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Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Key to Entrepreneurial Success – Engineer Mohammad Fouad Al Jamal

In this exclusive interview, we sit down with Engineer Mohammad Fouad Al Jamal, the General Manager of Trust Construction Establishment. With a unique career path in the construction industry and guided by his father, Dr. Engineer Fouad Khamis Al Jamal, Mohammad shares valuable insights into his journey as an entrepreneur and industry leader. From overcoming challenges to fostering innovation and nurturing talent, he provides valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Join us as we explore the experiences and wisdom of Mohammad Fouad Al Jamal, a visionary driving Trust Construction to new heights in the construction industry.

Can you share key milestones and turning points in your journey as an industry leader or entrepreneur?

My career path was not the conventional one that most entrepreneurs or general managers follow. I entered an existing and well-established company created by my father and our current CEO, Dr. Engineer Fouad Khamis Al Jamal. My father founded Trust Construction in 1985 and developed it over the years to become a first-category construction company. I joined the organization after completing my university studies in 2009, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Mohammad Fouad Al Jamal

My first year was a learning experience, during which I familiarized myself with the industry and gained insight into the business from the ground up. I faced numerous challenges, but these experiences helped shape my growth and expertise. The first major milestone came in 2012 when I successfully implemented a full ERB system in the company, transitioning it from a paper-based process to a fully automated one.

In 2013, another significant milestone was achieved when we obtained our International Standard of operations certification (ISO 9001, 14001, and OHAS 18001) for integrated management system, environmental practices, and general health and safety performances. These certifications granted us international recognition, enabling us to undertake projects for prestigious clients such as the UAE armed forces, French navy, and US armed forces.

Over the following years, we continued to break records in terms of project value and maintained the highest level of quality, always delivering projects on time. We take pride in being punctual in handing over any project, setting us apart from many other companies in the industry.

In 2018, we expanded the company and created two sister companies: Trust Buildline, responsible for maintenance contracts for projects completed by Trust Construction Establishment, and Trust Al Haditha, a transportation and heavy machinery company, both working in parallel with the main company.

Due to the hard work and achievements of the organization throughout its career, Trust Construction has been nominated and shortlisted for the prestigious GoGlobe Awards 2023 in Rhode Island, New York. The recognition reflects the dedication and commitment of our team to excellence in construction and project management. We look forward to continuing our success in the future.

What inspired you to start your own company or venture in this industry?

As I mentioned earlier, the company was established by my father, Dr. Engineer Fouad Khamis Al Jamal, in 1985. He gradually built it up over the years, transforming it into a first-category construction company. In 2009, after completing my education, I joined him, and as they say, the rest is history. I always believed that my father had planned for me to continue in his path and work towards expanding the company to its fullest potential.

Let me provide a brief overview of Trust Construction Establishment. It is a leading construction company with a First Category classification, serving as a prominent general contracting company. Throughout its existence, the company has undertaken various construction projects, mainly catering to the requirements of the UAE government, particularly those related to CMW (Command of Military Works). This aligns with the vision of H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of UAE, who envisions a UAE with a diversified and thriving economy.

The company specializes in heavy industrial works, harbors, office and accommodation buildings, special concrete rehabilitation, construction of sports stadiums, closed play courts, special laboratories, and substations in restricted live plant areas.

Trust Construction Establishment boasts a team comprising qualified and trained engineers, professionals, skilled, and experienced tradesmen. Additionally, the company owns a significant portion of the construction equipment and is supported by facilities with computerized project monitoring, accounting, and cost control systems.

With its extensive expertise, financial stability, and professional management, the company has the capability to handle turnkey construction projects independently. Some of the major turnkey projects executed by the company include buildings for the Armed Forces under CMW, the Headquarters of Water & Electricity Department, Coast Guard Base Harbor and Workshop Facilities, and the Radio Production Short-wave and Medium-wave Facilities for the Ministry of Information.

How do you foster innovation within your company? Can you provide an example of a successful innovation initiative?

At Trust Construction Establishment, we pride ourselves on considering our employees as part of our extended family, and we believe that their success is our success. We have numerous examples of employees who have worked with us for years and eventually ventured out to create their own successful businesses, becoming industry leaders. Encouraging a culture of creativity is paramount for us, and we provide employees with the time and space to explore new ideas while promoting open communication.

