Episode #27 | Masters' Spotlight Series: Elie Ghoussoub
In this episode, Elie shares with us his unique perspective on entrepreneurship, how he discovered his passion for helping make this world a safer and more inclusive place and what it takes to chase your dreams.
Evan Le Clus 00:01:
Hello, you were listening to the Dare to Scale show with me, Evan,
Warsha Joshi 00:03:
And me Warsha. This show is about all things scaling, scaling your business, your journey and you,
Evan Le Clus 00:15:
You’re here because you dare to dream, dared, to dream big. So, sit back and enjoy the conversation, or perhaps even join in.
Warsha Joshi 00:27:
Hello, and thank you for joining us for this absolutely brilliant episode, you have a treat in store today and it is my pleasure and privileged to introduce to you our guest, Elie Ghoussoub, the co-founder of DASS Solutions, and a passionate voice for women’s rights, for people with disabilities and seniors. Elie is Evan and my very dear friend, a fun loving and energetic person, if there was one, Elie, welcome to the show.
Elie Ghoussoub 01:00:
Thank you very much Warsha, thank you Evan, for hosting me today.
Evan Le Clus 01:03:
Very welcome, like Warsha says it’s an absolute pleasure to have you on the show you were always full of life and we want to share that with our guests. Thank you. So, I know you’ve had a wonderfully rich corporate career and you’re now doing sort of your own thing, if you will. Tell us a little bit about that journey and what got you into entrepreneurship?
Elie Ghoussoub 01:21:
Well, that’s a long journey. I can’t say it started, you know, with that particular goal in mind, I guess with many enterprises in life, sometimes, you know, you’re dealt a certain hand, and you try to use, you know, whatever, you have to make the most out of it. In terms of how it happened, it was a confluence, I was working in oil and gas for about seven years made myself quite comfortable over there and then there was a few, you know, economic upheavals, and the oil and gas sector was suffering and I was made redundant and that’s when I first had the idea of being an entrepreneur. To be honest, I wasn’t ready, I quickly, you know, managed to figure it out that I wasn’t ready. While I had the technical knowledge, being an entrepreneur is much more of people, enterprise, you know, you have to know how to talk to people in terms of knowing enough people, growing in network securing business and that is not something that had at the time I call my previous job, the golden cage. We were cherished, everybody came to us. It’s oil and gas, the UAE, Dubai. So, you don’t get to grow your network as much as you think it’s very dependent on that particular industry. So, at the time, I joined a consulting company through a story which I could tell later on if you’d like,
Warsha Joshi 02:35:
Elie Ghoussoub 02:36:
And then I joined that company, I was working in health and safety and I was with WSP, for about three years before the economy turned again and I was made redundant, but by then it was a different mindset altogether. So, my co-founder, Mike Moudawar and I decided to start DASS Solutions and start supporting the economy that way.
Evan Le Clus 03:01
Absolutely amazing and I mean, it’s a very rich journey in the sense that we hear a lot of different stories and we know how bits of the economy, whether it’s the public sector, or the private sector, how they do and don’t do things. So, Goodness me and its wonderful education process that we sort of learning about as well. What’s the one thing that was sort of different from your corporate life and where you are now, what’s the one thing you had to unlearn and relearn?
Elie Ghoussoub 03:26:
You know, I don’t know about unlearning and relearning. I do know that, at least for me, there was this specific aspect that came to the fore in my own personality and it’s something I tried to as much as possible help others with, who are either on this journey at different parts and that’s to be passionate, in a specific sense. So, for example, we hear a lot of people who have just graduated, who go through a typical cycle, right? They go and they apply to organizations and they keep being told you don’t have enough experience and then they get rejected and after a bit they get demotivated and they say, well, how would I ever be experienced if nobody ever employs me, and that is something that I felt was very important, because it highlights a few things and it really highlights some of the mental mindsets you need to have when you do start your own and I remember this, because if I just said easily earlier that I moved from Baker Hughes to WSP as if it happened overnight. If the realities are that I was looking for work after I left Baker Hughes for about six months, and I’m in the UAE and we had just bought a house and you know, I was looking at the bank account, and I was seeing the wall right there and I was you know, everyday getting close to it. So, at that point, I joined WSP and I said, you know, I’m happy to do this work for free. I don’t want any monetary compensation for it. I’m willing to do it because I believe in this and I want to be a consultant in health and safety. So, I went ahead and I did that and, you know, thankfully, my management at the time supported me and then later, you know, made things right for me from a monetary perspective. Now, why is that important? Because it highlights the mentality that people should, I hope be conscious enough of early on in life, I had the chance to do this halfway through my career, every day, and I recommend to other people, I need to adjust young ones. Do this when you are in high school, when you are in university, start work. You know, don’t use your entire summer break or winter break or Christmas or Easter breaks, to just have fun, because you’ll have fun now, and you’ll struggle later and our economies are becoming very competitive, you have to be ready, you have to graduate with experience, it’s not an unreasonable request that companies are making of people, there’s little time now to take people through the learning curve for years and years, you have to come with the basics, like work for free, what have you got, I mean, your parents are paying for the house, they’re paying probably for your education, or at least helping with that work, even if you’re working as a receptionist at an architecture firm. After four years as the receptionist, you will know the name of every major architectural firm in the country, you will probably name those the name of the Managing Directors, or some of the project managers, you know, their emails, you’ll know their contact numbers, you know, the projects, the clients, because as a reception, you handle documents. So just with that, how will that be helpful to you, when you graduate to go and target the company you want to work with and be more successful at getting in, it’s not guaranteed, but it’s more successful. So, as I said, it’s not about learning or unlearning, it’s like getting to know these things, and getting to practice them early enough in life. If you’re lucky, you may never need them. Your mom knows somebody your father knows somebody, they get you in perfectly good way. That’s not worst or anything. It’s a perfectly good way to get into business but what if they don’t?
