Published on August 2nd, 2016 | by SayginYalcin0
Saygin on the cover of CEO Middle East magazine!
CEO of SellAnyCar.com believes inspiration can strike anywhere even at the back of a textbook on quantum mechanics.
Read the full story here:
• What’s the story behind your business?
SellAnyCar.com is the largest car buyer in the country. We started less than 3 years ago with a single promise: To guarantee to purchase any car within 30 minutes. Today, we have built the biggest marketplace for used cars with close to 20% of the country’s entire car population having used our services already. It all started, when I tried to sell my car through online classifieds and realized the broken experience and opportunity to solve a major problem in the used car industry. The best part about SellAnyCar.com is that it naturally identifies the best price for your car anywhere in the world and buys it straightaway.
• If all goes well, where do you see it going in the next five years?
In the next five years, SellAnyCar.com will buy 10% of all cars in the GCC.
• The next decade?
In the next ten years, we will purchase 5% of all cars in the Arab world.
• What’s the single biggest challenge facing your industry today?
Transparency and liquidity; we are delivering a solution to this. Our instant market coordination mechanism with guaranteed fast liquidity solves a major challenge for consumers. At the same time, we are allowing for on-demand sourcing and are solving a problem for the used automotive professionals.
• Where do great ideas come from in your organisation?
Ideas come from various channels; be it team members, data or externals. We have a clear process on how to translate an idea into reality. Fast.
• How do you encourage creative thinking within your organisation?
By getting things done! There is nothing more frustrating than having a great idea and no one is listening or it takes years to develop an MVP. Speed is on top of our values. Tell me about another organization in the Middle East with 180 IT projects delivered annually. Moreover, we have a dedicated communication channel to ultimate decision makers for everyone in our organization.
• What is the most important in your company – its mission, core values or vision?
I wouldn’t like to prioritize those, as each fulfills its own purpose. However, you wouldn’t be in our organization, if you do not share our values. Starting from there, you will be introduced to our mission and vision and can actively influence those.
• What’s your decision-making process?
Depends on what we are deciding, but generally, we will try to gather data around the subject as much as possible. The more important the topic, the more members of the team will get involved, even if not directly connected.
• Do you believe social networking has impacted your organisation or yourself, personally? How has it done so?
Social networking has impacted the entire world. It has brought us forward as humanity by connecting everyone, giving individuals a voice and real-time information. I believe it is one of the major drivers moving us towards a type 1 civilization, a planetary civilization in the words of Kardashev.
• What do you enjoy the most about working at your company?
I enjoy most about working at our company that I enjoy working here. Being able to turn ideas into reality with people you like to work with; these ideas being able to solve problems and being rewarded for it. Occasionally, I like to look back, see what we have achieved and share these thoughts with the team.
• If you were to explain your job to an 8-year-old in three sentences, what would you say?
Hey there! When you see something you think is wrong or could be made better, speak up, do something, make it better and don’t stop until you have achieved what you believe in. I do that too.
• Can you name a person who has had an impact on you as a leader? Perhaps someone who has been a mentor to you? Why/how did this person impact your life?
It wouldn’t be one person, but a collection of several. It is one of the most important success factors to find people who influence you to become a better person, encourage you to achieve your goals, show you that it is possible. As a young boy, my parents gave me something, which still drives me today: Confidence.
• What is the most important/biggest decision you’ve ever had to make for your company?
Timing of strategic decisions is a tough one. A major challenge for example is the switch from topline to bottom line focus, the moment of truth for all startup entrepreneurs, beyond just positive unit economics.
• What would you say to a new employee about the culture of your organisation?
Welcome to the team! Let’s get things done. Fast. Let’s make them scalable, sustainable and technology-based. Let’s do it together.
• When faced with two equally qualified job candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?
We would hire both.
• What are three characteristics that you believe every leader should possess?
Ability to share the credit, but solely take the blame.
Ability to create leaders.
A confident mind-set.
• What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Take the word leadership literally. You will have to lead the ship and it requires leading by example and teamwork. Set a meaningful goal, focus on it and build the best team possible. Ensure enough financial resources, decide data-driven and show perseverance. Remember, you will require loyal team members. If you would like to purchase loyalty, it will be very expensive and not sustainable; rather build an inspiring vision and give meaning to each one’s work. Appreciate and celebrate accomplishments regularly.
• What’s one mistake that leaders make more frequently than others?
There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance. Not admitting mistakes rather shows the latter.
• What’s your greatest fear in business?
I don’t fear anything in business.
