Bahira Shami has been in the beauty and haircare industry for the entirety of her adult life. A high achiever from an early age, she started her career at CHI and BioSilk, companies and brands created by her family, where, under the diligent tutelage of her father and other family members, she began training for her life in the professional world.
Bahira was born in Houston, Texas, a city she loves and has never brought herself to leave, and where her current company, Beauty Elite Group, is based. Initially hired as a salesperson, Bahira achieved sales results that caused the industry to sit up and take notice, breaking many of Beauty Elite Group’s company records in the process. On the strength of these and other accomplishments, she was named ‘Woman of the Year’ by the City of Houston, an honor that included a special ceremony and an award that was presented to her by the mayor.
After only two and a half years working for Beauty Elite Group, Bahira Shami ascended the company ranks and was offered the position of CEO. Known for her hard work and steely determination, Bahira takes her new role very seriously, viewing the pursuit of Beauty Elite Group’s continued growth as more than just a duty, but rather a covenant made between herself, her employees, and the company’s stakeholders. She also prides herself on being a risk-taker in the same vein as her father, and is a big believer in consistency, investing in her employees, as well as learning something new every day.
How have you achieved success?
When I left the family business and began my own career as a salesperson, I achieved success initially by harnessing my internal determination and translating that into making as many sales as I possibly could. It makes sense doesn’t it? The key to a sales job is making a lot of sales. And that brought a lot of good things with it, including bonuses and promotions.
Now, as the chief executive officer for Beauty Elite Group, I’ve had to expand my purview and add a few elements to my overall strategy for achieving success. I now have to consider other components, such as reaching as many potential customers as possible with our marketing campaigns, keeping product costs down, expanding our territory, and employee satisfaction. Simply put, I achieve success by being acutely aware of all the necessary variables that go into making a company work correctly and giving them adequate attention based on how important they might be in any given moment.
How has your definition of success changed over the years?
I believe that as I’ve gained more life and career experience, material success matters a lot less to me than intangible things like cultivating a good reputation or earning the respect of my peers. Don’t get me wrong, I still want adequate remuneration for my services—but that seems like much more of a peripheral concern as the years go by.
What obstacles have you overcome in the process?
When I became the CEO of Beauty Elite Group, I encountered a lot of expectations. Those expectations ran the gamut from groups of people waiting for me to fail and leave in disgrace, to other groups of people who looked at my spectacular sales numbers and assumed I would singlehandedly lift the company into the Fortune 500 within a few weeks. Obviously, both of these are extreme examples and neither came to pass, but they exemplify how the mindsets of others can be some of the most daunting obstacles of all. In business, you have to find a way to free yourself from the mindsets of others and push aside any of their expectations—you cannot control these things. By achieving slow, steady, and undeniable success, the expectations and mindsets of other people will gradually change or disappear, and it will no longer be an issue. That’s what happened to me.
What drives you to succeed?
At the outset of my career, one of my main motivations was moving out of the shadow of my family and achieving success on my own. You see, I grew up amongst some extremely successful entrepreneurs. My family created two thriving beauty and haircare companies; CHI and BioSilk. If I had wanted to, I could’ve worked for them for the rest of my life and be totally taken care of. But I wanted to make a name for myself in the world. I wanted to be recognized for my own talents and abilities, not coast off the accomplishments of others for the rest of my life—no matter who they may be. Especially at the beginning, that was the source of my drive and determination to succeed. Now, even though I believe I have achieved that goal for the most part, that spark of drive and determination is still present inside of me. I think I just want to see how high I can climb, to be honest.
What has success meant to you?
In many ways, the more success a person achieves, the more respect they are given. Particularly because I am a young woman, I believe I was treated with kid gloves during the early stages of my career. There were also some incidents that I could easily attribute to sexism and reverse ageism (or at least, ageism directed at a young person), but as my successes mounted, one of the more pronounced effects I had not foreseen was that the number of those incidents decreased rapidly. I can’t even tell you the last time I was seriously given a hard time about my age or my gender, and I’m positive that’s because of the great numbers the company is posting. In the face of undeniably positive results, people adjust their attitudes no matter how archaic they may be, I suppose.
Do you have advice for others on how to be successful?
Keep an open mind and never stop learning. You never know when an acquired skill or piece of knowledge will be useful in life, so try to soak up everything that you can. Regarding business, stay focussed on producing positive results. If you manage to produce, people will forget about everything else and success will surely follow.
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