starting over

Powerful Insights and Wisdom from Top Middle-Market CEOs: Starting Over in a New Country

In Leadership Resources, Strategy Resources by Brandt A. HandleyLeave a Comment

On ROI’s Into the Corner Office podcast, we have interviewed over 200 leading middle-market CEOs from companies across industries, and the advice and wisdom they have shared with us is unparalleled. We are excited to share some of these insights with you in a new form!

On the podcast I have had the privilege of talking with people from all over the world, whether they currently reside in another country or whether they or their parents emigrated to the US. I love the perspective and stories they share!

When I was speaking to Cyrus Chowdhury, CEO of BoxTheLight, he articulated something that has stuck with me ever since. “People ask where ambition comes from, where motivation comes from. I think quite often people forget that it originates from before you’re even born, where your parents are helping to think about what accomplishing a dream is, and that we’re just a continuation of that.”

Many of my CEO guests came to the US because they or their families had a dream, and those stories are always deeply impactful to hear.

New Beginnings

Arman Sadeghi, business coach and CEO of Titanium Marketing, was born in Iran and like many other families, his moved to the United States after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. He was nine at the time, and remembers “a few very, very rough years,” as his family all adjusted to American culture and learned English. “Going to school and not speaking a word of English and really having to sort of figure it out,” took a bit but he persevered. Arman says, he “had a very unique childhood in that [he] had two role models who were so incredibly different in [his] mom and dad.” His dad, he says, is “a master of his words,” and is still “so inspirational. Just the other day, he was talking to me,” says Arman, “And he left and I thought to myself, gosh, how lucky was I to have this guy around every day growing up?” His mom, he says, is “not much of a talker, but her actions [are] incredible. He remembers how hard she worked when he was a kid, how shed make breakfast for everyone and “then she’d get up and go to her first job and then go to her second job and then get home after her second job and still make dinner for the family.”

Adaptation Was Necessary

Dar Vasseghi, CEO of Tartine Bakery, also emigrated to the US with his family from Iran at the same time, and because of the situation there they had to leave quickly. “We didn’t have much,” he says, “But what we had, we had to leave behind.” Because they were still learning to master a new language, work was hard to find. His mom, who had been a teacher in Iran, “Started a business where she literally made curtains and draperies for people in the garage.” His dad worked as a warehouse supervisor for a friend. The kids–Dar was the youngest of seven and many of his siblings were grown up when they came to the US–“Adapted and all went to work because that’s what [was necessary] to survive.”

Dr. Tianyi (TJ) Jiang, founder and CEO of AvePoint, also remembers how hard it was to learn English after moving to the US–in his case, from China. When he moved to the States at 11, he says, he experienced “Massive culture shock. It was the toughest time trying … to learn English and earn my marks in school.” Still, he says, the neighborhood in Bethesda, Maryland where he and his family lived, “is one of the best neighborhoods in America and home to excellent schools,” providing the foundation for TJ to not only learn English but take advanced placement courses that set up his future success in academics and business.

I am continually blown away by the tenacity of some of my guests and their families. All, of course, have worked hard and are exemplary in their field, but overcoming the hardship of starting completely over in a country where you do not know the language and making it work will never cease to impress me.

For more amazing CEO stories, you can find the full archive here or listen to the podcast on your favorite podcast player.

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