Last month, during Startup Day in Canada, I sat down with Tareq Hadhad as part of a taping for the next season of the show I host, "The Naked Entrepreneur." Hadhad has become world-famous for his business, Peace by Chocolate, and as a successful immigrant entrepreneur. Hadhad's story is both inspiring and illustrative: it shows that you can succeed as an entrepreneur, despite great hardships, so long as you have two things: a high adversity quotient and a strong internal locus of control.
Hadhad grew up in Damascus, where his father ran a chocolate factory that was destroyed by a bombing in 2012. The family left Syria in 2013, staying in a refugee camp in Lebanon for almost three years. Hadhad arrived in Canada in December 2015, and his family joined him soon after.
Hadhad had been planning to become a doctor. But he wanted--and needed--to build a life quickly, and was discouraged by how long it would take to get back into medicine. So he relaunched his family's chocolate business, which had had more than 300 employees back in Syria. The townsfolk of Antigonish, Canada, which had sponsored and paid for the Hadhad family to come to the country, helped the Hadhads build a chocolate factory that now employs more than 30 locals.
Peace by Chocolate was cited as a Syrian refugee success by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the United Nations Leaders' Summit on Refugees in 2016. In 2018, the company's chocolates were sent to the International Space Station. "We are always looking to go beyond boundaries; we are always with the belief that even the sky is never the limit," says Hadhad.
Hadhad is keenly aware that not all citizens welcome immigrants with open arms--in fact, some feel that the government should be focused on taking care of current citizens. Hadhad responds: "We didn't come to take anyone's job--we're here to create jobs." He believes that immigrants can contribute to their new home by creating new businesses.
Millions of people have been ripped from their homes by war, conflict, drought, and famine. Some may never recover, but others, like Hadhad, see that adversity as an opportunity and in doing so illustrate the two most important traits required for entrepreneurial success.
High Adversity Quotient
An adversity quotient (AQ) is a quantifiable metric that measures an individual's resiliency. Those with a high adversity quotient recover quickly from setbacks and power through trials and tribulations to keep moving forward toward their goals.
All entrepreneurs face uncertainty and challenges, but all successful entrepreneurs have a high adversity quotient. Otherwise, they would have quit long before their success. Hadhad and his family lost everything to war: their home, their business, their studies, and the lives of several family members. But Hadhad did not quit--instead he used this adversity as motivation to rebuild and move forward.
But you don't need to be an refugee or even an immigrant to have a high adversity quotient. You can examine your response to adversity (there are even online tests that will give you a numerical score), ask for feedback from others, and practice following through on your goals to improve your AQ over time.
Internal Locus of Control
A person's locus of control shapes their world view. Those with an external locus of control see life as happening to them, and think they are merely along for the ride. These people believe they have little control over what happens to them and thus don't take responsibility for outcomes they experience.
Alternatively, those with a high internal locus of control believe they are the masters of their destiny. They believe their actions create the outcomes in their lives and their success lives solely on their shoulders. (There are also online tests to determine your locus of control, like this one from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.)
Entrepreneurs must consider themselves the source of change and success--otherwise they'll lack the motivation and ability to take action and bring about change. According to Al Siebert, author of The Resiliency Advantage, "People who know they can do things to make their life better act in ways to confirm their beliefs." If Hadhad had not had such a high internal locus of control, he likely would never have started a business, let alone become a success.
I believe the key to shifting your locus is strengthening your problem-solving skills. When you have positive experiences solving problems, your confidence grows and so does your internal locus of control.
Unfortunately, the hardships that the Hadhad family endured are all too common in today's world. But what isn't as common is their response. This family clearly chooses to be in control of their future and is working hard to make that future a reality through the empowerment that entrepreneurship brings.