Business Initiative Directions Leadership Series: Farit Sahenk

ferit sahenk

The son of a self made Turkish millionaire, Ferit Sahenk was primed to be the CEO of B.I.D. Award winner Dogus Holdings from a very young age.

Even so, it is hard to imagine anyone being prepared enough to take the reigns suddenly of such a business at just 37 years old, in the midst of one of the most tumultuous financial moments in the nation’s history.

In 2001, the Turkish stock market crashed when foreign investors pulled out of Turkey due to political instability.  Interest rates reached 3000 percent and the US dollar at one stage was valued at 1.5 million liras. Among this turmoil, the CEO of Dogus Holdings at the time, Ayhan Sahenk, died suddenly of a heart attack, and left his son to steer the company through the overwhelming challenges of the day.

Over 10 years later, Dogus Holdings has close to $6 billion in equity. Just this year the Group has acquired a 50 percent share in Flisvos Marina, one of the largest Marinas in Athens, and has also sold $2 billion worth of Garanti Bank shares to Spanish Bank, BBVA.

The key to managing change and maintaining growth, he says, is all about people. In interviews and public speeches, he is constantly referring the people of his business as the key to the Group’s success:

«I think our human side of the business is the most important thing. When people trust you, and you have the right people, you incentivise them, you empower them, there is nothing they cannot do…I don’t run the company, I just pick the right people I think can run the company.»

This personal approach is paying off. He encourages innovation with incentives for all staff to propose new ideas or more efficient processes. He organises Holding wide events for his 35,000 employees. He is adamant  that surrounding himself with people who are better than him, the Group will move forward.

Worth over $2 billion himself, Sahenk is passionate about his people and indeed how far his country has come over the last decade.  Part of the emerging economic bloc MIKT (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey), Turkey grew 8.5 percent in 2011. Although it slowed down to 2.5 percent in 2012, its economy growth remains well ahead of most European nations. This year’s rate is expected to be close to 6 percent.