Taking over from someone who has been at the helm of a highly successful organisation for the last two decades is no easy task, especially when the person you are taking over from is the one who has founded the company and seen it grow to become a major player in the UAE’s construction industry. Not only does the new leader have to work with and around the existing structures and policies in place, but they also have to convince the staff and management team that they can fill the boots of the person that came before him, all while continuing to evolve and growth the business according to their own vision and mandate.
Clearly this isn’t going to be an easy task for anyone, but when planning his succession, Bashar Abou Mayaleh, the former managing director of Concrete Industries Complex (CIC), was acutely aware of the challenges that would lie in wait for whoever replaced him. Therefore, he was keen to put in place a structure and organisation that would not only outlast him, but also ensure the success and health of the company going forwards.
It is because of this structure and hierarchy that Osama Hamad Tarifi believes he has had a smooth transition into the role of group general manager for CIC. Having taken over management of the group from Abou Mayaleh in March of this year, he was formerly the general manager of Emirates Beton, the ready-mix concrete producer (and part of CIC), and says that the time spent with his predecessor has taught him many things that will serve him in good stead in the coming months and years.
“With the proper planning and the advanced practices that we have, we can manage this transition. I am slowly engaging myself in the daily operations of all the companies, but it is nothing new for me. I was with Mr Bashar in all the meetings and operations for the companies, so I have the details and I know them very well. In fact, it would say that this is all very normal for myself,” he remarks in his first interview since taking on the role.
“We’re a flat management organisation, which means that the transfer of information between the departments and management is very clear. We’re able to receive and provide information very easily. Secondly, because Mr Bashar had such a strong understanding of the business – he was a very demanding person who was always looking for more and more information about everything, and he was always open for discussions and the exchange of information and experience – that has left us with a very good environment for all the employees.”
He adds that he personally has learnt a lot, particularly when it comes to dealing with the day-to-day operations of the company.
“The first thing I learnt was to take full authority – at Emirates Beton, he played the role of monitoring and adding value to all the procedures and processes that we had. He built a good relationship between the managers of the companies and prepared us at an early stage, and in a good way, for his departure. He distributed responsibilities in a very professional way and ensured that the communication between all parties was very clear. This helped us – and him – to make his succession plan (become a reality).
“To be honest, I’m a very lucky man to be able to takeover from Mr Bashar,” he states admiringly.
Of course, this does not mean that there is a lot to do and given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the construction industry, Tarifi is sure to have his hands full over the coming months, particularly with Expo 2020 Dubai on the horizon.
However, even here, the foresight and planning of the company has ensured that his task will be a little easier, with CIC finding itself in a stronger position compared to its competitors. With the market in a downturn, Tarifi and his colleagues began planning long before the pandemic even in hit. This early preparedness ensured that they were able to navigate the challenges of 2020 successfully as an organisation.
“The early planning is also helping to pass 2021 successfully as well,” he adds. “Many of our competitors are not confident about the market situation and maybe they’re not doing so well, but I can say that we are still doing well and that things are looking okay for us.
“We’ve actually started preparing for 2022 as our companies are fully booked for 2021 – some of them are at 75% capacity, while others are at 85% capacity. Therefore, we are looking at 2022 and judging how it will be. I think the market will be better than H1, in the second half of the year. In fact, I think a lot of things will change in 2021 – maybe not big changes, but enough to help the industry survive.”
“The market is very tough, and the competition is unbelievable, but we’re optimistic. We do our homework very well, and honestly, our reputation in the market has helped us reach the level we are at now, and to be in this position. I believe that we’re the best supplier – whether it’s concrete, ready-mix or precast.
“We have a standard of quality and we do not deviate from that. We operate in a different zone to others, and that’s why we can say that we’re in this position.”
A large part of this difference is down to the company’s historical willingness to embrace technology. In fact, Tarifi says that he would call CIC an IT company that sells concrete products, given the amount of technology that is used across the company’s processes and procedures.
“We use the latest technology in terms of designing and delivering projects, from design to planning, through to delivery itself. At HPBS, for example, we use BIM and REVIT; at Emirates Beton, we have launched a mobile application and full ERP system; at HBF, we’re going into the online space very soon and will be publishing a mobile application as well,” he says. “As I say, we’re an IT synergy manufacturer. We optimise the use of technology to the maximum.”
Looking towards his immediate priorities, Tarifi states that he intends to make sure that the company will continue to meet its objectives, as well as the expectations of its parent company – ASGC.
“For sure, we align the three companies with the same objectives, procedures and goals. We have started setting these goals as well. You know, change scares people and people take it in different ways. We understand that and we need to create a good environment within the company to continue maintaining the warm relationships that Mr Bashar developed, so as to get the maximum from them, and to enhance their performance.
Furthermore, he adds that he is keen to introduce standardised policies across the companies as he believes that this will be very important in ensuring that everyone works fairly and deals with issues and challenges in a consistent and measured manner.
“Finally, my third and last priority is that success should be the only way for us. We have to be successful and aim to reach new horizons.
“We are in a very good position this year, with our backlog of projects being very different to everyone else in the market, so have a good opportunity to achieve our goals, and we must target enhancing our performances and improving the skills of our people,” he asserts, ready to lead CIC into a bright future.”