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Hello.


I was an Entrepreneur (of sorts). For about 14 years, I built a cluster of businesses specialising in technology and communication. In January 2010, our businesses retired. I lost everything I had made. Except a few lessons.

10 lessons from my life


10 lessons from my life Ima Hassen


These experiences were not planned. They just happened.


Just like everything else in life.


Passion

1


I was passionate about computers since I first saw one in 1989. In 1994, I got my first computer. A 386SX with 640kb RAM. Windows 95 had just shipped. I was very inspired by the OS revolution at the time.


In 1996, together with 2 other friends, I worked on a DOS clone. It was called iDOS. It started up. Then crashed.


We still wanted to work on great ideas. So, we founded a start-up named ‘Ciliconsoft’.

Dulwich High School of Visual Arts, Dulwich Hill, NSW Australia


We were 12. We had no idea what we were doing.


But I was determined to build a tech company that did ‘groundbreaking’ things.


Ciliconsoft formed the foundation to 4 specialised business units, which operated through the next 14 years.


As the business grew, we saw that our biggest motivator was the passion to kick ass with great work. We were a bunch of guys, who loved to deliver. And, we rarely fell asleep.


So, what did this mean in our business?


Every company has a business statement it makes. Most start with a ‘vision’.


deliver ‘wow’ in everything we do

PASSION


acclaim for innovation recognition for our passion

VISION


direct our energies towards perfection in all our efforts whilst always raising the bar of our expectations, and embedding the values of honesty in our endeavours

MISSION


a cluster of communication businesses


Our passion, and values were embedded in every element that represented us.


We weren’t just another shop. We really delivered ‘wow’. Our customers liked this about us.


VICTORIA’S SECRET

MAS Intimates

Rotary International District 3220


The power of ‘passion’


Apple has continuously and passionately transformed the technology landscape across almost 4 decades.


Lesson If you’re passionate about what you do, your work stops being ‘just work’.


Belief

2


I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.

‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley


I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.

‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley

The belief in myself to do anything I chose to.


I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.

‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley

The belief in myself to do anything I chose to.

Belief in steering a business that offered great products and services, while being a great place to work.


When I was 19, I moved out of my parent’s home.


I learnt the difference between ego and confidence.


The reality of a dream vs a fantasy.


If you truly believe in something, don’t be afraid to get out of the comfort zone.


Moving out prepared me to sharpen that ‘vision’ thing, and stay focused.


So, what did this mean in our business?


In 2006, Apple announced it’s shift to Intel processors.


In 2006, Apple announced it’s shift to Intel processors. These products were moving beyond their traditional markets: “creative professionals”


In 2006, Apple announced it’s shift to Intel processors. These products were moving beyond their traditional markets: “creative professionals” We wanted ‘everyone else’ to hear about them!


Within 2 years of it’s existence, Ontwo became the fastest growing reseller for Apple in Sri Lanka.


In 2009, Ontwo closed the single largest sale of iPods. Ever.


The power of ‘belief’


Bill Gates’ belief in ‘software’ drove Microsoft to become an industry pioneer.


Lesson Believe in your ability. Ignore the noise. March forward.


Know the shop floor

3


I started 4 business ventures.


platforms and technologies

cluster management

content and design


I had to know everything about every business that we managed.


I had to know everything about every business that we managed. On a daily basis.


Why? When you are too small, mistakes cost a lot. Usually in reputation points. I didn’t want to simply believe anyone else’ excuse on how and why things worked, or did not work. To steer a business through it’s course, you must have complete awareness. How could we truly innovate without accurate knowledge of what goes on?


Some may hate ‘micro-management’. But it works. You could have asked Steve Jobs.


Obstacles

Factor them in

4


They aren’t really obstacles, if you factor them in early.


I dropped out of college. I wasn’t emulating idols. I just couldn’t afford it.


Nelson R Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. It didn’t change his goal.


Neither did mine.


Lesson Calculate your strengths. Factor in the obstacles you’re likely to face. Accept them. Work around them. See the positive in every negative. You’ll see opportunity.


Being myself

Stop following the mainstream

5


At 19, I was still a kid* And, I knew it.

* to a lot of ‘traditional’ business people, and to competitors who just couldn’t stand me.


But I did not want our businesses to appear ‘immature’.


Chairman

Managing Director

CEO


Chairman

Managing Director

CEO

I skipped these.


Chairman

Managing Director

CEO

They didn’t truly capture ‘me’.


Chief Visionary Officer Speitra Worldwide


Chief Visionary Officer Speitra Worldwide

This, was me.


Chief Visionary Officer Speitra Worldwide

Dare I say it, I was not overstating myself either.


Chief Visionary Officer Speitra Worldwide

Guy with Ideas Ontwo


Chief Visionary Officer Speitra Worldwide

Guy with Ideas Ontwo

This wasn’t just about titles or positions either.


Chief Visionary Officer Speitra Worldwide

Guy with Ideas Ontwo

This wasn’t just about titles or positions either. It truly defined the way I engaged with our businesses.