Warsha Joshi 06:58:
Elie, this is brilliant, because what you are describing really, is an entrepreneurial mindset. So, what you’re saying is don’t wait for things to happen. Start making things happen for yourself. Absolutely and I love it. I absolutely love it and what you said earlier is so true and I’m making notes as we go along. Summer break is not about, not only about not doing anything, but that is it’s a brilliant time to actually start your life, start doing something start that hustle, if you will and I loved it. Yes. over to you.
Elie Ghoussoub 07:35:
It’s very frustrating. When I was young, you think I wanted to wake up every morning and go to work instead of going to the beach? Of course not. So, I’m not saying that, you know, be a boy scout it is an effort, and you have to do it but you know what I feel that companies look for that. When somebody has the upper hand in an interview process, if they’ve got a master’s degree, it’s not because the master’s degree somehow magically opens up like the closed off parts of your brain that you become somewhat smarter. I feel as an entrepreneur who hires people, I think the value of the master’s degree is that most people do them while they’re working, which means this is somebody who believes strongly enough, and putting in the time and effort to improve themselves. So, I think, right, they did that to get their master’s degree, will they do that on a project of mine, that will help make it more successful. So, it’s the mentality that we’re looking for not necessarily the fact that they have a postgraduate degree and this is why I strongly believe that people should not do a master’s degree. As soon as they graduate, some people are going to finish school that can’t find a job, you know, but just to a master’s degree, that’s okay, fine. That’s not what people want in a master’s degree employers at least.
Warsha Joshi 08:48:
And I’m going to continue this conversation because today when we say the word entrepreneur, the popular sort of way that we all lead into is entrepreneur equals tech entrepreneur. Entrepreneur equals, let’s see FaceTime on magazines, entrepreneurship, equals talking in billions, big exits but that’s not what entrepreneurship is and I want to hear what your thoughts are on that.
Elie Ghoussoub 09:14:
It can be that after a long, long, winding journey full of ups and downs, but to be honest, it’s 6.30pm in the evening, now, I’ve been up since six o’clock in the morning. So, what’s so glitzy about that? Passion goes hand in hand with being an entrepreneur. I remember not too long ago, in this very building we’re in. I called a friend of mine who used to work with me and WSP and I told him, it was 10 o’clock in the evening and WSP, our office used to be in the building not too far from mine and I told him, you know, what, the view from that building, and this building at 10 o’clock in the evening, it’s the same. Meaning, I was working till 10pm when I was an employee and I’m working at 10am when I’m an entrepreneur. So, I think that is an image in my mind that if the reality is it’s your passion that drives you, it’s not the glitz and the glamour, those might come may not come but unless you feel passionate about something, you will never ever, ever make it as an entrepreneur. Because if you are employed, your manager will call you the next morning and he’s gonna say, what happened with this? What happened with that, and you’re gonna have a terrible time, if you don’t have the right things to say. if you’re an entrepreneur, who’s gonna call you, yeah, you’re gonna call yourself. So, you can’t give yourself any passes.
Warsha Joshi 10:39:
Yeah, absolutely and, Elie, I know, I’m continuing on this vein, I know that you are the essence of entrepreneurship. I love our conversations. They are brilliant and what I’d like our listeners to hear is, before you got into the corporate world way before DASS Solutions came into existence, which we’re going to talk about, because I want to know everything about that, I’d love to hear a story where that entrepreneurship showed up in your life without even knowing what that is because that happens right?
Elie Ghoussoub 11:11:
Before DASS solutions, right?
Warsha Joshi 11:12:
Yes, please, because that’s where it really starts.
