Naji: Hello leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, a podcast for purpose driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership and love. I am Naji your host for today’s episode joined by Dr. Mady a physician scientist, healthcare consultant, serial entrepreneur, and a brilliant innovator.
Ahmed Mady is currently pursuing his executive MBA at MITs Sloan in Boston. While serving as the managing director of his family, textile business in Egypt. Prior to this role, he worked as the senior director of business development at an innovative Boston based diabetes management, startup, Healthy Nation, and as a senior consultant at Navigant Consulting, where he led nerous global life sciences and healthcare projects for pharmaceutical companies Medtech and biotech space. In addition, Dr. Maji has experience conducting translational research at the cardiovascular research center at Harvard medical school, Mass General Hospital. His lab research is focused on stem cell applications in heart diseases and diabetes, where he created han cardiac tissue engineering models.
He earned his medical degree from Alexandria University in Egypt with several rotations in the United States. Ahmed has over 14 years of experience in healthcare business, manufacturing, medical research, and technology management. Welcome Ahmed. I am thrilled to have you with me today.
Ahmed Mady: Thank you so much Naji for the introduction, and it’s my pleasure to be with you on your great podcast.
Naji: Well, I would love to start by knowing you a little bit, more, more about your personal story. What took you from, you know, your childhood in Egypt to medicine to now becoming a serial entrepreneur and a student at MIT. What’s your personal story behind it?
Ahmed Mady: Well, I can tell you it all started back in when I was, 40 years old, when my father wanted to teach me the tricks of a trade. My father owns a textile factory in Egypt and, he wants actually to just make me get involved with him in the factory. So I used to go to the factory and just play as a kid. And when I was 10 years old, he made me work on the factory floor before moving me to the cushy desk, managing the entire business with him when I was 16.
During that time, I had a great experience with the workers and employees of the factory and, I can tell you this great experience with the 500 workers had a profound impact on my life, teaching me many lessons in medicine, in consulting and, in manufacturing and mostly, recently startups. So, when I was working at the factory, everybody was expected that I’m gonna just follow my father’s footsteps and I will enter business school. I will be managing the factory after him. And, when I was working with a factory, just, I felt that all the underprivileged workers and people, they really needed something in healthcare. And, one of the biggest challenges we were facing is the lack of adequate healthcare in the country that made me become more interested in medicine, become more interested in science and I just decided to enter medicine. So during that time, I was working the factory during the first couple of years of medical school while also going to medical school and studying medicine and I decided that I really wanted to focus on the healthcare sector and I finished medical school and got a scholarship to go to the United States to do my internship year. And I would say the rest was history, just continuing my healthcare career for more than 12 years until, I got a call from my father in 2018, telling me that he wasn’t feeling very well.
And he was thinking about closing, shutting down the business. Unless I’m willing to go back and help out. There was lot of mounting losses because of the market and from health perspective, he wasn’t feeling very well to continue managing all the employees. It was a really tough call at that point that I had to make a decision whether I should continue my healthcare period, the United States, or go back to help out and save the business.
Naji: Wow. And obviously you went back and you are working now and you’re leading, right, the textile business of the family, right?
Ahmed Mady: That’s correct. It was a very tough call. I had to discuss with my wife during that time how we would make it work. We have two beautiful kids. We were in school in Boston. My wife was working in Boston and it’s very hard to really do the transition and come back to the middle east, after we established our careers. So she was very supportive and we made the decision that I’ll be spending two weeks in Boston, two weeks in the us until I can figure out a model that the factory can be managed remotely.
So since 2018, I’ve been traveling between Egypt and the United States until COVID happened. And that made me get back in Boston for a couple of months, until the oponing of airports.
Naji: And now you’re back, right? Like you’re between Egypt and Boston. Again, like we’re talking together, you’re in Egypt.
Ahmed Mady: That’s correct. So during that time, I just wanted to strengthen my business acumen and learn more about the business fundamentals. And I made a decision that during my two weeks of staying in Boston, why not just get an executive MBA out of it and learn more how to really do what I’m as aspiring to do, which is how to put a system in my factory that can that I can manage remotely while going back to the us and focus on my other endeavors.
Naji: It’s awesome. And how did, you know, like I feel this healthcare never left you. I know you even, co-founded two startups during the pandemic so that are somehow touching the textile. You’ve done the masks to heroes. You have another startup potentially you wanna talk about also for sanitizing, like you’ve, you know, there is something around this entrepreneurship that you have in your, you know I dunno if it’s in your DNA in your blood, but you have this while also having this healthcare in back of your mind.
