Name: Burak Buyuksarac
Title: Founder & CEO
Oranisation: BMS Group of Companies
Born in Ankara, Türkiye, after my undergraduate studies at the University of Paul-Valéry Montpellier, France, I returned to Türkiye in 2006, I gained extensive professional experience in various management roles within a corporation in Antalya, working across Türkiye and internationally in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Europe.
In 2010, I transitioned to Tanzania as the Managing Director for a major Turkish investment group, overseeing mining and trading operations, as well as companies in food packaging and cosmetics manufacturing until 2015. Leveraging my broad experience, I then shifted focus to the service industries in Tanzania, founding and co-founding numerous ventures across tourism, consultancy, F&B, medical, education, security, insurance, and finance sectors from 2015.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Burak's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
My most significant challenge mirrors also my greatest strength: being a serial entrepreneur. This position brings with it a constant dilemma - to embark on a new business venture or not. My mind is constantly generating fresh business ideas and ways to enhance existing products and enterprises.
This creativity often translates into the genesis of new companies and ventures. However, this path isn't devoid of obstacles. Financial practicalities, particularly in the short and mid-term, can present formidable challenges. Yet, this relentless urge and passion for entrepreneurship is an intrinsic part of my being, an unstoppable force that defines my professional journey. It's not just what I do; it's who I am.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
In 2010, I embarked on a transformative journey, relocating to Tanzania to take up the mantle of Managing Director for one of the largest Turkish investment groups operating in the region at that time. My tenure, stretching from late 2010 to 2015, was marked by a period of dynamic leadership and strategic oversight across a diverse portfolio. I helmed multiple companies, primarily engaged in the mining sector, handling valuable resources like copper, lead, and gold, and trading in metallic minerals and precious gemstones, including diamonds.
Additionally, I expanded my expertise by managing enterprises in the food packaging and cosmetics manufacturing industries, with operations spanning Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This rich tapestry of professional experiences across various business sectors, especially within the African context, culminated in a pivotal decision in late 2015. I chose to pivot from my role as a corporate executive to an entrepreneurial path, turning my focus towards the fiercely competitive service industries of Tanzania. Recognizing the untapped potential, I strategically positioned myself to exploit opportunities within several key sectors: tourism, consultancy, restaurant, medical, education, security, insurance, and finance. This transition from a professional to an entrepreneur marked a significant milestone in my career, reflecting a deeper engagement with the Tanzanian economic landscape and a commitment to contributing to its growth and diversification.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I adhere to a disciplined and timely schedule in my daily activities. On typical days, when I'm not traveling, attending meetings outside the office, or participating in evening events, my routine is as follows:
06:00: Engage in a refreshing 5km run
07:00: Enjoy breakfast, savor my coffee, and get ready for the day
07:45: Leave the house
07:50: Drop my daughter off at school
08:00: Arrive at the office
08:00 - 13:00: Focused office work and meetings
13:00 - 13:30: Lunch break
13:30 - 17:00 or 19:00: Continue office work and meetings
17:30 or 19:30: Shower, have a light dinner, and cherish time with my family
19:30 to 21:30: Relax with TV, reading, or handle domestic chores
This structured routine ensures I maintain a balance between my professional responsibilities and personal life, fostering productivity and well-being.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
A leadership lesson that has resonated deeply with me, is the importance of adaptability and cultural intelligence in management. Each industry and geographic location has its own unique set of challenges, market dynamics, and cultural nuances. Embracing these differences and adapting my leadership style to suit each context has been crucial. It's not just about being flexible in business strategies, but also about understanding and respecting the cultural and social dynamics of each place and industry. This means actively listening to local teams, being open to learning from diverse perspectives, and integrating this understanding into my leadership approach.
For instance, the leadership style that worked in the corporate environment in Türkiye had to be adjusted when I moved to Tanzania. The way I communicated, made decisions, and motivated teams in Türkiye and other places I worked differed from how I approached these aspects in Africa. This lesson in adaptability and cultural intelligence has been a cornerstone in successfully managing and growing businesses in various settings. It's a reminder that good leadership is not just about having a vision and expertise, but also about the ability to connect with people across different cultures and environments, adapting your approach to lead effectively in any situation.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
It might sound like a cliché, but I've been a devoted fan of Mario Puzo's novels since my youth, especially classics like "The Godfather" and "The Last Don". While I can't say these books have dramatically shaped my leadership style, their rich narratives and memorable anecdotes frequently surface in my thoughts during my daily activities.
The way Puzo portrays complex characters particularly resonates with me, providing occasional insights and reflections that subtly guide my thinking and decision-making in a range of scenarios.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Ever Improve, evolve, self-challenge, dare, and invest without being afraid of sectoral boundaries (if an entrepreneur) or manage without being afraid of corporate boundaries (if a professional).
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
Among all my companies/brands, Maasai Watchers has a special place in my heart. Launching Maasai Watchers, we aimed to blend the Maasai people's unique skills and traditions with modern, compliant security operations, leveraging local culture and human resources. This vision was put to the test at a high-profile event where we were providing our event security services in Dar es Salaam, with unforeseen security challenges. Our team, deeply attuned to local knowledge and situational awareness, adeptly managed the situation, ensuring safety and efficiency while respecting local customs.
This critical incident showcased the effectiveness and compliance of our operation model, setting new industry standards and underscoring the value of integrating local culture into business practices. The success of Maasai Watchers in this demanding scenario highlighted the power of culturally informed business models, demonstrating how local wisdom can foster innovative, impactful solutions. This experience stands as a key milestone in my leadership journey, exemplifying how culturally rooted approaches can drive sustainable and significant change.