Elie Ghoussoub 11:16:
Okay, I’ll give you two stories. One from when I was still young, and I don’t know, 16 or 17 years old, maybe my brother and I want to make some money, right. So, some of this may be like a bit illegal in certain places. So, in Lebanon, there is a black market for perfumes. So, my brother and I met this person who used to concoct these chemical, you know, formulas and make them in perfume, and bottle them up in used bottles. So, we used to go to like a special place in Beirut, get those and then obviously pay for them, and then place them in barber shops, and, you know, laundromats and you know, other places where people might be, you know, interested to buy perfume and we used to make like $2 on the bottle or $3 on the bottle depending like you know, Issey Miyake and Jean Paul Gaultier don’t make much the same money, as you know, some other run of the mill, you know, brand, please, of course and I remember my brother and I being on a bus, you know, driving getting carried across town for an hour and a half to get a bag with like 50 of these bottles and imagine this is like 15-16 and 50. Each bottle used to cost money. So, it was debt and then place it in different places and follow up and make bills. Come to think of it. I never really called that entrepreneurship till just now like you asked me the story and I remember this. So, this is way back when I was child and the other example. The other story is when I was with Baker Hughes, I remember my manager at the time Ambara Abboud. So, I was working in Education Center and Baker Hughes, and they needed people to do health and safety briefings within the Education Center and they were asking people, like, does anyone would like to volunteer, you know, and do these health and safety briefings, and everybody was busy, and so was I and everybody was, I don’t know, you know, when people like don’t want to raise their hand, I raised my hand. I can’t tell you why I did that but I think I’ll do it and you know what, that was the start of my journey from a job to a consultancy, to an entrepreneur and I’m sure there are many areas before, I don’t want to say being entrepreneur is something you’re born with, or right, because even though I can maybe list many different areas of times in my life, where I raised my hand, whether I call that a moment or not, I may not even remember most of them but the reality is, if you’re that kind of person, you will that kind of person but I sincerely believe that it’s not something you’re born with. It’s something that any person can have under the right circumstances, if they have the right mindset but research has proven that people genetically either have a sunny disposition or a not so sunny disposition so par that I can’t lay, much of this due to genetics. I think it’s your community, and the people you grew up with and the circumstances you find yourself in, and that involuntary moment where you raise your hand before you really have much time to think and then you got stuck into it.
Evan Le Clus 14:20:
Completely you saw the opportunity you took it, there are a lot of people Warsha, included talks about the hustle, it’s having the ambition, the drive and the ability to pivot and do something different and it’s all about the hustle, well done.
Warsha Joshi 14:35:
It’s that having that resourcefulness, that ability to see an opportunity before it even presents itself.
Elie Ghoussoub 14:42:
See, that’s just something really important there Warsha, a lot of people ascribe this to chance or to luck. I don’t want to say I don’t believe in luck. I believe we don’t know yet enough about cognitive processes and what happens around us in the world. You know, the cost of energy, you know, into the universe and you get it back in all that, but it’s just early days, this like Neanderthal trying to explain from there in my mind, you know, so we’re not there yet but I do believe that sometimes luck is just intersection of preparation and opportunity, if you’re prepared, and then there’s an opportunity, you jump on it, and then you make something and I sincerely believe that 80% of being prepared is not education. It’s just trying to recognize the opportunity. Many people have opportunities running, you know, all over them, and they don’t pick up on them. Most of the preparedness is to just recognize the opportunity and 20% is to have the technical, you know, capability to pick it up and do something with it. First and foremost, it’s a people thing, you know, you have to be oriented that way.
Evan Le Clus 15:51:
Yeah, totally. I totally love that as well, I recently read the richest man in Babylon and I love the sort of the fables the stories, even though they said in a very old time, there’s a lot of wonderful lessons there and what you’ve described is its diligence and essentially being ready. So, when that opportunity, which too many people looks like luck, comes your way A you recognize it, and B your able to do something about it. So, it looks like luck to anybody else, because they’re not prepared.
Elie Ghoussoub 16:17:
I want to highlight something. I mean, entrepreneurs have an act to sound like they have all the answers but if we don’t, and there are failures, that we’ve went through our life that if we’re being honest with ourselves, we can blame nobody but ourselves and that’s an important lesson. When I finished high school, I wanted to be a doctor and I gave it a shot twice in a row, two years that I’ve gone through it, and I couldn’t get it done and those are failures. I can you know, say, oh, well, if I had money to go to private university, I would have made it and who knows? Who knows? If had I went into medicine? Would I have been good? Would I have been bad would have caused the death of a patient but nobody knows. So, it’s pointless to have regrets. Or if only, you can tell what got you to here to this particular moment but what you can do is say something bad has happened and I blame myself for it, or I blame others for it, or I blame something else for it. No issues but what have I learned in either case? How do I avoid it in the future? and how do I use it to appreciate what I have? Because I wish I had this conversation in the past Warsha it’s all about contentment and somebody reads the book Sapiens by Yuval Harari. That’s an important theme, human happiness. What is happy, the author used in that book the example who’s to say that the middle age, middle management engineer in the law and architecture overworked, exhausted, is happier than the middle-aged peasant living in a hut on two potatoes a week. How do you know that this person is happier than that person, suicide rates from all the data we have and that’s based on the both not that I’m you know, an expert on that are much higher these days than they were 500 years ago? When we do think people are happier now than then. That’s about contentment. Happiness is about being happy with what you’ve got. So, be happy with what you’ve got, and use that as leverage to do more with.
