““When I made the film The Invention of Lying, they gave me a private jet for getting back and forth between New York and London. I thought, ‘I will never use it’ but I ended up using it every weekend. You turn up, right, and the airport is completely empty. I mean, there’s just someone at the desk and then the pilot, who says, ‘Are you ready to go?’ and you say, ‘Don’t you want to see my passport?’ and he goes, ‘Oh yeah, I suppose I’d better.’” ”
BJT Management Series: A Few Words with...Jetcraft's Jahid Fazal-Karim
Jahid Fazal-Karim became co-owner of Jetcraft in 2008 after a successful career at Airbus and Bombardier. At the time, the business jet brokerage firm had only 12 employees, but today it has approximately 40 in offices throughout the world. Though widely regarded as one of the top brokers in a notoriously cutthroat industry, Fazal-Karim is known for being humble, generous and self-aware. Here, he discusses his family, his remarkable upbringing and his rules for doing business.
My parents always taught us: be the best at what you do, and the rewards will come. You don’t have to be bad to other people in order to be good.
I am one of the more competitive people you’ll come across. You can’t be in sales and not have competitiveness in your blood. But there are [several] ways to compete. You can compete by being very negative towards your competitors. I think it's better to compete by stressing your strengths. If you go to buy a car, you don’t want the salesperson to tell you why the other car you are looking at is so bad. What you really want to know is why the car in front of you is so good.
Part of being a successful broker [is being able to] work with everybody. All of the other top brokers are my friends. If my most successful salesperson decides to leave and become an entrepreneur, I will support him and we will stay friends. If that person does well—guess what? He will do business with Jetcraft.
I had to be independent, live on my own and shape my own ideas very early in life. We had to leave Madagascar because of the civil war and start from scratch again. We settled in the Camoros Islands [off Africa’s southeast coast]. When I was 8, I left my parents to go to primary school on Réunion Island [east of Madagascar], where I stayed with aunts and uncles. I never spent more than three years in the same school or house or with the same family.
Almost all of my business partnerships are with people I have known for years. I always do business with them before entering a partnership. It’s a long process, but I don’t rush it.
When you work for a big corporation, you learn discipline. You have to have certain policies and processes to create consistency. But it’s important that we keep a small-company spirit. The one thing that I do not want to do is become an organization where salespeople can’t make decisions.
When you are selling to entrepreneurs and high-net-worth individuals, [you find] they don’t like rigidity. What they like is creativity and flexibility.
I always figured, if I’m not successful in this job, I can get a job doing something else. I will find a way to put food on the table. It allowed me the freedom and confidence to say the things I needed to say, because fear of losing the job didn’t hold me back. If I believed in something, I would fight for it.
I wanted to start my own business before I turned 40. [When I did], it was interesting to go from running a big organization with a team of 150 and a lot of support and then suddenly do everything yourself.
I get to spend a lot of time doing what I love, which is doing deals. The more complicated and challenging they are, the more I enjoy them.
You can’t be 100 percent right all the time, but a firm decision is always better than no decision.
I met Natacha, my wife, when I was 17 and she was 16. We had to grow up together. She is amazing. I am a numbers person but she is very artistic and very, very gifted. When it comes to career decisions, I have always gone with my gut feeling. Sometimes people thought I was crazy. But Natacha always stood by me. I cannot imagine my life without her.