Rohin Dhand is the founder and CEO of Dhand Capital, a UK-based investor which starts, acquires and grows companies in sectors such as property development, construction and facilities management. With offices in London and Leeds, Dhand Capital’s core Group companies include property developer Mayfair Group Investment, main construction contractor Dhand Construction and Penguin FM, a facilities management company providing property maintenance and fit-out services for large clients across the UK.
Here, Rohin shares his 7 essential tips for young CEOs.
1. Never Stop Learning & Always Ask “Why?”
Whatever level you reach in business, you never should and never will stop learning. For me, that starts with listening and I’ve always been the person to take a step back to analyse a whole situation before presenting a solution. Try to absorb new knowledge and ideas. Read books, listen to podcasts, attend trade shows and seminars, research people you admire and find good mentors. I always stay in touch with people I respect and learn from as I recognise the importance of experience and expertise. Young CEOs are dynamic and innovative and whilst I have knowledge and expertise, I’m 29 years old and I’ve simply not experienced half as much as my older peers. I still call my old boss at times and speak with my Dad and others about work. They may be slightly detached from a situation but I always value their opinions and experience.
Be curious, take nothing at face value and always delve into the details. This starts with asking ‘why’ and if you nurture a learning culture that questions and challenges in a positive way, you’ll stand your business in good stead. Don’t take no for an answer. Understand why and how barriers are in place, and then you’ll be able to overcome them.
2. Walk The Floor
Hands-on experience is essential and the best leaders are often those who have worked their way up from the bottom. In retail we often hear about those who have risen up ‘from the shopfloor’ and for me, the shopfloor is my construction site. I now employ teams of construction site managers but having managed sites in my early days, I know the ins and outs very well. Don’t rely on management reports or customer surveys – get out there and spend time amongst, not above your teams, understanding exactly what they and your customers experience and do on a daily basis – it’s vital to know how the frontline of your business is really operating.
3. Put People & Values First
When I first started out as a junior at a large property firm, I was made to feel invisible by the directors, despite working tirelessly to surpass my goals. I soon left, started my own business and vowed that I’d always nurture a culture focused on talent, not titles.
Your organisation is only as effective as its people and if you don’t treat them as individuals, you’ll only ever get so much from them. Respect people’s time and be mindful of their personal situations whenever you can – never underestimate the power of empathy and understanding.
If your company is led by strong values, which everyone lives by, it will provide that all-important shared vision and purpose. But you also need to accept that not everyone you hire will turn out to be a good long-term fit for your business and your values. When this becomes apparent, take decisive action – someone not aligned with your company values can damage your business and those working around them.
4. Build Your Resilience
Accept that you will make mistakes, I make them all the time. No one has lost more money than me! Your vision is yours to create, no one else can fight your battles for you or undertake your journey. When things fall down, don’t be too hard on yourself, accept the reality, take action and move forward.
There will be critics and people who will try to bring you down or take advantage. Sometimes they might even be friends and family which is a harder reality. Speak your truth, protect your energy, distance yourself from negative people and surround yourself with those who share your values and who enjoy seeing others thrive.
5. Know Your Numbers
Finance is the backbone of any organisation and, as a leader, it’s really important to thoroughly understand the numbers. Don’t leave it to anyone else. Of course, you need to hire experts to run your finance department but make sure you’re trained and educated enough to properly understand everything they present. Many entrepreneurs I speak to say that they find finance boring and difficult and it can be exactly that, but getting it wrong can be so costly.
6. Give Back What You Can
For me, the most successful businesses of the future will be those that not only focus on business success but those who give back in some way. When I first started out, I always thought this was about making financial donations – it really isn’t and there is so much more you can give as a company. Consider the causes you feel passionate about, how they relate to your company values and how you can support them. You may decide to donate your company’s time and expertise instead of/in addition to cash donations and this can be so much more valuable for the beneficiaries and for your teams and morale too.
7. Keep Your Feet On The Ground
For many young entrepreneurs, that first taste of success feels amazing, especially if it’s taken years of hard work to get there. When the money starts coming in, it can be difficult to resist the shiny things – the flashy office, nice cars and expensive business trips. But these can quickly hit your bottom line and it’s important to keep them in check and celebrate success without bragging.
I spent years working in a tiny office above my Dads’ pharmacy, it wasn’t much bigger than a cupboard and even when my business was turning a good profit, I worked from construction site offices to keep costs down. I waited several years before upscaling and investing in growth and a decent office. Don’t fall into the trap of needing to show off success – if your business is growing, your finances healthy and your people and clients happy, then many of the perceived markers of success really don’t matter. Remember, turnover is vanity, profit is sanity. At some point, you’ll need to put in the long hours to get where you need to. It’s not glamourous, it can be tough and lonely, but if you’re passionate about what you do it will always be worth it.