• What’s the best way to prepare for uncertainty (which is increasingly relevant in today’s market)?
The best way to prepare for uncertainty is to understand that it is an integral part of business. This subject is managed by our risk management approach. We generally look at 4 types of risk: Market risk, product risk, team risk and financial risk. Each one of them can be minimized so that the business is optimally prepared for the future.
• What inspires you?
Quantum mechanics. A century ago, common sense was suddenly not applicable. Status quo was disrupted; classical physics was not the only game in town anymore. Think about it; particles behaving like waves, being in superpositions, conscious observations having an influence over reality. Nonetheless, quantum theory is the most precisely tested and most successful theory in the history of science. It reminds me that the world is full of opportunities to change even the most deeply rooted convictions we might have. This is entrepreneurship. Nothing is impossible. If the behavior of a tiny subatomic particle can change our world, then we can too. With this mind-set, it allowed all our initially small teams to become market leaders; markets, which were traditionally led by huge incumbents.
• What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
My “ultimate then what”.
One day I have started asking myself what my goal was. Driving a nice car. Well, then what? Owning a big house. Well, then what? Having a lot of money. Then what? If you keep going and ask yourself this question, you will at one point, reach your “ultimate then what”. You will most probably end up with something or someone you have created.
• What’s one productivity tip you wish everyone else knew?
What has worked very well for me is to note tasks into my calendar and finish them off rigorously.
• If you were to give someone just starting out in business one piece of advice, what would it be?
Answer these six questions:
1. Does your idea solve a problem?
2. Is the idea profitably scalable?
3. How is the monetization strength?
4. Are you passionate about it?
5. Any regulatory showstoppers?
6. Is it the right timing?
If all good, build a numeric plan and go for it.
• What is your most prized possession?
That should be your best kept secret.
• What is the biggest luxury in your life?
• What makes you get out of bed each day?
My ultimate then what.
• Quote to live your life by?
I don’t recommend living your life by a quote, but if you really think about the quote “Life is short”, then try to make it “Life is good”.
• What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Surround yourself with intelligent, ethical and ambitious people. You have all the tries in the world. Go out there and embrace every opportunity. You only need to hit once, but can fail many times.
• If you could give an old boss one piece of advice, what would it be?
I never really had a boss for long periods of times during my adult life to be able to look back and give advice.
• If something were to happen to your business, what would be your backup plan?
Depends on what that “something” is, but generally speaking I don’t make backup plans for the entire business; I just make another plan. If it is a specific topic within the business, which requires parallel alternatives, we surely have them.
• What do you work toward in your free time?
Support research in epilepsy syndromes associated with mutations in the SCN1A gene, including the severe myoclonic epilepsy in infancy and its borderline subtypes, which typically present themselves with prolonged febrile and non-febrile, generalised clonic or hemiclonic seizures in children with no pre-existing developmental problems. Thus, helping these children with defective sodium channels to avoid life-threatening status epilepticus or even SUDEP.
• What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to become an aesthetic plastic surgeon. It promised a lot of money and was glamorous. I researched and talked to industry leaders. They disagreed. I ignored and applied for an obligatory, unpaid nursing job in the central hospital, where I got accepted and miserably failed.
I remember one nurse at the hospital saying: “You would probably be the worst doctor, but a very good business man”.
• How do you manage a large company and still find time for things like family?
I do not find enough time for my family and it is an area I have to improve on. Building companies is not a sprint, it is a marathon with several sprints within.
• How do you relax and switch off from the office?
Late at night, when I focus on completely different topics, such as quantum physics or medical research. Moreover, I spend time with friends during dinner.
• What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t like the concept of sleeping, so I try to minimize it, but fail due to natural reasons. If you think about the fact that a smartphone needs 1 hour to recharge and work through 23 hours and our bodies need 7 hours to work 17 hours consciously, I am quite disappointed by our progress. Anyways, my days are usually quite busy with numerous meetings, specifically planned accomplishments, hundreds of messages and frequent travel.
• Do you have any daily rituals that help prepare you for the day?
Being healthy is key to success. I am trying to maintain a ritual of exercising 1h, every 48h. Moreover, I am watching my diet as good as I can, but why do the best tasting things have to be the worst for you?
• If you were to step outside the office and find a lottery ticket that ends up winning a million dirhams, what would you do?
It wouldn’t change anything in my life. I would exactly do the same things I am doing now.
• Finish this sentence, “the world would be a better place if only….”
…negligible senescence was true for humans too.
This article also appeared on Arabian Business. Also, on Arabian Business in Arabic.