engineer at the time, and one thing I learned which I really enjoyed was the art of being persistent when it comes to software bugs and software fixing. If you persist at following the breadcrumbs of a problem, eventually you’ll get there. Maybe it will take you a week, it may take you two weeks and most people give up after a couple of days. But if you persist, you will get there.
Who do you admire in business? Warren Buffett. I like his style. I like his approach. He is a simplifier in my mind. I also like his humility and the way he is a big philanthropist. I think his goals and objectives are admirable.
What is the best business advice you ever received? Keep it simple. I have that on a piece of paper that I have in the book I carry around with me. That is the first one on the top of my list. Keep it simple. I look at it every once in a while when I’m in a meeting.
What is your definition of business success? I think it’s two things. The first one at the end of the day is delivering the right returns from a financial perspective to the shareholders. Those are the folks who have entrusted us with their investment. The way I look at it is as a partnership with the employees. If we do well, then they will also do very well through our bonus schemes, our profit sharing plans that we have in place. We are all tied into delivering better financial returns that will benefit everybody including the employee base as well as the shareholders. To me that is business success.
The second one, which I think is also just as important, is measuring business success through customers who bring us repeat business and customers and have new ideas or respond to new ideas that we have about how we can do more business. People who go from one organization to the next will come back and say, ‘You guys are performing so well, and now I want to work with you again.’ And existing customers will give us more business, who will talk to us about how we can do more business — that to me is business success.
Learn more about Ingram Micro Inc. at:
How to reach: North America Mobility division, Ingram Micro Inc., (317) 707-2355 or mobility.ingrammicro.com