When people are asked to describe a motivational speaker, they imagine an individual up on stage in front of a large crowd sharing his/her experience, wisdom, and advice for the sake of self-improvement.
Ghulam Sumdany Don, a bona fide corporate trainer, educator, author, and entrepreneur is probably the closest one can get to a motivational speaker, although one can argue he is so much more.
The Business Standard sat down with the Chief Inspirational Officer of Don Sumdany Facilitation and Consultancy to learn more about what it takes to be a world-class corporate trainer, what corporate training is and the secrets to success.
You are a man of many talents and responsibilities. How would you describe yourself? A corporate trainer, content creator, public speaker, or anything else?
Though people sometimes misunderstand me as a motivational speaker, there is a clear distinction between being motivational and inspirational. I always strive to be the very best version of myself.
Since I came from a struggling background, my first target was to be financially secure by climbing the corporate ladder all the way to the top. But a traumatic incident in my life made me realise that my passion is corporate training.
From that point onwards, my hard work, perseverance, and adamant nature have pushed me to become the best trainer I can be, which has been the key to my success.
I started the Don Sumdany Facilitation company when I was 29 years old. I had a shaky start because wherever I went to provide training, people used to mock me and say, "What training will you provide? You are still a kid!"
A stigma persists in our country, especially in the corporate industry; people my age are still too young to understand corporate issues and offer any guidance.
I had to actively convince people that I do know how to help and can accomplish anything I put my mind to! Then there was the added challenge of making people understand what corporate training was and why the lack of it was holding them back.
On one particularly unfortunate occasion, a big telecom company kept me waiting for two hours and when I began my presentation, the employees paid no heed to me and chose to stare at their phones instead.
My first big breakthrough was getting the opportunity to train over 1,200 full-time employees from Grameenphone.
As a corporate trainer, what insights can you share about Bangladeshi corporate culture? What sort of problems have organisations faced in aligning the goals of their employees with their own? How can the workshops and training you provide help overcome some of these obstacles?
For some reason, there is a lack of drive towards one's work. People need to not give up easily, to think positively, and believe that they can do it.
For instance, an employee is aware of her/his limitation in a particular area, but s/he is often afraid to admit it or bring it up in front of her/his boss fearing their temper or rude behaviour.
As a result, they (employees) hesitate to solve basic problems, are afraid to take upon new opportunities and challenges and freely give and take feedback to and from their boss.
I specialise in soft skills training. There are two types of skill sets - technical and functional (soft) skills. For example, during a show, how you apply makeup, where the lights are set, how cameras operate effectively require functional knowledge and functional skills.
However, technical skills such as communication, problem-solving, creative thinking, leadership, public speaking, and networking are just as important. If anything unfortunate occurs, how will you maintain the relationship with your team?
Let us say your co-worker or teammate is upset, upon seeing her/him like that, you need to understand what feedback you should give to her/him according to her/his emotional state. For that, we need to have emotional intelligence.
What are some of the essential skills young people should have to be considered career ready?
Being presentable and having good communication skills are extremely important. Although we do not say it out loud often, if young professionals cannot present themselves favourably and display their capability, they will not make it far, regardless of how academically talented they may be.
Having the drive and confidence to chase down and grab opportunities is also a very desirable trait. It displays a level of control over oneself that companies look for. They should hone their leadership skills and take more initiatives in their own lives.
Having fluency in English is also overshadowed at times, so focusing on that is vital as well. They should also be adept in operating Microsoft Office suite applications, know how to behave during interviews; proper attire, etiquette, and mannerisms and have a well-rounded CV.
I would suggest learning new skills through the internet and continuously developing oneself as a person because if you cannot do it yourself, no one else will do it for you.
As an expert in self-help or self-improvement, what book(s) did you read that changed your life?
'The Seven Habits' by Stephen R Covey is the best self-help book I can recommend. The lessons this book taught me are priceless, and I not only try to implement them in my own daily life but I also preach and help others utilise them during my training sessions. Maintaining these habits is no small feat but once you have integrated them into your life, you will be forever grateful.
What would you say were the highlights of your life? What were your most significant and most challenging moments in life?
In March 2013, I was shot and left my job a year after in 2014. On top of that, as if my luck was not bad enough, my car got hijacked.
At first, no one was okay with me leaving my stable well-paid job at a multinational company. However, I was determined to start a training company. I spent all my life savings on the company, so there was no going back.
During the early days of my company, I bought the cheapest laptop I could find and started working from my bedroom. Since I had no study table I worked on my bed for a while.
Chronologically, I went from working at home for three months, to six months at a co-working space in Mirpur, and later a joint office comprising two to three companies. Now I have my own new office.
Along the way, there were many rejections; people underestimated my abilities due to my age and doubted my skills. So the highlights of my life include my accident which fuelled me to start my own company and strive to become successful despite countless setbacks.
As a motivational speaker, what would you say to someone going through the lowest point in their life?
I would say "Never give up. Try until your last breath. Push yourself hard."
What are your plans for the future?
My goals for the future are very candid. Firstly, I want to be the top corporate trainer in Bangladesh.
I hope that one day, whenever a company wants to host a training session to develop their employees, the first thought that comes to mind is, "We need to book a meeting with Don Sumdany". I am currently on track with that goal.
Other than that, I wish to continue expanding the two other companies I have - Ikigai HR and LoveGen.