The role of the Country Managing Director: Interview with Najeeb Ahmed

In our June edition of the newsletter, we featured the success story of Pakistan: a country that showed exceptional numbers when it comes to user adoption and value realization. When being asked about the key success factors for such a good level of adoption, one major reason that was mentioned is the great involvement of the Country Managing Director Pakistan, Najeeb Ahmed. We asked Najeeb Ahmed for an interview in order to elaborate on the role of a Country MD.

Najeeb Ahmed, Country Managing Director Pakistan
Najeeb Ahmed, Country Managing Director Pakistan

Let’s start with a little introduction.

My name is Najeeb Ahmed. In 1998, I started my career at ABB Services in Saudi Arabia and then moved to ABB UAE in 2004. During the last 20 years, I had fulfilled different roles and tasks: as Lead Commissioning Engineer, Project and Operations Manager, Contracts Manager, Opex Manager and Local Division IS Manager. In 2014, I moved to Pakistan and was appointed Country Managing Director. Although the roles and tasks were quite different, they all required me to work closely with IS, be it through IS proposals, SAP implementations, as Super User or in Train the Trainer sessions. And now here I am, again closely connected to IS with our new Salesforce solution being implemented. 

What do you see as Country MD responsibilities that come with the FACE Program?

I see three main areas that are important for this implementation journey.

Role assignment. We need to assign the right people to important roles in our Network of Excellence. For instance, first I assigned Hassan Ejaz as PM for the Salesforce implementation in Pakistan and Ayesha Gillani as country Champion for the Network of Excellence who already had profound experience with other tools like ProSales, ServIS etc.

Focus on training. Having the software solution is only one step. ABB has done a multimillion investment, so it is our duty to make it successful in the second step. I understand that we face a natural challenge when it comes to user adoption, however, we are equipped with various trainings and refresher trainings that enable us to deal with this change. The top management needs to show this importance to the team. I show this importance by attending most trainings myself.

Expectation management. Make it clear to line managers that all business reviews should be done in Salesforce, no excels allowed. Make it clear to the sales team that it is not about quantity of visit reports, but about data quality – reports that contain valuable data for a follow-up. Make it clear to everyone that it is about transparency and information sharing.

You mentioned the importance of transparency. Sometimes people are hesitant in sharing relevant information. How are you dealing with this challenge?

In the beginning, we faced similar challenges. Especially when you have been working with a customer for a long time, you might feel quite some hesitation to share your knowledge with another person, even if that person might be more suitable for a certain request. In the end, the sales effort will be recognized and this directly links to our performance criteria.

What we did here in Pakistan is to redefine our incentives and performance criteria. Make sure that whoever is involved in the process, will receive a fair share of this recognition. We also have a monthly nomination for the best salesperson based on quality of visit reports, quality of monthly opportunity created by sales person excluding any transferred opportunity and maximum order receipt. So we go beyond the number of visit reports. Instead, we evaluate whether it can really help to convert the lead into an opportunity.

Now that we have talked about all the things that we can expect from a Country MD, what are things that we cannot expect from a Country MD?

Micromanagement and control. This should not be the purpose. Yes, we should get involved, be able to use the tool, run useful reports. And this should be done in order to provide help. Combining our business acumen with the insights from the tool should enable us to help our sales people prioritize. Maybe our sales people think that a certain business opportunity will be realized next month, when in fact this would be too late. So it is more about prioritizing, about giving direction. It should not be about exerting control and it should not be about micromanagement. 

If I was a Country MD and would ask your advice on how to start getting more engaged, what would you recommend to me?

Start from the top. If you don’t have any hands-on knowledge of Salesforce yourself, start now. Spend time with your Champions, ask for different customized reports. Make it a habit to log in at least every other day. Be aware of what is going on in different opportunities on a high-level, but do not engage in micromanagement. And most importantly, stop using any other report and conduct all business reviews based on real-time Salesforce reports.

Anything else that you would like our readers to know?

The whole concept of sharing information is easier said than done. What helped me personally, was that because of my ten years in Dubai, I already had good relationships with our hub and regional management. This was a great benefit.

Sometimes, you need to get engaged in person first before starting to collaborate with the tool in order to build these relationships. This collaboration should also happen at Country MD level. End of this summer, we had a leadership training program in Switzerland with almost 30 participants of our regional and group management team including Country MDs and we agreed on sharing our knowledge across our countries. Like we should. As one global ABB. 

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