Getting to Know You: James Assali, CEO of FIMAC

James Assali is a serial entrepreneur. Amongst his other titles, he is presently the CEO of FIMAC, as well as a family man, a devoted Christian, and a philanthropist.

Imbued with the entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, James spent most of his youth looking for ways to improve the lives of others. After finishing school, he immediately entered the world of professional business. Eventually, after many years of hard work, he was elevated to the position of CEO of a well-known mortgage company. Unfortunately, in 2008, James suffered a medical emergency that caused him to step back from his daily responsibilities. In his absence, the once successful company suffered greatly, and James was faced with a possible end to his career. However, instead of giving in to this downturn in fortune, James returned to the business world with a renewed energy.

Putting his years of experience into action, James Assali worked hard through recovery to create several businesses, including FIMAC, one of the world’s largest digital marketing and branding companies. Using tried and true methods, he has led the company to achieving great success. Known for his no-nonsense business style and near-legendary ability to multitask, James Assali continues to have a hand in all day-to-day operations in each of his companies. Having experienced almost every side of a typical business, he knows very well the importance of personal accountability and ethical practices. His long term career goal is to be a part of every business dealing nationwide.

Through it all, James has been supported by his wife and five children. In his free time, he enjoys coaching baseball and soccer. He also loves to golf, and enjoys visiting the beach with his family whenever they have some time to spare. Currently, James Assali and his family call Orange County, California home.

What do you currently do at your company?

As the CEO and President, I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company. From handling personnel needs to acquisitions of new investments, I have oversight on everything that is going on. I work closely with our CMO with regard to our marketing management. Pretty much everything will come across my desk for review and approval. It’s important for me to be involved. It helps when building new business relationships for those companies to know who I am and how involved I am with creating a solid foundation.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

FIMAC was created in 1999 and my inspiration came from wanting to provide a higher level of quality of advertising and marketing. I saw a real need for an effective and evidence-based agency that could actually deliver results. In my experience, many companies claim they can provide this, but don’t actually deliver. Since I have several years of business experience, I have had the opportunity to be on both sides of marketing. Putting my knowledge to work was a logical next step for me. I could see the need and I could see what was necessary to fill the need. We provide a quality solution like none other.

What defines your way of doing business?

I am not scared of hard work. The culture of our company is that we are willing to put in the extra effort needed to create results. We have a great atmosphere built on positivity and proactively finding solutions. We don’t gauge our performance based on how many hours we put in. We focus on the results. I compare it to the military in that we don’t look for excuses to not get things done. We have a chain of command and methods that are tried and true. We’ve learned what works, and will always lay out a detailed plan for success. Of course, we are always willing to learn new approaches or processes if they are proven to be effective. The bottom line is, if we say we are going to do something, we will get it done.

What keys to being productive can you share?

Being organized is one of the key elements to being productive. It is the solid base needed for success. At FIMAC, we have a task management method that has proven very effective for us. It enables us to make and meet all of our targeted goals. It allows each team member to know what is expected of them and when. Being organized in such a way means things run much smoother. Everyone is on the same page and knows where we are in the process of any given endeavor. It also allows for better communication between departments. Expectations are clear and that makes everyone more productive.

Tell us one long-term goal in your career.

The long term goal is to be able, through the conglomerate of companies that we have, to offer a product or service to every consumer nationwide. How great would it be if our company was something that could have a hand in every aspect of daily life? Imagine if every consumer did business with us in some way. We want to create a catalog of products and services that make us the go-to option for everyone. Success comes from having what is needed right at the time it is needed. It sounds like a lofty goal, but I believe it is attainable. We have the experience and we have the methodology. It’s simply a matter of steadily expanding as the opportunities arise.

How do you measure success?

Success is a lot more than financial freedom. So many people focus so much on making enough money to be comfortable, they neglect the other important factors of success. For me, being a positive influence on everyone around me is equally important. Providing a service or product that benefits humanity is also a measure of success. My family comes from a social service background. As far back as I can remember, I was taught to help other people whenever you can. Seeing how something I have done has helped another person means so much more to me than earning money. It is so much more fulfilling to make a difference in someone’s life than it is to cash a paycheck. That fulfillment carries over into my business, as well. The satisfaction of a successful resolution for my clients is what I look forward to so much more than getting paid. We make a real difference for companies.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?

Never take your eye off the ball. It’s critical that I am involved in every aspect of my companies because, in the end, they are my responsibility. It is of the utmost importance to me that we do things ethically and fairly. I want to ensure that the promises we make are met or exceeded. If something were to go wrong, it is my responsibility to correct it. It’s a cascade and it all comes back to me, which is how I prefer it. My employees and the businesses we deal with need to know that I am someone they can rely on. I have dealt with companies in the past that have not had the same approach and have lost both business and integrity as a consequence. I resolved a long time ago that this will not be my legacy. As the president of a company, you have to be monitoring everything all the time and you have to be accountable.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?

First and foremost, have a mindset that is prepared to handle hard work. Approach each day with patience and humility. You are not going to know everything right away. Be ready and willing to learn from others who have amassed relevant experience. Listen to your mentors. Have a peer group you can consult with, especially regarding big decisions. Never treat anyone, including your employees, like they don’t matter. They are the reason that you are successful. There is no such thing as a one-man show in a Fortune 500 company. Be fair, but be disciplined. Stick to the decisions you make and ride them through.

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?

I’m a big fan of the outdoors. I like to golf. I like to hunt and fish. For the last 19 years, I have coached youth athletics. I’ve coached baseball and soccer. It was a great way to spend time with my kids and something I really enjoy. When I have some down time, I love to spend it with my wife and kids. One of my favorite things to do is go to the ocean and take my kids to the tide pools to explore. I love to watch them discover new things.

How would your colleagues describe you?

I believe my colleagues would describe me as a nice guy, but somewhat hard-headed. In the position that I have, it helps to take a more assertive approach. This may come across as gruff, or even aggressive at times. There are a lot of important decisions to be made daily, and I have gotten used to making them in an almost emotionless way. I have a Type A personality, tough and precise. I am a hard negotiator with a no-nonsense manner. It comes from many years in the field and learning how to quickly get to the point.

How do you maintain a solid work-life balance? 

I have learned to make those two things the only important things in my life. I am either at work or I am with my family. It’s taken some time to learn how to keep the two separate, but it has made a huge difference in my overall happiness. When I am home, my focus is there. There isn’t too much time that I need for myself. I make sure to make time to work out each week, which is really all I need. I am careful not to work excessively, but when I am working, it is my sole focus.

What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?

We have a task management system that has proven exceptionally successful for us. Each employee has their tasks and deadlines. Expectations are always known, which makes the process so much simpler for everyone.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

This advice was given to me on a professional level, but it has made a huge difference for me in my personal life, as well. Years ago I was told that everything that goes on in my life is my responsibility. There are a lot of people, especially in the business world, that like to deflect responsibility onto others. The only person they are hurting when they do this is themselves. When you refuse to take responsibility, you don’t learn anything. You don’t become a better person. I would much rather admit to a mistake and learn how not to make it again than to pretend it never happened. What kind of example would that be for my kids? Personal accountability is necessary in this field. It’s also why I like to have a hand in everything the company is doing, so that accountability always lies with me.