Farrukh Kidwai is the Dubai-based chief executive of the Great Place To Work Institute UAE, which is part of the global research and consultancy firm that recognises the best places to work in more than 45 countries. Dr Kidwai, who is originally from Pakistan and has worked in the US, Europe and Saudi Arabia, believes education is the most important asset a person can acquire.
Describe your financial journey so far.
In terms of the financial journey of the Great Place To Work Institute UAE, we are just a start-up company. The first year was pretty good. This year, the second year, we are feeling more comfortable. More companies are interested in it. But it is a two-way street. We have to be profitable to provide the services to the companies here. We are looking at a three- to five-year forecast and it is looking very good.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I will put myself in the middle of both. I want to spend where the value is. I don't mind spending as long as the value is added. If I need a technology that will help me in speeding up a process, I don't mind spending at all. That adds value to myself, my company and my customers.
What is your philosophy towards money?
I don't have the dream to be a multibillionaire. I want to share my wealth with others. That is always in me; to share with people less fortunate. Sometimes I am driving on the street and see somebody working so hard and I automatically stop and give him something. I don't want to show off about it. To me, money is basically something that I want to share. I don't want to give Dh100 to 100 people because it is not value-added. I would give Dh100 to one person; for them to buy clothes for their kids or to help their business.
What is the aim of the Great Place To Work UAE?
We want every place to be a great place to work. We are seeing a lot more companies registering with us and we are helping them to identify their strengths and leverage on those. The Great Place To Work model is the Trust Index, an employee survey that is made up of 58 short statements. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete online and it covers elements like credibility, respect, pride and camaraderie. It is based on 25 years of research in 45 countries. These elements are common across all industries - and if you have them, you have a great place. I have a passion for this and know it in and out and love to help companies to be a great place to work.
How are employers involved in the process?
The second part of our model is what we call cultural and it has nine questions that are filled in by human resources and management. They cover hiring practices, inspiration, speaking, listening and thanking. We ask if thanking is done in open areas. Do they have training programmes, are they caring, such as giving employees time off to go to school events, do they celebrate success, what about sharing? If you look at it, they are the nine components of the machine. If a company has these, there is no way it cannot be a great place to work. The same questions are asked for everybody. We have a bank of 4,500 companies around the world that have 8.1 million employees. And every country involved in it publishes their own Great Place To Work list.
What has been your most valuable financial lesson?
There was one course that I really wanted to do, the Jonah Program at the Goldratt Institute in New Haven in the US. But it was US$10,000 (Dh36,732). It taught things about efficiency profitability; the kind of things I was doing at the company I worked for then, WL Gore and Associates. One day, I was just sitting there and thought I would ask my sponsor at WL Gore. He said: "Forget about the money. What you bring from the course will be worth billions." And he approved it. It was the biggest achievement of my life. All the things that I learnt there were a wow. I was the only one who did that at my company and everybody called me Mr Jonah, which is what they call the graduates of the programme.
Have you experienced any financial difficulties along the way?
Yes. My first experience was when the stock market crashed on Black Monday in the US in 1987. I didn't learn the lesson and my portfolio was hit harder when the market crashed in 2000. I am still recovering from that.
What has been your biggest financial challenge?
The biggest challenge is to pay off the mortgages as soon as possible. That means to cut back on our "wants".