Warsha Joshi 18:16:
There are two things that come to mind with what you’re talking about Elie, is the first thing that you touched upon is failure and my take on this is I think failure has been labeled as a bad thing. Whereas to me, only when we fail do, we know how to not fail again? Or do we know how to do things differently again, so it’s almost and this is an example I gave a lot of times it’s like saying to a child who is just learning to take their first couple of steps, you must never fall but only when you fall, you know how to get up. There is no such thing as you must never fall and I’m not a parent but the thought that comes to mind is this is how my mom brought us up, is I’ll show you how to climb up on that chair or how to jump off the chair. So, even if you fall, you know how to get out whatever grab onto and know how to get up. So that’s the first thing that I want to talk about is that very interesting aspect that you gave about failure and the second thing about contentment about being happy and it’s not even about being happy. It’s about being content but I think what you touched upon Elie, is today, are we more content than what we were 500 years ago, the answer straight answer is no because today we don’t recognize success as something that we have right now. Success somehow again has got a label that we got to strive towards. Success is just out of reach successes, those just around the corner. So, we don’t even recognize that we have turned so many corners and we have faced so many successes
Elie Ghoussoub 19:57:
We are the success that we crave?
Warsha Joshi 19:59:
Absolutely. Yeah, totally. I absolutely agree. So, it’s so interesting, and I’m loving where this conversation is going and yeah, and thank you for sharing those stories. Those were amazing. Especially the perfume hustle. I love it, totally love it.
Elie Ghoussoub 20:16:
It is a hustle, isn’t it? You know, like sometimes I hear it in movies, the hustle, It’s a hustle. Never really connected. I did do my hustle back in the day,
Warsha Joshi 20:25:
It is a hustle because what is hustle to me that I’ll tell you what hustle is, tell me what you think and hustle is really as we were talking about seeing an opportunity, before it even exists, being resourceful enough to be prepared to make something out of that and then having enough courage to actually stand up and say, right, I’m going to do it and even if I earn $1 from it, that’s $1 more than I have right now. So, I’m going to do it. Absolutely. That’s how the world has moved on and we’ve come to where we are.
Elie Ghoussoub 20:58:
You mentioned failure in terms of like how many times people fail? It’s difficult, though, isn’t it, Warsha? I mean, if you think about it, you failed Edison example, with 1000, burned light bulbs and all that and it’s easy to say stuff like that. Remember the platitudes nothing is easier to announce and proclaim to the world. The realities are like, how do you know? How do you know that you need more perseverance? and you’re not yet at a point where you’re stubborn? and you know, the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. How do you expect in this habit is that you know, different results? You know, that’s the continuation of the saying, but how do you know that currently in our organization, that is a project we’re on, and it’s struggling, and it’s been dragging for months for no valid reason that we can pinpoint? What do we do? Do we get out of it? Because we’ve got money invested in it? Do we cut our losses? Don’t we cut our losses? Oh, it’s easy to come back come from an external point of view and say, Hey, you should? What do you mean you should? That’s time and effort, blood and money? What’s the concept of sunk cost? It’s easy to preach about, but it’s not easy to practice and I’m sure you know, all of a sudden, next few months, whether we decide to go on with the project, or you know, get out of it, you know, we look back in hindsight will be 20-20 but when you’re in it, it’s not easy. You can’t qualify something as a failure and if you do, what do you do about it? Do you have the strength of will and strength of character to get up? Like you said, you know, get up, okay, you’ve taken a few steps, you fell down, it’s time for you to get up. It’s an art, not a science.
Warsha Joshi 22:34:
It is an art. It’s a learned skill and experience plays a big role in perfecting that skill, if you will. What you were talking about brought a great place to segue into DASS Solutions that tell us about that. How did it come about? And what do you do at DASS Solutions?
Elie Ghoussoub 22:52:
So, DASS solutions stand for DASS- design, accessibility, safety and sustainability. It’s a funny story, how this thing came about. It’s another one of those, you know, raise your hand moments, to be honest. So, my brother has a disability okay, my twin brother, and my co-founder and I, we’ve been friends for 30 years. So, we’ve known each other the three of us for ever since we’re really aware but when we were born in Lebanon, there’s not much accessibility, to speak of in Lebanon and when we first came to the UAE, there was not much accessibility to speak of here. It wasn’t really a focus that we could see at the moment or maybe it was but we couldn’t see it in our circles. So, the next best thing for me what happened safety? I think unconsciously something I could do to make a difference in the world. So okay, well, I can’t. Again, many of these were not conscious decisions. I think they were unconscious biases. That just takes you where you are where destiny, I don’t know, wants to take you. So, what happened is after I left, Baker Hughes and I wanted to start my consultancy, and it really didn’t go off, didn’t really pan out and I joined WSP as a consultant. We had a project by the Executive Council of Dubai, who was spearheading the accessibility initiatives that His Highness Sheikh Hamdan have started in Dubai and we wanted someone to support a project with accessibility assessments. A colleague of mine at WSP, still a very close friend of mine, Steve Carpenter, he had experience with this field, and when there was a need for it, you know, we picked up the project and he said, you know, I remember the team, the team room where we were, he said, who would like to help with this project? And I remember I’ve been asked this question before, but at the time, I just raised my hand, and I swear to you guys, in my mind, there was no connection. Oh, my brother disability I want to help people. So no, it wasn’t that again unconscious and I have to say even like a year after working in this field, I would not have said that consciously I’m making an effort, I’m making a connection between my lived in experience with disability and between the work I’m now doing to support people with disabilities or people of determination as the UAE refers to them, for our clients and we started the business line in WSP, and it was something that was quite successful but you know, when the economy turned, Mike and I decided to set up DASS solutions, so I went up from the solutions, Mike had already set it up, I joined him and that’s how we started and in terms of what we do, people ask us all the time, like, what field do you work in? and it’s not fair to say we’re in accessibility, because people think it’s only about buildings, you know, a ramp a parking, you know, accessible restroom facilities. That’s not the case. It’s not just that, you know, that’s like 0.1% of the things we look at because we work with website developers, we work with IT providers to make digital platforms accessible. How would somebody with a visual impairment navigate through a website when they can’t see the content of the website, we also work with architects and building owners and facilities managers to make sure that people who are elderly can find their way inside the building without needing to be you know, superhumans who can climb up mountains, we also work with corporate environments to set up their policies and procedures and I say this example, there is no point people being able to access your website and come into your building and then be insulted by the receptionist because they call them spastic. So, you have to sort out your policies and procedures, and also product development, training. So, these are the aspects that we work with and DED is now leading the charge in the entire Middle East with this, we get Dubai or Abu Dhabi or the other Emirates, this is becoming something that is core, because it relates not only to, you know, the charity model and our empathy towards our fellow human being, but also because it relates to the social development guidelines, Social Development Goals, the SDGs for the UN, it relates to many of the initiatives that the UAE launches, to be a good world citizen. So yeah, that’s what we do.
