This is the start of a new series. We have a chat with exceptional people, world-class performers, and inspiration makers in our industry. To tease out a bit about their personal story, of the ways they think about certain things, their lessons, mindset, habits that you can apply in your own life.
He blew me away.
I encourage you to read through this entire conversation. To be honest, I wanted to shorten it for you - but it was just too valuable to let you miss out on anything. I was so impressed from start to finish.
My guest is Fazlul Hoque no other than the managing director of Plummy Fashions Ltd. the greenest knitwear factory in the world and former president of BKMEA. (Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association)
We cover a lot:
- THE STORY how he ended up in the garment field, the wisdom of his younger brother, from a small buying house, over to a one-line production to the greenest knitwear factory in the world.
- His personal take on "DREAMING" and how to avoid becoming frustrated. Apply this lesson and you will automatically move in the right direction.
- The ONE THING that he feels causes garment exporters to succeed in business. Why it's true that people sometimes struggle, unless they do THIS...
- Fazlul Hoque so to speak opens the kimono and talks about MISTAKES he has done in his earlier days and how you can eliminate these costly mistakes. Signs you’re getting lazy as a garment exporter and what you need to do ASAP to get back on track.
- The FIRST STEP he can advise people take who want to start out in their own business from scratch. Like a buying house or a small factory. How people start today. This advice he is also giving to his own son.
- He leaves us wild-eyed with suspense as he talks about CHALLENGES and the twists in life.
- Why ONE PROJECT of Plummy takes positions 1, 2 and 3 of their agenda for this year. Something to think about.
- He shares the one thing he has done in his marketing that produced the MOST SURPRISING RESULTS.
- The truths & myths about "MONEY".
Dive in to this rare and momentous conversation.
Ah, probably I should explain Fazlul Hoque and I met in Hamburg, Germany between two meetings of the four in total he had that day. I was walking out of this conversation floating on air and reflecting on what he shared.
He is an impressive human being and I hope you enjoy this conversation even half as much as I did.
1. You have accomplished a lot and I hear your name everywhere from people in our industry. You quickly became a recognized authority. Could you please set the scene by talking a little bit about your early decisions and experiences? Why did you get in this business in the first place? How come you ended up in the garment field? And, what that meant.
Nothing special is there.
When I was a student, I had a determination in my thinking that I would never go into business.
Although I’m from a business family.
But I had a plan to set my own career with jobs and good companies. After completing my MBA I started my job as I planned.
But later, my younger brother - 22 years back – was in business and he pushed me:
So, at that time we were financially not that much strong, not much capital to start the business. But then together with him, we planned, and we started it.
A buying house, you know, sourcing.
Having not much capital, we started.
That’s the start of my business.
I was pushed, I was motivated by my younger brother who brought me to the business. That is nothing that much strong story.
No plan – nothing. After a couple of years, I started my own production line.
2. What motivates or drives you what are you most passionate about - why do you do what you do?
You see that I am living it a different kind of person - I didn’t dream in my life.
I did not have any dreams in my life.
I had a plan that I’d like to be an established person.
I could feel that I have a lot of potential – that I could feel.
I don’t have any plan to be the big businessman or to be the CEO of a company – not like that. Even today, I don’t have any dreams. I put the firm belief a person might not have a very strong dreaming in his or her mind.
You see, if you have a very formed dream, like A, B, C, D, but the world will not move according to your dream. You cannot control your surroundings, so you have to change your way of working.
So, if you hold any strong dream in your mind and if you fail to achieve that and if you start to feel that you are not able to achieve that – you might be frustrated. That can derail you.
So that this can force you not to utilize your potential enough in this way.
I think every person should have some flexibility within himself or herself – react to just his or her planning.
Still, you could say is it a dream or is it a plan? I’d rather like to use the word plan – well planned - rather use the word dream. Because a dream is something different.
Somehow you want to achieve it. But what I believe is that your surroundings, the whole world will not run according to your wish, according to your dream... - so, you must react – that flexibility you should have within yourself.
Coming back to your question, I didn’t have a dream at that time. Initially, I planned not to be involved in the business – but finally because of my brother's push and motivation... then I thought okay, I can earn little more money than what I can earn from a job - in Bangladesh in particular.
That was also a big motivational factor, I can earn a little more money from a business, if I can succeed.
So, when I started the business, I started to see it’s interesting because of lots of challenges.
And you know earning money by nothing is one kind of job. Okay, you win a lottery, or you own big property, you get rent every month, no headache, nothing, - this is one kind of life.
To satisfy yourself while earning money. There is a risk to losing money as well. That is the beauty of when you can earn money to overcome all the challenges you face in business that gives you satisfaction.
