Kishu Gomes: Everyone deserves fundamental respect
Master marketer and business leader Kishu Gomes’ key principles for getting ahead are simple: hard work, respect and solid communication. Taking the helm of Chevron Lubricants Lanka Plc in 2000 as CEO/Managing Director and holding the position for 18 years, Gomes was the youngest Sri-Lankan to head a truly multinational organization, and among his many achievements, made Caltex the well-respected corporate and household brand it is today.
In 2018, Gomes stepped down from Chevron Lubricants Lanka to focus on promoting Sri Lanka internationally, assuming the post of Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority and the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. In the aftermath of the 2019 Easter attacks, Gomes decided to focus his energy on the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau aggressively re-building the beaten tourism sector and achieving recovery in a very short period of time.
Gomes is now the Group CEO and Director of Dreamron Lanka, heading the expansion of this leading cosmetic company. A huge fan of the LOVI lifestyle, Gomes sat down with us to share his views on life and work.
What was the best piece of career advice that you received?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever got was a simple statement made by Mr Ken Balendran- Kishu, you can do better.
When someone at that level says that to you, you have a reason to look inwards. You’re a human being, with simple emotions and feelings, and when someone tells you that you have something bigger in you then you want to discover that.
What would you say to your 22-year old self?
Keep working hard. When I was 22, I was working almost 14 hours a day, I was doing sponsorships and corporate communications for Coca Cola, I had the opportunity of meeting lots of different people from all kinds of different sectors, industries and disciplines, and if I hadn't worked hard I wouldn’t have achieved all this.
What steps do you personally take to make each day successful?
Every morning I jot down what I need to accomplish that day and make sure I keep following that. I aggressively pursue my schedule, and if I’m not able to accomplish what I need to do, then I won’t be able to sleep. That's my mindset.
When you’re a Group Managing Director, you will, of course, get things coming in between and you need to be able to deal with that as well and cope up with unexpected and unanticipated things that come your way while still meeting your goals.
How do you stay grounded mentally during times of struggle?
Firstly, I try to understand the nature of the challenge and figure out what is controllable and what is not. Then I deal with the things I can control and try not to worry about things I can't or don't want to control. That way I don't waste my time and can focus my energy better. When human beings waste time thinking about uncontrollable things they can’t get anywhere.
How do you prioritise at work and manage your time?
It all depends on the value of that activity. When I have to prioritise, I make a list and see what activities are high value and not so high value. Value is the only thing way to determine how you prioritise.
How do you deal with rejection?
I use effective communication to win such people back and build their confidence in my favour. I also allow some time for things to digest. The correct art of communication can get you out of any situation.
What is the most important value you need to take to work with you?
Respect. It’s a basic fundamental human value. No matter what level someone is at, they each have their own dignity, and you must respect that. Everyone deserves fundamental respect.
What are your thoughts on the newest generation of business-people?
Sometimes, I feel, they tend not to look at an issue from all angles. Having said that, the younger generation is very smart and sharp. They understand the world. But they sometimes lack the discipline to pause for a moment when it is required and look at things from all angles before taking that final judgement call.
What is your current passion project?
Professionally, I’m looking at driving revenue for the country through my expertise. We have massive plans to enter five new foreign markets over the next six months and expanding our product ranges. From a personal standpoint, I’m working on the final phase of the interior of my house that I’ve recently built.
What does it feel like to represent Sri Lanka internationally?
When tourism was at its strength, we represented Sri Lanka at the highest level and were the first to talk to international media after the Easter attacks. It gives me a lot of pride to talk about Sri Lanka to the international community. Being globally trained in media management as a media spokesman I have that natural knack of being able to dominate any audience, but this is just because it’s my style, it’s because I have pride in me as a Sri Lankan. It's a conviction I have that I basically try to quietly add to the Sri Lankan brand.
What are the most important steps to take when managing a crisis with your company?
The most important thing is to rally people together and discuss and understand the issue from everyone’s perspective. The most important thing to manage is communication, and coming up with a plan and executing it.
You have successfully led major companies and Sri Lanka Tourism- what ability would you say has helped you most through it all?
The ability to get into the hearts and minds of people. Be with tourism or multinationals, I am able to get into hearts and minds at any level, whether it is the grassroots level or the international level, speak their language and relate to them.
Restructuring a company or industry is not easy- how do you do it?
I run diagnostics that help me to do a complete audit of all aspects of the business. I figure out the level of competitiveness of the business. I figure out where the business is strong and where it’s not strong and come up with a strategy to create a greater level of competitiveness.
If you can’t compete, you can’t win. You have to recognise your current level and what level you want to achieve.
What advice would you give the younger generation on leading?
Use your head. You need to do a lot of mind jogging to be able to clearly understand an issue. You need to give it a lot to thought. Think think think!
Understand what the solution is and action it. Most young people are action-oriented, the moment they see something, they decide what needs to be done and aggressively apply themselves. Sometimes you need to take some time to understand the issue and therefore the solution before you take action and avoid wasting time, energy and resources.
What's your favourite thing about LOVI?
The great thing about LOVI is that it is our unique thing that has been brought back with a different taste to create something new for the country and give Sri Lanka a new identity. Fashion has to keep evolving, and that new identity is needed otherwise we'll become very old-fashioned. The LOVI brand is this kind of fusion of newness using our traditions and customs and preserving what we have inherited and spicing it up to the best of both worlds.