2012 Hall of Fame: Babak Ghaznavi
Babak Ghaznavi, President of Paul’s TVJanuary 2012 By Jeff O'Heir
If the saying "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" applies to anyone, it applies to Babak Ghaznavi, president of Paul's TV.
When Ghaznavi was 14, his father, who was working at a petrochemical company in Iran, wanted a better life for his son. Not knowing much about America or its education system, he randomly chose a military school in Missouri and sent Ghaznavi there. The place had its fair share of troublemakers who saw Ghaznavi, who couldn't speak English and was small for his age, as a prime target for their taunts and bullying. Ghaznavi took his lumps, but he was a quick study and learned to navigate his way through the tough environment. It took him only two years to graduate.
"That has a lot to do with who I've become today," he said, regarding his ability to cope with adversity, turn a problem into a success and work hard for the best result. "I'm a survivor."
Ghaznavi is more than a survivor. Since becoming president of Paul's TV in 2006 and CEO last year, Ghazvani has helped grow the business to 60 outlets; formed key relationships with furniture stores, where Paul's has set up satellite shops; added key lines; and established a strong e-commerce presence.
Ghaznavi is one of those rare CE executives who is very good at a lot of things: marketing; merchandising; building industry relationships; inventory management; and hiring, managing, retaining and teaching employees.
Most of all, though, he's a great salesman. While studying computer science in 1984, he took a holiday job as a temporary sales associate at Circuit City in Bethesda, Md. He soon went full-time and earned $4,000 his first month and $6,000 his second. After five months, he bought his first house. He was 21.
"When it comes to sales, you either have it or you don't. You have to have the gut instinct to connect with other people to find their needs," he said. "I was lucky enough to be born with it."
Ghaznavi also seems as if he was born with innate management skills. Circuit City gave him his first management position in 1986 at its West Los Angeles store, where Ghaznavi helped make it one of the highest revenue generators in the chain. Thrown into the fire, he quickly learned some important lessons that has helped him get to where he is today: communicate clear expectations to the staff and provide them with the tools they need to succeed; create the most effective work schedules; make sure every product on display works properly; and, perhaps most important, how to manage inventory.