My management style is heavily influenced by my father, who has been both my mentor and role model. One of the most significant aspects of my approach is maintaining an “Open Door Policy” for all employees. Every member of our team can reach out to me at any time for questions, concerns, or advice.

An example of a successful innovation initiative at Trust Construction is our commitment to nurturing talent from within the company rather than solely relying on external recruitment. By doing so, we foster a sense of belonging and loyalty among employees, making them an integral part of our growth journey.

This program has benefited numerous employees through regular assessments and interviews, considering their educational qualifications, skills, and potential for advancement. An inspiring case involves a pick-up driver who worked in our transportation department, delivering materials to and from construction sites. When we reviewed his questionnaire and survey results, it became evident that he was proficient in English and held a bachelor’s degree in commerce. Recognizing his potential, we provided him with additional training and transferred him to our procurement department. Over the next decade, he rose through the ranks and is now a senior procurement officer, leading a full team. This demonstrates how providing opportunities and allowing employees to prove their worth can lead to their growth within the corporate ladder.

As a result of such initiatives and a supportive work environment, we have achieved one of the highest employee retention rates in the country, with an average tenure of around 12 years. Our commitment to empowering employees and giving them the chance to shine has contributed to their long-lasting loyalty and dedication to the organization.

How do you attract and retain top talent in your organization?

In all honesty, I don’t actively pursue retaining talented employees or make a deliberate effort to keep them in the company. Instead, my focus is on creating an environment within the organization that fosters a strong sense of belonging and makes them feel like a part of the family. To achieve this, I strive to offer a combination of competitive compensation, comprehensive benefits packages, professional development opportunities, and a positive work culture.

Understanding that each individual is unique and has different needs, emotions, and preferences, we provide unique perks and advantages that cater to their specific requirements. These may include flexible work hours, ample opportunities for growth and advancement, and even financial support if required. For instance, we stand out from other organizations by offering our employees financial support or loans with zero interest. This helps our employees during times of need, reducing stress and distractions in their personal lives. By providing them with such support, we believe they can be more focused and efficient in their roles, and in return, they give their utmost dedication to the company. The underlying belief is that a happy and appreciated employee will be more committed to their work and contribute to the organization’s success.

This approach creates a strong family-like atmosphere within the company, resulting in high employee retention rates. We believe that by nurturing a supportive and caring environment, employees are more likely to stay with us for the long term, as they find no compelling reason to seek opportunities elsewhere. Our goal is not just to retain talent but to create a workplace where employees are motivated, fulfilled, and valued members of the team.

How important has mentorship and networking been in your professional journey?

I would say that mentorship has been the most significant and influential aspect of my professional journey, and the person I give the most credit to for shaping me into the man I am today is my Father and Mentor, Dr. Eng. Fouad Khamis Al Jamal. From a young age, my father took it upon himself to groom me, instilling strong morals and ethics in me. He spared no expense in ensuring I received a top-notch education, from high school to my higher education in the United States of America. His investment in my education has had a profound impact on my life.

After graduation, my father took me under his wing and taught me the ropes of the business and the construction industry. Throughout this time, he not only served as my mentor but also became a dear friend with whom I could share everything. He gave me the freedom to make mistakes, but he was always there to guide me and help me understand what I did wrong, thus teaching me valuable problem-solving skills and the ability to learn from my errors.

My father’s mentorship style was never possessive or over-controlling; instead, it was just right. He believed in allowing me to grow and develop as an individual, not merely trying to mold me into a carbon copy of himself. He aimed to see me as an improved and rectified version, and I sincerely hope to live up to his expectations and achieve at least half of what he has accomplished. His guidance and support have been invaluable, and my aspiration is to one day be able to fill his shoes and continue his legacy.

I am deeply grateful for the mentorship and love my father has provided, as it has played a pivotal role in shaping both my personal and professional life.

We asked Mohammad Fouad Al Jamal, How do you assess and mitigate risks in your business?