Tell us a little bit more about this journey is, and what you’ve done is impressive last year’s and building companies. Now that answers, and again, it helps. Obviously you shared the employees in the beginning, the society where you felt healthcare needs a little bit more of support in that region and globally. So tell us a little bit more like this common thread that you have in all the different adventures that you’re on.
Ahmed Mady: So for my entrepreneurship journey I would say it all started when I was very young and I really liked the business. I wanted to start something, but starting a startup is not an easy thing to do, especially if you have family, if you have commitments. You really need to have some sort of security, to be able to put some foot on the table. So when I made a decision to go back to my father’s factory, I still have this huge interest in healthcare and coming up with ideas, but I can tell you honestly, that the moment I went back and I moved from this steady job to become, to managing the business, I just felt freedom.
You know, I really don’t really need to report to somebody. I don’t need to go back and and work towards promotion or make sure that my review will come, you know, pretty great. So I can get a raise on my salary. I just felt freedom on my end. And this freedom gave me the option to rethink out of the box and made me think about what else do we need, you know, during the pandemic when we were faced by huge shortage of medical supplies and masks. I put two production lines from my factory to produce masks. And when we faced shortage of chemical sanitizers, I came up with a small device, you can attach to the back of sanitizer utilizing some technology that I used during my lab work at Harvard utilizing ultraviolet C technology to kill viruses and bacteria within seconds.
So I can tell you that the main thing in order to really tackle problems is to free your mind and make yourself think out of the box without any limitation, thinking that you really need to report to somebody or work towards the promotion or keep put on the table.
Naji: Ahmed, It sounds so simple when you say it, it’s just so impressive.
Like you found a problem that was a public health problem with face masks. You found a solution and it’s not only business. I know for each mask that you were, you are producing, you were giving back a mask for healthcare providers and, the sanitizer, like this is such a great idea that can help us all say, so it’s, it’s just amazing how you’re, you know, you have always this healthcare with business ,so with good also behind it’s really great to hear this.
I wanna double down on something you shared in the beginning you know, 16 years old working with 500 employees, you said you had life learning, managerial and leadership experiences that you took. I’d love to hear more about this and how you took this in a startup world in healthcare while leading today in manufacturing textile business with again, more than 500 people working for you.
What are those things that as a teenager, you learned that you are definitely keep on doing it as an executive today in the healthcare world?
Ahmed Mady: That’s a great question. I would say that it really came down to my father’s philosophy when he wanted me to learn about business. He put me on the factory floor and working with the employees, eating with them, talking to them, understanding their language was this huge, you know, has this huge impact on how I learned to do things.
When we learn things in business school, we learn how to really put strategies, how to execute on a strategy, how to do some operational management. But what’s, I would say more important and before even learning all of this, is understanding the language of who you are working with, understanding their culture, their thoughts, and understanding what they think about, you know, the place and why they are here.
And just by being around all these workers, that taught me a lot of things that I kept forward. When I was, you know, when I started managing the business with my father, so forming this great and strong relationship with the workers when I was super young, you know, when I was 10 or 11 made them feel that I’m not a manager. I’m not I’m not somebody different than them. It just happened that I’m the son of the owner. And now we are working together to achieve great things for all of us. And instead of thinking that, yes, you are a manager and I’m an employee, or I’m a worker. No, we are here for just one goal, is to do something great that will make all of us happy, that we can make that can make us feel that yes, we accomplished what we are working towards at the same time, there’s some return that will make our life better. And just understanding this, you know, very simple things will make people really work with you as great team players instead of looking at you as a manager and an employee.
Naji: Creating this culture, right, of care, of you’re all together, working, you said words common purpose, obviously making things great.
Ahmed Mady: And, understanding their pain. So when you work with somebody for example, like when you are working on understanding that there’s a huge need for healthcare and you start talking to them about, okay, let’s secure some healthcare, good healthcare insurance companies that can really help, you know, if any of you or your family members, you know, get any into any issue. Do you really understand that you are not here to make them work harder so you can get richer or, you know, make more money. You are here that for a purpose that we are all working towards better living. And when you work in a textile factory or textile business, it’s very hard to tell somebody, yes, we are here for great cause because you are just doing a product. It’s an economy scale thing, you know, where you are manufacture some goods, you’re selling these for X amount of dollars. You’re paying the salaries and it’s very hard, you know, when you explain to somebody why you are doing this. It’s just a very simple, you know, business comparing this to healthcare or to vaccines or to do something where you can really inspire people that we are doing this to save the world.
So understanding their pain points, just feel these pain points, be good human being, you know, just the empathy, you know, being empathetic with them, that can really carries a long way in managing a business and, just doing great things for people.
Naji: And, we shared what we were discussing before one, you know, there was the pandemic, there was also a moment, an unfortunate moment, recently in your in your plant that you lived with with your people.
