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Interview with Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur, shareholder of RedMed Group and founder/CEO of Fechkeur Laboratory
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur not only ascended through cultural barriers to become a leader in her family’s energy services business, she also fought to bring new perspectives to the sectors she worked in with her family and as an entrepreneur. Working alongside her three brothers, and with the support of her parents, Yasmina played a pivotal role in upgrading her family firm’s infrastructure and communication practices. This led to increased growth opportunities and streamlined governance practices for the business and its partners.
In this episode, Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur, shareholder of the integrated logistics solutions company for Algeria’s energy sector, RedMed Group, and founder/CEO of medical analysis firm Fechkeur Laboratory, talks about the challenges she faced in her family business’ industry, and how friction and conflict often fuelled the innovation that she feels is essential in every business. She discusses the importance of adaptability in today’s changing business and environmental landscapes, and highlights how building self-confidence is essential in fostering effective and innovative leadership.
- Yasmina and her brother, Majid, began reshaping their family business a decade ago. The experience taught her the vital role of effective communication in conveying one’s vision, engaging others, seeking support for novel concepts, and successfully implementing new ideas.
- Faced with the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Yasmina discovered newfound motivation that helped her to propel her medical company forward. This experience made her realise the key role adaptability plays in both personal and professional undertakings, whether in the context of situations, people, or ecosystems.
- Yasmina’s decision to join the business was significantly influenced by both her parents. Their open-mindedness, confidence, and willingness to break from convention were instrumental in helping Yasmina to navigate the rigidity she sometimes encountered in the stakeholder environment.
- Although significant progress has been made in many parts of the world, there are still many societal and environmental obstacles that business leaders need to address. Finding sustainable, creative approaches that align with an organisation’s goals and purpose requires both imagination and innovative solutions.
Ramia: Welcome everyone to another episode of Women in Family Business. I am so delighted to welcome our guest today, my dear friend, Yasmina Feshker from Algeria. Yasmina, welcome to Women in Family Business.
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur: Thank you, Ramia. It’s an honor to be part of your podcast today.
Ramia: I’m so excited, Yasmina, to talk to you about the subject of innovation and leadership. As you know, women in family business were very keen to promote female thought leadership around these topics. But first of all, we always like to start on a very personal note on women in family business.
I’d love for you to tell us a little bit more about growing up in Algeria and around a very entrepreneurial family that really sort of like went from grassroots building up this incredible family business legacy, the Red Med Group that has been so successful, so under the leadership of your brothers. What was that like growing up around that kind of dynamic and what did you learn early on about business through this experience?
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur: First of all, you know, my dad, it’s a matter of my dad, he managed, you know, to, he gave us an amazing legacy, you know, on this very open mindset in this very difficult culture and environment as Algeria, you know. As a woman, it’s not easy to lead. And even we are operating in very difficult field, oil and gas. It’s a very masculine. I’m a clinical pathologist, so I’m in a medical background. So it’s fine as soon as you are in a medical, you are wearing your white coat.
But as soon as you step in this field and you are in the board of this very masculine surrounding, it’s not easy. I’m telling you the truth, it’s not easy at all. But it’s, I cannot say it’s not a war as well, but we are fighting all the time to just to put ourselves in a position that they can listen to us, that what the things, our thought, our idea, our are okay, we are not out of the track. We are getting much better. We have more females in the groups and even in oil and gas fields. So the things are changing. But of course, we have a lot to do on this matter of gender equality.
Ramia: When you think back to the beginning of your career, do you feel like was it a hope to join the family business or did you eventually feel like it was going to be a responsibility or were you like, you know what, given the industry, it’s never going to be the case, even though you’ve now made a very successful contribution, of course, and you have a very important role?
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur: You know, telling you the truth, at the beginning, it was my own choice. I wanted to. And of course I was welcome because it’s an added value. You add something. This female energy, this female touch. But it was actually well accepted by the family, the board, the family members. But the Surrounder, you know and Mwanza, I will say it was really difficult. It was not easy at all. They did all their best to discourage you. But definitely from the closest nucleus, the family, no, it was an added value and I was really very welcome to join.
But not to complain, to do all my tasks as them. There is no difference between, in the mind, in the way that we were brought up, there is no difference between women and men, you know? Boy and girl, no. I think there is something, it’s the cultural. You know, I nearly was born in Hassi. Hassi, it was 100% men. So you never see lipstick, makeup, girls wearing, no. All we look like a man. And even me, I was brought up in this way, always with the trouser and the hair. So now you see me, I’m in a pinkish and I have this hair because I’m catching up. But I was… We were a little bit frustrated because you were not allowed to show this femininity on matter of physical appearance.
Ramia: Because it would put you at a disadvantage. It would put you into, it would reduce your credibility. So you’d have to man up basically. So, but tell me about sort of the evolution, like, you know, in a situation like that, you grow up in that kind of an environment. Who do you then, I guess, like look to when it comes to leadership examples? Because you didn’t really have representation, you didn’t have a lot of women who you could look to who were like in business leadership positions yet. So who did you look to? Like, who did you learn sort of like your first few leadership lessons from where you said like, oh, okay, I see how this is going to work and this is going to work for me as well as a woman in this context.
