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Outside the Box - Mahmud Jafri - Boston Business Journal

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From the Boston Business Journal :http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/print-edition/2013/08/23/outside-thebox---mahmud-jafri.html SUBSCRIBER CONTENT: Aug 23, 2013, 6:00am EDT

In Person

Outside the Box - Mahmud Jafri


Keith Regan, Special to the Journal As Mahmud Jafri has grown his Dover Rug & Home business over the past 33 years moving it from his own home to a small storefront in Dover, and then to a 36,000-squarefoot showroom in Natick last year he has also grown his commitment to the community he serves. Jafri, who came to the U.S. in 1974 for graduate school and opened Dover Rug after a stint in the financial services industry, was named the 2013 Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year for 2013 by the Immigrant Learning Center. Jafri attributes the award as much to his commitment to giving back as his business acumen and success. In any given year, Jafris business supports as many as 50 charitable causes, and he recently struck a deal with the government of Pakistan to send promising young squash players to the U.S. What has been the biggest challenge you faced in starting and growing your business? The biggest contemporary challenge is changing consumer tastes. It has become a fashion business. Until a few years ago, this was a supply-driven market; whatever came from that part of the world was accepted as a product. People like me who were educated here and understood the market began to make products based on trends in fashion and colors, which made the consumer more demanding. We have adapted. The ones who make the trend their friend are always going to be the ones catching the new wave. What does winning the 2013 Immigrant Entrepreneur Award from the Immigrant Learning Center mean to you? Im a first-generation immigrant and my success comes from this great country, which allowed me the opportunity to have the accomplishments I do. The things people take for granted the banking system, the economic and justice system, clearly the immigrants that come that is the first thing they notice. And they take advantage of that. When I mentor other entrepreneurs, one of the things I always say is to make a connection with the community that you live in and serve. Some of the reasons we were chosen for that award are the many outreach programs we have in place to give back to our communities.

http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/print-edition/2013/08/23/outside-the-box---mahmud-ja... 8/26/2013

Outside the Box - Mahmud Jafri - Boston Business Journal

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What lessons can you pass on to other immigrant entrepreneurs? Number one is hard work. Separate yourself from the pack by hard work. Second is integrity: The only way to have any long-term sustainable success is if you conduct yourself and your business with integrity. It takes forever to build a reputation and only takes minutes to destroy it. What is your favorite getaway? A lot of my getaways are combined with work. I love to go visit the village where our rugs are made and spend time with my dealers, to be involved in their lives. Sometimes I take my family with me and it works well because it gives them a sense of the hard-working people who are behind the fancy products in our showroom. Do you have a motto? Failing to plan is planning to fail. What is your view of the current debate on immigration reform? The fact is if you really address immigration sincerely, it will tremendously benefit the country. I have served three terms on the Governors Advisory Council on Immigrants and Refugees and what Ive most learned is that immigrants make good citizens. They recognize the value of a dollar, value hard work and have tremendous respect for the law. They dont take things for granted. Clearly there is value there if we dont turn it into a political game. Why did you feel it was important to back efforts to bring the Pakistani National Squash team to the U.S. to train? I grew up playing squash and when I was active, Pakistan dominated the squash world. Unfortunately, with everything that has happened in Pakistan, squash is among the casualties. There are still good young players, but it is difficult for them to obtain visas to travel or financial support and no tournaments are held in Pakistan. Recognizing this, we introduced a memorandum of understanding with Pakistan squash where they do their selection process and send players to us. We sponsor them in tournaments and they can improve their rankings. What are your management principles? First, the ethics and integrity and character you have in your personal life should be exactly same as your business life. You have to have integrity all the way around. Otherwise, my management style is more like a family. We protect each other, socialize with each other, babysit each others children. That creates a culture where people feel supported. Third is a focus on quality of life. If you allow your employees to have a quality of life, whether its working hours or working environment or education or health benefits, only then will you thrive as a business.

http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/print-edition/2013/08/23/outside-the-box---mahmud-ja... 8/26/2013

Outside the Box - Mahmud Jafri - Boston Business Journal

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What is your idea of a perfect day? To spend time with customers, helping them with their decorating projects. Also to be involved in some charitable cause or philanthropic work, to make a difference in someones life and leave them better off than they were before I met them. The third part would be being able to spend time with family. What is your favorite getaway? A lot of my getaways are combined with work. I love to go visit the village where our rugs are made and spend time with my dealers, to be involved in their lives. Sometimes I take my family with me and It works well because it gives them a sense of the hard-working people who are behind the fancy products in our showroom. What was your first job? When I was in college in Pakistan, I was recruited by national television to host a childrens program. It was sort of a higher level of Sesame Street. It was aimed at elementary school children and it must be work that is in my blood to this day, because one of our outreach programs involves bringing local third and fourth grade students here to the store to teach them about art of rug-making. Have you had any mentors? The first mentor I had was when I was working for Prudential. Dave Rosenbaum groomed me and polished me in terms of sales and marketing, but also work ethics and learning experiences. Over the years, I have had several others who have helped me along. Im a big believer that any time I need help or advice, I will pick up the phone. They say the first state of learning is realizing what you dont know. Do you have a motto? The one I like the most is failing to plan is planning to fail. What is your favorite restaurant? Mistral. The chef, Jamie Mammano, is a friend of mine. Whats your pet peeve? People who dont tell the truth. What business leader do you most admire?

http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/print-edition/2013/08/23/outside-the-box---mahmud-ja... 8/26/2013

Outside the Box - Mahmud Jafri - Boston Business Journal

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One person who I always admired and followed through his career is Lee Iacocca. He later on became a customer of mine as well. If you werent an entrepreneur, what other career path might you have followed? I would probably be either a life coach or as some of my contemporaries in the rug business call me, a philosophical guru giving lessons on PBS.