Evan Le Clus 27:08:
Elie, one of the exciting facets we like to talk about is disruption. First up, I’d like to ask, what does disruption mean to you?
Elie Ghoussoub 27:17:
It’s a good thing that you’re asking me this now, Evan, after I’ve just gone through what DASS solutions does, there is a mold in people’s minds, people with disabilities either don’t exist, or they’re all poor, or they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re worthy of our pity and empathy but sadly, of you know, them having rights and that is a stereotype that we look to challenge and for me, as an entrepreneur in this field, that is what this disrupting is all about. We want to disrupt this method of thinking, whether it’s, you know, the rights of women, the rights of people with disabilities, or people of determination, whether it’s the, you know, what value seniors can bring into our communities, that is what disruption is to be take that stereotype and challenge it and that’s what it means to be in this industry. This is applicable to any other industry, you know, from architecture, and, you know, challenging, you know, accepted architecture standards and, you know, that’s how humans evolved from living in a cave writing with charcoal on the wall, to you know, boarding a spaceship and going to the moon and recently going to Mars too, but challenging.
Evan Le Clus 28:22:
You know, I have a very close affinity with not so much your journey, but definitely what you do in that disability space, I’m going to share two little bits from my life. In one of the podcasts, we previously we talked about our story, and I grew up in the region, Bush war and one of the things that in terms of disruption that had to happen was, you know, the soldiers got wounded, there was suddenly wheelchairs and in the old days, you know, curbs never had ramps on them, or things like the walk button, you know, to cross the road, all those things always to high, it was always very wrong and one of the unintended consequences was a lot of change and disruption happened because of that, suddenly, there was a need, suddenly, people saw, oh, oh, we can do something about this. The other part that I very rarely make public is my eldest sister was distressed when she was born. So, I actually also have disability in my family and growing up with that is very interesting, because as you say, the reaction of people around you and all of that is just sometimes it’s quite tough. It is it is but one of the reasons we ended up migrating from Zimbabwe and going to Australia was because my parents saw that there would have been a very difficult time for my eldest sister, because the future was not certain and as it turns out, they were right. So, my sister is now set up. She’s been we’ve been in Australia for 35 years odd, so she’s now no longer in a difficult space, so to speak, and I’ll give a shout out to the Endeavor Foundation in Queensland, they do an amazing job. Absolutely amazing job but that disruption and what you’re sort of dealing with in the UAE and education process is definitely part of that disruption. So absolutely. I’m with you on your journey and difficult as sometimes it might be. I just love that, that disruption as you say, it’s changing that mindset.
Elie Ghoussoub 30:07:
Exactly. The most difficult thing to do to change people’s mindset, you can always build a ramp but getting a manager to agree that this is something that’s worthwhile, that’s a much longer journey,
Evan Le Clus 30:18:
Or dealing with the receptionist, as you say it’s like, oh common man!
Warsha Joshi 30:22:
So, we go through the three Ds in Dare to Scale, especially in the master spotlight, because what you are doing is, first of all, it’s so brilliant, and it takes courage to do what you’re doing. There’s not everybody’s cup of tea. Absolutely, absolutely. So, no, it’s not. So now that we’ve talked about how you’re disrupting the world, in such a brilliant way, tell us a little bit about discerning because discerning is a fairly relative word. So, what does that mean to you?
