Ellie: Well. Hello there. This is Ellie Frey Zagel host of Successful Generations. Thank you so much for being here today. And today you’re in for a real, real treat. I am interviewing my friend Ramia El Agamy and she is the editor and chief of Tharawat Magazine, the global publication for family businesses and a product established by her own family. And I’m turning the tables on Ramia usually she’s the one interviewing people. And today I’m interviewing her on what it’s like to work with her family. And what are some of the lessons learned as she started her family business in 2008. Oh yes. And as a publishing company, even better. And then what she had to do to reinvent the family business. Oh my goodness. You’re going to love this conversation. So Ramia’s focus is her role as a co-founder of Orbis Terra Media media content solutions and publishing house based in Switzerland. She’s clearly a product of this global economy that we live in and I’m super excited to introduce you to Ramia El Agamy.
Welcome to Successful Generations. Ramia, how are you?
Ramia: Thank you so much for having me, Ellie. I’m really well, I’m excited about talking to you.
Ellie: Oh, I’m so excited. We scheduled this podcast, I want to say in July, and now it’s October. We have such a busy schedules.
Ramia: I keep on telling you it’s because we’re so important. It’s like, you know, it’s, it’s just really hard for VIPs to get together. That’s how I see it. Right? Like that’s a sign that you’ve really made. It is when nobody can reach you.
Ellie: I love it. So I want to get started. I’m going to turn the tables today. You have a publishing company. You have actually, you have a content marketing company, you have a lot of different things and you do this with your family. You also have a podcast, your host of at least two podcasts that I know of, maybe even more. We’ll find out in a second. And, and so you’re usually interviewing others. And so I want to turn the tables. I want to interview you on your family business. Are you ready?
Ramia: I am trying to mentally prepare at this very moment for this great challenge. Yes, absolutely. I’ll try not to ask you any questions back. I’ll try.
Ellie: No worries. You’ve got this. All right. So the first question is tell us a little bit about your family business and also how you got into leadership.
Ramia: So I mean, ours might be a little bit of an accidental family business to be quite frank with you. I don’t think a lot of what happened to us was done with a lot of intention. I say this very lovingly because I kind of like that our story is a bit of an accident really.
My father’s Egyptian, my mom is Dutch, and they moved to Switzerland together. When they fell in love, they met somewhere in France. I don’t know. It’s, it’s one of those 60s stories really. They moved to Switzerland together and started their lives there. So my sisters and I grew up as half Egyptian, half Dutch in Switzerland. So I really think our family business story starts by the very virtue of being the children of immigrants and growing up in a place where you were at home but not at home at the same time.
And I think our family was always very strongly oriented towards our nuclear family members and like, you know, there’s was huge reliance on each other, which also meant that you know, you just helped out at home. That was just done, right? Like, so when dad went out on his own and started building his own company over 30 years ago I at least like, was very always keen on being, you know, helping him in the office and stuff like that. So my father started an education solutions company, so he designs education solutions for companies and governments all over the world. My father’s principle in life is that every kind of problem in the world can be solved with education. And it’s a very nice, I think, pursuit that he’s had all his life is to improve people’s and people’s lives and organizations lives through education.
And he’s been incredibly successful with that. And, but really as an entrepreneur, I don’t think that my dad, if you asked him today if he’d ever intended this business to be something for his daughters to join, I don’t think so. I don’t think that was ever his intent. His intent was for his children to have a great life for them to have higher education for like, you know for them to enjoy you know, a lot of the privileges that he didn’t have growing up. I think like many parents really that’s the key motivation. So the business wasn’t necessarily built to something that a next generation was meant to join. And really I didn’t have a thought of it until I was say, when I started sort of like doing these little side jobs for dad, I realized that for me at least, and maybe not from my two sisters initially because they became lawyers and it’s a very different educational path, but for me at least it started becoming very attractive.
