Where did the time go, my lovely? Azam Mamujee
In this episode, Wendy is joined by Managing Partner, Azam Mamujee a tax specialist with a voice of velvet. Azam agrees that conversations count however he explains how numbers can tell a much more powerful story. He has a catch phrase “Give Azam the facts, I’ll save you the Tax”.
Azam offers a wealth of resources for free and invites you to connect with him:
We know you will find Azam’s pivotal moment a beautiful story and will resonate with…listen to find out!
Making Conversations Count – Episode 3
November 5th 2020
Wendy Harris & Azam Mamujee, Managing Partner M Cubed.
00:01:26: The tree of comfort
00:03:32: Finding the right path on your journey
00:05:21: How numbers can tell their own story
00:08:45: Azam’s pivotal moment
00:14:23: When children become their own person
00:15:01: Your business is like your child
00:15:25: A Chicken-licken moment!
00:16:54: Final thoughts
Wendy Harris: Welcome to Making Conversations Count. This is the podcast that business leaders share their pivotal moments, a conversation that was a turning point in their life and business. Today’s guest is the wonderful Azam Mamujee. Thank you for joining me, Azam.
Azam Mamujee: I’m really grateful to be here in this autumn time. It is the first podcast I’m doing and I’m feeling a little bit vulnerable.
Wendy Harris: Well, don’t worry, Azam, I will look after you. With every guest that comes on the show, we’ll share a little bit about how we met, and I’ve never heard your pivotal moment before; that’s the beauty of the concept of it, is that hopefully our listeners will take something from your story and it will resonate with them and it will blend out into the ether to help those people that are listening.
I’m honoured that it’s your first podcast. I’ve been on the other side. This is my first podcast show, so it’s fantastic to be able to invite people like yourself, who I see as a peer in your industry. So, Azam, tell the listeners, how did we meet?
Azam Mamujee: Virtually, so online. It wasn’t a dating website, but it was another website for business networking. And, I did see you across a room, but across a Zoom room. It was great when we had a one-to-one and we connected.
Wendy Harris: I seem to remember talking about a tree outside of your window?
Azam Mamujee: Yeah. And I’m really grateful; there are some beautiful, old, big trees outside my window and whatever the day I’m having, there’s one tree, a pine tree, which is over 100 years old, by how it is, and it always looks down on me and smiles a little and says, “Well, you know, however your day’s been, I’ve seen all the seasons and I’ve seen them come and go and I still provide shelter for people. And I’ve seen the winds and I’ve seen that everything is temporary”. And, it’s quite a comforting thing that that tree does to me.
And, sometimes I’m in a meeting and I will look out to the side and it waves it branch and I will take comfort from that.
Wendy Harris: The tree speaks to you then?
Azam Mamujee: It does; it’s so generous. It gives its time and with no expectation of return.
Wendy Harris: That’s got to be a lot easier than having a dog and having to take that out for a walk!
Azam Mamujee: That’s true.
Wendy Harris: I’m blessed to have met you, and only met you this year really, Azam, as well. What I particularly loved about our first conversation was the approach that you have in business, and in life, is just to get to know a person and to understand truly what it is that they’re looking to achieve so that you can see how you can help.
You have a real holistic approach. Not that our listeners can see, but the banner behind you, it looks like you standing on the top of a mountain with your arms outstretched, and it could be several different phrases that spring to mind, depending on how you feel. It’s like, “Yes, relief! Yes, I’ve achieved!”, so many adjectives that come to mind. What is it about that image that struck you as being a representation of you in business?
Azam Mamujee: The journey. And, I see the journey and then I see myself and everybody else, and I see business owners and colleagues, and we’re all on journeys and we’re all on a path. And, sometimes you’ve got to know which way; and when there are forks in a path, which way. And when you’ve got good people around you, that makes life so much easier.
So, when I see that image of someone on the mountain top, they’ve been through that; and, when I’m looking for people to work with, it’s a real joy when somebody says, “You know, I’ve been in a similar position and these are the things I had to think about”. That brings a great tapestry and a richness to life. And we have business conversations; it is then about seeing where somebody is on that journey and where that business is on that life.
We talked about that tree right at the beginning, and it might ask, “What season are we in? Is this business in spring; is it in its autumn; is it in its winter; or, is it in its summer?” and that means it needs different things. Once you understand that, that helps you to actually give much better and also really be part of that journey with that, say, business owner.