Elie Ghoussoub 30:53:
You know, we spoke earlier about, you know, recognizing opportunities and things of that nature. See, I think it’s all in people’s minds, you know, if you teach yourself to be open minded, if you teach yourself to first question yourself, that’s not a sign of weakness. It’s not a sign of, you know, a lack of self-confidence. It’s a sign of maturity, it’s a sign that you are someone who is open to ideas. I mean, for me, the discerning, an example I give regularly is Stephen Hawking. Okay. I would like to think that people don’t discern value and most people that aren’t, we take people for granted and that is typical for our community of people with disabilities. Most people who don’t know, the first thing about science would look at Stephen Hawking and saying, who’s that? You know, like, he can’t do anything, you know but just imagine if Stephen Hawking having been born decades earlier than he did, or, you know, maybe centuries earlier than he did, without the possibility to do the technology that was developed to support him. How much would humanity have lost? Whether you agree with some of the principles he espouses or not? Nobody would disagree that he is one of the greatest scientists, you know, the modern world has known. Now imagine someone who did discern this value did not, how much would we have lost. So, for me, the surrounding is all about looking for value around you. You look, you keep an open mind, you not only see opportunities, you also see value in people that you saw value and circumstances. It’s not just a saying to say, oh, we got in on the ground floor and by the way, this is just a learning exercise that never ends, you know, I think, you know, I do a good job at staying open minded and looking for value. It’s somewhat intrinsic to my profession but a lot of things I do maybe on a personal level, or even on business level, you know, I think you could have done so much better and, you know, you see problems in Lebanon now with the Lebanese lira going up or down, stuff like that, I tell myself, I missed the train, I seem to always, you know, buy high and sell low, for some weird reason. So, nobody can claim that they’ve mastered this art, this is something that you have to keep working at, so that you fail less at it. Not that you master it, and you get done, you know, your tie is off with a ribbon on top. You mess up so often when you start and you mess up less often, you know, before you die in age 90 or whatever. That’s discerning for me, it’s a practice.
Warsha Joshi 33:30:
It’s a practice, indeed and the third D that I absolutely want to touch upon because I know you’ve got tons of it is I will start with the courage to be decisive, to stand by your decisions to be able to take the decision and stand by it. Tell us a little bit about that.
Elie Ghoussoub 33:50:
I always wonder if I’m courageous, to be honest, I don’t know. See, for me, courage is not the absence of fear. It’s the exact opposite. If you’re afraid you and you still do something, you know, that’s this fight or flight or freeze anything but freeze is courage. You know, so that’s how I feel. People have to look at being decisive. Alright, decisive is being courageous enough to put in the effort to develop and articulate your vision but most people have some sort of vision lying there dormant somewhere. Sometimes you need help to peel that onion and get to grasp with what you want to do with your life and it’s got nothing to do with entrepreneurship. You know, you could be a somebody who’s at home, jobless, you know, and decide to pick up a hobby, you can be decisive with that. You could you know, start a tunnel boring company while stuck in traffic and being upset and you can be the site like Elon Musk that you know, in case somebody is wondering where that came from. You can be decisive for fact, so the reality is about being decisive is clarity, but also pragmatism, you want to shoot for the moon, but you can’t expect to fly to the moon tomorrow. You have to go through the process, the way he had a vision to go to Mars. It didn’t happen overnight. You know, it’s a long series of decisions that that are unclear or ambiguous when you make them, but it’ll keep you going in the same direction. In hindsight, the ones that worked would be well, of course, it would have worked but when you were at the time is like, no, no, like, what do you mean decisive, you know, decisiveness is state of mind, and it’s a willingness to risk things, but also being willing to temper that, you know, let’s get it done attitude with, we have to manage our people. We have to manage our resources; we can’t get people killed. No, no, no, the ends do not justify all the means they may justify some more than others but it’s being decisive is being wary of the journey, as well as the destination.
Evan Le Clus 35:52:
That is totally spot on. I don’t think I could have said that better. I mean, Elie, you read a heck of a lot, the way you articulate yourself is always such a pleasure to listen to and here’s me sort of hanging on every word and thinking, hmm, there’s a bit of silence, maybe I should have said something there. You know, absolutely amazing. So that being decisive is definitely a quality. When you said you started DASS was probably I was another briefing yesterday, put your hand up, you know, because he told us that fun story as well, you know, in terms of being decisive and sort of moving forward. What can we expect from DASS sort of in in the coming months and years?
Elie Ghoussoub 36:27:
You know, DASS was not born a lonely child, who just won a huge project with the Expo, supporting this forward-looking event to be more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities, and continuing to build on the vision that the UAE has, and that Dubai has to be inclusive and we’ve got big plans, because we want to do more for our community, we want to integrate our community more with our work. Being collaborative is one of our core values at DASS and collaboration with peers and specialists, but also collaboration with our community. In terms of where we are going, we are starting a series of training courses that we will be releasing over the next few weeks. That’s like some sort of short term goal and we’re also starting to expand on our digital accessibility offering for government and private sector organizations who want, you know, to follow on with the digital age, and you know, the recent pandemic and really, you know, put these that infrastructure under its stress test, you know, so to speak, people overnight, were working from home using teams and zoom and websites and applications, and many of those are not accessible, and they alienate people instead of supporting them and just look at now, many people who have COVID don’t fully recover from it. So, people with disabilities will go on increasing over time as the world’s population ages. So, we want to support them by having more digitally accessible environments. So that’s another aspect we’re looking forward to and we’re also looking to expand into architecture, you know what they say like, at the end of the line, it’s one thing to take an architect’s drawings or a designer’s drawings and layouts and help them make them accessible and inclusive and it’s another thing where you say, I’m gonna start it from the ground up, and I’m going to support my clients to build architecture that is inclusive and accessible from the get go is done right when it doesn’t feel like tacky or tagged on at the end. So, these are some of the avenues we’re exploring to grow with DASS solutions in the future.
