Believe it. Live it! Honouring the past & celebrating the future together by Marek Sheridan
As I sit typing this story, it gives me some time to reflect on how I reached the position of CEO of one of the most prestigious companies in Bahrain. A company that employs over 2000 people stretching across the Middle East and Africa. A company that is incredibly diversified and has gone from strength to strength but has always held true to its core values which are encapsulated in our Winning Hearts culture. In fact, it is quite humbling to be trusted with this responsibility and it’s something that I take on board with both excitement for the future but also respect for the past.
As most of you will know, I have been working with BMMI since April last year, and prior to that I worked for over twenty years in various positions in different companies across the Gulf. However, not many of you will know that I in fact started my career in the mailroom of an advertising agency called Dorland’s in the very late ‘80s. Yes, that’s right, I was the guy that delivered the mail – back in those days email wasn’t really used, nor were mobile phones, in fact the “fax machine” was the very height of cutting edge technology! Because communication options were somewhat limited compared to how they are today, the mailroom in large companies played an integral role in the communications chain. We received inbound mail and distributed it, internal memos were circulated, in short we ran around the building like some form of human intranet service. It was great fun and I thought far better than university for me at the time - it was a great learning ground.
I soon began to understand how the operations of the business ran from a very basic standpoint. I have always been curious and I have always asked questions. It was this natural curiosity to want to know more or understand “why” that drove so many of my early conversations with managers that would go on to shape the early stages of my career. As I look back now and think of the various jobs I have held and my progression from the mailroom to CEO, I try and find the common theme that has really made a difference and helped me shape my future and hopefully impacted the organisations I have worked with for the better.
I think that what it comes down to is always having a sense of curiosity, not necessarily accepting everything at face value and looking for opportunities to improve what is in front of you. That doesn’t mean you can never be pleased or satisfied, but it is about creating an environment where everyone always reflects on what they do and how they can really “add value” (a much overused term) to the job at hand. I learned how powerful this approach can be particularly from my previous company in Dubai, but it is something that looking back I can really see as a constant to my approach.
It is incumbent upon all of us to be able to ask “how could we do this better” in order to drive a truly performance driven organisation. That doesn’t mean you don’t recognise good work and it doesn’t give license to criticise. When we challenge things, we should do so while respecting our colleagues around us and we should be prepared to accept feedback and rise up to that challenge ourselves.
I have often found that those people that like to be positively inquisitive tend to create an environment of discretionary effort both for themselves and for those around them. What I mean by discretionary effort is people going the extra mile to make a difference, doing more than the minimum, striving to make things better before being asked. In fact, this is perfectly encapsulated in our Winning Hearts value of ‘Excellence’, defined as the continuous improvement of self and systems to deliver quality performance, as well as our value of ‘Achievement’, defined as taking pride and responsibility for attaining personal and professional goals. It is this discretionary effort, combined with our values, that will truly differentiate ourselves from our competition and continue to build on what is an extraordinary history.
I am incredibly grateful to Gordon for helping me obtain this position, to the Board for trusting me with the responsibility it brings and to all of you for giving me the opportunity help guide and navigate this great team through the challenges that lie ahead. I can think of no better group of people to share that experience with.