Nassib Fawaz a 63 year old Arab-American businessman who was born and raised in Lebanon and emmigrated to the USA when he was sixteen years old. He attended Michigan State University and then York Technical Institute in Pennsylvania, where he studied electrical engineering. When he was 22, he was drafted into the army “I had no choice, I had to serve in Germany for two years,” Nassib said.
Currently Fawaz is the president of the Islamic Center of America, also the President of the Lebanese International Business Council.. He started out as an employee of a company involved in international engineering projects. “I spent ten years with the company and then I became their regional manager for the Middle East and Africa. I used the experience I gained to develop my own business,” he said.
Nassib says that he had very little help from others when he started up the Energy International Corporation and that he had to rely on himself. “I took advantage of opportunity when it arrived and I have taken risks.” He said that the major ingredient of success is to be able to take risks at the appropriate time.
As with any other business venture, he faced difficulties in two areas. The first one was making the customers and clients believe in his ability to perform. “I had to convince them that I can do the job and that I can help solve their problems.” The second difficulty to overcome was financial. “It is important when you get projects that you will be able to finance them on time. When you first start your business, banks don’t want to loan you the money you need to do the job.”
“It took me about six years of hard work to make the first million,” he said. Making a million dollars profit required sales of about 20 million. And not every one of Nassib’s projects turned a profit. “I’ve faced losses before,” he admitted. “I’ve had losses several times because of incidents beyond my control, such as during the Gulf war or on similar occasions, such as what happened on September 11th.” Although the first two years of his business were full of difficulties, the third year brought new confidence and success. “I began to see that my business was pulling up and becoming stronger.”
Now the Energy International Corporation has more than 20 branches around the world. In addition to the head office, there are four other branches in the United States. They have branches in the Middle East, Far East, Africa, South America and Korea with more than a hundred employees.
“The countries I enjoyed dealing with are the UAE and Saudi Arabia. I think the Emirates is a very good country to deal with and to do business in. It has got the proper laws and the proper respect, and a very good government,” Nassib commented. He has experienced problems acquiring the appropriate visas to enter some countries.
Nassib finds that doing business in the US is very competitive because most companies are very efficient and utilize high-end technology. “It’s a very tough business environment there with a lot of pressure.” He described business in the UAE as having a relaxed atmosphere with an emphasis on human relations. “Business here is based on a handshake.”
Nassib feels it is important to treat his employees with respect. “It’s necessary to have people believing that they are working with you, not for you. That really improves their job performance,” he remarked. He strives to make every employee feel that he owns a part of the company. He claims that the moment the employee loses his enthusiasm, he becomes inefficient and loses his ability to do the job.
“He’s a very successful boss and very understanding. I really like working with him,” said Asppy Raj, Nassib’s regional manager in Sharjah. “He knows that he should grab the opportunity when the right time comes.”
At the age of 32 Nassib married an American woman who bore him three boys and a girl. He believes that the culturally mixed parentage of his children has been positive because they get the best ethics from each culture. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t teach them the Arabic I wanted them to learn, but on the other hand they got better chances for an education,” Nassib said.
While his family suffered from his absences, his wife did a great job of holding it together. “I always make sure that when I have time, I spend it with my family. It means a lot to them.” The family has been patient, understanding that he was working for their comfort and security. His wife has played an important role in his success. “It is the best relationship ever. It’s one of the things that kept me going and gave me strength,” he proudly stated.
Although he hasn’t been directly effected by the events of 9/11, he realizes that they have had a negative impact on his community. “As Arab Americans we are cautious, because some uneducated people will begin to stereotype and discriminate against Arab Americans and Muslim Americans.” But he thanks Allah that he or his family have not faced any problems yet.
So what gives a millionaire satisfaction? “What makes me happy is to see my family happy,” Nassib said. In addition, he wants to see his employees and their families happy. Doing a very good job on time also gives him a sense of satisfaction. On the other hand, not doing on time what he promised to do really upsets him. “My word means a lot to me. Anytime I find that I can’t meet my commitments it makes me really sad. I feel that I have not done my job,” he said.
He would love to see his children take over his business in the future. “I won’t be upset if they don’t, because they have their own lives and they have to lead them in their own ways. After all, I led my own life in my own way.”