This is an entrepreneur ideas interview with a big difference as Shezad Nawab has had to overcome more obstacles than most in world of entrepreneurship.
Born in Birmingham in the mid 80s, Shezad grew up like most children in the West Midlands except for a big difference, the fact that he was born deaf.
He has come along way since the 80s and as a deaf British Asian entrepreneur he has been actively involved in helping many new businesses, start-ups, SMEs and growing businesses through his consulting and management firm. Besides making investments, planning exit strategies and other ranges of conglomerate activities he also runs four businesses including Pitching Events, a support network to help disabled business owners get in front of lenders and pitch their idea.
After graduating from Birmingham City University with a BA (Hons) degree in Business and Marketing in 2009 he went on to win three prestigious awards; Business Initiative 2011, Young Entrepreneur 2011 and Innovation Winner in 2010. His passion lies in entrepreneurship in the UK, but he is also active in the European and in International markets. He is fluent in five sign languages; English, Moroccan, South African, American and International.
Shezad Nawab: An Entrepreneur Whose Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Nawab has expressed in other discussions that he was disappointed at how “very few” deaf entrepreneurs were around in Britain.
“Many deaf people end up working for charities that have an interest in the deaf and disabled community or for agencies that provide British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters.”
“I believe British deaf entrepreneurs and deaf people leading small businesses will slowly develop, and I hope I can contribute to that development and be a role model for deaf people in business.”
He said he was impressed by the deaf business community in the US which has over 2,000 deaf-owned business.
I was privileged to learn more from Shezad, who is also a great mentor and motivator besides businessman, here are a few questions he answered during our interview.
What are the key areas your business provides and how are you different from your competitors?
I love to be involved in a range of sectors. I work as a business consultant, on pitching events, luxury property retail, interim management, international business; entrepreneur meets investor networking and as a business leader. I often work within niche markets, focusing on innovation and leadership. My unique perspective enables me to bring a deeper level of understanding to a business.
How did you make your first sales when you got started?
My first sales were in trading new and second-hand products between China, Morocco and South Africa. I found by applying the simple rule of buying low and selling high I was able to make maximum profit with minimum effort.
How did you get credibility quickly?
I believe in keeping my private life private! I don’t waste time with small talk about my personal life. Follow a process and pay attention to the details as they are vital. I had a strong vision and core values that benefited both my clients and businesses with effective management. My clients are happy and trust me.
What methods do you use to develop your key partnerships?
I offer partner opportunities only after doing due diligence to ensure they are trustworthy and that lays the foundations for a long and successful working relationship. My contracts only run for a maximum of 2 years. That way we can plan the project focusing on the return on investment.
How did you get funded or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
I used my own money to make initial investments. I tell myself, ‘You can achieve a balance – save, earn & spend.’
What habits helped make you successful?
I pride myself on observing the utmost professional behaviour and standards.
Do you have a special mindset or any way to stay focused on achieving what your doing?
I created my own mantra, the three T’s; Time, Tomorrow, Today.
Whats the best way to distinguish yourself from other consultants?
I’m in a unique position currently as I am one of the only deaf business consultants in the world, who uses sign language as my first and preferred method of communication. The deaf community need to engage with the business community and develop the confidence to set up their own projects and ventures. I am one of the few people that can support deaf people to do this in their own language. Of course, I still enjoy working with my hearing clients (via a sign language interpreter) just as much.
What was your biggest business mistake?
A huge mistake I made was over the branding of my initial business consultancy service. I named the business, ‘Deaf Business Services’. Unfortunately many people got the impression that the service was a charitable organisation and the business didn’t flourish. A re-brand rescued the business and turned it into a success.
Running your own business is tough, have you gone through any failures?
Not every project has been successful and I have lost money I’ve invested.
How did you learn from failure, did anything positive emerge from the process?
It’s not easy! Almost every entrepreneur you meet has had at least one business fail or stall. It’s often a missing element to the business; a problem with the marketing strategy for example. Being an entrepreneur can bring its successes and failures, from my own experience, redevelopment and reorganisation can solve a lot of issues within a business.
What has been unexpected in your journey as an entrepreneur?
I think I was surprised by the astonishment of the hearing business community at what I’ve achieved so far. Though the UK businesses and entrepreneurs I have dealt with have always been extremely helpful and supportive.
What did you learn growing up that helped you with your achievements?
When I was ten years old, I asked my father how one becomes a millionaire? He was initially worried about me as a deaf person who uses sign language to communicate as this was the biggest barrier I would face throughout my life. I told him I could do it – there was no problem with my confidence! At that point my father decided I could learn from the family business and I started to work within the business, starting with the filing and progressing to invoicing, VAT, money exchange and business insurance documents. I enjoyed it.
If you could change things, what would you have done differently?
If I could go back in time and start my businesses again, I would look for a good business mentor to support me in the early stages of setting up the business, especially as I graduated just as the financial crisis started.
When business networking what do you do to help ensure you are connecting with the right people?
I research before an event or networking as to who the speakers are and what type of businesses the people attending will be involved in. I don’t like surprises and I try not to assume things about people or businesses as I wouldn’t want people to assume they know about me before meeting for the first time.
How do you minimise the unknowns in your business?
I’m happy to take risks in my business and try new ways of working, but if someone is too cagey or secretive I just don’t get involved.
What advice can you offer new entrepreneurs who are starting up for the first time?
Business plan – Business Plans should be no more than six pages including an executive summary and details of services or products. It’s important to touch on marketing, developing a management team and financial planning. An Investor doesn’t have time to read more than six pages and most of the time the executive summary has to catch their imagination or they won’t read further.
Some great questions and answers there, and an interesting perspective that is not so often discussed. If you would like to find out more about Shezad or contact him directly you can visit his website here.