Like, you know, the notion of, you know, joining that in the company and working with dad and, and that kind of thing. So I guess I was probably the one who thought about it first probably, but not very clearly as in like, you know, we weren’t very familiar with this notion of like making it into a family business. Again, we’re, we’re an entrepreneurial family and so the family business that really happened accidentally. And I’ll tell you later about what kind of implications that had for us as well when it came to like how we had to confront ourselves to being more structured over time as the businesses grew. So really like I think an entrepreneurial family and then things just sort of happened. They snowballed after I graduated, so, and I graduated from business school in 2008.
I was 22, 23 and my dad gives me a call. I’m still at the university library writing my thesis, and he calls me and he says to me, like, Ramia, you know, I’ve decided we’re going to do a magazine. We’re gonna do the global publication on family businesses. That’s what I want. You do that. And so my father recalls this as him telling me to start a newsletter, but I distinctly remember him saying magazine. So we still argue about this point. Like, you know, he still maintains that it wasn’t his fault, but it was. And so I took that very seriously. Of course, like, you know, dad gives me a task and I always say yes to dad. And so we started Ellie a print publication in 2008, which in retrospect, probably not the smartest idea anyone’s ever, but just to soothe everyone that has a very fortunate sort of like a trajectory.
Like we’re very lucky in that the publication became successful over time. Today, we have millions of readers of Tharawat Magazine, which is a leading publication in the family business theme worldwide. So, you know, we made it work with the, like, we’ll talk a little bit more, think about the journey there was not exactly smooth. Meanwhile, my sisters joined as well. Like we have a nonprofit organization for family businesses. We have actually the premier network and educational network for family businesses in the Middle East is also run by our family. And we have a couple of other business interests. So suddenly like, you know, over the last sort of like 10, 11 years this family, those very tightly knits and sort of like survival driven, you know the five of us we were thrown into, I guess like, you know, the quite turbulent, new relationship of working together and, and being entrepreneurs together and, and really being a family business ourselves, which at least has had the advantage of lending a lot of authenticity to the content that we’ve been creating on this stuff.
So at least there’s a lot we can relate to when we talk to other family businesses. So yeah. And over the, I think that anyone who listens to this understands that, you know, I wish, I guess we could say today that we are in publishing the really, I think everybody understands that publishing as an industry has been what was one of the first industries to be so dramatically disrupted by technology over the last of like 15 years that it’s almost unrecognizable. And it certainly isn’t an interesting, I guess, a business area to grow in for an entrepreneur at the moment because it’s quite uncertain. So instead of just you know, twiddling our thumbs and waiting until things work out, we decided to build a larger content studio around our publications. So today I’m the CEO of Orbis Terra Media, which is a global content studio. And we provide content marketing service and content production services to companies all over the world. And we have a small publishing branch, which is dedicated to family business content only. Really. Yeah, that’s us.
Ellie: Oh my goodness. There are so many questions that I have and so many different ways that we can take this interview. But I really want to stick to the, you know, you now work with your parents and your sisters. Are you the eldest, by the way? What are, where are you in the birth order?
Ramia: I’m in the middle one. I’m number two.
Ellie: You’re number two. And so both of your other sisters are lawyers, but yet you all work together. Did you all start the business together or was it really you and your dad and everybody else joined on?
Ramia: No, so I mean, look, dad’s business dad is continuing his business now and, and what, what happened was like, I think when we joined in 2008 his idea or my parents’ idea, I should say like my dad doesn’t often make decisions without my mom. I think their idea was really like to divide up the work. I don’t know. For some reason, there was this notion of like maybe there’s not enough to do for one daughter, which of course was nonsense because like that’s not necessarily true. But we were basically both, I guess given the task of growing these respective businesses. And we have. My older sister, Frieda and I, we’ve been working together for a really long time. And then Shareen, our youngest sister, she joined a few years in as well and, and we now are divided between our offices in Switzerland and Dubai, middle East.
And I work with my sisters every day. And every new business enterprise that we start and everything we do, we’re all on the board of the company. We’re all shareholders now as well. And so it’s really altogether and we’re like making decisions together and we consult each other on major decisions. Day to day operations, for instance, Orbis Terra Media is with me, day to day operations of our network here in the middle East is Tharawat family business forum is with my sisters and day to day of dad’s company remains with him as well. But larger decisions that have larger implications are always discussed in the quarterly board meetings. And you know, everyone has a say really, or at least that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to achieve and not saying it’s that smooth. Everyone who listens here who has a family business knows that’s like your ideal kind of situation. But it’s not always the case.