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur: I will tell you the truth, it was my parents directly. My dad with his open, his mindset and even my mom, she was amazing. She was involved in education and as a woman, she was traveling in remote area and with as well mainly male educators in schools and things because it was remote in the desert.
So telling you the truth, I was seeing my parents, my dad of course, as involved in, he has been training business in oil and gas before joining the group. And when you see that, he was surrounded by women directly as advisors and things, so like that. It was, I can say definitely my dad.
Ramia: I love that story of that family that’s sort of like inside your family, this nuclear family, you have this open-mindedness and this warmth. But the stakeholder environment can be a little bit rigid, can be a little bit resistant to change. So how do you still grow the business the way that you guys have done? How do you transfer that vision of innovation and that vision of open-mindedness to an environment that may be moving at a slightly slower pace? So how do you transfer that culture to the outside?
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur: We work in team. So my brother, Majid, we started, we organized, we started to reshape the business and from reshape and reorganizing the business. And through this, this process, when we started this process actually 10 years ago or something like that, it was I think the main things. It’s really important to say communication. The communication is the base of if you want to change something to implement all this new mindset, this new idea, this new way is to communicate, to sit with them, and it’s a teamwork. We have been working with very close stakeholders. There is a special organization. And through that, it was, of course, it was difficult. But you have to explain to them, I mean, your vision. Why do you want to do that? If we don’t do that, we will be out of the track but what’s happening in this world is so slow so they are not they think always no they cannot be no Algeria we are no we still have a time no they always no please we never know we can step from nothing to everything so let’s get ready you know and I think the first step is just to discuss and to involve these people. If you don’t involve them in the process, you will not succeed. And that’s what we did. We worked with them. And actually the change, we implement our idea through them and they did the change, you know? And it’s kind of their project, their babies, their things. We seed. I think it’s seeding, given something, and you let them work with the rest. This is the way that we did, and still work, actually. And you involve them. I think it was challenging at the beginning, and then you see such an amazing idea. Amazing. They open up and they come, I mean, they bring their idea. You…and you listen to them and it helps a lot RedMed to implement this mindset. Now it’s kind of, it became a routine.
Ramia: So what kind of skill sets do you think, do you wish for the next generation of Algerians to have in order to be the right kind of leaders for the family businesses and the private sector?
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur: You know, Ramia, Algeria is nearly 75% of young generation, and they’re 25. And they are already aware. With this technology, with all this platform, this online, they are more than, I mean, they are aware, and they are doing many, many things, and a lot of initiative, and a lot of it’s just amazing what is happening. So now, actually, it’s not a challenge, but the government, and they are doing their best to follow up on this by implementing the right law, the right things not to discourage this, but they are doing their best the actual government, they are really doing their best. We have a minister of startup, we have data and technology. So this is really good because it’s showing us that there is an aim and an objective to reach actually what is happening in this world because you cannot avoid that anyway. With this technology, you have to have this innovation, innovative mindset and this leadership and create these skills. So they are reviewing the education, the infrastructure, all these are on the tarmac, how we say, they are working on that. Yeah.
Ramia: I also think what’s really interesting is that innovation is often linked to friction. Like so friction or disagreement or difficulty creates innovation, right? Like I think like under duress, we often are at our most innovative. So I just want to come back to also your family. How do you deal with the decision making around innovation, taking these risks or like, you know, what is necessary to do next?
How do you deal with like, you know, potentially friction or disagreement in the family? And how does it sort of like, how do you bring it back to that alignment that allows you to move forward for the business?
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur: Telling you the truth, there is always like, you know, the advantage is to take this different generation they used to our grandparents and et cetera, they used to have like consortium and to discuss. Let’s try to discuss quietly without any emotion. This is really important because as soon as you put the emotion or the ego this is, you have to remove that. And we have to, of course, each one bring his idea, but you have to see if it works. Of course, if it’s okay, if it works, and it’s worth to make it, and it is this innovative idea, thought, what do you want to implement? Is it a good perspective? Is this changing something, making easier something, of course we will accept it. If we see if it’s really out of, it’s coming out of nowhere and it doesn’t have today its place in the organization, we will try to discuss how to put it on hold, to wait, to see and to think about it. Let’s make the, you know, but everything is based on the way that you communicate.
It’s just a way how to… There are many messages, you know, my dad, he used to really, he had an amazing smile and communication with his smile. He was just smiling and you understand, even upset, he was smiling and you didn’t know. Everything is matter how you can explain to the things and without emotion, especially, you know, it’s very sensitive. It’s really important to listen to each other. It’s not because I’m the oldest you are. No, no, no. There is no idea, we respect it, we take it, but we will see if it fits or not. That’s it. This is intra-family, but we use the same concept with the stakeholders. It’s really important.
