From plans for a chain of hypnotherapy stores when he was 13 years old, Alister Esam has known he would be an entrepreneur. He tells BQ about his latest venture, Process Bliss.
What is it the company does?
Process Bliss is a process management tool that helps small businesses stay on top of their everyday processes and tasks. It empowers employees to focus on what is really important and gives reassurance that tasks will be completed – smartly, efficiently and on time.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I am the CEO and founder, so I am responsible for the overall strategy and direction of the company. It was my brainchild originally, when in my previous company I developed the tool to enable my business to run itself.
I am also involved in other functions within the business, but I believe people need to be empowered and to make their own decisions and to be motivated and happy in their work, so I always try and keep a respectful distance.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I began my professional life by training for six years to become a pensions actuary. A professional consulting career definitely wasn’t for me and I eventually escaped that trap by becoming a technology entrepreneur, establishing eShare in 2004 with the aim of using technology to aid better governance of boards. After growing eShare to having a presence in countries all over the world with 70+ employees, I sold the company in early 2018 and turned to my next venture, Process Bliss.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Learning about leadership, hiring great people and making sure that you have time to think. Part of leadership is about understanding what leadership is and what it is not. Once you know that, it’s easier to avoid being a destructive leader. Every time you take charge, you disempower and demotivate your team. Without great people – both in terms of their talent and willingness to learn, as well as their enthusiasm to come on your journey – no business is sustainable in the long-term.
Finally, having time to think is vital for good decision-making and in getting your team to think things through properly so that they make great decisions too.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
I forgot how difficult it is to get a business off the ground and the deep level of faith and commitment you need to see it through.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I see stress not as a negative but as a healthy, internally generated way to drive me to achieve what I want to achieve. My stress largely comes from the business machine I am building not going fast enough and rather than get impatient, I instead focus on the issues that slow us down and what can be done to fix them.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Number 1 - racing driver - I haven’t given up on this yet.
Number 2 - pretty much what I am doing now. I wrote my first business plan for a high street chain of hypnotherapy stores at 13.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Can’t - I hate it when people tell me you can’t do something when they really just mean it’s difficult or non-conventional. It might not make sense, but “can’t” stops you even considering why.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I want Process Bliss to be the de facto process management tool. Most businesses don't understand that process is important, which is fascinating because process is all you do. If you actually look at what a business is, everything is a process. To become process experts, we need to do research on process, so that we understand it better than everybody else. We need to know why process fails and what the impact is of bad processes on business. We will feed all this information into the product to ensure success.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
1. Be sure that this is what you want - there are easier lives.
2. Learn - I wish I had learned more sooner.
3. Think big - you can achieve more than you think, as long as you believe you can.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Believe in yourself. When I had sold my house, spent most of the money, had little income and most people were saying give up, it would’ve been nice if someone had said it will work.
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