Wendy Harris: I think it’s connection, being connected, and at a much deeper level than just, here’s what I do; do you want it or not? That’s what you want to achieve; this is how I can help you get there. You’re really an educator, a scholar at what you do. That’s sort of how I perceive it. And, there are a lot of people that you meet in your field that perhaps don’t see that journey the same, so it’s a real joy to meet somebody that wants to be on that journey.
With what you do, we’ve not mentioned what you do, but you run an accountancy firm, so you’re dealing a lot with numbers. However, it is really the words that forge the action and I can imagine that there are difficult conversations, as well as some really positive conversations that you have. So, by having that shared love of connecting with your customers, I’m guessing that when people come to you, they don’t leave readily?
Azam Mamujee: I’m going to disagree with you, Wendy.
Wendy Harris: Are you? That’s fine.
Azam Mamujee: Yes, I am. And, I’m going to say that actually, numbers are like words that tell a story, and it tells a story about how well somebody’s doing and the strength of the position of a balance sheet; or, how well somebody’s been doing over a period of a profit and loss account; or, how the blood is flowing within an organisation, their cash flow statement. Once you really understand the story that these numbers are telling you, you get a real insight into those people and what’s happening.
So, I see a real connection between not just what’s in people’s heads, but also then what is shown by the numbers and the stories that are shown by the numbers, and sometimes there’s a disconnect.
Wendy Harris: Yeah, I think that’s probably why I made the rash remark that it’s words that tell the story, because that’s what everybody communicates in; language and words. But of course, you’re right. That’s why we need specialists like you to understand the numbers so you can translate the story, because to some, numbers are in fact a foreign language, aren’t they?
Azam Mamujee: Yes, and this language, like a normal language, has its own grammar, syntax, and also just by changing the way things are shown, or the order of words, you can change the emphasis and you can change how the story looks.
I can show you a profit and loss account which shows a huge loss and the story could be, this is terrible; you have not made any money. And, just by changing how things are, that same profit and loss account, the story could be, they are investing huge amounts of money for future potential.
So, an IT company like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, made huge losses in the beginning, but they invested a huge amount of money to then reap rewards in the future. So, you can see that even just by that sort of narrative, you can change things.
Wendy Harris: It’s the difference between sacrifice and risk, I think. Do you sacrifice now; or, is it a risk now; or, is it an investment now?
Azam Mamujee: Yeah, and there’s lots of wonderful things you can do if you understand that language. And, that’s a little bit what I love doing.
Wendy Harris: You are the Barry White of accountants! You have an aura around you that when you’re talking, as well, that I will sit and listen. The way that you present is that I will sit and listen. So, I think that also enhances the whole experience of understanding numbers and what those numbers are going to do, because that’s just yet another layer of trust I have, because I’m listening intently to what is it that you’re going to tell me.
Now, I’m going to move us on to your pivotal moment, Azam. So, the floor’s yours to share that story with us.
Azam Mamujee: Wow; pivotal moments; what does that mean? For me, what that means is a time when there was a conversation that suddenly changed the way that I looked at something; suddenly changed the way that I felt about something; and you’ve got to recognise that.
The time that comes to mind as we sit here now, Wendy, you and me together, is actually a time in a café. It was a sunny day and there was this café in my old college that I went to, somewhere called Jesus College, Cambridge. I was there a year ago waiting for my daughter. My daughter had applied to university and somehow, she’d applied to my old university. She was looking at other universities and then she said, “Papa, what about your old university? I’m going to go and see that one”.
And then, I took her to the Cambridge open day for computer science and then I said, “Well, you need to also apply to a college”, so she then had a look at all the colleges. And then she said, “Papa, I’ve looked at the colleges and I want to apply to your old college”, and I said, “But, you know, the odds are very, very small”.
And she worked really hard then for six months; she got some work experience; she did lots of different things, put together her CV and all these statements and everything else. And then, I don’t know how she did it, but she got an interview. And I know those interviews; you’re down to the last 30 and there are 5 places and everybody is like an A-star candidate. And then she said, “Papa, can you take me to the interview?”
So, I’m back at my old college and I’m sitting in the café with a laptop and a mobile phone pretending to work, but I’m not. She’s gone for some tests in the morning and then, she’s going to go for some interviews in the afternoon, but she said, “Papa, I’m going to have lunch with you. Wait in the college café and I’ll come and get you”.
Then, I remember seeing her walking towards me through the window and she was walking down the path. I could almost not recognise her. She was this confident person walking. She didn’t seem like my daughter. Then, she came in and she said to me, “Papa, I’m not going to have lunch with you”. I said, “What do you mean you’re not going to have lunch with me?” and she said, “I’ve been speaking with some of the other candidates who were in the test and if it’s okay with you, I’m going to have lunch with them”, and then she turned.
