|Toronto: 10:00PM||“Mehboob, we have a problem. I need your help.”|
|Pakistan: 7:00AM||“I am here. Let’s get to work.”|
Paul Dube and Muhammad Mehboob were building a numerology system for Troon’s first client when their team ran into trouble. Frantically working in Canada, Paul reached out to Mehboob in Pakistan and the partners hopped online to solve the problem. The connection was poor and communication lagging but they worked together to find a solution. Then Paul heard something in the background: roosters.
Of course, it was morning in Pakistan. “Where are you?” he asked
“I’m sitting on top of a house so I can get a better connection.”
Unbeknownst to Paul, Mehboob was making the long trek by bus to his hometown, a small village four hours from Islamabad. When Paul texted, Mehboob immediately hopped off on the side of the road, found a nearby house, and climbed onto the roof to help.
Whatever has to be done! Thanks to fierce commitment to the client and to each other — as well as some rooftop hospitality — Mehboob and Paul solved the problem and delivered results.
That’s how you build a connection. That’s how you build a relationship. And that’s how Paul and Mehboob have built this company.
About 10 years ago, Paul, a long term entrepreneur, was building an app and having difficulty finding reliable developers that didn’t charge a fortune.
His search led him to a business duo who had access to engineers in Pakistan. “We can do this,” they assured Paul. Well, they couldn’t. He went through a few developers without success.
Paul was about to give up when they brought in Mehboob.
“There was something different about him,” Paul says. “I like to connect with people from a personal standpoint; it’s important when I do business. I like to meet someone and think, ‘I can be friends with this person.’ That’s what it felt like with Mehboob.”
Despite the language barriers — at that time, Mehboob was not fluent in English — Paul was immediately drawn to Mehboob’s engaging, compassionate energy. And he’s a great engineer!
For his part, Mehboob appreciated Paul’s technical knowledge and ability to understand the “how” behind the ideas clients wanted to realize. “When you’re a developer,” he says, “clients don’t always give you the information you need to be successful. They don’t understand the logic behind ideas. Paul was different. He gets it.”
A few years later, Mehboob and a partner in Pakistan approached Paul about going into business together. Paul considered — but didn’t have the same connection and trust in the other man. He said, “I’ll go into business but only with you, Mehboob.”
And that’s how it all started.
Over the next seven years, Paul and Mehboob logged hundreds of hours of conversation over phone, text, and Skype. They had to work around language and time zone differences and the lapses in communication that burgeoning virtual communication options often suffered.
Implementing software processes and solutions helped overcome these obstacles,
but what really paved the way for the partnership’s success was patience and curiosity.
Mehboob says, “When working in different languages with someone whose background is so different, you are sometimes more straightforward about the work. It’s harder to talk about things easily; when you’ve gone to the same school or live in the same city, you have a lot to chat about.”
He and Paul, however, managed to find plenty to discuss. Both were intensely interested in the other’s culture and life. They spoke almost daily, spending an hour on business and two on getting to know, and understand, each other. No subject was off the table — politics, religion, spirituality, marriage — and differences were met with curiosity instead of judgment.
Mehboob says, “From the very beginning, we had personal discussions about life and our countries and societies. These interactions made me feel that we are the same kind of personalities.” Paul admits he probably spoke more to Mehboob than his own wife at that time!
Paul knew he had to go to Pakistan. “It was time,” he says. “It killed me when Mehboob got married the year before, and I couldn’t make it over. It was time for me to go, to meet my staff, to see what was happening in Pakistan from a business and IT standpoint, and from a culture and internal culture standpoint.”
Waiting for Paul to arrive at the beautiful new Islamabad airport, Mehboob was brimming with excitement.
“Paul is the most known person in my family!”
He arranged a welcome party with members of his family and the work team.
Then, in a sea of hundreds of people, he spotted Paul. He ran towards his friend, and they embraced. Paul says, “It was like a bromantic film. It was explosive feeling to finally touch the human being I’ve known so long. It didn’t feel unfamiliar; it felt like we were meant to meet, meant to connect.”
Mehboob says his wife told his brother, both of whom witnessed the emotional meeting, that Mehboob had never been so happy — even at their wedding!
Paul was immediately struck by the hospitality of the Pakistani people. “Every moment, they were so gracious and attentive; they never stopped checking in and seeing that we had what we needed.”
This is just Pakistan, Mehboob says.
“We are a hospitable nation. It is very normal to us; it’s what everyone from Pakistan would expect.”
To be fair, though, Mehboob, his family, and Troon’s team, went out of their way to make Paul feel at home. They cooked for their visitor and gave him gifts from local merchants. Asma, a woman who worked at the office — lovingly nicknamed “Mama Asma”— had asked Paul about his interests. Finding out he and his wife liked gemstones and crystals, she gifted him beautiful stones, as well as a book that everyone at the office had signed with personal messages.
While meeting Mehboob was incredible, this was a business trip too. The partners got to work. When they arrived at the office the day after Paul arrived, he was met by the entire staff, who were lined up in the lovely courtyard. While he’d spoken to many online, this was a chance to have personal conversations.
The team took advantage! They couldn’t wait to ask questions — about work, cultures, everything under the sun — and to learn more about their North American partner.
The visit connected two cultures and closed any divides that language and distance can create. It also cemented Mehboob and Paul’s friendship and partnership.
The heart of Troon is trust. Mehboob says, “Paul continues to invest in our company’s sustainable growth and to empower me to manage our team in Pakistan. I can tell by our interactions that he trusts me, and he knows I trust him.”
“Trust and connection are the foundation of the company.
We built it slowly, making sure to put solid roots down. That’s the culture Mehboob and I have created. Our Pakistan team, particularly the women, say they feel safe and glad for the opportunities open to them. We’re doing something more than creating websites, apps, and technology. We’re doing something important.”
Mehboob is equally proud that his company boasts a culture in which everyone works together and that values going “above and beyond” for clients — and for each other.
What’s next for Troon? More of the same? When it comes to building connections and prioritizing relationships, absolutely. But as Mehboob says, “We are very focused on education, learning, and working on new projects and technologies.” Exciting innovations are on the horizon — and who knows, maybe some more rooftop escapades!