Ellie: You guys have quarterly board meetings, but I know that you speak way more than that. So tell me a little bit about how do you communicate with the five of you?
Ramia: So we speak every day. Within the business functionalities. We talk over video conference every day. Skype. WhatsApp is quite interesting. My younger sisters did a smart thing a few years ago. She insisted on us having WhatsApp chats that are family and WhatApp chats that are the same members but are only business-related. And I thought at the time it felt artificial, but she was right in doing that because both these jobs have a very different kind of tone to them. And we found out that very early on that’s extremely important. You know, to create some boundaries even though, you know, when you’re such a small family and your businesses are growing and some of them are in their infancy, it’s very hard to create boundaries because entrepreneurship at that stage is all-consuming.
It just is right. Like by its very nature, by virtue of trying to, you know, build a company like out of, out of a global recession heading into another one right now apparently or seemingly so. You know, it’s a tough environment and so yeah, there’s not much work-life balance to this I think, but at least you get to spend work time with people that you are genuinely fond of. I guess I’ve always seen that as a huge advantage though. I guess opinions might vary amongst family members. I think everyone has different levels of needs when it comes to being in touch with the family all the time.
Ellie: Thank you so much for sharing. Like, so you basically speak every day. I love the idea of the WhatsApp and using it to communicate family versus business, kind of what hat are you wearing at that time and keeping those separate. And as you mentioned, creating some boundaries where it’s probably very, very difficult to do so. And especially maybe especially as an entrepreneurial family. I don’t know, we’d have to explore that a little bit more. But I want to go back to something that you and I talked about offline and that is you started this company with a magazine in 2008 in probably the worst economy worldwide ever. And then you decided because probably out of necessity that you needed to change your business model. And this is not, this doesn’t happen very often in family-owned businesses where you, you know, you really do change pretty much your entire model. So can you walk us through, like how did this happen? Did you have to get buy-in from your siblings, your parents and what did that look like? Let’s talk about how that happened and then we can talk about lessons learned.
Ramia: Well, you know, and again, I want to emphasize this knowing how many businesses currently must be facing this kind of a situation or a transition. In hindsight, it’s very easy to analyze these things and to, and to feel like, you know, we, we knew what we were doing. The fact of the matter is you don’t at that moment in time, you really don’t, I think you see the performance, you see your industry and you understand as an entrepreneur and as a family business, you just understand if there’s an opportunity or not. And I think it was very quickly the case that we knew we had a very interesting product in our magazine. It being niche and of being quite unique in the world. Not to disparage my competitors. Like, you know, there are really great publications out there.
Ellie: Everybody should go out and subscribe to your magazine.
Ramia: I agree. And again, like I’m not disparaging any competition. Like everyone’s doing a great job out there and I’m so happy there are so many voices on this subject because there needs to be a diversity when it comes to discussing this topic. But, you know, we were so in love with our product and it was heartbreaking really to understand that through no fault of our own, the industry that we are building our product in and of we’re facing with our product was going through such a transformation that wasn’t caused by us, but that we were just effectually being, you know, the victims off I guess. And I think that if you look at it from a realistic perspective, and because I talked to so many other family businesses, I’m very aware that we had a few advantages in our favor to make this transformation happen.
So because it’s media and publishing and entertainment, that industry is so obviously being disrupted and the signs were so clear and even huge household names were crumbling that it was not hard to make the case to my family because it was so obvious what was happening. It wasn’t sneaking up. And we, we were in the middle of it, we launched it in the middle of already the industry basically being in crisis and you know, being entrepreneurial dictates that you feel you’re the exception to the rule, otherwise, you’d probably never build a business to begin with. But obviously we weren’t. Like, and I think that that really helped that the fact that the industry that we were in was so clearly without a doubt being disrupted and nobody could say anything about it. Major newspapers were going down the drain, major magazines were disappearing.
