Secrets of Success: Kubair Shirazee, Agilitea

Secrets of Success: Kubair Shirazee, Agilitea

Kubair believes in helping teams to unlearn old, and develop new, behaviours to inspire new capabilities

As a coach and mentor, Kubair enables this and nurtures a customer-centric, creative team mindset and culture through his company: Agilitea. And with that, entire teams are better placed to reach their true potential.

Hearing Kubair’s story is inspirational and beautiful in its honesty. He says ‘To go the extra mile for others we must first walk the hardest mile ourselves first.’ Anyone who is in business knows this to be true. I really hope you enjoy his story as he shares with you his Secrets of Success …

What is your USP

My journey and experiences gained along the way, and how I bring them to my coaching, training and mentoring engagements to better facilitate my client’s in their journey. From tech-startups, those that worked and those that didn’t, from my time as an intrapreneur in a fast growing scale up, to my socio-political activism. I bring all of that to being a people centric agile coach, trainer and mentor.

What made you start your business – did you want to rock the status quo, was it a challenge or a gap in the marketplace that you could fill?

From the age of 20 I have been leading or co-creating businesses, from importing and wholesale of garments to market traders in London to my tech-startups. I have been able to identify gaps in the market and co-create opportunities to address them from a young age. On occasions successfully on some it’s been costly lessons learned.

In 2010, following the murder of my brother by extremists in Pakistan, I decided to take a break from all my ventures to focus on a very different journey.

I sold a very successful business I had built from scratch in the UK, and I turned my off-shore development centre into an employee owned cooperative, completely divested of all commercial responsibilities. I set about co-founding a not-for-profit project – Peace Through Prosperity – with my wife, with the aim of using education to empower people from marginalised communities who were vulnerable to radicalisation in countries such as Pakistan.

At that time building digital products and chasing EBITDA targets seemed like a futile exercise in the face of a real existential threat.

In 2014 my exit money ran out but I had the good fortune of being headhunted to help establish high performance teams in Acquia’s professional services practise in EMEA. Having been an agile practitioner since the late 1990s, which direction to take it in was a no-brainer!

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By 2018 I had achieved the targets and outcomes I’d agreed with the VP of professional services so I decided to move on and develop a consultancy based on what I had learned and taught over the years. Thus Agilitea was born.

I set up Agilitea as a vehicle for me to contract, and within a couple of years my customers convinced me to scale the business and build a team of trusted agile change makers to help them scale impact in their teams and culture. Having said that, we intend to remain a small and nimble boutique consultancy by design.

What are your brand values?

Being human.

Do your values define your decision-making process?

They are inseparable. Our decisions impact ourselves and others, I do my best to ensure my decisions have a positive outcome and a lasting impact on and for myself and all others it’s ripples may reach.

Is team culture integral to your business?

Absolutely. Change is a tribe sport! And as agents of change our own team culture matters most! A culture where concepts can be freely aired, challenged, cooked and validated or invalidated enables innovation and creativity. Without which the best one could produce is commodity!

If team culture is integral to your business, what do you do to go the extra mile to show your team you appreciate them?

To go the extra mile for others we must first walk the hardest mile ourselves first. That’s to be a good human being, to first get oneself in a place where one has the courage to have open conversations, whilst being respectful of others, with focus on one’s own commitment to everyone’s collective continuous improvement. Once you get close to that, the extra mile becomes part of the journey, not extra.

In terms of your messaging do you think you talk directly to your consumers in a clear fashion?

Personally I strive to be authentic, for those who know me, know I call it as I see it, respectfully, and make time and focus on listening. For me that is clear communication, as for messaging about our services, approach and vision, we could always improve!

What’s your take on inflation and interest rates – are you going to pass that on to your customers or let your margins take a hit and reward customer loyalty in these tougher times?

Inflation and interest rates. Between Putin’s war, Kwasi Kwarteng’s libertarian experimentation, China’s flexing, Greenbacks’ bizarre comeback, BRICS expansion with their own reserve currency, the global economy is a disaster at the moment. It would make for incredible theatre if people weren’t the extras suffering in the background!

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My Customers are B2B, mostly large enterprises. I ascribe a value for my time, capabilities, experiences and potential to catalyse desired impact, as do my clients, and if prevailing conditions mean our service rates need to be adjusted to afford ourselves and our team members the standard of living we’re are accustomed to, then yes, we would pass it on transparently to our customers.

Do the BCG, Delloittes, and McKinseys of the world offer discounts during cyclical downturns? Boutique consultancies are no different, and should not think or be treated differently.

Having said all of that, my clients know a sizable chunk of Agilitea’s income gets invested in Peace Through Prosperity’s projects in marginalised and conflict affected communities in Yemen,  Pakistan and Egypt. In these countries we run mini-MBA programmes to enable marginalised communities to work their way out of poverty and become better microentrepreneurs. In 2023 we plan to expand to a new region that will need its own investment.

How often do you assess the data you pull in and address your KPIs and why?

As often as is value-adding to do so and no more.

Is tech playing a much larger part in your day-to-day running of your company?

It’s all tech! We mostly interact from behind a screen post March 2020, from contracting to collaboration, it’s all tech enabled working.

What is your attitude to your competitors?

We live in a connected and interdependent world, my competition is part of my world and at best it enables me to scale rapidly through partnerships, at worst it makes me look even better! Our competition and peers keep us sharp and creative, we learn from each other and drive disruption and innovation in industries and if we’re lucky they or we might inspire them to drive innovation and disruption in society too.

Do you have any advice for anyone starting out in business?

When launching any enterprise, commercial or social, the key question to ask is why? Why am I creating this business? Who is it for? Do they need it? Does it help people get a job done in a better, more effective way? You need to know a product will be economically sustainable.

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It can be a lonely and pressured place to be as the lead decision maker of the business. What do you do to relax, recharge, and hone your focus?

My passion is social transformation, and cross pollinating what I continue to learn about enterprise transformation to enable people to transform their lives, their business, their family and communities. I focus very much on my charitable work at Peace Through Prosperity. I also have a passion for politics, and no weekend is complete without coaching my son and his team’ Titans’ in their little league soccer club!

Do you believe in the 12-week work method, or do you make much longer planning strategies? 

It’s a method based on Lean Thinking that calls for focus and creates outcomes in shorter time frames. It’s an agile approach! I am a framework agnostic agile practitioner. I believe in principles, values and experimentation with frameworks and practices.

What is essential is to develop, nurture and evolve capabilities, behaviours and ways of working that enable individuals, teams and businesses to achieve their purpose, regardless of what the future brings.

What is your company’s eco strategy?

We are a remote-first company, however we do recognise and value the need to have face to face interactions, good old styled hand shakes, high fives and hugs!  We take a value-based approach to travel, be it for clients on sites or our all-hands, and limit our footprint as much as possible.

What three things do you hope to have in place within the next 12 months?

If ‘hope’ is what we’re going for then three things we all would greatly benefit from in the next 12 months  are negotiated peace in Ukraine, Energy stability in Europe and UK rejoining the EU.

Cherry Martin

Cherry is Associate Editor of Business Matters with responsibility for planning and writing future features, interviews and more in-depth pieces for what is now the UK’s largest print and online source of current business news.

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