Meet Kamil Faizi, founder of Odyssey Marketing Group LLC. He is dedicated to creating memorable, personalized, and fun promotional merchandise and he can count on fortune 500 companies, as well as the US military as his customers.
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Table of Contents
Welcome to your ValiantCEO exclusive interview! Let’s start with a little introduction. Tell us about yourself.
Kamil Faizi: My name is Kamil Faizi. I am 33 years old. I founded my company in 2013 while I was in college and I used my side hustle at the time to pay my tuition. I enjoy what I do and in my spare time I can be found hiking, trying new restaurants, or volunteering at animal shelters.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get to where you are today? Give us some lessons you learned along the way.
Kamil Faizi: Growing up in a traditional south Asian household, I was told the only way to financial freedom was to become a doctor or lawyer. My family and I would often go to the houses of many doctors and lawyers that my parents knew, and the only thing I would care about is envying their million-dollar houses and their luxury cars. I knew that I wanted a nice life for myself, yet I knew that I wanted to be my own boss.
There I was, 25 years old. I found myself working at my uncle’s motel and he would always involve me in the daily affairs. I started working at the front desk, and my uncle would always call me over to show me the business statements, as well as what it takes to run a motel like that. I learned many things about how a business is run and it fascinated me. I saw my uncle’s financial success with his motel franchise and I used that to found my company as I company at the time. I didn’t know much about starting off, but I had my uncle to advise me and he became my principal advisor and investor at the time. I started out with $1000. I Paid him back within 1 year.
Tell us about your business, what does the company do? What is unique about the company?
Kamil Faizi: Odyssey Marketing Group LLC is in the promotional merchandise space. We created personalized gifts and items for our corporate customers, as well as our military customers, around the globe. We source the most unique, fun, and interesting products. Our items are usually given out as retirement gifts, and at trade shows and conventions. We work closely with marketing organizations and marketing departments to capture the interest of potential customers, as well as employees. Our motto is: “creating and solidifying memories”.
How to become a CEO? Some will focus on qualities, others on degrees, how would you answer that question?
Kamil Faizi: It is not easy to become a CEO. A CEO wears many hats, regardless of company size. A CEO is like a general in charge of an army. Everything must be conducted smoothly like an orchestra. The CEO must make sure that multiple departments work with each other, and report issues and developments. A good CEO leads by example and is willing to hear out everyone from the new employee to the vice president of a department. Degrees don’t matter as much as experience, but the experience is something that has to be earned. I have come to learn that degrees do not matter as much. A CEO should be organized, disciplined, and open-minded as well.
What are the secrets to becoming a successful CEO? Who inspires you, who are your role models and why? Illustrate your choices.
Kamil Faizi: A few of my role models that I believe are fantastic CEOs would be from historic and iconic brands. Such brands include Mr. Hershey (Hershey chocolate company), Mr. Ford (Ford Motor Company), as well as Ferdinand Porsche (of Porsche motor company). All the mentioned individuals started with nothing and had a great idea. They believed in themselves when no one else did. They dared to go where no one had gone before. They were willing to experiment and create the perfect product in a society where the status quo was the norm. They had big dreams and they acted upon them with passion and courage.
Many CEOs fall into the trap of being all over the place. What are the top activities a CEO should focus on to be the best leader the company needs? Explain.
Kamil Faizi: A CEO cannot be distracted too much. He or she needs a good team in place to bring him up to speed on what is going on. Any problems and issues should be addressed and fixed immediately. That is why you will see CEOs in meetings with the heads of other departments. This allows them to focus on multiple issues in one sitting, as opposed to running around everywhere and sending so many emails. A CEO should focus on the larger picture, not pleasing investors.
The Covid-19 Pandemic put the leadership skills of many to the test, what were some of the most difficult challenges that you faced as a CEO/Leader in the past year? Please list and explain in detail.
Kamil Faizi: Our business was picking up and our online marketing efforts were starting to pay off. When the pandemic hit, it all took a tumble. I had learned that it takes patience and courage to move forward. We lost money for 6 months, and it hurt. I was fortunate enough for several government programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, which enabled and helped our company with payroll. Our employees are our family. We reached out to customers as well and informed them, and interestingly enough, we had started receiving referrals that kept our company moving forward. It is easy to get caught up in the moment, but it is important to keep moving forward in the right direction, not looking back and not having any regrets.
What are some of the greatest mistakes you’ve noticed some business leaders made during these unprecedented times? What are the takeaways you gleaned from those mistakes?
Kamil Faizi: Of course, you’ve got a ton of work to do as a CEO. People are the most important thing. but it’s important to remember that your employees must come first. Without your support and direction, your people will not be able to accomplish their goals.
