Marissa Safe, COO and senior VP at FDC International came to the Middle East from the United States over 15 years ago and set up a small company together with her husband, as resellers of memory products and CPUs.
At the time, Safe says the market was dominated by fake memory products and CPUs. “We took the time then to set down a strategy that focused on educating people about the difference between original products and the fakes that were selling in the market. Our company motto said ‘only originals. It was a few years before we saw perceptions change and people realise the value behind paying for an original. Over the years, the company grew; we saw greater demand and developed strong relationships with vendors across the components space. By this time, we also understood the market and its people a whole lot better and decided it was time to move into the distribution space,” she says
Coming from an engineering background, Safe enjoyed and understood technology. However, over the years, she began to realise that her true passion was selling technology. “I didn’t just want to sit in the office, designing or managing a system, I enjoyed interacting with people,” she says.
Not one to be deterred from her passion, Safe delved into sales with an unrelenting spirit. “I faced the challenges any young woman would face. Often people in a male dominated industry do not trust the capabilities or the words of a woman. A task, I learned can only be tackled through one’s behaviour. I always kept the company’s capabilities and resources in mind when meeting a customer and therefore never promised what we couldn’t deliver. This helped change perceptions,” she says.
Safe has instilled a go-getter nature within the company’s culture, stressing on performance and focusing on delivery. “I believe that if you want to do something, you will do it. Don’t look for excuses, look for opportunities. When we first came to Dubai, it was the right place and the right time. It was my luck that I chose to enter the market at a time when the infrastructure and economy were ready for growth. I have learnt from my experience that if you don’t grab an opportunity early on in the game, it will pass you by,” she adds.
Safe says that the company’s strategy is the key to its success. “At FDC, we are constantly on the lookout for emerging opportunities. We have often been the ones to enter untapped markets such as Libya and Iraq, we have learnt to balance our operations across the diverse regions we operate to offset any unforeseen political or economic changes,” Safe explains.
She adds that the ability to communicate and share information is central to the organisation’s strategy. “We have established trust based relationships with all our resellers, who share valuable information about the markets we operate across. They help us understand that while there lies a lot of similarity between our regional operations, there are some minor yet critical differences in customer demands and market ethics. For instance, while Saudi Arabia prefers longer payment terms, Jordan wants exclusive partnerships and while Saudi Arabia is showing great demand for mobility solutions, Egypt is a strong components market. In turn, we share this information with our vendors, helping them scale their operations to be more successful across the diverse markets,” says Safe.
According to Safe, it is this strategy alone that has helped the company grow from marginal revenues to over USD 450 million today.
When hiring people, Safe looks for their commitment and passion for getting things done, which is critical to her company. “I see people around the world go hungry and understand the value of work, and then I see people in this region being served on a silver platter, with unrealistically high incomes but who lack the work ethic and passion or commitment for their jobs, I look at them as excess baggage,” she says.