Warsha Joshi 38:36:
Well, huge, huge shout out to DASS Solutions, and the co-founders, Elie and Mike, such brilliant job and such an inspiration just to listen to everything that you’ve been saying.
Elie Ghoussoub 38:51:
I’d like to also add a shout out if you don’t mind to the fantastic team that we work with, from Joelle to Arianne, and Nicole and Karhyne and Josh, as well, and all the other international partners that support us on our journey, and most of all, to our clients who continue to trust us to deliver on their vision and thank you to them and congratulations to them as well for having that vision, which is still unique and that’s why it’s disrupting thing to think of everybody’s doing it. It’s not so disrupting. So, kudos to all of them for really believing in the vision that the UAE leadership has put in place and striving to demonstrated and implemented.
Warsha Joshi 39:29:
Kudos indeed and Elie I’m almost tempted to say enough about work.
Evan Le Clus 39:34:
Yeah, in the background, the light is starting to fade and everything. So, you know, I mean, there’s a lot of things that we miss in terms of travel and stuff. So, what’s the next thing you’re going to do? I know you love to sit by the pool and read books and things but where’s the next place you’d like to do that?
Elie Ghoussoub 39:54:
I want to travel. I love airports. I’m the kind of guy who goes to the airport like four hours, five hours before the plane due to go and I will tell you know, my wife doesn’t really enjoy that much, especially when we’ve got two kids stacked along with us. I’m really eager to start traveling. I think a few years ago, we had a bit of a snafu and we had to cancel a cruise ship that we had booked on, great money loss, but hey, you know, works and work and all that. So, I think the next thing we’re going to do is try and do that and if it’s delayed, because still not clear, probably travel somewhere, get a bit of a break and do something nice, as an entrepreneur, it’s so difficult to balance, you think you have a hard time balancing work, or like work life but it’s hard time not just focusing on your work, but also focusing on some of the people you love, in addition to your colleagues, you know, and it’s difficult to do that when you’re entrepreneur you should seize every opportunity and another huge kudos is to my wife Pascale and, you know, I’ll tell you, I would not be here, it’s as simple as that. It is a platitude. Sometimes everybody says it but the reality is our society has every great man there is a woman, I’d like to say it behind every great woman there is a man. So that’s something to always keep in mind.
Warsha Joshi 41:07:
I can’t believe that we’ve known each other for so long, the three of us and we have not met Pascale yet, what’s going on there? We’re gonna have to rectify that very, very soon. Absolutely. I want to also talk about and I know like Evan said, you read a lot and you do what you do so wonderfully. You love your video games, don’t you?
Elie Ghoussoub 41:28:
I do. I do play a lot, not so much these days but I do play a lot. I used to think of it as a continuation for my love for reading. When I first started reading, it wasn’t you know, Sapiens, or of The Origins of war and preservation of peace. It was reading Tintin and Milu, and Asterix and Obelix and, you know, I was nine….
Evan Le Clus 41:47:
Those are classics, man, you learn so much history from Asterix and Obelix.
Elie Ghoussoub 41:51:
I’m getting my kids to read them now.
Evan Le Clus 41:53:
All of the ancient stuff I learned from there.
Elie Ghoussoub 41:55:
Absolutely. So, I do read a lot and at some points, I had access to a, you know, really large library. So that was not an issue and later on, I didn’t have access to that library. So, video games became an outlet for me, you know, especially story driven video games, that they shoot them up, you know, racing kind of games, the Final Fantasies and the metal keys that have, you know, political stories to them and these days, I still do play and if I cannot play, I listen to podcasts about the games I like, I listen to the music of the games I like, and kudos to my wife again, you know, in the evening, you need that time for yourself, you know, I get home, and you know, you have your chat, you have your discussion and then you know what, it’s perfectly fine for her to have her two hours without you bugging her being all mushy and huggy that’s me, I am mushy and huggy. She’s not and then me having my own time to kind of sit there, watch my movie, play my game and then just relax and unwind and it’s your calming, soothing moment for you to kind of destress and while your brain in the background is kind of sorting information out getting you ready for the next day.
Warsha Joshi 43:01:
You bet you bet indeed.
Elie Ghoussoub 41:55:
And by the way, Warsha a lot of the people I work with today, I met through the game I play, you know, our graphic designer, one of our best friends who’s handling now all of our digital accessibility are people I met through online games. I’m not joking, you know, what one of the persons I play with is a surgeon and the other guy has, you know, he’s running a family marketing agency that’s very successful. We used to say this as some sort of indication, you know, for our parents used to think we’re wasting time playing games and now I’m saying you know, what, we’ve been talking about how many of things you do as a professional is about people and you know, being around people in the digital age being around people. That’s what it looks like 500 years ago, you would have met around, you know, a campfire somewhere. You know, in the 60s, you would have met somewhere in this day and age. That’s one of the ways that you meet people and you know what it comes with its drawbacks and pros and cons, just like the others. How do you balance? That is what you should be asking yourself, not whether you should exclude yourself from a certain community or not.