That has driven me to even go better – I did not have any intention to earn a lot of money in my life. All are happy with my present situation.
And I didn’t find any difference between that happiness and today's happiness.
That has driven me to even go better – I did not have any intention to earn a lot of money in my life.
All is happy with my present situation.
And when I came to the business, and I had the intention... I have the hobby to be involved in different kinds of social organizations to engage in business. Then I also came into touch with the business organization society called BKMEA. And incidentally, I became the president.
That is, I think the most glorious part of my life so far.
The six years of the president of BKMEA. Anybody knows me, and they know me for most of my 6 years of the president of BKMEA. That’s if you tell Fazlul Hoque of BKMEA almost all people involved in this society can recognize.
That became my brand name. I enjoyed that. That was a challenge that was a satisfaction to achieve something. And when you are earning some - not exactly fame - but a good name that also encourages you.
So, when I started my business in the next course of time, I earned both – not that much - both; I mean money and name.
I’m not a money man. But I am all is happy.
So, the business came and a good name, a good amount of money to live smartly. So that is becoming a driving force.
Most importantly the challenge we have in business.
Because sometimes I feel – I was telling you earlier, I leave my business and sell my business - I can live at least okay for the rest of my life.
But the next, there will be no challenge.
And if there’s a challenge – overcoming the challenge, winning the challenge is some sort of satisfaction.
And that satisfaction you cannot quantify with money. That is totally different. That’s the belief why I am exactly doing what I am doing.
You mean, how long I ran my buying house before I started the factory? It was 2 years only. But then I continued the buying house, not that much big – small, honestly, I have not planned to make very big business.
I’d never run after money. I am always thinking I am very happy.
I mean how much money a person needs actually. You are riding in one car – you aren’t riding in three cars. Another, you are sleeping in your own bedroom, not in three bedrooms. That is, one could have the latest car- I don’t have that. My lifestyle is very very simple.
I don’t need to change my car. To change my mobile every year. The latest car, watches, dresses, very simple.
3. How do you balance life/work?
When I was very busy especially during the six years of BKMEA president – this was the busiest part of my life.
It was a big challenge because of many reasons at that time.
After facing the challenges and my good luck is that I could overcome those challenges so that encouraged me to go to the next level. At that time, I could feel that I could not give my family enough time. I was really really busy.
Once it was for nothing. Because that was not paid, not a financially beneficial post. I worked for no money but satisfaction.
It was tough at that time. My wife still complains the six years, the whole family, sometimes my children complain at their growing age I could not oversee them properly.
But otherwise, I tried to manage my family life with good values. What I do is I do sacrifice my personal life in another sense.
Okay, I don’t normally – especially the men in our country go to the club and spend time for themselves. I don’t do that. So other than in the business I try to be home with my family. As much as possible.
Nowadays whenever I finish if it’s 4 pm in the afternoon I go back home. If it’s 6 pm I go back home. Whatever the time. My family knows it. Even if it’s 4 pm I finish I straight go home.
No real personal life.
You understand what I mean with personal life?
That is the way I try to manage.
I feel my family always. I have some care not to deprive them.
4. What are the top 3 things you are focusing on this year with Plummy?
The software will monitor the whole system in an impeccable way.
That means everything should be forwarded ready scientifically, to make sure no single day delay, make sure everything is done on a very organized plan.
To identify the problem well in advance.
That is working.
That’s my plan because in this way still you can save lots of money and we can work on the challenges of extra wages we have to pay.
We don’t only reply to buyers, of course certainly we fight with the buyer, but we have to find a way to minimize our costs. And it is not the costs - it’s the wastage we have - wastage of money. Wastage of time. And that is very common in Bangladesh.
We developed it already for Plummy.
Now my challenge is to train, to motivate our people. The software itself cannot do anything unless you operate it properly. People were involved in the whole process – the whole production, delivery process, they have to be acquainted and they have to follow the system. And then the software also follows everything properly, so we will get proper notification on time.
This is our number one, two, and three.
And the next is we are planning for some expansion.
5. What is the DNA of Plummy?
The core thing is that we are the good name of becoming the greenest factory in the world. This is what you can call the DNA, which is the main motivational fact of Plummy. That we are more environmentally friendly.
And we are a 5-star factory, our service, our production, everything is 5-star. To be 5-star in all aspects. We are a good name and fame. Because of a nice-looking factory because we are environment friendly – but this is not the whole story.
We have to be efficient in terms of productivity, efficiency in terms of management, in terms of delivery on time, top quality. Okay for quality - always endless improvement is there.
This you can call to one extent the DNA of Plummy.
6. The smart garment exporter blog is all about how to sell more to European buyers. What have you done in your marketing that produced the most surprising results?
