The Origins of CMS360 by Azfar Haider, Founder

Unknowingly people get lost in this world, or they run head first into things they weren’t expecting.

"Don't become the next Paddington Bear".

I can relate to this. At age 8, I used to make my way by train from West Acton in London to nearby Ealing Broadway to go to school. One day I ended up lost walking around Paddington station having to ask a stranger for money to call home. I knew then what Paddington Bear must have experienced sitting there on his suitcase with a note saying "Please look after this bear. Thank you."

At age 10, I diced with death on a day trip in the Arabian Desert when the bus driver lost his way for hours and hours and didn’t admit it. Only the awareness and eventual panic from the young mothers brought it into the open, and together the party shut the air conditioning in the scorching heat to save fuel and finally navigated to a truck stop that wasn’t on any map with little more than vapour in the tank.

At age 14, I was part of the army cadet force at school, and on a night exercise with little more than moonlight, a sudden cry to run to a safe space led me to run head first into a tree, knocking me out cold.

Are all of these just childhood incidents? Apparently not.

I chose to become an entrepreneur because the opportunity to create something and make an impact on the world was incredibly appealing. Little did I know where things would lead.

My first company ran adrift with the venture capital backed leadership team unable to admit they were lost. We lost a billion dollar opportunity and to be known alongside PayPal and others of the dot-com era.

My second company, a fashion business loved by celebrities like Rihanna and Paris Hilton, hit the wall of the financial crisis in 2009. It was heart-wrenching shutting down a business that we’d nurtured for seven years only to be scuppered by things out of our control, narrowly missing out on a $5m funding round.

It felt like I was back at Paddington station when I arrived at Newark Airport with a one-way ticket back to London and just $5 to my name after getting the stopping bus from New York City.

Turns out that this is not uncommon. Every single day, businesses shut the doors on brilliant ideas, with money and livelihoods lost. I started my career with the very top names of universities, consulting and banking and ended up staring into the abyss. Career ruined, reputation lost, dizzy from the stress that took me to the low point of my life in the middle of the worst economic crisis in history. Imagine rocking up head-in-hand to your mother’s house in that state.

Back in London, I decided I had to figure this out and realised we never had a roadmap for those adventures. Despite my MBA, regular consumption of business books at Barnes and Noble at weekends and getting advice here and there, nothing actually showed you practical ways to manage and sound personal alarm bells to get you back on track. And there was still nothing out there the way I imagined it could be.

So I decided to create the CMS360 program to guide my own future ideas as well as for 1,000,000’s of others in this world that are on a similar journey.

In this program, I provide a practical system for management that shows you what you should do, how you should do it and why you should do it.

By showing you what to focus on you get clarity, power, understanding and more certainty which in turn will lead to taking better actions and building a more sustainable business.

Overall, if there’s one thing I want to do now, it’s to help as many people as possible avoid those same black-holes of the abyss, instead, creating the life you dream of.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to build a company or take a day trip across the desert, but doing so without a roadmap and compass is just not necessary in today’s digital world.

Don’t become the next Paddington Bear. Join our community and enjoy your journey.

Yours truly
Azfar Haider

About Azfar A. Haider

Azfar Haider, Founder, set up Creative Media Systems Limited and the CMS360 program in 2016 with the aim of helping creative firms around the world get established, scale successfully and become operationally strong. Having successfully launched the world’s 1st Cloud SaaS company in New York in 1998 and then subsequently launching a highly successful fashion brand in 2004, Azfar has unique experience spanning online technology services and manufactured products.

With his prior experience at Accenture and Deutsche Bank as BPR Champion and Global Product Manager for Private Banking, Azfar also brings deep insight into software development, product launches and change management practices.

Having lived through multiple down-turns, being duped by co-founders and seeing many companies fail when they should have succeeded, Azfar established Creative Media Systems to make sure entrepreneurs don’t fail on the simple stuff. “90% of start-ups fail, so half the battle is good management as opposed to being in the top 1% of the innovators” he says.

Follow Azfar on LinkedIn:

Disruption is about finding new solutions to old problems and we were a massive disruptor in the late 90’s. We’d never have got the first ever commercial license on the planet from the Microsoft Exchange product group for subscription services if we weren’t out to disrupt. Although I do agree with Jeff Bezos that in today's market it's about delighting not disrupting.

Azfar Haider

The story so far, by Azfar

I was fortunate to start my career with Accenture which is a fantastic training ground. It prepared me to move to Germany and join Deutsche Bank’s Head Office where I ran amazing projects in Switzerland, New York and Singapore driving change. I was also the bank side PM on a two-year end-to-end re-engineering of the Swiss Private Banking operations working with Accenture as consultants. Two brilliant experiences, two brilliant companies.

While in New York in 1998 I reconnected with a college friend whose previous chairman wanted someone to run his Exchange server over the internet. With my knowledge of the bank’s operations and technology I found technical resources who could validate this complex idea which had never been done. With that I developed a 20 page business model to define the concept and business architecture which garnered support from Microsoft and a leading Philadelphia based VC. The idea for Mi8 was seeded and we found ourselves on all the right trends and with backers.

Building Mi8 in 1998 was a roller coaster as it was so early on. Google, LinkedIn, social media, ready-made online services, accelerators and co-working spaces didn't exist. Neither did the concept of “product”. It was just about development and sales. Our CEO thought it would be a good idea to spend $750,000 of our seed capital on back of the bus advertising, a billboard over the Holland Tunnel and an Ad in the WSJ. Not to mention flights on private jets. Interesting choices. The phones didn’t ring but more capital came in because the market was high.

I focused on architecting the business for scale looking at 100’s of solutions, selecting the core billing, provisioning and customer care systems, and engaging Accenture. I drove all key partnerships, implemented ISO9001, ran all of our management meetings, key account sales and found a late stage investor when the CEO ran the well dry by burning $1m a month on a non-performing ex-telco sales team, and lost the Microsoft deal by suggesting we were a marketing company.

Somehow we scraped through and the platform allowed us to scale to 20,000 accounts and break even through organic growth. I developed a clear vision for taking the company into photo and file sharing, and developing services like billing and accounting. Unfortunately, the CEO and my friend the President opted to take over the company for themselves forcing everyone out instead of capitalizing and pivoting to new and higher value services. Lacking a growth strategy, they were forced to sell the company in 2006.

A radical change into the fashion industry was by chance and very challenging but an incredible journey. We bootstrapped our way to selling through 300 stores around the world from Tokyo to London and Hollywood with every celebrity wearing the products. Paris Hilton, Ivanka Trump, Rihanna, Keira Knightley, Heidi Klum and Tori Spelling to name just a few. We sourced and shipped 50,000 high end units. During this time I was personally mentored for two years by the late Gloria Gelfand, ex-CEO of Escada who helped us enormously. The financial crisis of 2008/9 was an unwelcome set-back but provided the ideal opportunity for re-positioning and a future restart.

From Deutsche Bank’s twin towers in Frankfurt to 601 West 26th Street in Manhattan where we built Mi8 in 1998 (the building didn't look so good back then and was empty when we moved in) and experienced the devastation of the World Trade Center in 2001; then to 80 West 40th Street on Bryant Park in 2004 where we started Nikka New York; and to The Hospital Club in London where Creative Media Systems was born.

Speaking at conferences or meetups representing the bank, Mi8 and more recently Creative Media Systems. Engaging with audiences such as the Master's programme at MIT or startup communities such as The Bakery in London have always been very rewarding and insightful.

Azfar's Operational Experience

My Startups

My Technology Background

My Corporate Experience

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