Mujtaba Shaikhani wins CEO of the Year Award

Mujtaba at awards ceremonyWithin just three years of taking on the CEO role at his family’s manufacturing insulation business Gulf-O-Flex, Mujtaba Shaikhani (MSc Entrepreneurship, 2020 and BSc Management, 2019) has been awarded Construction Business Magazine Middle East’s MEP CEO of the Year Award!

“It feels amazing, being only 25 years old and just three years into the business; achieving something so prestigious feels amazing,” shares Mujtaba.

Acknowledging the importance of having a strong and supportive team in achieving this recognition, Mujtaba tell us: “The award appreciates me and my team, who truly helped me turn this business around. If I could give credit to anyone, it would be my team, who not only believed in my vision for the business but worked to fulfil it and bring the business to where it stands today.”

After completing both his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Bayes, Mujtaba should have been full of excitement for what was to come. Unfortunately, the global Covid-19 pandemic instilled some fear about his future as well as that of the family business. However, rather than let it hold him back, he took an early charge and made sure to turn it into a success: “Since I started as CEO, the company has grown over 150% in terms of revenue.”

Gulf-O-Flex was established over three decades ago by Mujtaba’s grandfather, before being passed down to his father. With Mujtaba now taking the reins, he highlights the positives of running a family business: “Our major stakeholders are involved in the day-to-day business, so we can make decisions very quickly. We can expand more aggressively into newer markets, which gives us an advantage over larger, corporate companies.

“The market we are focusing on expanding into now is Saudi Arabia. With the recent boom within the region and huge foreign direct investment (FDI), we believe this move will certainly give us the first-mover advantage and we can serve the market better when positioned there.”

As the eldest son in his family, Mujtaba always knew he would join the family business – a plan he was completely inspired by and invested in! However, he was keen to ensure he was fully prepared for this before taking on the challenge.

“Choosing to study my courses at Bayes was a conscious decision, purely based on the complexity of them. I knew that they would give me the knowledge I needed to be able to run our business successfully.

“One of the biggest reasons was because of the network I was going to make. I knew everyone doing these courses would have a similar passion about business like I did and would really help me to accelerate during the learning process, and that’s exactly what happened.

“A lot of the colleagues who I am still in touch with and who I turn towards to ask for advice, have studied at Bayes, and I can trust their judgement based on the fact they’ve been through a similar situation to me.”

Mujtaba getting his award

Not only does Mujtaba appreciate how his studies have supported his career, but he also shares how much he enjoyed his time at Bayes: “I remember taking part in the CitySpark competition, a one-day event where you’re put into teams on the spot and are asked to develop a business from the problem at hand. These activities were not only fun to do back then, but they helped me develop skills which I still use in my everyday career, such as making quick decisions under pressure with restricted time limits. Although we didn’t end up winning the competition, it was a great experience to be a part of.”

With a successful career, already winning prestigious accolades, and as someone who has recently completed their studies, we asked Mujtaba about what advice he would share with those looking to follow in his footsteps.

“Enjoy what you’re doing. I feel like it’s the most important aspect to actually look forward to a new day and be excited about it; there is something different in the energy, and the only way to achieve that is to actually enjoy what you are doing.

“Further to this, I would like to stress the importance of taking risks. Many risks will turn into failure and that failure really is the most important part. I believe failure is what makes a person confident in their decisions and until a person has failed multiple times, the confidence can’t be seen in their actions.

“And to conclude, taking risks can either teach you a valuable lesson or can become extremely successful. Both scenarios are equally rewarding in the long run!”

Thank you to Mujtaba for sharing his story and a huge congratulations on winning the CEO of the Year Award by Construction Business Magazine Middle East!