Khalid Muhmood - Using the Family Holding Company to invest in Education [The Business of Family]


18 January 2021

50 mins 4 secs

Season 1

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode

Khalid Muhmood is from the UK and through the family business holding company Dragonfly Education Group, is an operational investor in education.

He has been active in the business of education since 1994 when he and his wife, Arabella Peters, co-founded Apollo English and then the British University Vietnam. Since then they have invested in a number of businesses all focused on education.

Khalid and Arabella see themselves as the founding generation of their family enterprise and intend to never sell their Dragonfly Education hold co. They’re actively involving their young children in business conversations and laying the foundation for generational wealth, legacy and impact.

Standout Quotes:

  • "What's your biggest headache?"
  • "Learning from successful family businesses; so many of them do not load up on debt" - [Khalid]
  • "The future of education is blended, that means you've got to incorporate online with offline" - [Khalid]
  • "Sophisticated multi-generational families.. have taken generations to figure out that they need to separate the Governance from the Operations, and that the family needs to be excellent stewards and owners first before they can consider playing an active role in Operations" - [Mike]
  • "A well-run family business is difficult to beat, especially during downtimes" - [Khalid]
  • "Why trade anything in, when we've found purpose?" - [Khalid]
  • "If you’re building any business, I'd say that 'Focus' is the thing that's often lacking, especially if the entrepreneur at the beginning thinks they have to say yes to everything" - [Khalid]
  • "Look for the good in life... because it really helps you enjoy the journey" - [Khalid]

Key Takeaways:

  • If you want to be truly in control of your journey in a business, you need to be the owner, not the manager.
  • At the very beginning, the vision was simply to get the business to survive.
  • It's only when you move from surviving to thriving that you can ask, "what do you want to do?"
  • When asked "what is your biggest headache?" at an event, many of the entrepreneurs answered "My father".
  • If you're not happy with 60000 pounds per year, then any more money might not change anything.
  • Khalid describes the challenges of Covid-19 as a learning period for the business as a whole.
  • Finding a way to create balance and incorporate online with offline learning is pivotal, that will be the future for the family business.
  • Khalid and his wife, Arabella involve their kids as much as possible in the family business even at the early ages of 8 and 10, with some tests to determine their level of interest and perception of the business as a whole.
  • In the future, the key role for the kids is going to be "Good Owners"
  • The stewardship role is critical
  • One of the tips to help foster togetherness among children is that if one of them does something wrong, punish them all.
  • Other points to note is to never elevate one sibling above the other and to always leave them to sort out their arguments without being the judge.
  • Khalid shares that the preferred investments taken by DragonFly are those in which a controlling stake can be bought.
  • A major mistake that was made at some point was accepting an offer from Nokia when it should have been turned down because it was distracting from the core competency of the business.
  • Khalid shares that his source of knowledge includes mentors, peer to peer learning, and mistakes.
  • From Khalid to his kids: Look for the good in life because it really helps you enjoy the journey.

Episode Timeline:

  • [00:49] About Khalid Muhmood and the inspiration for starting the business of education
  • [06:01] Khalid explains some of the reasons behind the choice of Vietnam as a location for starting the business
  • [08:59] What was the vision at the time of starting the business
  • [15:03] The new vision for Dragonfly Education Group
  • [19:41] How did the business hold up in this period of Covid19, do you have an interest in online learning?
  • [24:34] Is there a vision of bringing your kids into the business if they're interested?
  • [31:20] Do you have any other family structures aside from stewarding Dragonfly as the main asset?
  • [32:53] Khalid shares some of the values, principles, and parenting approaches to raise well-rounded children amidst wealth.
  • [36:37] Where does this family business DNA come from?
  • [41:17] Where do you think you'll make the next operational or financial investment?
  • [43:01] One of the major mistakes made in running the business: Losing focus
  • [47:50] A letter from Khalid to his kids

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