SENSITIVE ISSUE: Farhod Kamilov, Olam Pharm CEO about happiness in the workplace, eastern diplomacy and time for prayer

Farhod Kamilov, CEO of Olam Pharm, an Uzbek network of pharmacies, is an absolutely happy man and admits it openly. Moreover, his feeling of happiness is confirmed by the results of the TEIQue emotional intelligence test by the Thomas System, one of the most accurate assessment methods for business today.

Perhaps the secret is that the network of pharmacies has been developing rapidly for two years and promises to double the number of 20 stores by the end of the year. Or that, thanks to the biometric tests of the first Uzbek pharmaceutical corporation MEROS, which includes Olam Pharm, they managed to create an almost ideal company, with every person is in the right place, which means it is a pleasure to manage.

Or perhaps geography plays an important role – after all, it is not a secret that Central Asia is more stable than Eastern Europe, the notorious eastern diplomacy is of decisive importance here, and decisions are made and taken by colleagues as a manifestation of a wise strategy. Or maybe all these factors played together. We tried to figure it out.

Leadership Journey (LJ): What is the cause of the rapid growth and development of the Olam Pharm network?

Farhod Kamilov (F.K.): Our corporation has a full cycle of interaction with the client, it has its own production, distribution, representative office, and its own retail network. We are present at all stages of the business, from start to finish.

Sodium chloride, glucose, and metronidazole are produced in our plant in the Samarkand region — more than 30 positions. This is one of the few factories that has GMP certification in Asia, and also goes through all the necessary procedures for obtaining GMP according to the European standard. Manufacturers are always tempted to produce medicines from low-quality substances, but we buy raw materials exclusively in Europe, where a manufacturing plant is responsible for quality.

We realize that sales should be personal, unique, and we strive for this, using the experience of our Ukrainian colleagues from the Faculty-Farm company, which is located in Dnipro. We largely focus on the experience of this company, as it has a «gold mine» of practical cases. We open our shops not just for the sake of increasing the quantity — we work for quality.

Previously the pharmaceutical market, say, the Ukrainian one, was formed over a period of 10–15 years; in Uzbekistan, these processes will take place in three to four years. Technology is growing fast; competition is starting to set the pace. And we clearly understand that our main advantage is speed.

We open our outlets not just for the sake of increasing their number – we work for quality.

LJ: Would you call your network the first innovative network in Uzbekistan?

F.K.: We want Olam Pharm to be an innovative network, which is using technologies to allow us to be flexible, agile and efficient in reacting to requests. When our potential customers need to go a pharmacy, they should think Olam Pharm. This is our big goal. That is, we must understand how to be closer and more convenient, to build the path of the client. All this is due to business processes, corporate culture, and technology.

LJ: What can you offer your customers, what is your competitive advantage?

F.K.: First, it is an on the spot consultation of our pharmacist. Second, we have comfortable prices. Also, the purchase price is always comfortable for our company. We do not buy through third-fourth hands, but directly from manufacturers or first suppliers. Thirdly, we have various promotions for some types of products.

We also understand that today not only the price is one of the main reason in choosing a pharmacy, but also time. And with us, the service time already comes to the forefront. This is the reason why we open pharmacies in retail places. We are gradually entering the markets, supermarkets, shopping centers. For Ukraine, this is habitual, but for Uzbekistan, it is not.

LJ: How does the state affect the pharmacy business? Does Uzbekistan have state pharmacy whales with which you have to compete?

F.K.: Law regulates any pharmaceutical company. That is, we cannot charge more than 20% of the purchase price. There are enterprises in Uzbekistan that have a state share. This is, for example, Dori-Darmon pharmaceutical company, which has pharmacies located in many public hospitals. Yes, this is a giant, but we are more mobile, more flexible and react very quickly to changes in the market

LJ: How did you get into the pharmacy business? What was decisive in your choice?

F.K.: By chance. From a colleague from a previous job, I had learned about the CEO vacancy in the Olam Pharm pharmacy chain. I refused because there was a «long distance» between my background of an economist and systems analyst and pharmaceutical business. But after the interview with Maxim Kostromskoy, my opinion changed. I felt I wanted this job.

