I interviewed Farooq Kathwari, Chairman, CEO & President of Ethan Allen, just after Labor Day. His story is a remarkable American Dream adventure of how he overcame unfathomable challenges to make it to America, married his wife Farida over the phone, and, after talking his way into NYU and several jobs, started a company. Through what I would call pure grit and unstoppable courage he forged an amazing life built on giving back to others, creating jobs and building a stronger America and world.
One example of creating destiny that Farooq told me about is when Bloomingdale’s CEO Marvin Traub spoke at his NYU class. Farooq then called him several times every day and eventually got a meeting, and Bloomingdale’s became his first significant customer. Then, after meeting Ethan Allen co-founder Nat Ancel, Farooq created so much value that he ultimately became CEO in 1988.
He has helped to positively reinvigorate the iconic brand in many ways … and has done what few CEOs have managed to do … reinvigorate an iconic brand as CEO for over 30 years!
What struck me deeply is Farooq’s passion for world peace. He has done so many behind-the-scenes negotiations with world leaders, including as co-leader with Henry Schein CEO Stanley Bergman of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. Most remarkably, Farooq handled the most complex negotiations and always respected the honorability of both sides.
Here is one quote from my interview that resonates deeply with me, and hopefully with you: “The most important job of any leader is to make the people around him or her better. If your leader doesn’t do this you have the right to revolt!”