This interview was featured on Business Insider on 29/3/2016.
To say Fred Mouawad is a serial entrepreneur is an understatement. Gems and jewelry. Pizza and coffee. Publishing. And, an online task management platform. One would struggle to imagine a more diverse collection of businesses. But, to Mouawad, a member of Young Presidents’ Organization in Thailand, it is simply his business: Synergia One Group of Companies. The Internet and technology industry is his favorite, with Taskworld being the brand where he currently focuses much of his attention.
Mouawad’s start began with a diamond in the rough. Well, a sapphire to be more precise.
“Our family business is in gems and jewelry,” he explains. “With my brothers Alain and Pascal (who joined YPO in 2014 in Beverly Hills), we are the fourth generation to manage the company.”
In 1988, his father, based in Switzerland, set up a jewelry factory in Thailand as an expansion of the company. After attending Pepperdine University and earning a gemology degree from the Gemological Institute of America, Mouawad’s first assignment in the family business was to run that factory in Thailand.
“I showed up there in 1990, and wanting to prove myself, I combed the markets and found and purchased a sapphire while on a trip to Sri Lanka,” he says. “My find so impressed a dealer I showed it to in Bangkok that they purchased it two days later for twice the price I had paid. That really gave me a taste for gemstone trading so I continued, and with the profits I earned I was able to start my other ventures.”
Mouawad founded all of those other ventures, too. “Mouawad is the family jewelry business which is 125 years old now,” he says. “The other seven companies I founded by building upon those profits from gemstone trading.”
The newest brand in the Synergia One portfolio, tech start-up Taskworld, was born out of an internal need to communicate better across the business. Upon reflection, Mouawad admits one of the biggest challenges he has faced in business is one that is ultimately inescapable.
“I have faced a lot of different challenges, but one issue that remains the toughest for me is letting people go. Sometimes, someone is not the right fit, or maybe someone does not develop in a way that fulfills the organization’s need,” he says. “But the toughest calls involve people, and communication is the best way to handle those situations.”
The Taskworld task management platform is actually a technological solution to that challenge, to some degree. Mouawad’s companies had a need for better collaboration and found that building their own product was the best method for achieving that goal.
“I believe very strongly in regular communication. It is not fair to have people thinking everything is well, and then after a year you call them in and tell them otherwise. People deserve high-frequency feedback to better understand how they are doing so they can make adjustments and improve,” he says. “Taskworld provides that mechanism for everyone to give and receive evidence-based feedback to each other while managing tasks and projects.”
Mouawad is also a serial learner, and he credits joining YPO 2010 with rekindling his appetite for learning.
“I love being part of an organization of peers that care as much about their own growth and sharing ideas with others,” he says. “It has given me a huge incentive to further my education, as well as to give that education back to my peers.”
(The article is written by Mark Scheer, YPO)