Let me explain why. I follow the foreign press related to management and marketing, I note how companies work. Corporate values are ruling. I was reading about it and thinking that in our country it was all possible to implement only in three or four years. Uzbekistan is a country with a high-value threshold, but very few companies have a healthy corporate culture. In Uzbekistan, they can be counted on the fingers. The competition sets the pace, and if tomorrow Uzbek companies start to introduce corporate culture, work on a vision, mission, experts will start joining the companies, and this will be the migration of the best personnel. Having a good financial portfolio does not mean that you will be efficient and successful in the market.

Uzbekistan is a country with a high-value threshold, but very few companies have a healthy corporate culture

LJ: What is your role as a leader in the position of CEO? Do you lead, guide or go with your colleagues?

F.K.: We definitely go together. I am responsible for implementing the indicators that were laid down in the development strategy of the Olam Pharm company. I understand perfectly well that I cannot achieve this alone; there must be a team. And I understand that there are no perfect leaders, something is good, something is bad. And I need to choose the team that compensates for my weaknesses. It will be much more effective. In my work and in management, I rely on the book by Itzhak Adizes An Ideal Leader: Why they cannot become and what follows from this”.

LJ: How open are you as a manager? Is it easy to get to you «without a call?»

F.K.: Yes, anyone can come and talk. A nurse’s aide or pharmacist can come up to discuss their problem. If the immediate supervisor does not hear an employee, I will certainly hear. Anyone in the company can come up with an idea, saying, let us do it this way; let us do better. We will calculate “on a napkin” the profit-loss of the idea. If everything is okay, we will launch it into life — first, at the micro level, and if everything goes well, then it will be implemented throughout the network. I always say that no one should scold a colleague if his idea had failed. He should know that we do not punish for an initiative. This is extremely important.

WE DO NOT PUNISH FOR AN INITIATIVE

LJ: In recruitment, how do you distribute roles in Olam Pharm? Who is responsible for hiring – you or the HR manager?

F.K.: The CEO of the company takes full responsibility in hiring employees; the final decision is his. The HR manager can express his professional point of view, and we will listen to her. If you are talking about top management, then I am directly involved in the process. In this case, the role of the HR manager is limited to the recruitment stage. We select a resume; contact the candidate, talk. Next follows a conversation and the personal profile analysis (PPA) test by the Thomas System.

LJ: Do you mean, every person passes the personal profile analysis (PPA) test?

F.K.: Yes, of course. It is indispensable. This is a huge time and cost saving.

LJ: Has it ever happened that a person seems to be suitable for the position, but according to the results of the PPA test, he may not cope? Do you give him a chance?

F.K.: Yes, definitely. We make every effort to open a person’s potential. It is very important to create conditions. You should understand that the PPA test has no monopoly on the truth. A personal meeting helps to see a clear picture. However, you cannot underestimate the test results. I would say that the symbiosis of the result of PPA testing and a personal meeting gives almost 100% understanding of the candidate. I want to note, the test results reveal what the candidate may be hiding or what he may not know, and this is very valuable information.

The symbiosis of the result of PPA testing and a personal meeting gives almost 100% understanding of the candidate

LJ: Here is a different situation, according to the results of the PPA test, the applicant fits the position, but he is not yet ready to share values.

F.K.: We will definitely not hire him. If at the start, his values do not correspond to the values of the company, we will not hire him. We understand that he will not follow the corporate culture, and I, as a guarantor of the observance of values in the company, cannot allow this to happen. People must be energetic; they must have a desire to learn. Our employee develops himself, lives a healthy lifestyle. This gives him the status of a happy person. If a person is open, it does not mean that we will hire him. He may be burned out, or he, roughly speaking, has cockroaches in his head — and this is definitely not for us. It is very important not to make a mistake in a person because we are investing in them. We have the right to make mistakes, but our task is to minimize this risk.

LJ: Does it happen that you find it difficult to part with people? Are you trying to keep talents and how?

F.K.: Over the past eight months, I have parted with two top managers. One has burned out. I made a mistake in appointing this candidate; I could not correctly assess the emotional burnout in the personal meeting. The second employee was outbid. By the way, in both cases, we have parted friendly. If a person wants to leave, you need to understand the reason. He must tell you about his doubts, why he is not happy, what worries him. This is fully consistent with our value — openness. I keep saying, if something bothers you, ask a question, and never think out. Another reason – a person found a better workplace. There are many companies, which pay more than us; this is true. But no other company pays more attention to corporate values than ours.