Again, I move it to our achievement as the greenest factory.
And from day one we based all our marketing activities based on this reputation. We try to convince, and we try to highlight Plummy that way.
And as a result, no matter if we are doing the business or not, I think almost all buyers dealing in Bangladesh know the name of Plummy.
So that is the biggest achievement so far from a marketing point of view. To spread our name to every corner.
As a result, we are getting a response from buyers with numbers that is more than our capacity.
That gives us a bit more flexibility when we bargain with the buyers. When you have more orders than what you can nearly produce you can feel strong with yourself.
Feeling strong within yourself is very important when you negotiate. That I believe because negotiation is a big part of the mind game. And if you are strong within yourself, you can play a better mental game. It’s very simple.
7. I created an online training course that teaches how to introduce your company in a way that creates good chances for getting on the radar of buyers to start the business. When I started out trying to get in touch and selling for the Indian knitwear factory I've made every mistake possible, I think. What mistakes have you done in your early years?
We are doing mistakes even today.
Okay, sometimes we felt our mistake just happened, ignoring some requirement of the buyer. This is a common mistake I did. And I think everybody did. Ignoring the buyer’s requirement.
Let’s say the buyer needs some sort of things, like quality, delivery, or time-driven service. Sometimes we ignored it a bit.
Buyers don’t like it.
That was a mistake.
Mistake in that sense in a few cases we could have easily avoided that. We could easily improve it. But not all times because sometimes when it has happened it was beyond control. I think that sometimes it was under control.
Still, we were reluctant, we were a little bit less careful, a bit careless so that I can call it a mistake.
And selecting the buyer does matter.
There will be good buyers and there will be bad buyers.
I did a couple of mistakes in my earlier days. It happened. It can even happen today and even tomorrow.
Because the buyer you select you have to select without having any business.
After selecting you do the business.
And that’s the same thing. We all do some mistakes.
You did, I did, I believe everybody did the mistake.
And from buyers’ side, they can also feel that they did a mistake by selecting us as their supplier. They can feel that - that’s part of life.
Yes, certainly we did some mistakes. Nobody is 100% correct in that order.
8. With many of the garment exporters I coach, the essentials for great success are already in place. They offer quality products, are passionate, and are amazingly well connected. I always have wondered why some garment exporters succeed while others struggle. What do you feel is the ONE THING that causes garment exporters to succeed?
What I believe, not from all perspectives but from the perspective of our industry, many garments' owners are not fully involved in the business process.
That means he must know everything. My thought is that, yes okay, you can’t control everything, but you have to involve.
There is a separation between controlling and involving.
There’s a big gap.
Most of the time the entrepreneurs dilute these two things.
Instead of observing they try to control everything then they mistake, or they do nothing. They don’t control - they don’t observe.
And again, they fail.
That is the key to being successful in this business. This is number one.
There are many other criteria, but this is very important.
9. Some of the people in the smart garment exporter community are planning to start their export business, as a buying house or start a small factory. They have all they need to succeed. What is the FIRST STEP you recommend they do to start their business?
Whatever maybe the business…
Don’t start in a very big way. Until you know everything, because when you start, whatever business you start, there will be many things you don’t know.
You don’t know the challenges; you don’t know the nitty-gritty within the business.
Sometimes luck does not favor.
Start with the smallest case, as small as possible.
I started my business with one-line. That was very common at that time. One-line, two-lines, three-lines. Very common.
But nowadays you cannot. Because the business pattern has changed. Now when we start with 10-lines it is very small. So, at that time one-line/two-lines was okay, but nowadays 10 is the minimum. Let’s start with 10-lines, not with 50-lines.
So that is my suggestion to start as minimum as possible.
Nobody will share the very secrets of the business – nobody – even the closest friends will not share, whatever you understand from your friend, from known person, try to collect. And then you make your own feasibility study - whether the business is feasible or not.
Just seeing that okay Mr. Hoque became successful, Mr X became very successful so why not I am joining? Maybe this is not his business.
So, do some study. And start on a smaller scale – two suggestions.
10. You travel a lot. What's your favorite place to travel to? Not for business I mean for you personally, which country do you enjoy the most?
For 10 days we had a family holiday in Kashmir. No business, nothing. There was no internet even. If it is too long, I feel bored. There’s no special place I am dreaming to go to. Not exactly. I like to go for a shorter plan.
11. Where can people find you? How can people get in touch with you?
Yes, anyone can find me on LinkedIn or can contact me at my mail id email@example.com.
I'm sure there are at least one or two snippets or thoughts in this chat that you haven't used yet that could help you in your business and life.
Make it a good day and I hope your next week is off to a productive start.
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