If you want to build a successful business, you’ve got to dream big.
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Fortunately for Taha Bouqdib, that was never an issue. When he founded his luxury drinks business TWG Tea — The Wellness Group — in Singapore in 2008, his vision from the outset was to grow it into a global brand.
“Even when we were just a group of five or six people working in an office, I told everyone ‘we are a luxury brand, you need to wear a tie everyday as if we are having a meeting everyday,'” Bouqdib told CNBC Make It.
Today, the CEO has achieved just that, establishing TWG Tea as an upscale tea chain with 70 salons and boutiques in major cities across North America, the Middle East, Europe and Asia Pacific. In addition, the company sells a range of accessories and tea-related cuisine.
“All the visions I have had since day one, I can see now in front of me. I wanted TWG Tea to be an Asian brand for the world and it is today” he said.
Of course the journey was not always easy. But it did teach Bouqdib some important lessons for building and maintaining a successful business. As TWG Tea celebrates its 10th anniversary, he shared those with CNBC Make It.
Even when starting small, it’s important to believe in your product and feel that you are already leading an established brand, said Bouqdib.
Investors know when a business leader is passionate, resilient and has immovable belief in their brand, he explained. An aspiring entrepreneur will only be able to convince them if he or she actually has those values, he said.
“If you are not 100 percent sure about your brand then you give up easily,” said Bouqdib. “When the leader shares the vision, it is contagious. The energy will be shared with the team.”
Bouqdib emphasized the importance of staying grounded, even as the business reaches new heights.
“Success can kill if the leader does not have his foot on the ground. It can be the beginning of the end,” said Bouqdib.
“Whatever your position, you must have your feet on your ground. That is our philosophy,” he continued. “I have met some CEOs that have lost touch with their base.”
Bouqdib added that he did not want to be a CEO in an office relying on others to advise him. Rather, he said his role should be “on the ground” with his staff.
“This is how you can go faster and understand the market all the time,” he said.
As your company grows, Bouqdib said, it’s important to stay in constant contact with your employees.
He said he does that at TWG Tea by scheduling regular visits to warehouses and branches to gain feedback.
“This, for me, is extremely important because I want to have a link with everybody,” said Bouqdib. “For everybody to have the same language, the same excitement of the brand.”
When the time comes to enter a new market, you should be willing to adapt your business without losing sight of the original concept, explained Bouqdib.
He recalled his experience when he first took his tea business into China — a country with an ancient tradition in tea production. Some critics said it might not work because the market was already saturated, Bouqdib noted. But, after he opened his shop, he said, many Chinese customers were excited to discover new places that grow tea.
Now, TWG Tea has developed a line of products that respond to China’s culture for gift-giving. Meanwhile, in the U.K., Bouqdib said the company has created a line of miniature teas that are suitable for more price-conscious shoppers.
“Of course we must be careful to adapt some features to the a new market, but we cannot change the brand. We cannot make the brand go out of the railroad of what have created,” said Bouqdib. “We got to China like ourselves, with what we are, and let the customers tell us what doesn’t work for them.”
Finally, Bouqdib said it’s important to give your business a wider social purpose.
“You can’t leave everything to be done by the government, you need the private sector to pull its weight,” he said, noting TWG Tea’s support for charitable initiatives such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation Singapore.
“This is how you can feel that you can sleep very well at night,” he added. “Success must be shared, it cannot be just for yourself.”
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