Written by The Business Journal Staff
What you do: Provide building code and engineering review services to local governments and their applicants worldwide
Education: California State University, Fresno B.A. in Civil Engineering
Family: Wife: Loretta; 2 sons: Jordan (21) and Jacob (18)
How did you come to establish NAFFA International?
I was born in Jordan. I came here in 1980 to go to Fresno State in the civil engineering program. I was just going to get my degree and head back home. There was a change of plans and I wanted to stay here. I met my future wife and the rest is history. I started working for CMA back in 1984. It was an architectural company that specialized in building codes. It was a new concept back then. I stayed there for 18 years. Back in 2001, I left and started NAFFA International. I was in the business 18 years by then and I had a lot of connections and I’d been in the business awhile so a lot of cities and departments knew me, and I ended up doing the same service. I kind of took it to a new level and started doing a lot of different stuff on the Internet.
What kinds of projects do you work on, Imad?
We do from little house additions to mid-rise buildings, cogeneration plants, complex and hazardous occupancy and everything in between. Any job that’s built, constructed or erected, we’ll do it.
Do you find a lot of business owners fall short in their knowledge of disabled access codes, Imad?
My experience is that they don’t know a whole lot about the disability requirements. Some know enough that they can have the big door and get the people in. Unless you work with it, it’s pretty hard and because it’s subjective, a lot of times there are misunderstandings with a lot of people going out and saying they know what they’re doing and they really don’t. It’s a complex subject. When you think you know it, it changes.
What first attracted you to the world of social media, Imad?
I was doing a lot of things on the Internet, but mostly putting sites together and forums for our engineering business. My wife came to me and said, “You got to try this Twitter thing.” I said, “I don’t think so, it’s a game, people go out and talk about what they did and what they ate,” and I didn’t see a value for the business. She kept harping on me. So what I did in 2008, I joined and all I did was watch people talking, people posting. I spent about three months doing that and I dropped it. I didn’t do anything. I’m not just the typical civil engineer. I’m interested in a lot of subjects beyond engineering. I like talking about the price of gold, what’s going on in Asia, Europe, from politics to the economy, so I started seeing the benefit that that curiosity and inquisitiveness was being fed by social media. Somewhere in the world, someone was talking about it. And then, the light clicked because I also could see with all these programs and know-how that I developed over the years for engineering that now I may have a conduit of letting the world know about it.
What’s the story behind your 36,207 followers on Twitter, Imad? Your average Twitter user is lucky to have 300 followers.
It got big. I got hooked on it and I saw the light and I started talking about everything under the sun.
And over two years I think we amassed about 36,000 followers plus, which is a huge number because for you to have something day in and day out that’s attractive and people want to read it, it’s not easy. People just don’t follow you because you have a picture that looks good. Some do. Celebrities do but I’m talking about from a business side.
What advice do you have for business owners interested in delving into social media, Imad?
Social media is here to stay. Like it or not, it’s not going anywhere. It is scary at the beginning. Sometimes you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, or you think “hey I’m in Fresno doing this business, how can it relate to me?” But it is here to stay and I think to be relevant, to be competitive in the years to come or in the months to come, you have to jump in. I don’t care if you’re an accountant, or selling gadgets or fruits or vegetables, whatever you’re doing, someone somewhere is doing it too. So the idea is you learn and find out the trends, what’s new, the pricing, where it is all going. So if you want to stay relevant and competitive, you have to get involved and if you don’t, everybody comes in. Don’t be afraid. Listen at first and eventually get your feet wet. Follow smart people.
What do you do in your spare time, Imad?
I have two boys that are finally in college, so now I have a little spare time, because you know you spend your life raising a family and the kids. So now they’re both going to Fresno State, my alma mater. One just started, one’s on his third year. So now me and my wife are at the house. She’s also interested in social media and very proficient at it. She helps me a lot. She’s my best editor. She brings me a lot of articles about the business, about China, about Europe and the Middle East, things she knows I’m interested in. So now we get to travel a little bit. We’re getting to an age where we want to travel more to some exotic places we haven’t been, mostly in Asia, London, Europe and Africa. It’s a passion for loving different people and different cultures. I’m intrigued by that. I love soccer. I used to play it, not as much now, but I love to watch it.