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Denali Co-Founders Honored As Pacific Northwest Entrepreneurs Of Year By Ernst & Young

Majdi and Mohamad Daher, who started a technology services business 22 years ago as a means to keep their family together in the aftermath of the Gulf War, have built Denali Advanced Integration into one of the most respected system integrators in the country.


Majdi and Mohamad Daher, who started a technology services business 22 years ago in order to bring their parents and siblings to America in the aftermath of the Gulf War, have received the prestigious Ernst & Young Pacific Northwest Entrepreneurs of The Year Award.

Today, that technology services business, Denali Advanced Integration of Redmond, Wash., born out of the tragedy of war, is one of the most widely respected system integrators in the country. Ranked No. 91 on the CRN Solution Provider 500 list, Denali is now a $212 million company with 450 employees. The business provided the means for the two brothers to bring their parents and siblings to America in 1992.

[Related: Denali Reinvents Itself With New Texas Mobile Device Integration Center ]

’It was a true sense of joy not for myself, but more for my family overall and my brothers,’ said Denali CEO Majdi Daher of the Ernst & Young award. ’It is a validation and testament to my family sticking together.’

Majdi and his brother, Mohamad, who is chairman of the company, received the highly coveted award at a black-tie gala before family and friends last Friday night at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue, Wash.

’Only in America can you come here and have absolutely nothing and build what we have built with Denali and the other businesses we have,’ said Majdi, echoing his acceptance speech remarks. ’Only in America. That is why this is the greatest country in the whole world. Thank God for the United States. There is no way we could have done this without this great country."

Denali Advanced Integration is not the only business started by the brothers. The family owns seven independent operating companies, all funded with sweat equity, that include real estate, manufacturing, banking and even a company that helps international students get an education in the U.S. ’Those businesses are all successful,’ said Majdi. ’My brothers and family have passion, love and care for everything we do. We all have one speed, which is 100 percent.’

Majdi and Mohamad, (pictured above, left and right) along with their brother Mitch, who now oversees the family’s real estate holdings, saw the technology business as the best opportunity to bring their family to America from Lebanon after their father had lost all of the wealth he had built up over 30 years running a successful Laundromat business in Kuwait.

Majdi, in fact, said that in retrospect, the entrepreneurial DNA that resulted in Denali Advanced Integration came from his father. ’My Dad moved to Kuwait from Lebanon in 1956 and opened a successful business providing for seven kids,’ he recalled. ’He had three different Laundromats and sent all of us to school and then college. We were upper middle class and in great financial shape until the Gulf War broke out. Then my family lost everything.’

Majdi was a 20-year-old premed college student who was intent on becoming a doctor at the time, but left college to start the business. Mohamad was an engineer working for semiconductor maker IDT who left his job and sold his car to help finance the business. Mitch was working for Micron, a chip maker in Boise, Idaho, and joined his brothers. ’None of us had a plan to start a business, but when the Gulf War broke out our entrepreneurial DNA kicked in,’ Majdi said. ’Circumstances brought us together.’

NEXT: Denali CEO: Starting The Business Was A Matter Of Survival

Majdi said starting the business was a matter of survival for him and his family. ’My family was in a war zone,’ he said. ’A lot of people talk about business challenges, but when we started the business, we faced the greatest challenge of all: survival. This business was the only way we saw to provide for our family. We were concerned about the safety of our family and whether they were going to live or die.’

Majdi said he thinks often of the pain and uncertainty he and his brothers faced in those early days. ’My brothers and I always talk about it,’ he said. ’It’s what keeps us all going and motivates us every day. We will never forget that day when we heard about the Kuwait war. We use that time as motivation for us to continue to drive on. We never, ever want to be in that situation again. When we were going through that, the pressure was tremendous.’

Majdi, who has navigated a number of treacherous technology twists and turns over nearly a quarter-century as the CEO of Denali, said those struggles taught him a lot about keeping business challenges in perspective. ’People come to me and talk about business challenges, but when you have faced what we faced when we started this business, all other problems become much smaller,’ he said. ’That helped us cope with normal business challenges.’

Majdi said the fortune lost by his Dad also taught his family a valuable lesson. ’We learned to anticipate and prepare for the worst,’ he said. ’That is why you see us obsessed to be the best at everything we do and not to be dependent on just one thing. My Dad was a great entrepreneur and businessperson. He lost everything because of outside factors he had no control over.’

Majdi said when he started Denali with his brothers there was no ’grandiose plan’ to build a large national technology services provider business. In fact, the brothers considered starting a restaurant or a gas station. But they knew technology provided a much richer growth opportunity. ’My brothers were engineers,’ he said. ’Technology was a field that we thought would give us a good opportunity. It was all about seizing an opportunity that we saw in technology services. We took an idea and executed on it. That is the benefit of being in a great area like the Pacific Northwest and a great country like the United States.’

At the heart of the Daher family businesses is a credo to always stick together and to take the profits and reinvest them continually in the business. ’We knew if we reinvested in the business we could build a business for our family and all our employees,’ he said. ’What I worry most about now is the families of our employees. That’s what I think of whenever I make a decision about whether to invest or expand. I always think about is my decision going to affect those families in a good way or a bad way.’

Today, Majdi and his brother are building a business for those employees and future generations of the Daher family. ’We are big family of seven siblings with 16 grandchildren and six great grandchildren,’ he said. ’We have lots of mouths to feed.’

Majdi said he is happy that his parents got to see the success he and his brothers achieved in the U.S. ’My mother and father are very proud of what we have accomplished,’ said Majdi. ’One of the most gratifying things was for them was to see the success. That was a great blessing.’

Another blessing, he said, is the opportunity to continue to learn from employees, customers and partners. ’We have always learned from everyone we have worked with, past and present,’ said Majdi. ’In the technology business you have to reinvent yourself and look for what’s new. All these people helped us to gain knowledge we couldn’t learn in a book. That ability to share ideas has allowed us to take risks and be more successful.’

The ultimate life lesson, though, from the Denali success story, said Majdi, is to stick together and persevere in the face of the tragedy that life can throw your way. ’Never frown at what the world throws at you because something really bad can bring good things,’ he said. ’That is what happened to my family. We were in a very, very bad situation and we were able to come together and turn it into a success story.’


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