It is very important not to make a mistake in a person, because we are investing in him

LJ: Do you measure staff engagement? Do you conduct eNPS?

F.K.: We will measure eNPS, we will make an assessment of 360. We must diagnose what we do not see. Because sometimes our obsession and faith in a “bright future” make our eyes to lose sharpness. We have to become the number one brand. So that people would like to come to us, we must keep our finger on the pulse all the time.

LJ: How do you interact with employees in the regions?

F.K.: The management company MEROS has introduced the Day of Values. For this event, we invite employees from different regions to visit us in Tashkent. The CEO of the corporation Maxim Kostromskoy and the management company team talk about our values, vision, mission, and plans. We have dinner and lunch together. We are trying to travel to regions often to «read» the reaction of our staff. With pharmacy heads, it is easier. We constantly keep in touch; we hear each other. They finally started to say what they wanted. There is feedback. Openness is really beginning to be maintained. We always encourage openness and ask people to describe the real situation.

LJ: Probably, young people are more open than experienced esteemed pharmacists are.

F.K.: On the contrary. Older people are more open, they often say what they like or dislike. If an adult makes a remark, then we share it throughout the network. We analyze the situation, struggle with doubts, as well as with those who raise doubts, up to dismissal. I am talking about all sorts of gossip, intrigue. Our rule is not to talk badly about a person in his absence. It is better to spend this energy on work.

Nowadays, medicine is developing very actively in Uzbekistan; universities educate specialists for us. We have opened borders for cooperation with everyone and we plan to select potentially effective employees at the stage of their education. It is important to start putting the right values, giving them information about our company if they are going to work with us. In addition, it is easy to select the best people with the help of the PPA test. Young professionals must constantly learn and improve.

I myself constantly learn thanks to my partners. This gives a definitely good result in work, in managing people. I learn from them how to manage a team competently and effectively, how to manage myself in the first place, how to work on emotions. It helps in relationships with people.

LJ: Many CEOs think that their status is sufficient to gain a foothold in leadership positions and not to listen to anyone’s advice. You have a different approach.

F.K.: Everyone is free to choose his style of behavior. And mentorship is in the eastern mentality.

I clearly understand that with diplomacy you can achieve a lot. Eastern diplomacy when all parties are pleased, if possible, leads to a win-win result. Of course, this is not always possible, but in any case, being careful, polite, have a good disposition, being worthy, honest and open are the qualities of a strong person. Everyone can break, everyone can shout, scold, but not everyone can control emotions.

People, who cannot control their emotions, very often violate the value field, which is extremely unacceptable. Many of my colleagues forget one common truth — talk to a person the way you want him to talk to you. It is very important to be strong emotionally. Our fathers, grandfathers possessed these qualities for so many years.

Mentorship is in the eastern mentality

Eastern diplomacy is also important in personnel management, because every person is a personality, and we should not forget about it. Your subordinate is a human as you are. Simply today, you are here and he is there. Everything can always change. You should never be arrogant.

There is a story: a very rich man had an old galosh at the entrance. And when he used to enter his home, he hit the galosh with his head. When they asked him why the old galosh was hanging, the rich man replied, “The galosh reminds me that I was poor and helps me not to be haughty”.

Your subordinate is a human as you are. Simply today, you are here and he is there.

LJ: More often, it is a reverse. Perhaps there is a lack of such concrete help as tradition and culture.

F.K.: Primarily, religion. In my case, this is Islam.

LJ: Speaking of religion. Do your employees have the opportunity to pray according to the Muslim canons? Do you allow people to go to the mosque during working hours?

F.K.: Yes, of course. We can go to the mosque together; it takes 15–20 minutes, not long. We do understand what benefits we get. A person, who prays is calmer, more balanced; his head is in place.

For example, once a month we have a coordinating council meeting, where the founders, the management company and business units meet. If the meeting is on Friday, then we organize it taking into account the time for the Friday prayer. For a believer, prayer is important. This world is just an exam before the life that awaits us there. Therefore, even if a believer is fired for some reason, he will react with humility. Be content with what you have and thank the Lord for it. We call it to accept our fate. I follow the same principle.

This world is just an exam before the life that awaits us there.

LJ: So that is where this calm comes from.

F.K.: Exactly. This is the way it should be.

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