So I did not have a problem making this case to the family. Everyone saw it. The second thing I think that was a big advantage for us is that, you know, we, we use sort of like reinvented ourselves. So my dad’s business was a few decades old, but this part of what we were doing was like, you know, six or seven years old, which was a very okay history to move on from in the sense that, you know, we still managed to safeguard what we did, but it’s not like you’re asking a family business of 40 50 years old to truly transform and reinvent itself. That comes with a whole different host of challenges. I think, and I always say this because I want to be very respectful of this fact, like it’s even after seven years, if I see how hard it was for us to let go of certain things to let go of like, you know, something that we, we were very attached to and, and to have to reinvent herself and to have to see ourselves in different roles.
I can only imagine how painful this is for a family that has actually been doing the same thing for a few generations and now faces disruption at scale and really can’t continue the way they’ve done. So those two things were hugely in our favor I think in making the case. And then I have to say like to the great credit of my parents as well, my parents are fortunately for us and I think that is key. My parents are not averse to technology at all. They’re, curious about technology. They’re technophiles if anything. So that, of course, was a, and again this is a premise that we didn’t dictate this as a premise that we were born into and that we as a NextGen were extremely lucky with. Because, you know, I don’t think that you can be active in this industry when the older generation doesn’t understand the, you know, the lightning speed is, is moving at and, and, and how quickly we have to change.
I mean, in the time that we’ve had the new business model or like the new business, we’ve already reinvented ourselves at least twice because it’s moving so fast. Right? So I think the real, the real fact was that we understood this transformation is permanent in that we have to keep on transforming at a very quick rate. If we want to be a player in this particular industry, and I think that really helped everyone understand. So just the transformation is going to be the status quo from now on. Right? Like it’s not an exceptional situation. It’s something that we’re going to keep them doing. And, and so I think, I think everyone was very, I don’t remember having to do them a lot of convincing with my family. I have to do a lot of convincing with myself.
Ellie: Tell me about that. What was that process?
Ramia: Well, I mean it’s very hard to like, you know, seven, seven years into your career to sort of look back and feel and, and being confronted with needing to do this kind of transformation and not feel a sense of failure I guess. Even though the changes that came that were really imposed, I, we were talking force measure, right? Like we’re talking, you know, the Washington Post having been being bought by like, you know, changing hands, like you know, these big players, but you can’t help it. Like, you know, it’s your first sort of like foray into entrepreneurship. Like, it’s your first baby in the family business and you know, you feel it, you feel and, and it’s difficult to, to let go of a, of something you imagined would work out in a certain way and, and move on. And I think that personal growth was very healthy.
And was it, it was beneficial to the company as well as we run it today for me to have been at, to go through that. But it was very difficult at the time. It definitely was, it was not easy at all. Like, you know, to, to know what to do and to know that it’s so uncertain and to know that you’re risking the family’s investment and the family’s trust in you. Like, so that was a lot of, that was a lot of pressure. Still is actually.
Ellie: I bet, especially if this is kind of your status quo if you’re constantly having to transform, that means that the risk was not going away.
Ramia: Yeah. We are in a risky industry to be fair, like, you know, media and entertainment are the fastest disrupted industry in the world at the moment.
And it’s going, it’s getting worse because we’re facing, you know, the internet of things and so everything is going to go across so many devices and the technology just changes at an exponential rate. So yeah, so to be confronted with like, you know, your face, your family and you really need to know what you’re talking about because you know, they put their faith in you to understand what’s going on in this really rapidly evolving landscape and it’s a big deal that they do trust you with that and it’s a big deal, you know, that, that you get to try this out. And I’m very grateful, very grateful to them for giving me this opportunity. Really.
Ellie: Does it help that they are also in similar businesses or that you speak every day? Like I’m just wondering since they’re also entrepreneurs may be in similar industries.
