Akhtaboot sat down with Hikma Pharmaceuticals’ Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Said Darwazah to learn more about what it takes to become part of the Hikma team and how has Hikma’s corporate culture helped attract the best talent.
How do you start your day?
I start my day by reading the news; The Financial Times, CNN and New York Times. I also like to catch up on the latest happenings in sports and the pharmaceutical industry.
Tell us 3 things you like and 3 things you dislike about your current position.
What I do is very exciting yet very challenging. We are in the midst of growing the business. For the last 10 years, the size of our business has been doubling every 3-4 years. It is easy to double from 300 to 600, but when you get to a billion and a half, and you aim to get to three billion in sales, it becomes much more difficult. Nevertheless, I love a good challenge!
We do it because we love to do it not because we have to do it. My senior team has done very well financially over the past 10 years so they succeed because they love what they do as well.
I love to meet different business leaders and to attend and present at conferences. What I dislike the most is traveling; I don’t mind travelling to other countries in the Middle East and Europe, but my trips to the US have become a bit of a physical challenge as I have to go there 3-4 times a year.
Since we are a publicly traded company, our shares are followed very closely. If you look at Hikma’s shares they are always fluctuating, so I face some sort of pressure especially from my friends and family. What’s funny is that when the value of the share increases, no one calls to say thank you! My biggest critic is my son Shareef, every time the share value goes down he calls me and asks “Dad what did you do? Why is it down?” But when the value increases, I ask him “Why didn’t you call to congratulate me?” He says: “Dad that’s your job.”
We come across many job seekers that complain about the lack of career opportunities, and companies face difficulty in finding the right candidate as well.Where do you think the problem stems from?
When you reach a stage like Hikma Pharmaceuticals, Nuqul Group or Aramex, you become a well known and attractive company, so it becomes much easier to recruit the best people. You become a magnet. However when we started 20 years ago it wasn’t as easy.
Jordan had a lot of qualified people but connecting the right person to the right job was almost impossible. 10-15 years ago, professional HR departments were nowhere to be found, even in top companies. The internet, and online recruitment websites such as Akhtaboot has made it easier to connect job seekers to employers today.
What makes one strive and succeed in the Jordanian economy and workforce?
Jordan is a very small and super competitive market. I strongly believe that anyone with serious ambitions to grow their business can make it here. From a company point of view, Jordan is a wonderful place to recruit from; there are a lot of highly qualified people and youngsters who are exposed and well educated. Jordan is also a great place to find skilled workforce, especially mid-level managers.
I think the ideal situation here, particularly if you are working in manufacturing or software is to create your products in Jordan and sell them abroad. If you can eventually achieve this formula you can be very successful. I also believe that the government and the laws here are very helpful, especially for companies that export.
What makes Hikma’s corporate culture stand out? How does this culture help you attract the best talent?
I think Hikma is a great school. It is a company that has grown and has many specialized departments. Whether you want to work in Marketing, Sales, Finance, Operations or Design; it’s all there. But what I think makes Hikma stand out is that we like employees to be multi-disciplined. I always say that if you want to succeed you need to be able to do many things. In today’s world, if you’re only an accountant, you will get somewhere but you will never grow.
At Hikma, we believe in rotational training, so you might start somewhere and then in a year and a half end up somewhere else. So by the time you have 3-4 years of experience, you will become well rounded and have an excellent level of exposure, and you have the opportunity to go abroad with Hikma within the Middle East, Europe,or the United States.
Once you reach mid-level management, we spend a lot of money on training, re-training and education. We have a lot of programs that employees can enroll in to continue their education. We send a lot of kids back to school to get their MBA’s or Masters. We also help employees that have only completed their Tawjeehi by sending them back to school to earn their Bachelor’s degree.
How do you retain your top talent?
We have a lot of incentive programs in the company depending on the level you reach. At Hikma, we offer cash bonuses and shares. We have career path development, educational programs and we offer our people the opportunity to move from field to field from and country to country. Adding those benefits together creates a very attractive incentive package.
We like to pride ourselves in having a very low turnover rate; Employees who have been with us for 6-7 years rarely leave.
Any success stories?
There is a beautiful story I always like to share: An 18-year old young man joined us as a welder, and after a few years of working, it was clear that this kid was very bright, but didn’t have the opportunity to continue his education. So we helped him go back to college and he eventually earned his Bachelor and Master degrees.
To this day, he is one of the top engineers in the company. He is responsible for building new factories abroad. He has become a world class expert in his field.
This proves that it’s not all about graduating from the best university; it’s about your willingness to succeed and excel. Anyone with this kind of mindset will find an opportunity at Hikma.
What are the top traits that you think your employees and potential hires should possess to succeed at Hikma?
You have to be very smart and up to date with what’s happening in the real world. You also have to be very ambitious and open to relocation. You need to have the drive to succeed – not just to make money. I always tell my people that if you are motivated by success, then this is the place to be. Because once you succeed, money will follow. But if you are only working to make money, Hikma is not the right place for you.
What advice would you give to the future generation of Jordan?
The thing that hurts me the most is the number of people who leave Jordan to work outside, especially in the Gulf. So my advice is: even if you go outside to work, keep in mind that you eventually have to come back and invest your talents in Jordan. You also should never underestimate the value of the support that you get from your family and friends in your home country.
What do you think of the Akhtaboot brand?
I have faith in Akhtaboot as a brand, and I would like for it to continue to succeed. I’m a fan of services that bring together job seekers and employers. It allows job seekers to choose the company that suits their aspirations, and makes it easier for companies to choose the best talent. Akhtaboot is very well in demand and provides much needed services. I think Akhtaboot plays a very important role here in helping job seekers and companies.
Mr. Said Darwazah
Chairman & CEO of Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC
Mr. Said Darwazah is the Chairman & CEO of Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC, the holding company for the Hikma Group, established in Jordan in 1978 and listed on the London Stock Exchange since 2005. From 1994 until 2003, Darwazah served as Chairman and CEO of Hikma Investment Company, then the holding company for the Hikma Group. From 2003 until 2006 he held the position of Minister of Health in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Darwazah is Chairman of the Board of the Dead Sea Touristic Real Estate Investment and is Chairperson of the Health Care Accreditation Council. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Jordan and is a member of the Board of Trustees of Jordan University of Science Technology as well as the International College (Beirut). Darwazah has a degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University in the United States and an M.B.A. from INSEAD, France.