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7 Questions with kais khadhraoui
7 Questions with kais khadhraoui
Name: kais khadhraoui
Current title: CEO & Founder
Current organisation: Fulfillment Bridge
With a background in Finance and management ( MSc from IHEC Carthage and MBA from Strasbourg management school)I started my career in Fintech where I spent more than 14 years providing cutting edge financial solutions to global banks and stock exchanges and running successful Multi Millions projects at global scale. I decided 10 years ago to start my entrepreneurial adventure in the eCommerce industry. I discovered similarities in both fields which made it easier for me to provide high quality eCommerce related services inspired from the Fintech world. My ultimate goal is to create a leading global eCommerce solution following the high standards adopted in the financial industry.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
I would say maintaining and strengthening the company culture while we are growing. The challenge is real with remotely located teams and nationalities especially with the travel restrictions from 2020 onward. So to bring people together, especially new joiners, around the same culture and values requires innovative management. Our solution was to promote new leaders from within the company, empower them to become the new company's culture ambassadors and support them with the required collaborative tools and technology stack.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
It all started when I moved to Hong Kong back in 2011: since then I was involved in a couple of ventures in parallel to my corporate day job. Since then I got involved in ecommerce, first as online sellers then brand owner, before I decided to found Fulfillment Bridge with the aim to solve a problem for online sellers on a global scale that I had to deal with myself as an online seller.
On top of that, my passion: Football: helped to shape the manager I am today. I took over the management of an amateur football team in Hong Kong "Samurai Blue''. We managed to bring that team from the bottom of division 3 to a division 1 contender in the span of 3 years. That was for me one of the best schools for leadership: having to bring together different people, different ages, backgrounds, nationalities... around one single goal. It involves dealing with expectation management, unstaring discipline and commitment, dealing with financial... All this while having fun.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
First let me take a second to recognize that without my wife by my side, I wouldn't be able to achieve what we achieved so far.
Having to manage a team 7-8 hours behind in terms of time zone, and with the need to deal with US calls every now and then means long nights' work.
For the last 2 years or so, my life has been a marathon Juggling between my responsibilities as a father and a husband, my day time job and my startup/side business was no joke.
Luckily I decided to quit my full time job to focus on my startup back in 2020.
Since I have to cope with different time zones, I am not an early riser, I usually start my day around 8 or 9, go to the gym, back home for breakfast then start work.
My favorite part of the day is to rush around 12:30 to pick up my son Adam from School and bring him to the playground.
The real day starts around 3-4 PM when my team in Tunisia wakes up. I try to allocate a couple of hours from 7-9 for family.
Then back to my home office. a Normal day ends around 1 AM ( 6PM GMT+1).
with few exceptions: Friday night it is a movie night with the family.
Saturday is footy day :-)
Sunday, When works allow, Family Chill day.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
You can measure resilience by the amount of failures and iterations you went through. A business or a team that does not witness failure early enough has a major risk once it scales. Failure forces you to iterate, think out of the box and most importantly get to lean on the real asset of any business which is the team, in the absence of external support be it financial or other.
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 goes without saying: "Bad Blood: secrets and lies in a Silicon Valley startup"
I read the book toward the end of 2019 and we were in the middle of a fundraising Pre-pandemic.
the book opened my eyes on 4 major things:
- Building a team, a product, a business has a natural cycle. Need to know what is the break point at which you need to stop squeezing or rushing things otherwise it may break. At such giving point adding more resources will not speed up the process it will just get things worst
- For any business to shine it needs to be appealing from outside: VC funds, notorious board members, Advisers, strong PR all are part of the game. But for a business to prosper it needs to think organically and take care/ listen to/involve the team members as a priority to ensure sustainability.
- A business is not a one man show: Delegating and empowering people within your organization while scaling is the real key for success
- and above all: Keep it real
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
Delegation and empowering people.
I am a big believer on the lead by example management style. You should not be expert on every single aspect of the business yet you should understand, show commitment and most importantly care.
Such an attitude will be reflected on the team members who would be the experts on their respective area and that you should trust and encourage to take initiative.
that way you can delegate and continue growing.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
As a leader, you are meant to take tough decisions to ensure the survival of your business especially in its early stage.
Top of my head, early 2020 when the pandemic hit and many businesses started shaking, including us. We lost our funding line and we had to undergo a major restructuring in our business strategy to ensure our survival. The day we got the news the funding that we were supposed to receive was frozen because the pandemic situation, in less than one week we managed to identify new quick wins to ensure cash flow, while companies where firing we hired more sales and marketing to boost revenue generation and that paid off to grow our revenue 4X in a crisis situation.