Stepping out of the mainstream


Apple opened it’s first retail store in 2001. It was an industry-first for a tech company to go retail.


Today, it’s sales churn has set repeat records. Not just for tech, but for retail in any industry.


With the announcement of the iPhone in 2007, Apple changed it’s name from ‘Apple Computer Inc’ to ‘Apple Inc’. It has continually moved away from the mainstream.


Lesson If you are serious about what you do, don’t be afraid to step out of the mainstream. Eventually, the mainstream will follow you.


Be renowned Spread the word

6


If you have something great to offer, the world will listen to you. But you must tell them how super cool and renowned you really are.


We became our customers’ preferred source for technology


Their colleagues, family and friends heard about us.


This is how Ontwo became successful.


We offered value, before they made a purchase.


We offered value, before they made a purchase. It made Ontwo the best place for switchers to buy Macs from.


We offered value, before they made a purchase. It made Ontwo the best place for switchers to buy Macs from. Customers were confident when they spoke to us. We were renowned.


I learnt about sales and selling, from Geoffry Gitomer.


He taught me to establish confidence in customers. Customers then bought, instead of being sold to.


Lesson Understand how your customers perceive you. Show them that you are an authority in your trade. Keep marching forward.


Manage failure

7


Recession.

Depleting capital reserves.

Competition.


In mid-2009, Speitra Worldwide decided to shut shop.


But, we still had customers on contract.


We informed every customer about our decision to retire.


We informed every customer about our decision to retire. Gave them peace of mind by supporting their transition.


We informed every customer about our decision to retire. Gave them peace of mind by supporting their transition. Despite our closure, we honoured every contract.


Speitra Worldwide reached graceful closure with it’s customers.


Speitra Worldwide reached graceful closure with it’s customers. They still have great respect for us.


What did closure mean to ‘me’?


Handing over the keys to our office space, was probably one of the most difficult emotions I have ever experienced.


Closest representation to our actual office at IBM Building


Then I remembered


Professor Randy Pausch had 6 months to live. He presented the infamous ‘Last Lecture’.


“You can’t control the cards you’re dealt, just how you play the hand.”

Professor Randy Pausche


Lesson Be graceful. Make notes. Remember the lessons. Move forward.


Continuity of Confidence

8


I was a failure.


I was a failure. An embarrassment.


I was rejected, but I still loved what I did.

Ironically, Steve Jobs used the same words.


I was an employable failure.


I was an employable failure.

The lessons from my past were useful to many.


I leveraged the skills and experience that had accrued through the years.


Today, I help customers plan and execute business and technology strategies.


Business and Technology Strategist


Business and Technology Strategist

Photographer

facebook.com/imahassenphotography/


Despite many brand extensions under Virgin which failed, Richard Branson’s perseverance continues to drive confidence in the brand.


Virgin Galactic is the world's first ‘spaceline’. It offers to take you to space. How much more do you want?


Space is Virgin territory.


How to Succeed at Failure

Read the article by Richard Branson


Lesson When failure strikes, the first value to get hit is your confidence ~ belief. Restore your confidence. Others will follow. Continue the march forward.


Choose good partners

9


I’m yet to come across someone who’s not made this mistake.


I am as guilty as accused. But I learnt a few lessons.


“Don’t hire bozos”

Steve Jobs


“If you’re an A-player, hire only A-players.”


Your partners must share the same core values as you do.


Your partners must share the same core values as you do.

Passion.

Belief.


Your partners must commit to basic qualities.

Passion.

Belief.

Focus.

Integrity.


Do not entrust your vision in the hands of those who don’t truly share your values.


Lesson Understand what you truly seek in your partners. Listen to your gut. Do you trust him/her/them to fully drive your vision? Hire only A-players. Don’t hire bozos.


Accept faults

Uphold your values

10


Nobody wants to accept where things went wrong.


Very few will want to believe that things could have been done differently.


Today, I believe that I was one of the biggest contributors to the fate of our businesses.


But if I had the slightest inclination to accept them sooner, the damage caused would have been far less than what they ended up being.


These points I’ve shared today, form the basis to my values.


Most of it, is about how a bunch of businesses rose to their prime, yet, collapsed due to many oversights.


And how I should learn from what worked, and what won’t.


Moving forward Make the most of what you’ve learnt


“Experience is what you get, when you don’t get what you wanted”

Professor Randy Pausche


Why these 10 lessons?


Why these 10 lessons? They remind me that I am still alive. I am not invincible and mistakes can hurt. Be truthful towards everything I do, and do so with respect and honesty. Most importantly: The belief that “I can do this again.�


These aren’t just lessons I share. These are lessons I keep learning from.


#thankyousteve


thankyou @refreshcolombo @nazly


@imahassen

ima@imahassen.com

facebook.com/imahassen


10 lessons from my life  

A few points from my experiences of success, failure and mostly lessons learnt while being an Entrepreneur. How I saw things then, and how...

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