And I’d love to go into this concrete example because it really shows what you’re talking about, how you cared about people and where you drove them towards this bigger purpose as an organization. Even though yes, sometimes in healthcare is easier, right? Like we’re living to save lives or to make people’s lives better, but you too, like, you’re managing them with care to where it’s this purpose that you created, this culture of purpose that you created.
So I I’d love, if you can tell us a little bit more this concrete story and how as a leader, you went through it and you’re back into an amazing continuous growing successes.
Ahmed Mady: Sure. So during COVID, let me start by COVID. COVID was a very challenging time, that when COVID happened we started getting cancellations for the majority of our orders. You know, stores were closed. Our clients said that we are not working and they start canceling orders. We start seeing all the factors around us, pretty much the majority of them, fleeing of people saying that we don’t have work, we need to shut down, or we need to put a pause, you know, until things will go back on track. And the way we thought about it is how we can actually go through this challenge all together as one team without affecting anybody. And from a medical background, I realized that there would be huge need for PPEs, you know, and masks and patient gowns and doctor scrubs. So I start pitching actually the first idea to my classmates at MIT saying that I’m thinking about making mask outta fabric, and that was a even before, you know people were like, just thinking about, you know, these fabric mask as a normal thing. I was thinking about two ways, two things. The first one, there would be huge shortage for medical supplies, and they’d love to help out, in this the second, how can actually make my workers, you know, continue to work.
How can I afford them? How can I make the factory, keep the factory open during this pandemic? And that helped a lot, you know, we manage to really make thousands of these masks and sell them and keep everybody’s job, we didn’t lay any layoff, any single employee. And that thing, you know, when workers felt that, oh, we have been working in this factory for years and other workers in other factors were laid off or they lost their jobs while we still keep our jobs that made them feel that we are literally working as one family and not just as, you know, as a business. It’s a family business who literally, we are dealing with everybody as a family.
Then, you know, COVID happens. We were going through COVID and then we were faced by another big challenge. And I would say this was the biggest challenge of my life where back in January, in the morning at 11 o’clock in the morning, we had huge explosion erupted on the top floor and a huge fire happened in our printing house. During that time I was actually at the nearby bank, I got a call from one of the employees screaming over the phone saying that I had to really go back immediately to the factory because the factory was on fire. And during that time, you know, I tried calling many people in the factory. Nobody was picking up. I tried calling my dad, he wasn’t answering my phone, so I had to rush to the factory. And during that time I just found five trucks standing in front of the factory, hundreds of our employees outside of the gates and were saying that we still have a dozen employees on the top word that are still trapped. I just couldn’t feel myself. I just ran, you know, towards the tough floor. And I asked the firemen if they were able to really rescue them, they said that they were facing some challenges getting, you know, knowing the weight. So I just had to go up with them and figure out, you know, how I can help.
I showed them, you know, the shortcuts and I like, we spend pretty much the next 20 minutes putting down the fire and we were successful in getting everybody out except one employee that we unfortunately lost during that fire.
Naji: oh, I’m sorry.
Ahmed Mady: It was a huge tragedy on everybody and it was just shocking experience that we had to deal with. The next day, there were a lot of things that we had to do to really bring back the team together and get that production up and running. One of them is just allow people, you know, to mourn, to listen to all of them and, and see what they wanna do and there are a lot of details here, I don’t wanna, you know, continue the details, but I would say to summarize the experience, having a huge shocking experience like that will test people’s internal motivation and people’s morale and morals. And I can tell you that the majority of our employees really did an amazing and understanding job in just working together and and getting the whole factory back into production very, very fast.
I was surprised to see our workers working 15 consecutive days without one single day off. I was also surprised to see that nobody was asking for any, you know, work and not asking for any overtime or anything like that. Despite the fact that at the end, you know, I got all their full salaries and with over time, but I felt that people were really acting as one family and instead of just taking advantage of the situation.
Naji: Ahmed, you led the way, like, it’s impressive. You went in, you were in the fire, you went with the firefighters, you went there. They saw you, right? Like, I think you’re such a genuine caring leader that this is why they are showing up. Like, it’s really this culture as you shared in the beginning, and thank you for sharing, again, this painful experience by showing again, this genuine care and leading with your heart makes people, you know, strive for whatever purpose they are on and for the company they work for. Thanks, thanks Ahmed again for sharing this with us.
Ahmed Mady: Thank you for the nice words, but I really want to give the credit to all the team. It’s not me. I just acted, you know, as a human being, not as a leader, you know, or as I would say, like, not as a manager and just everybody was working towards, you know, getting this whole factory. They felt, they told me this is our second home and we can’t let our second home go like that and it was a very humbling experience.
