It never crossed my mind that I would ever be writing such a foreword. I have always looked to the future, with my beloved son Rami taking the lead, not only in business but for the family too, trusting that with his vision and judgment he would carry on the flame, so when I departed I would have peace of mind. But fate was stronger than dreams and hopes. God bestowed death on Rami for reasons that are beyond reasoning.
Ever since Rami took over the management of our family business when he was only 25, he had a vision of his own. He wanted to ‘build for tomorrow and not for today’.
My decision to appoint him as my successor was taken after a lot of thought and after watching him grow and perform in an increasingly mature and assured manner. Rami flourished with the responsibility, bringing passion, vision, ambition and great humanity to his administration of business.
At the time, some were hesitant and uncomfortable about my decision to promote Rami at such a young age to a senior role within our family business, doubting whether he had sufficient experience to succeed. Of course, as a new graduate he could not have managed without having experienced things first hand. He had to start from the factory floor and go up through all departments to understand the processes needed to complete our work.
Before graduating he always accompanied me to meetings and witnessed the negotiations of contracts and the purchase of companies, which gave him a firsthand experience that is not found in text books.
As well as this he accompanied me through my visits to world leaders. Even when he did his masters degree, he had it catered to the needs of the company so he was better placed to take a leading role.
Rami was conscious that it is a leader’s responsibility to set an example, so he lived his principles every minute of every day. I had faith in him and he did not disappoint me at all. I would encourage anyone faced with a similar choice to do likewise and embrace all that the next generation can bring to a business, and guide them through their first steps, then leave them to soar.
Rami’s approach to leadership was fundamentally centred on what he used to call ‘the core principles of listening, selfishness for selflessness, and clarity of goals’.
He was very much concerned that the business principles and values he had learned at business school were being implemented by our management team worldwide. ‘I found my calling in this organisation,’ he said one day.
He voiced his concerns at the outset, but later on became somewhat obsessed with the idea of proper governance: selection and de-selection, succession planning, independent directors, board committees, audits, controls and, most importantly, comprehensive transparency. These were the terms that he kept repeating until he managed, through the Evolution and Revolution processes that he had implemented throughout our group of companies, to instil the foundations of well designed corporate governance as he led the business through a period of exponential growth.
Rami was also committed to corporate social responsibility and believed that big business could be a beneficial, not detrimental, force in the world.
Thanks to Rami, Future Pipe Industries now has a robust culture of corporate governance, led by a board comprising both executive and independent non-executive members who oversee and guide all aspects of the group’s business. We also have ethics and social responsibility policies which are embedded in our corporate culture. I am convinced we benefit greatly from these initiatives.
Rami has written and lectured about these concepts. He rallied senior executives and board directors around his ideas and was so excited about these issues to the point that, had the day-to-day business not kept him from doing it, he would have dedicated his life to teaching people how to do things better.
He was perfectly conscious of the impact on a business of volatility in unstable economies and has always promoted the value of strengthening one’s ability to adapt from within to changes in the external world. For him, ‘Change is the constant force that is driving our industry into the future.’ We see now how right he was.
He wanted to do all this following the highest standards of ethics. Moral integrity and honesty would always be for Rami the driving values. Adopting moral values throughout his short life and being by nature a very humble person did not prevent Rami from being firm when it came to business. ‘Do it now and get it done’ is what he used to say.
He also said ‘Be humble, be accountable.’ He wanted to pass on the message that one can be firm and humble at the same time, but still be accountable and only then ‘share in the wealth, success and knowledge’.
As an active member of the Board of Directors of the Young Arab Leaders and also a member of the Young Presidents Organization, he shared with his contemporaries his great belief in the development of youth and the enhancement of their entrepreneurship skills. This was not only an end in itself; he felt this was the best way to change the misguided negative image of young Arab men and women propagated by the western media.
A descendant’s duties and obligations are to make known and preserve their forefathers’ legacy, heritage and traditions. This is to provide present and future generations with a heritage of honour that will help them in building a solid future on a base of knowledge, wisdom and farsightedness. It’s a tradition that Rami embraced, making documentary films about our family’s rich history, and with this book it is now our sad duty to share with you our son’s legacy, heritage and traditions.
Rami believed we should share stories we remember about the generations from whom we have received our heritage. From these stories we can see how their lives have influenced ours, perhaps in ways which we have not been previously aware. Through these stories, Rami believed, we keep our family virtues and values alive. This opens the pathway for us to make our own contribution to the story of our family, our children and the generations to come. And now, with this book, we can see how Rami’s life has influenced ours, perhaps in ways which we have not previously been aware.
This book will join the valuable texts that have been already written about our family by Dr Mahmoud Mustafa Halawi in Banu Makhzum. However, this book is not a documentary, a textbook or a manual, and it is not just a family heirloom. It’s a different kind of story.
When we selected Rami’s professor from London Business School, Steven Sonsino, to write this book, together with his partner Jacqueline Moore, from the London Financial Times, both of whom knew Rami, we knew that we would have a more intimate biography and a more journalistic story. It is a story of wide relevance to executives round the world, whether they knew him or not, and whether they are CEOs of their own businesses or the next generation of business leaders. I think Rami would have liked this and we hope you learn something relevant for your own life from these insights into Rami’s life, his vision and his success.
Finally, I hope this book will give pride to Rami’s girls – May, Yasmeena and Nour – his mother May and his sisters Tamara and Camellia, knowing that Rami’s vision is still carried on for future generations, and inspiring all of them to follow in his footsteps and hopefully to leave a mark in this world. For us, his parents, it will also be a step in our healing process, knowing that his untimely departure was not in vain.