Neelan Mahendran, Founder and Managing Director of Fimcen, talks to The Ortus Club’s Ali Noelle Sy about the role a managing director plays in empowering people and driving progress as well as the new opportunities presented by social media.
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Can you give us a one-sentence summary of your company?
Fimcen is an engineering service provider based in Australia for the electrical industry, covering things like drafting and estimation support services and other engineering support services in the Australian market.
Can you describe the of role a Managing Director in one word? Why?
To me, I think, the one word I would use is ‘empowerment’. I think it’s all of our responsibilities as leaders in any kind of business to empower our people to be able to take on the job and the role that we do right now so that, in the future, when we’re no longer around to allow their progression, they’re able to then step into the shoes and also take on those roles as well.
What current challenges are Managing Directors facing right now? Can you identify a solution?
From my perspective, Fimcen is a startup company, so many of the challenges that are being faced are systematic challenges and challenges that are part of establishing a new business, whether it comes from the documentation process systems and so on.
However, if we were to step outside of the startup mindset, I would suggest that COVID has resulted in many people reassessing their work and their life balance, and they have changed what their drivers are. I think it has now led all of us business leaders to reassess what that actually means for each of our businesses, and I think that that’s going to be the biggest challenge.
For me, I don’t think I’ve got a silver bullet for any business in particular, but the way I’m going to actually approach this particular problem is really to stay true to my workforce and be honest with them and make sure that they’re involved in the conversation and how that’s actually going to impact them.
Sometimes that may not be what they want to hear because I need to also make sure that the needs of the company are fulfilled as well, and, a lot of the time, people only consider themselves, but I am mindful that there has to be a balance between both the company’s needs and also the people’s needs.
I think my strategy is really to be open to listening to what their needs are and understanding or trying to understand what their needs are and making sure that we adapt to those needs.
“I am mindful that there has to be a balance between both the company’s needs and also the people’s needs”
How do you explain the success you’ve had in your career?
I would put it down to hard work, perseverance, and trusting myself and the people that are actually working with me. I know that it takes a great deal of courage to be able to push forward, especially through the challenges that each business and your personal life throws at you.
However, the one great piece of advice I was always given was, ‘You have two ears and one mouth.” So, you should use them in such a ratio, so I try to listen double the time that I speak.
Can you tell us about a time you took a major risk in your career?
That’s undoubtedly leaving gainful employment of 18 years, but like any kind of risk, in business, it’s always balanced. It’s a calculated risk, and you have to always have contingency plans just in case things start to go wrong.
So, I think although it is the biggest risk, I try to always have fallback plans and other avenues that I could go down should things go wrong.
How can you see your role evolving in the next two to three years?
To me, I didn’t see it evolving much at all, but just recently, I met a fellow businessman. We were chatting about what my business meant and what the needs of my business were. He made it quite clear to me that, for the survival of my business, it needed to be bigger than myself.
So, really, it’s about myself divesting what my role is within the organisation and looking for new opportunities and areas of growth for the business. So, that’s really where I see the biggest change going forward.
What marketing or general business trends are you taking advantage of right now?
By far, social media has been the biggest change in the marketing of my time and the business. What it has done is it’s given us the opportunity to be able to promote our values and our ideas, but I think that the biggest opportunity is being able to share your knowledge and being able to help others not make the same mistakes you did or maybe actually take advantage of some of the things that worked well for you. Teaching is close to my heart, and it is something that I really take a great deal of pleasure from, so I see this as a real opportunity to be able to share the learnings from my life.
What career advice would you like to share with Managing Directors?
It’s up to us to stop, listen, watch, and learn. As I said before, two ears, one mouth. Use them in proportion. So, listen and take heed of what’s going on around you and the feedback that you’re getting from the market. That will help guide you into the future.