Murat Kiran has a very interesting life story. Before he moved to the Netherlands in 1997, he had nothing to do with ICT and even didn`t speak any word of Dutch at that time. Thanks to his motivation and vision, he completed an external training on ICT and now has 25 companies throughout the Netherlands that have generated an outstanding growth percentage of nearly 7000 % in the last 5 years. His firm, namely CONCLUSION, was named as the fastest growing IT Company in the Netherlands in 2009.
Can you introduce yourself and your companies?
I was born in south-east part of Turkey, namely the city of Urfa and I moved to the West, the city of Izmir, at the age of 5 because of some family reasons. I was one of the 9 children in my family and 2 of them were dead already. The life conditions were really tough for me as well as my family. I had to do many different things in order to get one more bread to home and if I could, we were lucky that day. Later on, I graduated from Dokuz Eylul University in Izmir in American studies and worked almost every corner of Aegean and Mediterranean cost of Turkey in tourism field. There I met a Dutch girl from whom I get 4 children now.
Actually, this was totally not my plan as I was planning to travel to the other part of the world, namely south-east Asia and have an intrinsic life there. But it didn`t happen and I found myself in the Netherlands in 1997. Within almost 15 years, I have now 25 companies in different sectors. Besides ICT, I have companies in entertainment, real estate and textile sectors throughout the Netherlands.
Why did you go into the ICT sector?
It is funny that I was thoroughly an anti-technology person and even didn`t touch any computer until 1997. I didn`t feel myself comfortable with technological things as I believed they were alienating human beings from the real life in society, our real responsibilities and of course from our spirituality. My first connection with this kind of machines was in the warehouse of Kodak where I was working in the stock and packaging the materials there. I somehow needed a copy of a document and people around me said that just go and print it in the printer. I said “What? How should I do that?” Unfortunately I didn`t know how to print a document. While I was printing I saw some vacancies on the wall with relevant requirements for the posts. I saw some words in the ads like word, excel etc. and noted them down. This is maybe the turning point in my life.
I was later on subscribed for computer courses in the municipality and the first lesson awakened my interest in computer and technological devices. It was so incredible that I could write down my name on the computer, make it bold, italic or even colorful. I read a lot of books on them and I so rapidly developed myself in computer. After the end of the course, I went to the municipality and said that I wanted to have a job that requires IT skills. The person there looked at me hesitantly and said “Hey guy you cannot have such a job just with a few months of external courses, you need much more time and skills for that”. Of course I didn`t give up and visited that person several times in one month trying to convince her that I had enough capabilities. She accepted to offer me a test at the end assuming that this was the only way to get rid of this insisting person. I did a great job in the exam and was finally employed in an ICT firm, which later on paved the way for other firms and even my own ICT companies. So, this is basically how I found myself in the ICT sector…
You have immigrated to the Netherlands from Turkey in 1997. Considering your immigrant background, what kind of obstacles have you come across if there is any and what kind of advantages on the other hand?
I personally don`t think and didn`t experience that there are really obstacles in front of people with immigrant backgrounds. It is all about your capabilities and how you have developed yourself and your skills. Additionally, your added-value is quite important. If you are convinced that you offer an added-value to the society, there is really no obstacles in your career and business life.
On the other hand, there are many advantages of being with multicultural background. It generally gives you more flexibility in approaching the issues and ability to look at the things from different perspectives and come up with different, innovative and creative ideas. In my case, I should admit that my life experiences in Turkey with all kind of deficiencies, struggles and real survival stories have played an enormous role behind my success story. These realities are motivating you much more and making you more hard-working and dedicated. I think in this sense, my different cultural background posed many advantages in my career and
Your companies have achieved an enormous growth rate of almost 7000 % during the last 5 years. Do you think this is a healthy growth as there are many examples of firms having so rapidly grown but institutionally and economically suffering from this rapid growth later on? Do you think you have taken necessary measures to avoid such trend?
I don`t think that our growth is not a healthy one as we tried to get the necessary measures from the beginning. I do respect the fact that there is this potential of having serious troubles when growing so fast as you have to find effective solutions in terms of structure, strategy and financial situation. You need to have a comprehensive business plan and of course dependable people around you with whom you work as a team.
I always say that “knowing yourself” is quite important. Knowing yourself not only means knowing your skills, expectations and needs but also knowing your business environment, your company, the need and the trend of the market etc. So, you have to know yourself very well.
What do you think about making business in Europe? I mean does European or Dutch system really encourages entrepreneurship or discourage it?
I don`t believe that entrepreneurial skills and making business depend heavily on regions or geographical differences. It depends on you as an entrepreneur! It depends on how much you are motivated to do business, how much you know your skills and capabilities, to what extent you are aware of your business environment and market needs, things like that. In that respect, it doesn`t so much matter where you are to start any business but who you are!
Of course every region or country may have different implementations and rules, but it has a minor importance for me. You need to know your capabilities, you need to have a qualified business strategy and you need to observe the market trends well. Besides, you need to be on time, not late even a second!
What do you think is the key to your success in professional life and what would be your suggestions/advices to young professionals who want to be an entrepreneur?
Working really hard is the key to your success. There are of course other determinants, but you should put this on the centre of your achievements. I have personally worked really hard, even 18-20 hours a day and mostly 7 days a week. If you have big dreams, you need to sacrifice your time, you cannot just do the same as other people do if you want to prove something. Secondly, as I said before, knowing yourself is crucially important. You need to start from that, you really need to know what your expectations, dreams are on the one hand, and your abilities and competences on the other.
You also need to know your business environment, this means market needs, what are your competitors doing? You should have a well-defined organizational structure and management skills to ensure this structure is working well.
Thirdly, networking is also very critical. When I look at myself and my companies` success story, I achieved them through networking because my company was very small and I even didn`t have any website nor any business card. So, the only way to make people know my work and value that I can offer was through networking and good impression. I always say, “If you are networking, you are really working”…
Finally, it is also very crucial that you act just on time. One inch can make huge differences! If you have a business offer on Friday, and you think that you can react it on Monday, you may lose the chance and don`t forget that others are waiting out there. For that, you have to be a good observer and work very hard as I told you at the beginning.
As EPN, we defend the fact that volunteering is so crucial and should be a life long process. How do you see the importance of volunteering during professional life? Is it possible to combine volunteering with a successful professional career?
Personally, I don`t believe in volunteering and things like that. In the same way, I also don`t believe in corporate social responsibility and such staff… For me, they are already embedded in our human being. It must be a natural part of being a human being, and should not be labeled as something different. If I see people in need I naturally react upon it, try to help as much as I can and that comes from my humanistic instincts. By the same token, it must be companies` core concern that everything they do should respect the human beings and the environment. There should be no need to label this sort of sensitivities and framed them as a part of social responsibilities.
What do you think the role of civil society organisations like EPN is for professionals?
As I said before, networking is so important in business/professional life. It enables you to open up to new opportunities, start up new initiatives and broaden your business capacities. NGOs like EPN are giving this chance to professionals particularly for those who are thinking of initiating his/her own business. You cannot initiate this kind of networking activities on your own, you certainly need some interlocutors and civil society organisations can play a crucial role here.
Besides, such organisations contribute a lot to overall awareness-raising efforts amongst the targeted people. Concerning professionals, this is also important as they are the brains of societies with their educational and intellectual capacities, however they rarely involve in social issues and societal responsibilities. We need to make them aware that they have important duties for other people in their societies.
Thank you so much for your time and answers…