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3 lessons of Brilliant Business Models

Creating value in 5 minutes

By Salem Samhoud, &samhoud

Last February I had an appointment with an international client at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. While I was waiting for him I had a brief conversation with his assistant. Eight months later I received this letter from this same assistant. For privacy reasons I have made it anonymous.

“Dear Salem,
We met in the Amsterdam Sheraton Airport hotel in February earlier this year. I was then the Personal Assistant to xxx, the Managing Director of xxx and we met over breakfast. While waiting for him to come down to breakfast, I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes. You asked me what my role was in the company and I told you that I pretty much shadowed xxx wherever he went and whatever he did in the company. What you asked me next blew me away and those few minutes alone with you made such a huge and profound impact on my life. You asked me 3 things: 

1. After your Managing Director leaves, what happens to you?
2. Have you spent a lot of time with your family because at the end of the day what your family thinks of you is what matters most.
3. Is there a soul in your company?

Only recently have I managed to achieve the answers to those questions. The first one was tough. Very tough. I actually had to think very, very deeply immediately after our conversation and it went on for months. Only as recent as August when my MD left the company I knew what the answer was: I was no longer a shadow. I was invisible without him. For the first few weeks I was in a deep depression, thinking of whether my services were still needed or whether I was of any value anymore. I didn’t have to think very hard or long. I knew deep in my heart that my passion was gone the minute he left and I had to move on too. Taking my destiny into my own hands, I resigned a month after he did with no other offer in my hands. But I had the confidence that something would come eventually. I sent my CV out to only one company and within a month I received a very decent offer from them which I have accepted. God willing, I start there in December for the next phase in life.

If the first question hit me on the head, the second one hit me in the heart. I have a 3 year old boy and for the better part of his 3 years, I was usually travelling and away from home two weeks out of every month. Thankfully, he is very attached to me and I have not missed the important days, i.e. the first time he walked, spoke a word and his birthdays. I had not taken many days leave but since March, I have actually taken a few days out of every month just to spend time with him and my wife. He is at the age now where guidance is needed and I try to be there for him at every opportunity.

The third question was more professional in nature, but it got me thinking when I got back to the office. The answer was that the company did not have one. Not one to be proud of anyway. It has more of a wandering, lost soul. And it is very sad when you try your best to change things around but to no avail. I guess my leaving the company is also due to the fact that I can’t be in a soul-less place because I will eventually become soul-less by it.

This is a tale about facing up to reality, having hope and doing what your heart thinks is right and best. And it is that tale that you often hear about the people you meet that has made a big impact in your life, no matter how short that meeting can be. We may never meet again, but what you’ve given me in those 3-5 minutes in Amsterdam is something that I can never forget. And I thank you for that.

Today is my last day at xxx, and this is probably the second last email I will be sending out from here. The final one being a goodbye note to all.

Kind regards,

………………… “

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