Naji: Well, with this, I’d love to jump into another section, where we are going to play some sort of a game. I will giving you a one word and I’d love to hear your top of mind thoughts.
So the first word for you is entrepreneurship
Ahmed Mady: Freedom.
Naji: Tell me more, you shared a little bit in the beginning, but I’d love to hear what you call freedom.
Ahmed Mady: Freedom, freedom, innovation, leaving your impact on the world. Creating jobs, coming up with something very new and making it happen, turning ideas into reality.
Naji: Great. What about disruption?
Ahmed Mady: disruption? Thinking differently. Moving, advancing the world and leaving a dent in this universe.
Naji: I’m gonna say OP.
Ahmed Mady: Okay. It’s actually, it’s very important. Organization process is very important. Having the three lenses where you have the strategic political and culture lens is a great way of leading your organization.
It’s very true that a lot of lessons that we learned in op, you can apply practically and not theoretically on the ground and see if there effects pretty quickly, including having a buy-in from your team to change an organization behavior, including anchoring an idea in somebody’s mind, or in the team’s, you know your team and making them work towards this idea, just working with your team and, trying to lobby for a specific goal or specific action. So, it’s OP all the way. If you really wanna create a good culture and lead the organization in a great effective way.
Naji: And, to finish this section what about spread love in organizations?
Ahmed Mady: It’s very important. Spreading love. Love is humanity, you know, being a human is what it takes to really have a great organization.
Naji: Great. And I wanna end this with you know, a shout out for your work with mask to heroes as the pandemic is still here and we’re still living it every day. So a shout out for everyone hearing us to go and get masks and help out also the community to give back also for the community and, for so many healthcare workers who are on the frontlines.
Ahmed Mady: I wanna actually give a shout out to all the MIT and the colleagues who made this idea happen without their help, you know, masks would just be an idea, but everybody jumped on the board and we turned an idea into a reality in two weeks, we start selling thousands of these masks in two weeks and, that was because of the help of all the whole class of the executive MBA at MIT.
Naji: Very nice. Ahmed, moving forward with you know, from the 16 year, and even you said 10 years old to, healthcare being a physician working in care and then leading now the organization and different companies how, like, how would you continue, you know, spreading love in organizations, as you said, this is the key point of a human being, right? How looking forward, what would you take from all your learning and now that you that you’re here and you wanna keep on growing, I’m sure, the different businesses that you have.
Ahmed Mady: Sure. Outside, by continually learning, you know, from your colleagues and from employees and clients in any organization, and to learn, you need to listen.
You really need to have active listening, not just listen and learn about what makes people happy in an organization. What makes them love this organization? How can you increase you know, spreading this love and most importantly, just showing empathy being good human being always, always care for the people and people will care for you.
Naji: You know, you talked about a lot about leadership, about the impact of your father, who told you very early on, any leader, you know, in around you that inspires you and that you look up to and help during this leadership journey that you’re on.
Ahmed Mady: Many leaders. The first one I would say my father, is my role model.
There are lots of leaders that he actually takes. So every leader has actually a great strength in one point. And I love reading about all entrepreneurs, you know, from the famous entrepreneurs who are currently among us, in basis, Elon Musk and all those people, they’re great and specific things, you know, where they made their organization tremendously successful.
And there are other leaders like you know, Tony Shay, of Zappos, you know, who created a great culture and Bill Gates, you know, and all these great names. So it’s a learning experience and they continue to learn every day from all of them.
Naji: The patchwork of different strength that you have, right. You talked about reading, any type of mind book you have for our audience to read these days.
Ahmed Mady: I really like, I would say how to make habits, the power of habits. And when you really try to understand the social normal and and the market norm, there is a great book called predictably irrational. It’s it’s a great one about understanding how people think and how people can help each other. Ut’s it’s a great one.
Naji: Great. Any final word of wisdom that you have for the students you know around you, or the entrepreneur in healthcare, specifically, any final word from you?
Ahmed Mady: Well, I continue to learn from all our colleagues and from you, Naji, and from all amazing colleagues. And, I consider myself a student, you know, of life, continue to learn every day. The only thing I can share, you know, here is final words just being a good human, you know, is a shortcut to great leader. That’s one thing. The second, I would say that when you work with people and and you talk to them, people will always remember how you make them feel, not what you tell them. So be mindful of your words and how people can, you know, how people feel after you talk to them and there is a lot of humbling lessons that I learned during this, you know Fire crisis, and I continue to learn from every day from our employees and from everybody around around me.
Naji: Be a good human is a shortcut to be a great leader, it’s so powerful.
I wanna end with this sentence and thank you so much again, Ahmed for being with me today and for this genuine discussion, You shared such inspiring stories for us all to continue leading with genuine care and love for a better healthcare around the word.
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