We had the good fortune of connecting with Ahmad AlJuhani and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ahmad, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
It is difficult to identify that single moment of enlightenment. I believe the seeds were sown pretty early in my life. When my father built a multi-family house in Saudi Arabia, with 6 apartments, he would involve me in the process. My first paid task came from him and it was to break the concrete at the entrance of the building. For most people in the US, it might be hard to imagine how hot it can get in Saudi Arabia. In temperatures of over 45 Celsius, and humidity, I went to work with my hammer and chisel and did the job. I earned about 10 Rial for it, which is about 3 or 4 US dollars. It was exciting as I was able to buy my own candies and soft drinks. I soon got promoted to the task of inspecting the plastering, which is done over a brick structure to join the bricks together as well as make the surface smooth.
It was exciting, doing things that grownups did, and getting money for it.
My father also invested in property. I found that it was a method to realize consistent income while building wealth. Not immediately, but in the long run.
I suppose this was overlaid with my interest and skills in Project Management. I like projects. I like finishing things and starting new ones. Meeting new people in new projects. There is a different kind of excitement in every new project.
To cut a long story short, my early exposure to real estate combined nicely with my project management skills and enabled me to start this business. Here, project management is what I am doing, day in and day out. Building houses. Planning. Budgeting. Executing. And finally, seeing the fruit of my labor in the beautiful house that gets built.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My brand as well as name of the company is Jaread. In Arabic it means palm leaf. I am from the Juhani tribe and we have deep roots in the Arabian peninsula. The tribe is well known for raising palm trees and dates that are of very good quality.
For over a hundred, maybe thousand, years, palm trees have been used as roofs for houses, to protect them from rain and harsh weather.
I have wanted to connect that to modern things and my construction business has given me this opportunity. This is how Jaread in the logo connects me to my roots.
Continuous learning has been one of my big reasons of being able to get where I am today. That learning has been gained by interacting with experienced people and building relationships with people who have knowledge in real estate, especially development.
Beyond association with the right people, it has been a series and trials and errors. I like to try on a small scale and then expand. The learning you gain by doing it yourself cannot be gained in any other way. It was and is challenging, but then that is what also makes it exciting. I keep trying to find solutions for every problem I come across.
I am excited about the project management skills I gained as part of education and later while working. I am proud of being able to apply these skills in my start-up business and being my own boss.
Working for a corporate you are very limited but in our own business you kind of try different tools and techniques. You want to continuously try and learn from it and improve it. Your own business gives you the room to do that.
The ability to apply what I want to apply, which I could not do in corporate life, is in itself very exciting for me.
To overcome challenges, my first rule is to not panic in the face of adversity. Then think and talk to people. Ask for solutions. Ask them what they would do if they were facing that situation. Everyone will have something to say. Look for the best answers and then own them. They are inspired by others but now you have to run with them. You have to make them work.
I have learnt to be persistent and consistent. If you have an issue to solve, running away will not help in any way. Face it and solve it in the best possible manner.
I try to avoid conflict, if possible, and personality clashes and losing relationships. It is a hard balance at times. For example, when you find that the root cause of a problem is people, what do you do?
I do the best I can and try to resolve the issues in a manner so that they, the people involved, don’t lose momentum and morale. At the same time, I consider it my duty to make it clear that they made a mistake, explain how it should have been done, in order that we are able to move on.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
One of the good things about Houston is the amazing food and restaurants. I would definitely take them to one of the best Mediterranean restaurants. They have these amazing BBQs, appetizers and salads.
Since I like the outdoors, that is where I will take them. Camping if it is either fall or winter. We would go to a park for a day or two, sit around a fire, cook a barbecue and just chit-chat.
I will perhaps rent a boat and take them for a spin on the wonderful lakes in the area.
And yes, I will invite them over to the Jaread office which is in the Galleria area, a really nice place. I will show them around and tell them about my business.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
When I think about the thing that shaped my personality and brought me to where I am now, I can count multiple people and factors that have shaped my personality. It is not one mentor who I have modelled myself on. I try to look for good in every person I come across, identify his strengths. I believe every person has something to teach me. I talk to him in an effort to understand his journey, so that I can imbibe those qualities too, using a similar path.
But there are some people who have had a greater influence on me, like my parents, both highly educated who raised me to be a good human being. My mother, a PhD in Math, always encouraged me and my siblings to learn continuously. My father taught us the value of empathy and sympathy for the people you work with. He taught me to admire the good in others and their achievements.
And finally, I am grateful to my wife for doing the heavy lifting in the house, such as being the primary caregiver for the children, and stepping in and absorbing the slack when I am not able to do my bit.