The Route to Success According to Abrar Ali Kayani

We introduce you to Abrar Kayani – strategic consultant, serial entrepreneur and the CEO of AAK & Co. We had the chance to sneak into his success story and asked about the unique character traits individuals require to get to the top of their field.

Abrar is widely recognised by international experts in the business and consulting field and has won multiple awards including four prestige international business awards just this year alone. He is a distinguished speaker and has regularly been invited to numerous events as a subject matter expert. He regularly writes articles for leading publications and journals.

Abrar is a successful business consultant & seasoned entrepreneur, who has helped clients with the development and implementation of growth strategies for almost two decades and has been involved in multiple successful ventures throughout his professional career. He’s worked with prominent experts across three continents supporting his clients over the years. He is also incredibly passionate about start-ups and helped several successful ventures to thrive.

Abrar is a chartered management accountant by profession who earned his postgraduate degree from the Accounting & Finance School of the University of Strathclyde in the UK. He is a Fellow member of the Institute of Financial Accountants in the UK, as well as the Institute of Public Accountants in Australia. He has a Fellowship with the Institute of Cost & Management Accountants of Pakistan and the Pakistan Institute of Public Finance Accountants. Abrar is an Associate Member of the Association of International Accountants in the UK.

Abrar’s passion for entrepreneurship and consultancy has burned within him since a young age, leading him to work with internationally respected leaders, sharing the experience with the brightest minds in the fields. He’s always been intrigued by solving complex problems and delivering results.

“I started my career just after graduating,” he explains, recalling how much of the decision-making process, fresh out of college, was guided by having a passion for entrepreneurship. “After almost two decades and being involved in tens of companies, I still have an unquenchable thirst for new projects.”

With a background anchored in finance, corporate and strategy, he says he is always excited by the challenges the strategic consultant and adviser roles present.

Tell us about your career and the things that have led you to consultancy.

I started my first venture straight after finishing my studies and it was there that I honed my skills in strategy and consulting. I was attracted by the huge opportunity for transformation – every new project presented new dynamics. While there was always the potential for significant innovation. It was also a complex space and not something everyone wanted to spend time on and this challenge attracted me. This client-centric approach which consistently drives innovation led me to become a consultant.

And I’m still here 20 years later! I think I started with the expectation of staying in this field for only a couple of years just to gain some learning insight, without appreciating the depth and breadth of the opportunities that await.

What excites you about your work?

In my time, I’ve worked across multiple divisions in addition to finance and have enjoyed these exciting challenges to move around the businesses. Not only has this meant there has never been a dull day, but it’s also helped me to broaden my skills and diversify my expertise. The holistic insight I have into the businesses is really valuable for me as a consultant and has also equipped me with a competitive edge.

What is your philosophy about hard work? How has the pandemic affected this?

I always come with my eyes wide open in any new project and I’m always keen to observe how hard the senior managers of the company are working to achieve what they have achieved. I also monitor how much value I can create. The trajectory to excellence is trying things that are difficult and I believe in the philosophy of always pushing your boundaries.

Of course, working and surviving through a global pandemic might be the very definition of hard work but thanks to the array of incredible technological developments that are currently available, most businesses were able to shift to remote working without losing focus on what truly matters.

What are the challenges the new digital age presents for your work? 

In today’s digital world, most companies operate in international markets and even small businesses have exposure across borders. This brings in an extra challenge for anyone working on these projects to meet ever-changing clients’ demands.

Many of the clients I work with have a multinational presence, which means we need to coordinate and deliver services in multiple countries where they do business and it is always an exciting challenge within a challenge. Historically, that was not the case!

Do you embrace or steer away from Artificial Intelligence in your work?

The industry is changing rapidly, and external catalysts are overwhelming business models. The consensus appears to be leaning towards the idea that artificial intelligence can replace the role of human services across all segments of any business. There is no doubt AI plays an important role in decision-making and refining views and I do seek assistance from it when needed but the question is: Can AI ever replace personal experience? I think we’re not going anywhere in our industry. This is an incredibly important aspect of client relationships where the footprint of human interaction in the strategic decision-making process is the key ingredient for success and almost all the clients I work with fully understand this.

How do you encourage younger people who aspire to pursue leadership roles?

I believe role models are important and we should work out to spotlight them and their experiences. It isn’t a naturally comfortable spot for me but I do feel the responsibility and recognise the role that I can play by talking openly about my journey, my vulnerabilities, and my experience to help others in the industry.

On an individual level, mentoring is incredibly beneficial for success. I’m lucky that I’ve had some incredible colleagues and mentors from a range of backgrounds and experiences to learn from throughout my career. Their support has not only encouraged and helped me to navigate my career but it’s also fuelled my aspirations and ambitions. Finally, I am a strong believer that one should not shy in voicing his or her ambitions and asking for support when needed.

How do you create successful relationships with clients?

I always say that proactivity plays a crucial role in the enduring success of the client relationship. Our best clients are ones that we are proactive with, who always think to make the first phone call for solutions in any given complex situation. For me, a successful advisory relationship is really about being at the forefront of the idea, providing proactive leadership and insights on the relevant subject. As an adviser to clients, I can rethink how things are being done in their present state and fully enhance it. This is very important for thriving relationships.

What inspires you about your work?

The opportunity to be thoughtful and add perspective to help move forward with various projects is always thrilling for me. Everything I am involved with will exist for years to come. That is what keeps pushing me forward.

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