Interview with Ahmed Yasseen and Mostafa Yasseen, Beyond Creation
In 2008, twin brothers, Ahmed and Mostafa Yasseen, founded Beyond Creation, a digital agency. Starting out in Cairo, the Yasseens struggled through the usual entrepreneurial rough patches, emerging successful and able to significantly expand their business. Today the brothers work between Egypt and the U.A.E., coordinating a growing team and navigating the fast-paced world of digital technology and communication. Tharawat spoke to Ahmed and Mostafa about entrepreneurship, what makes a team, and why it is all about added value.
[ms-protect-content id=”4069, 4129″]
Why did you decide to start a business together?
Ahmed: We didn’t always work together. But the opportunity presented itself in 2008. Mostafa was already working on his own and I offered to join him.
Mostafa: We were both young and had no commitments. We felt like taking a risk, and it was worth it.
Were you worried about working together as brothers?
Mostafa: Of course not! We have a strong tie not only as twin brothers but also as businessmen with the same set of values and goals.
Ahmed: We wanted to build something big, to create added value. We have the same vision and ambitions. Our shared values actually make it easier in business.
Mostafa: Of course there are arguments, but they are always constructive.
Ahmed: We have been working together for eight years. We have always agreed on what is in the best interest of the company. If we had allowed conflicts to take over, it would have held us back. When you partner with people who have the same values, and everything is clear from the onset, then your chances of success increase significantly.
How did you make it work?
Ahmed: The first year was hard, but then we got a break working with big names. These clients helped drive our success.
Mostafa: We were persistent and wanted to make something we could be proud of at the end of the day. That’s what matters. That’s what we are here for.
How did you build your team?
Ahmed: We mostly look for people with qualities that every successful person should have like intelligence, ambition, and self-discipline.
Mostafa: People make companies; they are the most important assets in any organisation. However, It is not easy to be successful in every hiring decision you make. We always strive to work with great minds; people whose ambition is to be the industry’s future role models. Everyone should have the mind-set of a founding member. Everyone has to feel a sense of ownership.
How do you motivate your team?
Ahmed: First of all, I believe motivation is innate, it can’t be faked. One way we maintain motivation is by ensuring our team understands that everyone counts. We don’t underestimate the singular input of any team member. We always make sure everyone knows that they’re crucial to the business and play a leading role in our success.
Mostafa: We believe that everyone should understand the bigger picture, the objective behind what we are all doing. Employees must understand where they are going with their own careers. They have to feel like they are doing something with their lives. These things must be discussed openly.
Do you interfere in team dynamics?
Ahmed: We believe that the most important team dynamics are trust, reliability and mutual understanding in order for all team members to have a productive and constructive relationship. We try to influence those dynamics through tackling problems and conflicts head on, making sure that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and also focus on the importance of communication.
What is the key to being a successful team leader?
Mostafa: There are a few basics: transparency, openness, and fairness. You have to be clear, transparent, and open with the team about what is happening in the company.
Ahmed: Your mind-set, experience, and values are what make you a leader. Our brand is not just about Mostafa and myself. We want it to stand on its own, so everyone needs to buy into it. You have to listen to people and appreciate their opinions.
What makes an entrepreneur in your opinion?
Ahmed: An entrepreneur is someone persistent enough to go after their ideas and see things through.
Mostafa: A real entrepreneur is used to moving outside of their comfort zone. One eventually gets accustomed to being uncomfortable. In fact, you start enjoying it after a while.
Ahmed: It is also important to know what you will face as an entrepreneur. It is important not to have illusions about it; you have to be realistic. In truth not everyone is an entrepreneur.
Mostafa: Entrepreneurship is the mind-set of adding value. It means having a vision and bringing it to life for others to benefit from, by channelling it through a business model that is at once profitable and ethical. Imitating other business models is not adding value in our opinion.
“Adding value” seems to be at the core of your strategy. Why?
Mostafa: It’s the core principle of any good team. This company is built on our values, and we believe in business ethics. We have core beliefs that we need everyone to share, or else we cannot move forward.
Tharawat Magazine, Issue 26, 2015