02 March 2020

Survival tactics: How IMS' Durgham Shamot achieved his dream

The Jordan-born entrepreneur doesn’t see himself as one – but a life-long instinct to survive was exactly the motivation he required to think on his feet and build a medical supplies business worth over £22m.

It’s a bold claim for those at the heart of major business success to have come from nothing. But as a young father of two in the mid-80s, Durgham Shamot took the risky decision to stay in England and make his own way with his family, rather than return to his native Jordan under the watchful eye of his strict father. Now founder and owner of IMS Euro Ltd, Durgham’s story is, in his view, one of hard work above all else to achieve what he had dreamt of for a secure and stable future.

Money was unashamedly the driver for Durgham – he had no resources but a wife and two sons to support, leaving little time for overthinking any quick route to success. His university studies were steering him towards the idea of becoming his own boss, so he threw his lot into a carpet cleaning franchise business.

Three years later, and with little to show for his efforts, Durgham needed to review his tactics and move away from what had become a hand-to-mouth existence. Returning to Jordan was not an option, but a chance conversation with a Saudi biomedical student in Manchester prompted the idea for buying and selling medical equipment.

It didn’t start well, with his first sale of £12.50 costing £17.80 to ship. But Durgham had faith in the principle behind such a business and he set about developing customers across Saudi Arabia. This meant flying out with nothing but a set of business cards, pounding the streets from dawn to dusk to find those buyers in whatever way he could.

It was only at his lowest ebb, with mounting debts and nothing to show for it, that a £5,000 order from Jeddah many months later vindicated all the hard work Durgham had put in. At last he believed he had a business model that could achieve real success.

Durgham's life lessons for business

When times are tough, push twice as hard
According to Durgham, the challenges in business will always be there – but that is not the time to give up. “In 1993,” he says, “Global Medical Euro Ltd was born and I did OK business with the Middle East, but I was always in debt and had very little. I was still relying on loans and credit cards to survive. But because I feared failure so much, it gave me the drive I have today.”

Give yourself a target and live well within your means to get there
“My ambition in 2005 was to earn enough to pay my bills,” says Durgham. “I set a target to reach £1m turnover in the shortest possible time.

“Anyone can build a business on borrowed money but very few make it from nothing. I sacrificed every and any form of luxury at that time – a really hard slog. But today IMS is growing at 25-30% each year, currentlyturning over in excess of £20m.”

If you’re hit by hypergrowth, embrace it
According to Durgham, business can catch you out, both with the lack of orders and the unexpected surges in business.

One memorable October week in 2016 saw IMS turn over more than its total for 2005 to 2007 – while the firm’s first exhibition appearance resulted in 22% growth barely a month afterwards. Growth like this can be both "fantastic and extremely scary”, he says, but it’s important to embrace it and plan the resulting implications for your staff and premises accordingly.

Hypergrowth might for example mean that you always need to be prepared to scale up for space.

Treat your staff like family…
Mutual respect among all employees is a vital part of Durgham’s management style. If the working environment is happy and you ensure your staff have the chance to fulfil their potential, then the rest follows on.

“I treat them all as my extended family,” he says. “Like a proud father, I guide them in the right direction, tell them off when they are bad, and make a point of praising them when they succeed.”

…and your customers like friends
Good friends are worth hanging on to, according to Durgham, and it’s this school of thought that has helped him forge strong long-term client relationships.

“You should include them in your plans and help them save money like you would do with friends,” he advises. “If you’re honest, admit your mistakes when they happen and sort them out quickly, this is important in nurturing the relationship.”

I just work hard. I still get that rush of adrenaline when something good happens – but I never lose that focus where taking my eye off the ball could mean I return to nothing.

Durgham Shamot

Work hard and be yourself

Durgham is almost obsessive with competitors – but he argues that doing your homework is the secret to keeping ahead in your line of business. “Keep them guessing and don’t be predictable,” he recommends.

At its heart, however, you are in charge of your own business, so make it who you are. “I’m not a genius,” he says. “I just work hard. I still get that rush of adrenaline when something good happens – but I never lose that focus where taking my eye off the ball could mean I return to nothing.

“Don’t count your chickens – just harvest the eggs.”

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