Ramia: Well, I mean, absolutely. Good communication is good communication. I actually think you’re hitting on such an important point because I think we often think that communication within the family should take less effort than communication on the outside, but the grounding principles of good communication remain the same, whether you’re related to the person or not. And I find that point to be extremely important that you’re highlighting. But I also think what I found really interesting about your case. So I always say we might be siblings, but we all have different parents. As in we have the same parents, so we experience our childhood in a very different way, which means it puts us on different tracks of development. Do you today think of yourself as a leader? And did you always, or was it something that happened at a certain point that there was a pivot, because I’m really interested in understanding whether it’s actually part of your identity today and when it became part of your identity, if it is the case.
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur: Yes, now I can tell you it was not the case before. I had such always uncertainty. I was not sure about myself. And of course, this is another topic. It’s as a woman, many things were impacting this self-confidence. I cannot say weakness.
But it’s a matter of how can they hear your voice? And always the feeling they know, they don’t listen to you. So I think these last three years… I can say it took for me this maturity, the experience as well. Experience and expertise, I think it’s really important. There is a consolidation on all these things and I can feel like I am a fully, very innovative leadership.
Ramia: I would have agreed even more like more than three years ago, but it’s always interesting how from the outside we perceive and then your own feeling.
Do you feel like when you had that pivot, like, what happened? Like, did it manifest in the outside, like in your business success or like in the way that you deal with the businesses? Like, you know, what happened?
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur: If I answer you know with the COVID, you know as clinical pathologists, we were facing this COVID pandemic and definitely my business just boomed as for diagnostic and things and since that time I don’t know what happened. I felt myself like I had my you know my hidden wings.
I got my wings ready and I was ready. I took off that time, you know, with the COVID. And this is, it’s a dead-click. I think it’s as well insight. Definitely it’s insight. Since that time, my approach completely changed. And I think it’s matter of self-confidence. Since that time, everything changed for me.
Ramia: This is so interesting because you’re talking and it’s very honest to talk about it like that because it is dealing with insecurities that we’ve had and we don’t even know why we’ve had them right like sometimes like the insecurities that will come up at the weirdest moments etc. Then you’re faced with a crisis like COVID. And it’s interesting for you to say that actually under that level of pressure is when you found your wings basically so it’s like I find that a really interesting story really is that like on the contrary just because you might feel sometimes weak or you might have insecurities it doesn’t mean that you won’t rise to the occasion when the occasion presents itself. I think that’s a really very hopeful message as well for everyone out there who’s struggling right now to find their voice right? Like I think that’s wonderful.
What I’m interested in is just the contrast for you, Yasmina, because you have like these both experiences which are really interesting. So you’re part of obviously like the the family business, the Red Med group. And that was, of course, like you were part of the journey, but it was largely established already by the previous generation and by your brothers, et cetera. And you’re now at a governance level and you’re involved there. But you’ve also built up brands from the ground up since you’ve been working, right? I wanted to ask you if you can contrast for us, like whether you think that the leadership style and your innovation style, is it the same in both contexts?
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur: Telling the truth, I don’t think it’s different, no. Because it’s part of you. This, it’s in you, it’s in your DNA. Maybe the way that you implement that can be different, because you adapt to situation, you adapt to the ecosystem, to adapt to the people, to the…what is happening around, you know, economic, socio-economic situation and all these things. But it has been always the same. Regarding myself, I think it’s only really the way that we organized the teams, the things, the communication, but no, I don’t think it’s different things.
Ramia: Your approach is largely the same. It’s a very interesting time to have that mindset, because this world seems to need more solutions to problems than ever before. If you look at this 21st century for you, Yasmina, like, you know, what do you think as a business leader today are sort of like the big things that you’re like, we should be focusing on these problems, solving these problems. We should be focusing our innovative efforts towards solving these challenges for society and for the, for the planet?
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur: So, 21st century. We had opportunities and challenges. Definitely. We are lucky now, you know, with all this technology, this digital platform, all these things are really helping a lot. And for us as a woman, we still facing many, many things. We are better than before, but we still in many areas and many countries, we still have a lot to do. So the main things I think this century is to have a sustainable and very creative approach regarding all what is happening and the way as well to adapt to the situation, how, you know, it’s really important to adapt as soon as you are aligned with your idea, with your goal and your purpose, why we are here. It’s really important to carry on regarding all these things that are happening today.
Deal with war, deal with that, deal with the races, deal with this disease, many, many things. So all that we have to adapt on our day-to-day life. This is very important for me.
Ramia: My last question for you Yasmina. If you think back at your beginnings and everything, what is the advice you would give your younger self starting out on your professional career and in the family business?
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur: Believe in yourself, trust yourself, and listen to your inner voice. It’s really, really important. Since day one, I knew that I can do many, but I was just pulled back by… Don’t listen, don’t be impacted by the… As soon as you believe in yourself and in what you want to do and you are aligned, go ahead, go ahead.
Ramia: Yasmina, thank you so much for joining us today on Women in Family Business.
Dr. Yasmina Fechkeur: Thank you, Ramia.