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How I got here: Manoj Khimji, The MediaVantage managing director

How I got here: Manoj Khimji, The MediaVantage managing director

Manoj Khimji details his journey to the top

Education

I studied business management at Royal Holloway, University of London, although I had originally enrolled in a media arts course. The course was about film studies, camera work and conceptualising narrative and I realised within the first week that this was not going to get me to where I wanted to go. I strolled into the enrollment office and demanded to switch to business management. Luckily it worked and it was the perfect course to set me up for my career. I might have been working on a film set somewhere today had I not gone with my instinct back then.

Approach

My main approach is to simply get things done and in the best way possible. This requires the ability to be open, opportunistic and measured in all that you do. Firstly, it is imperative to make decisions fast and to make them with the most accurate information possible. So set yourself up with the right systems and processes to have the data you need translated and available when you need it. Information is key and it enhances your ability to succeed based on sheer averages. Secondly, I keep myself updated with base product knowledge of all our media from the details to the overriding contract level. Finally and most importantly, you need to have a strong, motivated and lively set of colleagues around you. You need to drive the culture from within, commit to the goal yourself and lead from the front. It is critical to recognise each individual’s strengths and weaknesses and to use those to better the team and improve those within it. I take a strategic approach to the set-up of the team, to ensure there is a well-rounded balance between the key personality types and a harmony in the ambition of the group.

My start

I worked part-time jobs throughout my education. I later became the editor and publisher of the student publications on campus and also oversaw student communications through the student union. This gave me the perfect start in media and I landed an entry-level position as a junior sales executive at Haymarket Media in London. It was a great place to learn and understand how media works. The company is renowned for training graduates, recruiting young talent and promoting from within – a major influence on my own business ethos. My official start in the Middle East was with Motivate Publishing (publisher of Gulf Business) where I was given an excellent opportunity to understand media within the region. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have had the right career openings at the right times.

Highs and lows

I do not consider anything to have been a low up to this point. There may have been setbacks or disappointments but everything has a lesson. I have learnt and truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Whether successes or failures, every deal, every contract, every order has to have a secondary product other than the outcome itself. This is where true growth, personal and professional, comes from. In terms of highs, there have been so many. There have been small deals which have been important in securing large, long-term contracts, as well as presentations and research that have won business. The main highlight as a growing business leader has been the support, encouragement and advice received from peers within the industry. Having been here for over a decade, it is vital to keep your relationships intact and not to burn any bridges. I have been very fortunate to work with some wonderful people and tremendous media professionals in the Middle East.

Dos and don’ts

Dos: be opportunistic and embrace change. The world has never stood still or spent endless years consolidating, so neither should we. Be decisive always. There is more to lose in wasting time than there is in making a wrong decision. The longer you wait to take a direction, the more time your competitors have to make up ground on you. Trust your instinct, and remain committed to it. People are not drawn to hesitant leaders or business relations.

Don’ts: do not ever criticise your own team in the open – it absolutely destroys morale. Always praise in public, and criticise in private. Do not allow yourself to be dictated by what competitors are doing, if you keep your focus firmly on what clients want then you will always have a better chance at staying ahead. And finally, do not ever think you have ‘made it’ – there is always something more to achieve and always more people to learn from.

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