Risk assessment and risk mitigation in the construction industry are significantly different from other industries, such as offices or retail industries. The construction industry faces a unique set of risks that others may not even have to consider. Unfortunately, the injury rate in the construction sector is higher compared to any other industry. While it may be impossible to entirely eliminate the risk of injury or death in any industry or job site, there are steps that facility managers, building managers, and commercial property managers can take to significantly reduce the risk.

Conducting a risk assessment before the start of any construction project, throughout its duration, and upon completion is crucial. This process helps managers identify potential risks and develop plans to mitigate or reduce those risks. By performing a risk assessment, managers can determine the severity of potential risks and take measures to avoid risks that could lead to financial harm.

A construction risk assessment aims to identify hazardous factors in construction projects. To understand when and how a risk assessment is performed, it is essential to define what a risk is. A risk is the chance that a hazard will cause injury, illness, harm, or other damage. Typically, a risk assessment involves three main steps: identifying hazards, analyzing and evaluating risks, and controlling the risks.

While preventing injuries is a primary goal of risk assessment, there are other reasons to conduct an assessment. It allows for the determination of who is at risk, such as employees or site visitors, raises awareness of potential risks and hazards, evaluates the adequacy of existing measures for controlling risks, identifies the need for specific control programs, and ensures compliance with any legal requirements, if applicable. Proper risk assessment is a crucial aspect of ensuring safety and minimizing potential harm in the construction industry.

How do you adapt your business strategy to capitalize on emerging opportunities and industry shifts?

I would like to emphasize the importance and significance of being proactive and adaptive in today’s dynamic business landscape, and this principle applies not only to our industry but also to all industries. Technology is continuously changing and improving, and it’s essential to stay on top of the game and remain up-to-date; otherwise, there’s a risk of being left behind. I still recall when I first joined the company, and everything was paper-based, from LPOs to material requisitions. However, now we have a fully automated ERB system, and our data is securely stored on cloud servers. Embracing technological advancements and adapting to them have been crucial for our growth.

To ensure that we can adapt and create effective strategies, we conduct regular market research and industry analyses. This helps us identify emerging trends, new technologies, and evolving customer needs. Within our organization, strategic planning includes frequent reviews and updates to align with changing opportunities and challenges.

One of the key lessons I learned from my mentor, my father, is the significance of maintaining a flexible and agile organizational structure. This structure allows for quick decision-making and adjustments as needed. We heavily invest in talent development and research to equip our team with the knowledge to handle emerging opportunities effectively. Additionally, we actively seek partnerships and collaborations to leverage expertise and resources for mutual growth and expansion. We believe in adopting testing and piloting approaches for new initiatives, enabling us to validate and refine new ideas before implementing them on a full scale.

Continuous improvement is at the core of our strategy, and we remain open and flexible to constructive feedback. Our strategies are data-driven and designed to adapt to the dynamics of the market. As we progress, we remain committed to evolving and refining our approach to ensure continued success.

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs in this industry?  

This is a difficult question to answer, as I am still on my own entrepreneurial journey. However, I can share what has worked for me and offer some advice. To begin with, I would tell aspiring entrepreneurs not to be afraid of making mistakes. Challenges are inevitable in their journey, and they come in various forms, but what’s crucial is having passion and purpose. Having a strong passion for what you do and a clear sense of purpose will drive you through difficult times.

I always encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to become lifelong learners. Staying updated on industry trends, market dynamics, and new technologies is vital to remain competitive and innovative. They also need to be resilient and persistent because setbacks are a natural part of the journey, and giving up easily should not be an option.

Mentorship played a significant role in my success, and I highly recommend aspiring entrepreneurs to seek mentors. Mentors provide valuable insights and support based on their own experiences, guiding them through challenges and helping them grow.

Building a strong and diverse team with a shared vision is crucial. A cohesive team can overcome challenges together and achieve success. Additionally, being adaptive and flexible is essential. As an entrepreneur, you must be willing to pivot when necessary based on market feedback and emerging opportunities.

Lastly, I advise them to celebrate small wins. Celebrating small achievements and reaching milestones along the way will keep them and their team motivated and focused on the path to success. Remember, entrepreneurship is a journey, and each step forward, no matter how small, brings you closer to your goals.

Connect with Engineer Mohammad Fouad Al Jamal on LinkedIn.

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