In that second, in that moment, in that instant, her hair flicked, she turned around and I knew, in that moment, that she was her own being.
Wendy Harris: Not your little girl anymore.
Azam Mamujee: She wasn’t my little girl anymore and actually, she didn’t need me at that time; and that she was going to be responsible for the whole of her life; and that I didn’t have to project what I wanted for her on her. But, she was her own flame.
Wendy Harris: She’d followed her own path. You’d held her hand to that moment without pushing or pulling, but just walking beside her. As a parent, and I have a daughter that’s gone through university and come out with a first degree, and there is nothing prouder, is there, in a parent’s life, than just knowing in that moment that all of the work that you’ve done is done. If we could bottle it, it would be brilliant.
Azam Mamujee: They can fly; they are their own flame and our role is really then changed and different. It was a bittersweet moment, so almost a tear came to my eye because I was thinking, actually I loved holding that little thing.
Wendy Harris: Yeah, but you were probably hungry and waiting for some lunch!
Azam Mamujee: Yeah, maybe I was! Yes, it’s true.
Wendy Harris: How beautiful thought, because they are our little girls, our butterflies, in the end, aren’t they? They hatch and just the way that you described that flick of the hair was like her wings unfolding and she’s off.
Azam Mamujee: I was the witness to that, so I was watching that. I was watching my own emotions as well. I’m really grateful that actually, we can all see that and experience these things, just really savour those moments; even this moment with you, Wendy. You see, you can flick your hair. For the listeners, I don’t have any hair, so I dream of hair!
Wendy Harris: I’ve still got lockdown hair; it’s fine! It’s a beautiful, pivotal moment to realise that you were there as a father, but sort of relinquished of some form of responsibility over that person, because they owned it themselves.
Azam Mamujee: And, when I said there was a bittersweet moment and there was almost a tear, but also there was a weight lifting from me that actually, I know the burden of this person. Actually, no, they can now dance their dance.
Wendy Harris: Yeah. It’s the worry of a parent, because there are certain things that we just can’t control when they get to a certain age. I would say, “It’s fine”; my dad used to say, “It’s fine. Once they go to bed, you don’t have to worry anymore”, and I was like, “What, you don’t worry what they’re dreaming?” Being a parent is a beautiful thing.
Azam Mamujee: And I see that even with business owners. Sometimes they cannot close the door and move on to something else, or think about something else, you know, in the evening. There is that weight on them. And, when is it that you can trust the business, or can you build something where you can let it go and not have to be on the bridge all the time?
Wendy Harris: I understand what you’re saying and I think the homework that I was given on my mental health first-aider course, it was a two-day course, and that first evening was, put your phone away for an hour. And the next day, gosh, there were ten of us on that course and every single person struggled with their phone away from them for an hour, fearful that something might happen, or they might miss something.
And, you know, I go from my office into the house now, and that’s my homework every day. I go in, put the kettle on, I’ll say, “What’s everybody been up to today?” and I’ll cook the dinner and the phone stays in the kitchen for the rest of the evening, because it’s family time. There’s nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow.
Azam Mamujee: It’s true.
Wendy Harris: It’s that Chicken-licken moment, isn’t it, that the sky won’t fall in. So in part, it’s about the business; in part, it’s about how we deal with it; and yes, if we’ve got big aspirations because we want to give our children so much more, we still have to remember to be in the moment with our children?
Azam Mamujee: And sometimes, you know, when I look at that tree over there, it just says the same sort of thing.
Wendy Harris: I am constant.
Azam Mamujee: I am here. And also, it keeps on giving shade and the squirrels love it. They keep on bouncing around.
Wendy Harris: I expect they’re busy right now?
Azam Mamujee: They’re busy right now.
Wendy Harris: Azam, it’s been an absolute pleasure to speak to you. Thank you so much for sharing your pivotal moment with me and the listeners. Just before we go, tell people where can they find you if you want to reach out and have a chat with you about our conversation today?
Azam Mamujee: Social media is something I love and hate, but there is something called LinkedIn, so you can find me pretty easily on that at Azam Mamujee, and obviously we have a website, m-cubed.org, and I love connecting with people. I’ve never found anyone who doesn’t have a seed of beauty within them.
Wendy Harris: That’s kind of why we’re going to keep making conversations count.
Azam Mamujee: Thank you, Wendy.
Wendy Harris: No, thank you, Azam. Don’t forget to send your comments in to me. I’m going to be looking forward to reading those. Share with your audience and make sure you stay subscribed so you don’t ever miss an episode. Thanks so much for listening.