Ramia: Well, absolutely. And you know, we’re, we’re all in it together. That’s always been our motto, right? Like, we’ve always said the moment we make the decision, that we carry the consequences together. That never takes away from the loneliness of you feeling like you’re responsible. But it’s still, I would never want to do this without them, honestly. Like as much as sometimes the family dynamics can get in the way and costs you a lot of energy. And I’d never want to do this without my sisters and my parents because I think it makes it just so much more special. The things we get to share in terms of success. Like, you know, who else would I want to share this with? Except them and my husband, who I have to mention here, who’s like the most patient person in the world when it comes to my work.
So but I think, you know, that’s really very positive. I think it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s harder because you love them and it’s harder because these are the last people in the world that you want to disappoint. And really the last like, you know, literally I, I don’t care about what anybody thinks about me. I think except them. Right? Like, so if, if that respect goes or for some reason that there will be disappointment there, that will be, that would be very devastating. And at the same time understanding that some of your personal development will put your family through phases where they don’t understand what you’re doing and you have to deal with that too because you know, you have to try out new things that they haven’t tried. And I’m particularly in this situation with this industry because like everything’s new by the way.
Everything’s new, not just to us. Everything new is to our competitors as well. Like everyone is like, you know, Google has a new algorithm update. Like, you know, Facebook changes this or like, you know, whatever happens in social media on digital marketing and stuff like that. Like, you know, we like the rest of our industry, we’re confronted with like, okay, so what are we going to do now and what does this mean, right? Like, and so we’re constantly at the, the forefront of being pioneers and all of these things along with everybody else. So it’s a, it’s a, yeah, it’s a, it’s a double challenge or triple challenge, if you will.
Ellie: I’m so glad that you mentioned like, you know, you love, you would, there’s nobody who would rather work with, but it is harder because you, these are the last people that you would ever want to disappoint. Yeah. And you know, I work in my coaching work that I do. I hear that so often. Like there’s this pressure it’s working with your family is the most wonderful thing, but there are challenges and I think you’ve just identified at least one there that, you know, between not wanting to disappoint and, you know, having to go through your own work very publicly with your family, you know and they, you know, the trust that they have to have in you. And you have to have in yourself and you have to have in them in order to make it work. I think it’s so quintessential family business. So are there any lessons learned on this side of things? I mean, as you’re kind of reinventing it, you said you, you’re reinventing yourself multiple times, like all the time, what is different now than when you did it a couple of years ago?
Ramia: Well, I think, well, I mean, fortunately, we’ve become better at it. I think we’re avoiding a lot of the emotional drama that came with it when you did the first time, It’s like you develop a muscle for it really. Like, anything else, entrepreneurship is largely a matter of stamina. And, so as being part of a family business. You gotta bounce back, right? It’s like this really weird combination between being highly sensitive, very tuned in to other people’s feelings and then extremely pragmatic at the same time. Like you know, because without that you can’t run a business and you can’t run a business to please anyone either. Like, you know, you have to be honest about these things. So it’s, this is brutal honesty that you come to that ultimately is your, is your saving grace, right? Like the moment you realize or the moment that you’ve created the safe space within your family business to be brutally honest, then success I would say is almost inevitable. You have to create the kind of tolerance around you within the family for anyone to be allowed to be brutally honest about how they feel or about what they want to do or about what went wrong and they’re being as little judgment as possible. I don’t think, no, I don’t think no judgment is possible for human beings. Like, you know, there’ll always be judgment, but I think if you can, if you can come to that point, then the only thing left to do is for you to be able to be honest with yourself, which I think is everyone’s pursuit throughout your whole life really. But if you can, if you know that when you come through, like, you know, when you come to like a, an important milestone in your own self-development or in the business and stuff like that, that there is a space in the family where you can go and say like, well, you know, quite frankly, this is the reality of things. This is, this is how it actually is. So again, sensitivity and pragmatism really have to be married when it comes to being successful, I think in the family business or an entrepreneurial family.
