Hesham Shafie, CMA, President, CEO, Partner
bh in Brief
Brand Momentum Inc.(BMI) is a fully integrated sales, merchandising and engagement marketing agency, fuelled by research and strategy. From offices in Mississauga, Ontario, and Longueuil, Quebec, BMI’s 900 employees deliver services across Canada, strategically connecting brands to people.
Life Momentum is the philanthropic arm of Brand Momentum Inc. with the support of clients, partners and employees, Life Momentum strives to aid underprivileged youth in Canada and around the world through the funding of educational livelihoods programs, providing opportunities to acquire the skills and training needed to pursue their own dreams.
“Goodness is at the core of who we are and what we do. “
Brand Momentum Inc. (BMI) says its culture is rooted in Goodness. Cynics are sceptical. They say that the bottom line is always about money, that business cannot succeed without a focus on profits and winning at all costs. Fortunately, BMI proves them wrong. Since 2009, BMI has grown to be Canada’s largest privately held sales and marketing agency with a team of 900 employees operating across Canada and recognition as one of Canada’s best places to work. Life Momentum (LM), its philanthropic foundation, supports initiatives for disadvantaged youth in Canada and the world.
Inspiration at BMI comes from its founder, Hesham Shafie, whose personal vision of goodness includes being decent, kind and caring, doing the right thing, and having your word mean something –
“a promise you make is a promise you keep.” Along with goodness, people are at the centre of what happens in the company, including employees, clients and partners. People are encouraged to participate, have fun and give back – “as humans, we should go beyond borders and help wherever we can.”
From Refugee to the C Suite
Shafie’s personal vision and philosophy emerged from his life experience as a refugee to Canada and his own journey to his current position as president and CEO of a thriving Canadian company. He recently took the time to talk to bh, to tell his story, beginning with his arrival in Canada in 1987 as a university student from Egypt, his application for refugee status and his rise from being a cleaner with limited English to leading a major corporation. A recurring theme throughout his story is the help he received from others and gave back, as he could. Here are some examples:
- Shortly after his arrival, a security guard from Pakistan who had been in the military and knew English well challenged him to learn 10 new words a day. His English improved rapidly.
- Later, when he got a job as an office clerk, his manager who was a certified management accountant (CMA, now known as CPA), insisted that he also become a CMA and boldly registered him for the program. After five years of night study, Shafie received his CMA. With involvement in the accounting area, doors opened. He worked in many fields and as a volunteer, gave back. He mentored other CMA students, including newcomers, and in 2013 he received the rare honour of recognition as a fellow of the CMA.
- A break though came in 1995 when he joined a small start-up company, Consumer Impact Marketing (CIM). Its founder, Howard Craig, was inspirational. He said business was not about profits but people. If you take care of people and clients, businesses will thrive. If you create an environment where people work hard, are passionate and energetic, and do awesome things, people and clients will like it. He decided a percentage of profits would go to doing good. Eventually, Craig built CIM into the largest private sales and marketing company in Canada, with over 3,000 employees and Shafie as vice-president.
- In late 2009, Shafie launched BMI. If there seem to be cultural similarities between BMI and CIM, it should not be a surprise. Howard Craig, Shafie’s inspiration at CIM, is now chairman at BMI, where the vision continues.
Sharing the Profits – Life Momentum (LM)
BMI takes its business very seriously – its focus on goodness is far from a sign of weakness. The company is thriving and in keeping with its original goals is generating profits to share with others. Instead of scattering its efforts over a wide variety of causes, BMI created LM, a foundation to unify its philanthropic activities and “take its goodness to a new level.” LM makes the company’s goals tangible and easier to understand. It is not a registered charity but partners with charitable organizations with existing infrastructure. LM itself has no overhead. Tasks are carried out by BMI employees who, like BMI’s clients, also help to raise money.
LM focuses on youth, perhaps because of Shafie’s early experiences as a young refugee. Perhaps, too, because BMI employs hundreds of young people. As a result, charitable activity is positioned “where the employees are.” Their enthusiasm and support make fundraising projects successful.
To date, LM has partnered with two charities, carefully chosen based on their goals and their effectiveness –
low overhead and efficient delivery of services:
- In Africa, working in Tanzania with the International Development Relief Foundation, a Canadian charity, LM provided money for a training centre, funding renovations, trainers and computer systems. After just two years, students are now developing their own programs.
- In Canada, as a partner with REMIX, LM has helped disadvantaged youth in Toronto. The Remix Project tries to level the playing field for young people from marginalized and under served communities and help them enter the creative industries or further their formal education.
Both initiatives have been filmed in a brief documentary by MTV available at www.brandmomentum.ca
Advice for Others – the Journey Matters
Ultimately, Shafie says, it is the journey that matters and the journey is easier if you open yourself to others. He advises people in business to do good but not to think of goodness only in terms of giving: “Think about how you conduct your business, keep a steady moral compass and don’t let your ego get in the way. Find a cause you are passionate about and engage your employees to be its champions. Love what you do, take care of your people and have fun on your journey.” bh
Photos: LM Giving Back – Children and Young Adults at the Training Centre in Tanzania Courtesy BMI