Making time for your team and practicing active listening are the best ways to avoid making this mistake. Have a set period each day when “your door is always open” so your company knows when they can come to you for support. Work on improving your emotional intelligence
Also, having no defined goals for the day causes your team of employees to slack off. Having no understanding of what they’re doing or why they’re doing something prevents them from being productive. This means that projects and activities are finished in the wrong sequence since they can’t prioritize their workload efficiently.
In your opinion, what changes played the most critical role in enabling your business to survive/remain profitable, or maybe even thrive? What lessons did all this teach you?
Kamil Faizi: The changes we made had a profound impact on our bottom line. Businesses such as ours have started to move manufacturing and supply networks closer to home. As a result, it can save money on shipping and transportation costs, as well as assist in preventing future problems.
With remote working, our organization can keep top talent and save money by allowing employees to work from their homes to avoid long commutes and even travel without losing any work time. As a result, we can take advantage of the demand for strong, dependable equipment, software platforms, and other accessories for workers who choose to work from home. In the workplace, a lot of these goods are prohibitively expensive, but we choose to opt-in for equipment leasing, peripheral add-ons like as headsets and office furniture, and SaaS platforms that will facilitate interactions with customers and boost productivity.
What is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Kamil Faizi: For our organization, there are still many obstacles to overcome when it comes to finding the correct strategies for lead generation, continuously carrying out lead generation activities and breaking through the clutter to grab the attention of busy decision-makers. Since we are in the e-commerce space, our competitors are spending a lot of money as well trying to grab the attention of prospects, and so we are always looking for strategies and techniques to get to the customer before they get to Google to search what they are looking for.
You already shared a lot of insights with our readers and we thank you for your generosity. Normally, leaders are asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is the most useless skill you have learned, at school or during your career?
Kamil Faizi: The most useful skill I learned while I was in college was sales. If a business owner can’t convince people to buy his/her product or service, he/she is doomed. While I was in college I was working at my uncle’s motel and I was tasked with convincing customers to buy a tour package at a theme park. In the beginning, I had convinced 1/10 customers. 6 months into learning more about sales and going through the process real-time increased my sales rate to 6 out of every 10 customers.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. We will select these answers for our ValiantCEO Award 2021 edition. The best answers will be selected to challenge the award.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make, this past year 2021, for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Kamil Faizi: Some years ago I had a friend who hired me as a product manager at his startup. One of the most difficult choices I’ve ever had to make was the decision to shut down a failing product that had only recently been released. Many employees, including myself, had worked diligently on the product for several months without rest, and a great deal of money had already been invested in its development and marketing in an attempt to get it to the market.
My gut feeling was telling me that the product wasn’t ready and that customers would be unhappy if it shipped, yet I permitted the management and sales teams to override my gut feeling. During the final go/no-go meeting for the product, I stepped it up and declared that it wasn’t ready, then stood by and watched as the team pushed everything into production regardless.
It was a total disaster. Customers were extremely disappointed with the product. It was far too complicated, much too buggy, just too costly, and it provided next to no functions to compensate for these deficiencies. Customers were returning the products on a daily basis, which drove retailers and VARs even angrier about the predicament. The support teams were pleading with the manufacturer to fix the product as quickly as possible or to withdraw the products from store shelves until major changes could be made. Upon discovering that their sales goals and bonuses were being wiped out, the sales team became furious. The management team was attempting to figure out why things had turned out so badly.
Within 60 days, I had collected enough data to speak to management and notify them that the product would need to be brought back and fully reworked. Following a final cost-benefit analysis, it was decided that it was more cost-effective to simply recall all of the products, reimburse the sales partners, and destroy all of the products so that they would never be sold again. I was sad as I saw the trucks arrive into the warehouse, packed with boxes of freshly launched products that I knew weren’t ready to ship, but were still released to the market.
In the case of a negative outcome, I was preparing to quit. And if it weren’t for a backup plan that I had been constructing with the engineering team, I probably would have done it. The end result was that I sat down with the teams and unit heads and we all came up with a plan to redesign the product. Luckily it turns out there was a minor flaw which ruined everything and it easily got overlooked. Myself including the department heads had scheduled a last minute meeting with my friend (the CEO), and explained to him the entire situation. I am happy to say that I had saved the day, but not without the department heads and everyone else that was involved. It turns out it was we could re-launch the product and it cost significantly less money and time because we already had the molds created and it would take nothing but a minor software tweak to fix glitchy code. This saved the entire organization from going under.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Kamil Faizi for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Kamil Faizi or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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