So you want to be a millionaire?
By Abdulla Al Hosani
So you want to become a millionaire? First of all, you’ll have to get an
education. Next, you’ll have to sacrifice your family and leisure time. And most
importantly, you’ll have to grab opportunity when it comes. This is Nassib Fawaz’s
advice and he should know what it takes. It only took him six years of hard work to
earn his first million.
Nassib Fawaz is a 63 year old Arab-American businessman. He serves on
many boards and he’s the President of the Islamic Center of America, the founding
president of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce and the President of the
Lebanese International Business Council.
He was born and raised in Lebanon and emmigrated to the USA when he was
sixteen years old. He attended Michigan State University and then York Technical
Institute in Pennsylvania, where he studied electrical engineering. When he was 22,
he was drafted into the army “I had no choice, I had to serve in Germany for two
years,” Nassib said.
He started out as an employee of a company involved in international
engineering projects. “I spent ten years with the company and then I became their
regional manager for the Middle East and Africa. I used the experience I gained to
develop my own business,” he said.
Nassib says that he had very little help from others when he started up the
Energy International Corporation and that he had to rely on himself. “I took advantage
of opportunity when it arrived and I have taken risks.” He said that the major
ingredient of success is to be able to take risks at the appropriate time.
As with any other business venture, he faced difficulties in two areas. The first
one was making the customers and clients believe in his ability to perform. “I had to
convince them that I can do the job and that I can help solve their problems.” The
second difficulty to overcome was financial. “It is important when you get projects
that you will be able to finance them on time. When you first start your business,
banks don’t want to loan you the money you need to do the job.”
“It took me about six years of hard work to make the first million,” he said.
Making a million dollars profit required sales of about 20 million. And not every one
of Nassib’s projects turned a profit. “I’ve faced losses before,” he admitted. “I’ve
had losses several times because of incidents beyond my control, such as during the
Gulf war or on similar occasions, such as what happened on September 11th.”
Although the first two years of his business were full of difficulties, the third year
brought new confidence and success. “I began to see that my business was pulling up
and becoming stronger.”
Now the Energy International Corporation has more than 20 branches around
the world. In addition to the head office, there are four other branches in the United
States. They have branches in the Middle East, Far East, Africa, South America and
Korea with more than a hundred employees.
“The countries I enjoyed dealing with are the UAE and Saudi Arabia. I think
the Emirates is a very good country to deal with and to do business in. It has got the
proper laws and the proper respect, and a very good government,” Nassib commented.
He has experienced problems acquiring the appropriate visas to enter some countries.
Nassib finds that doing business in the US is very competitive because most
companies are very efficient and utilize high-end technology. “It’s a very tough
business environment there with a lot of pressure.” He described business in the UAE
as having a relaxed atmosphere with an emphasis on human relations. “Business here
is based on a handshake.”
Nassib feels it is important to treat his employees with respect. “It’s necessary
to have people believing that they are working with you, not for you. That really
improves their job performance,” he remarked. He strives to make every employee
feel that he owns a part of the company. He claims that the moment the employee
loses his enthusiasm, he becomes inefficient and loses his ability to do the job.
“He’s a very successful boss and very understanding. I really like working
with him,” said Asppy Raj, Nassib’s regional manager in Sharjah. “He knows that he
should grab the opportunity when the right time comes.”
At the age of 32 Nassib married an American woman who bore him three boys
and a girl. He believes that the culturally mixed parentage of his children has been
positive because they get the best ethics from each culture. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t
teach them the Arabic I wanted them to learn, but on the other hand they got better
chances for an education,” Nassib said.
While his family suffered from his absences, his wife did a great job of
holding it together. “I always make sure that when I have time, I spend it with my
family. It means a lot to them.” The family has been patient, understanding that he
was working for their comfort and security. His wife has played an important role in
his success. “It is the best relationship ever. It’s one of the things that kept me going
and gave me strength,” he proudly stated.
Although he hasn’t been directly effected by the events of 9/11, he realizes
that they have had a negative impact on his community. “As Arab Americans we are
cautious, because some uneducated people will begin to stereotype and discriminate
against Arab Americans and Muslim Americans.” But he thanks Allah that he or his
family have not faced any problems yet.
So what gives a millionaire satisfaction? “What makes me happy is to see my
family happy,” Nassib said. In addition, he wants to see his employees and their
families happy. Doing a very good job on time also gives him a sense of satisfaction.
On the other hand, not doing on time what he promised to do really upsets him. “My
word means a lot to me. Anytime I find that I can’t meet my commitments it makes
me really sad. I feel that I have not done my job,” he said.
He would love to see his children take over his business in the future. “I won’t
be upset if they don’t, because they have their own lives and they have to lead them in
their own ways. After all, I led my own life in my own way.”