Ellie: So I love that you brought up, brought up that pragmatism and that brutal honesty. I’ve had other family business and other entrepreneurial family businesses share that same wisdom who are also very fast growing in a very transforming space. So this is something that I think that we all need to hear. When you’re moving that fast, how do you create this safe space where you can be brutally honest? And I would like for you to unpack this a little bit more. Like are you always assuming good intent? Are there no surprises? What are some of the rules that you have in this brutally honest, safe environment that helps you be brutally honest?
Ramia: I wouldn’t dare speak from my other family members. I would never do that. That’s also I think a mistake that families tend to make. Don’t speak on behalf of your family members, not your job, not your place. I’m sure if you interviewed my sisters or my parents everyone would give you a slightly different version of what I’m about to say. Hopefully, it would be aligned in the principle matters. But the fact of the matter is, I think that’s number one: accept that everyone is having a fundamentally different experience of the family business than you are. I mean this is not one unified adventure. This is not like you all watching a movie together where like you can agree that this is what the plot that is happening. This is different people with different histories having different perspectives of this one thing, which is the business.
So that’s number one I think is that respect of saying like, okay, well you know what, the other person might need a very different approach to broaching the same subject. You might even agree with each other, but like they come at it from a totally different angle. I think for me that was a very liberating stroke is to understand that just because someone is not making their point the way that you want them to within the first 30 seconds of them broaching a topic, you know, you can avoid huge conflict by letting them speak for a little while to then realize that if you cut through it, you know you’re essentially talking about the same thing. So I think that patience is something that a lot of people don’t have because a lot of people don’t understand that what they’re really worried about is someone else disagreeing, not because they want to be right, but because it makes them insecure to confront an argument.
And I think if you have that, then people tend to want to interrupt other family members if they see that they’re on the verge of disagreeing with them, which is very bad for the family dynamic really. Because ultimately what it leads to is that nobody ever feels heard. And even though you might’ve actually been able to agree from the outset, you never even gave each other to chance to do so. So I think that’s, that’s a that’s a big one. That’s a really big one that I see and that I’ve experienced myself where I had to, you know, teach myself that if you have fundamentally different characters in your family, you know, you might be sisters, you might be brothers, you might be cousins, but you know that we always make this joke with my mom or we talk about the fact that we’re three girls. Okay, we get along famously, we all have totally different notions of what our childhood was like. We grew up in the same house and we did not have the same childhood. Now if you think about that, then how can you assume that you’d have the exact same way of looking at something as complex as a business venture?
It’s just presumptuous is what it is. It’s like it’s really adjusting being honest with yourself that you’re walking in here with the expectation that just because someone is related to you that they’re in your head, it’s not going to happen and vice versa. You do not know what the person is going through at that moment in time. You don’t know. And this is also like one thing that I wanted to say about being brutally honest. One thing that I’ve noticed though, and this is a bit of a trend, I feel like, you know, there’s a lot of discussion about this. I’m aware of this being a topic that a lot of people like to put forward. A lot of successful entrepreneurs, so like you know you have to be brutally honest about where you are and stuff like that. In the family business where you have to be very careful is that I don’t think it’s kind to use the brutal honesty as a means to actually vent resentment that you have about something else. Right. I see that a lot. I am not in my family necessarily, but just generally I see that this whole brutal honesty and pragmatism approach is then used to be cruel via the business when actually your issue with the person is private.
Ellie: That is such a good piece of wisdom. And Ramia, I have to tell you, you have like you’ve shared not just one but like five different lessons learned. I’ve got to repeat them back. 1. Don’t speak on behalf of other family members. 2. Accept and have respect that every single one of your family members is experiencing the business differently than you, which I’m pretty sure we all forget. 3. Have patience because, in the context that you use, somebody may not be as clear and concise as you would like them to be, but they’ll get to the point in their way. And oftentimes it could be the same thing that you would have said or maybe that you have said. And if you didn’t let them speak, you might’ve gotten into an unnecessary argument.
And then along the same lines of having patience, 4. that everybody learns and communicates differently, that’s a to deeply listen to what people are saying. Not just assume. But the first couple of sentences out of their mouth is exactly what they’re trying to say. Those are my words. The last few were my words, but that’s what I’m assuming that you were saying. And then I loved this last one, 5. Don’t use brutal honesty to vent private matters. That is so good because you know, one of our other podcasters said that brutal honesty is like, it’s not personal that this is like just business, but you can kind of see that it could turn into some passive aggressive behavior if not used properly.