Evan Le Clus 44:10:
Yeah, look, I relate to that. Not that we’ve met anybody in the team through game playing and stuff like that. I don’t do it online but I do enjoy playing with the Xbox and Warsha knows when I’m on there because most times, I’m not as dexterous as I could be and I just like get on with it.
Warsha Joshi 44:29:
Followed by a few words we shouldn’t be repeating on the podcast.
Evan Le Clus 44:33:
I have no idea what you mean but yeah, it’s definitely that escape, if you will and I’ve always sort of thought of it like sometimes you following the story of somebody engaging with the program on the other side and you know, it’s wonderful, it’s wonderful. It’s great.
Elie Ghoussoub 44:47:
Yeah but it’s people’s personality comes out and whatever they do, be it playing or working or you know, taking the kids to the beach or you know, spending an evening with your wife, you are who you are work life balance thing that doesn’t cut it doesn’t because we are who we are, we’re not nice and funny at home and then you know, gloomy and pessimistic at work, you know you are, who you are and the more you resist that, the less efficient you will be and the more stressed you will be.
Evan Le Clus 45:12:
What I love is when there is a confluence, Warsha and I love traveling, like you said you’d like to go to the airport early, yes or no and yet we love the journey. It’s always about the journey and you know, you can have your own interests but the good thing is when you do have that confidence, like you said, it’s actually amazing. Absolutely. So, Ellie, as part of the Dare to Scale space, we always ask, what is your Dare to statement? What is that for you?
Elie Ghoussoub 45:37:
I dare to be optimistic, and I dare to be collaborative. That’s what I think the difficult things to do but we have to do them.
Evan Le Clus 45:45:
Aḥsanta, I love that.
Elie Ghoussoub 45:47:
Warsha Joshi 45:49:
Elie, such a brilliant conversation and before we let you go, initially, we talked a lot about entrepreneurship and the hustle, what would you say aside from that, that’s those couple of things that today’s younger generation, or the generation that’s following us to bear in mind as they go through their life.
Elie Ghoussoub 46:15:
Oh God your gonna make me feel old now. You hear this a lot about, you know, Millennials being, you know, certain title and all that. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not that it’s true, maybe it’s that people have different expectations and we live in a day and age where things happen very, very quickly and people start expecting that, I would say patience, you know, we said earlier, you know, you will fail and you got to ask yourself, am I to blame here, and that’s what the first thing you should do is ask yourself, am I to blame before you start pointing fingers at others. So, if I were to say things that people that I would recommend, you know, the younger generation focuses on this, that sense of patience, of understanding that you need to put in the work to get the outcome that you want. There’s a book called Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow, and they use the number of hours, I think it’s 10,000 hours or so I remember, it’s about five years of eight to five work to really become the master of a certain aspect that you were a profession or something and not just doing it again, and again and again, it’s doing it stopping thinking and then changing and tweaking and I think the younger generation would benefit a lot from going through that process and it’s okay to expect it to go faster. That’s fine but you can’t remove the process until we figure out how to rewire people’s neurons to you know, learn how to fly a helicopter while sleeping. Maybe we’ll get there till then. We have to be patient.
Evan Le Clus 47:40:
Absolutely. Patience and pay the price. Absolutely. So, nothing comes for free. I totally love that. Absolutely. Excellent advice, I think.
Warsha Joshi 47:46:
Thank you, Ellie. I know straight after this people are going to want to connect with you. What is the best place to say Hey Elie, we love that episode today? Tell us more.
Elie Ghoussoub 47:56:
Thank you. Well, I think the best way to reach me is on LinkedIn. I shouldn’t say this, but I don’t like follow Instagram and Facebook and Twitter as much as I should but through LinkedIn, I normally can be reached, otherwise people can reach me through our company’s website and they can leave us a message there or on any one of our social media for DASS solutions.
Warsha Joshi 48:17:
Fantastic and we will of course, be putting the links to Elie’s LinkedIn profile, and of course, a link to DASS Solutions in the show notes to remember to go through the show notes and get in touch with Elie, even if it is just to say, hey, that was brilliant episode. Ellie, thank you very much for a brilliant conversation and your time and all the fun and the laughter and the lessons. It’s such a pleasure.
Elie Ghoussoub 48:44:
Thank you, Warsha. Thank you. It was my pleasure and thank you, Evan, thank you for hosting me and all the best of you in your endeavors as well.
Evan Le Clus 48:52:
Absolutely Elie, wonderful to have you on. We will see you soon. Thank you.
Warsha Joshi 48:57:
Thank you for joining us and for listening all the way through to get the show notes, the transcription and of course to subscribe, visit daretoscale.fm
Evan Le Clus 49:09:
The success of the show is thanks to you. So, please keep the five-star reviews coming. Remember to share this with your network and keep the community expanding. We’ll catch you at our next episode and in the meantime, keep daring and keep growing