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Jita Sarai

In the Mind of the CEO: Jita Sarai, Modoras Financial Performance Solutions

“Don’t bugger up, and keep going”: message from father to sons in family business

Succession planning is one of the bread and butter services offered by family business Modoras Financial Performance Solutions, so it was a poignant moment when founder and Managing Director Peter Sarai was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. 

Two of Peter’s sons Tony and Jita (pictured above) already worked in the business, and Jita, the Director of Group Operations and Strategy and appointed successor, remembers Peter’s words at the hospital. 

“They were something along the lines of ‘Don’t bugger up, and keep going’. I think that, as simple as that was, plus other things [he said], was actually really important; 
we know what we need to do, we just need to do it.” 

A big personality and an active member of The Growth Faculty, Peter Sarai began the financial services company from his Queensland house in 1984.  

He’d moved from India to the United Kingdom for an arranged marriage, but the couple left Britain for Australia at the time of the Brixton Riots (the first large scale racial confrontations between black British youth and white British police) in 1981. 

Peter’s first clients were found by thumbing through The Yellow Pages phonebook and cold-calling prospects. While the payoff wasn’t immediate, over time he became known and trusted; in fact, his first ever clients are still in contact with the company. 

Jita remembers few family holidays, instead he and his brothers would be stapling, folding, photocopying and filing.

“I say that officially I’ve been in the business now for about 15 or 16 years, but unofficially for life, three decades of my own,” he says in his In the Mind of the CEO interview with The Growth Faculty On Demand.

Perhaps because of this, Jita says it was difficult for him to be passionate about the work when he first joined the family firm. 

“Very much something my father said to me was, “Success follows passion…whether it be personal gratification, or money, or otherwise, it comes from passion.” So finding your passion is very important. Equally, I can understand that that may be difficult for some people.”

Jita did find his passion through hard work, staying the course, and applying himself to the job. He has a particular interest in innovation.  

“Innovation for us is really about just being better every single day. And that could come from the smallest idea, from the team member at the front desk, or from a key business initiative, like a new technology, implementation or otherwise. We are really focusing on just every single day, every single process; what can we do differently? What can we do better?”  he told The Growth Faculty. 

“Equally, we are developing technology in a range of things for the broader spectrum of innovation, and I think a lot of that actually comes from other industries. If I was to provide a recommendation to anyone it’s this:  look at other industries, because potentially the solutions for your own industry are not within your industry.” 

Other tips from Jita Sarai: 

•    Strategy is formulated by being very true to yourself; deciding what you are really, really good at, or what you can be the best in the world at. 
•    Simon Sinek’s  “circle of safety” [from his book Leaders Eat Last] is important to a scaling company.  Simon has been the most important influence on culture for the Modoras Group. While not always successful as companies grow, the goal is that every team member in the entire group feels they’re safe, connected, and valued.  
•    One of the tools that Modoras has found highly valuable is the Verne Harnish [author of Scaling Up] one-page plan.
•    While family values make up the DNA,  Modoras has set up a corporate structure to underpin it. The company has a board of directors, multiple state-based boards, and divisional heads who lead their respective teams.
•    "It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be" by Paul Arden is Jita's recommended read. 
•    On leadership: Keep on going. It is about persistency and consistency. "The hard work does pay off, I’m a big believer...[There is] pain instilled in us, in our journey, but that hard work does pay off. Keep going."
•   Make sure the board room is filled with “T skilled” people, whereby they have deep knowledge in particular areas where they will add the value, and then the lateral thinking that they have to bring to the problem or solution.

The full interview with Jita Sarai, Director - Group Operations and Strategy, Modoras Financial Performance Solutions will be up on The Growth Faculty On Demand shortly, and accessible to members.  

Not a member? Try On Demand for 14 days free by clicking here. Members of The Growth Faculty get access to exclusive interviews with Australian CEOs, and international business book authors in our On Demand business book club.