Ramia: I think brutal honesty because the word brutal is in it, you know, vocabulary matters. And this is of course from someone whose job is content day in, day out. Naturally, I would, I’d say that. And I think that, but I think it matters very much when we say brutal of course it implies a certain amount of violence. And I think, and I think in a way probably we should adjust that. Because it’s like you’re giving people license to be nasty, you know what I mean? And the fact of the matter is like, you know, the day to day of entrepreneurship is hard. It’s hard. It is full of rejection all the time. Okay. Don’t, no matter what people put in their social media guys, it is tough. Right? Like it is tough because you’re constantly confronted with your own shortcomings. If you’re not, you’re not doing your job, then you’re not pushing hard enough.
Right? Like that’s just the fact, this is the rules of how this works. You’re building something, it either like pushes you to the limit or you’re not truly like, you know, you’re not really making something that like, you know, you’re not making significant progress and you have to love it. I always say like, this is really not for everyone. And I’m also really grateful always to see the, you know, then the family business when next generations come in. Not everyone needs to be an entrepreneur necessarily. Like you know, it’d be good to be entrepreneurial, but like being an entrepreneur is, it’s not a very peaceful place to be in your mind, right? Like so I don’t wish it on everyone, but this also means that you will naturally across generations or within the same generation have different mentalities. You will have entrepreneurs, you will have employees, you will have people who are basically seeing it from a consultant’s perspective.
You will have people looking at this from very different angles. And I think when you, when you talk about honesty, honesty starts at home, much like charity starts at home. Honesty starts at home. You get to be brutally honest when you are able to do it to yourself. That’s my rule of thumb, right? Like the moment you’re able to face your own stuff squarely and because it buys you a lot of license with your family members. Now imagine if I enter into a meeting and I started by saying like, guys, huge admission. I confronted a big thing about myself. Like, you know, I confronted the fact that I have this shortcoming and that shortcoming and that was a result in the business and like, you know, I’m trying to fix it and this and that way or I need help fixing it. And after that, I call upon someone else to be brutally honest too or like I make the family face a difficult fact. My credibility is much higher because it’s so easy to just sit there and just to be like, you know, I always compare it like always tell my editors, never forget how easy it is to, to be the editor as opposed to being the writer. Right. It is, it’s like, it’s easy to point out other people’s mistakes or to point out like fault or to point fingers really. Like, you know, you just, I feel like you get to do it. It’s like my mom used to tell me before we were not allowed to gossip. So basically we were never allowed to gossip. And I later on figured out that essentially for me, the rule of thumb is you never say anything behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t be able to say to their face. And I think, I think this applies here too. Don’t expect another person to endure something. So don’t, don’t dish it out if you can’t take it. Right. Like, so don’t expect someone else to endure something and to make yourself in some sort of like a glorified devil’s advocate. Nobody likes that guy or that girl, right? That’s not positive and it’s not growing the business. Pragmatism again, like for me, is very important. My mom is a very pragmatic person. She taught us to be very down to earth and I’m very grateful to her for that because I think it’s extremely helpful to face entrepreneurship and, but at the same time, just like, you know, just, I mean, just put it simply, just don’t be nasty.
Just don’t use it as an excuse to be mean. I just, I just, you know, there’s so much bullying going on sometimes in a family business that is, and it’s ridiculous and you need to call people out on it. Like, you know, do you feel bullied in your family business? You’ve got to tell them, you got to tell the other person, you got to tell them like, look, this feels like, you know, it just feels like kindergarten and you’re about to take away my lunch. Do you know what I mean? You have to have the guts to say that because it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s painful to walk away from a meeting and feel like, okay, maybe the truth was told, but it was told in such a way that it felt like there was a lot of other stuff that that person was trying to tell me by talking to me about the bottom line. They’re also trying to tell me that I’m married the wrong person, but I’m not raising my children right. And that, you know, I should really get a hobby or I should do something about my haircut. That’s not a nice thing. You know? That’s not, that’s not what you want people to walk away from, from like a board meeting or something like that. So yeah. So that’s important, right? It’s important to be honest. Mostly with yourself though.
Ellie: Self-awareness is huge and that’s a lot of what my coaching has been on. It’s just like kind of creating this self-awareness and creating, you know, your own power within and, you know anyway, we can go, you and I can go on.
So I want to kind of wrap up. You’ve given us so much to think about. And I love everything that you’ve said, honestly. Is there we kind of ended on trends or hot topics. Is there maybe one more trend that you’re seeing out there and the family business world before we find out how we can find you?
Ramia: Trends. I mean, there’s always trends. I think like, you know, the thing about the family business as a construct of course, is that it’s an age-old construct. I think there are problems. We have the same old issues with succession and communication and family dynamics that you’ve probably had a hundred, 200, 300, 400 years ago. I think that the new problems are driven by context. Like you society’s changing consumer behavior is changing, the way businesses operate is changing. I think those are new challenges that family businesses must face squarely and understand what it means to them and what it means to, to how they, how they define a family business. Like, you know, are you a family business or you’re a business family? Are you an enterprising family? Are you a family office? There are so many new sorts of hybrid models that go beyond the idea of necessarily having your name on the shop from right? I think it’s an interesting time for families in business because we know so much more of what’s possible. We know so much more about how to keep maybe just the spirit of entrepreneurship of a business alive. Even if maybe not that specific business remains the, the center of our, our attention. So I really think like the biggest trend that I’m seeing is that a lot of families, because their businesses die out because of the industry and not because of them, but really trying to find ways to, I guess, keep the family-centered around the business concern by diversifying, by looking into other industries and to see if they can replicate the same success that they’ve had in that other industries.
So it’ll be very interesting to see how many of them make that transformation happen and how many of them make an equally big success out of, you know, the next thing that they tackle really, even if they’re a few generations in. I think there’ll be super interesting to see whether that’s possible.
Ellie: And so many more case studies I’m sure that we’ll be able to learn about. Ramia, thank you so much. Can you talk a little bit about how we can find you and your, and your podcasts and your magazine?
Ramia: Oh, thank you. Of course. I’d love to make a little plug. Our magazine can be found at www.tharawat-magazine.com. Just for everyone to understand Tharawat is actually the Arabic word for fortunes. So fortunes of life and fortunes of joys of life basically. So that’s so where the magazine is. You’ll also find a podcast there called Family Business Voice. We have another content focus, which is womeninfamilybusiness.org where you can find a lot of content for women specifically and their specific roles and challenges that they face in the family business, which is very interesting. We have a podcast for that one too. And then of course not to forget our you know, our content production studio where we do everything from documentary filmmaking to podcast production, to content marketing services on orbisterramedia.com. And don’t forget that I’m on all social media and I’m easy to contact. You can schedule a call with me within a certain amount of time. It does not have to take a month and I’m always happy to talk to other family businesses because that’s just what we love doing.
Ellie: Thank you so much for all of your words of wisdom today. I really appreciate you coming on Successful Generations. Thank you. Thank you.
Ramia: Thank you so much, Ellie, for doing what you’re doing. It’s a great show. Thank you.
Ellie: Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode with my new friend Ramia. Definitely check out the show notes. Get your hands on Tharawat Magazine, check out her podcast if you are in family business, even if you’re not or you’re consulting with family businesses. These are definitely podcasts and a magazine you want to have around.
If you’re enjoying the Successful Generations podcast, please let us know by leaving a review. And I don’t know if you know this, but on off weeks, I actually, I’m writing a blog each and every week, and if you would like access to that blog, please go to successfulgenerations.com and sign up for our weekly emails. I cover a lot of my coaching topics and relate that to either my own experiences, my experiences coaching, or my experiences working with family businesses. So I think you’ll really enjoy the blog if you enjoy this podcast. All right, my friends have an amazing, amazing week and I will talk to you soon