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شكراً زايد

شكراً زايد

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لم ألتقي بأحد في البحرين الذي فعلاً يجسد قصد #فريق_البحرين مثل زايد الزياني. التواصل معه سهل و رده حازم وسريع.

لأسرد لكم قصة حدثت معي هذا الأسبوع لأوضح سبب إعجابي بهذا الشخص…

عندي شركتين، واحدة مؤسسه والثانية محدودة المسؤلية. في أثناء تقديم معاملة لواحدة منهما، اتضح ان هناك مخالفة على الأخرى لتأخرنا في تحميل الحسابات النهائية، فلهذا السبب تم إيقاف معاملات المؤسسة الأخرى لتصحيح الوضع. ليس لدي أي اعتراض على الخلل، بينما أعترضت وبشدّة لدمج المؤسستين هكذا مع العلم أنهما يجب أن يكون لكلٍ منهما شخصية إعتبارية قانونيا. ففي المنطق يجب ألا يؤثر أي خلل أو قضية أو مطالبة على أيٍ من المؤسسات على الأخرى.

فكتبت للوزير الزياني عن إعتراضي عن طريق الواتس آب واستبشرت خيراً لمَ وجدته قد قرأ الرسالة، ولكن لم يكن في حسباني رده الفوري الذي يوافقني الرأي وأخبرني أن الوزارة فعلاً على علم بهذه الثغرة القانونية وأنهم ينتظرون نشر القانون الجديد الذي سيعالج هذه الحالة في الجريدة الرسمية. فإستسمح مني بعض الوقت للدراسة. وفي خلال أقل من ساعة خابرني أن القرار قد أُصدر فعلاً ونُشر في الجريدة الرسمية الأسبوع الماضي وأن معاملتي ستسير ميسرة قريبا.

ما بارحت الساعة وإلا الاستاذ علي مكي، وكيل الوزارة، يتصل بي ويطمئنني أن المخالفة قد رُفعت فعلاً ومعاملتي سارت بسلاسة الى النقطة التاليه، وإن هذا التغيير في القانون هو سارياً على الجميع فوراً.

أعزائي، الحق يقال.. ففي أي دولة في العالم يتسنى لشخص عادي، وتاجر صغير كذلك الإتصال بوزير رفيع و يُسمع و يُجاوب بهذه الطريقة و بطول بال وأريحية؟

.فالشكر موّصل للأخ الوزير القدير زايد الزياني وطاقمه الحرفي وهنيئاً للبحرين لوَعي وحرفية وتواضع رجالاتها.

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(Alleged) Corruption at BCCI

(Alleged) Corruption at BCCI

I don’t believe that the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry is in a good state. It hasn’t been looking after the business community for quite a while and to most businesses in Bahrain, it’s dead but somebody forgot to officially bury it.

To wit, what we hear from the BCCI is the constant chest thumping and false promises. Its board of directors seem to be more interested in scoring personal points, get on to travel gigs and do whatever possible to benefit themselves rather than their electorate. As a paying member for 27 years, I cannot remember a single instance where the Chamber has helped me or just paved the way for my business and others in a similar vein to success.

The Chamber has become irrelevant. It has no function to play within the business community. It is high time that its suffering be ended and it be put to rest. No new elections and no new blood can ever bring it back to its halcyon days. Those are just a memory. A blip on the horizon. And the future with its digital more agile economy doesn’t require it.

One reason for this stasis is its complete legal subservience to the government. The minister of commerce exercises oversight over its decision and nothing can be promulgated without his consent. That takes away its critical independence through which it can actually serve its electorate. If this fact alone doesn’t convince you, as a businessperson, to demand that it be closed down, then maybe you would be well served just to ignore it. This should be a primary goal of any block or person running for elections, but I fail to see this mentioned in any of their agendas, and if it’s there, they fail to outline how they’re going to regain that independence.

The other reason is that it is a(n allegedly) corrupt organisation. Some of its board members are said to be waist deep in this quagmire. And the board doesn’t seem to be interested enough to exercise its basic fiduciary responsibility to arrest this corruption, and hold those who are implicated to book. The government here is to blame too, as it has a decisive role to play and it seems to prefer to turn a blind eye. The public prosecutor should move and investigate these claims and do their job for the benefit of the whole society, not just businesses and businesspersons.

For example, here’s an audio electioneering clip allegedly done on behalf of one of a current board members who is standing for re-election, plainly offering bribes for votes. And he is just one. I wonder how many others are treading the same path. We will not know because no action, or even an investigation, appears to have taken place by the BCCI’s board.

We – as the business community – can’t be blamed to continue to hold the BCCI in contempt. One way for us to show this contempt is to forget about it, forget about its sham of elections and just get on with our work. Because the BCCI is not serious about doing the right thing, let alone looking after our interests. Its current structure is weak, its current board is by default supporting the alleged corruption by not taking action. The very least they could have done is suspend the person who has been implicated in this scandal while an independent investigation is conducted and the truth be unearthed. Transparently and professionally. Had they done that, at least they would have saved a little bit of face.

As to the current “blocks” who are so busy all of a sudden in their electioneering and over-sized promises – yes, even the cute Batman Movie Lot – they seem to all be conveniently forgetting the real importance of the Chamber’s independence. Rather than emphasising the issue of regaining the Chamber’s independence, they are bending over backwards to brush that issue under the carpet. So what – pray – are all of them really going to contribute to the advancement of businesses and the economy?

The BCCI will never augment our existence and it cannot and will not provide us with any platform off of which we can launch and maintain our success. We’ll continue to do that on our own. Thank you very much. Without any auspices of the defunct BCCI organisation.

Here. At least enjoy this little Batman skit.

blah blah blah blah blah blah….

A post shared by AlGhad (@alghad.bh) on

They’re the dark knights. The saviours. But wait! Where’s the Joker? It’s that salesperson who sold them this. Tell him – if you know him or her – that s/he can get a job with me immediately! What a stellar job! What this clip tells me is that this lot simply does not realise the gravity of the situation. They think that their comically superhero characters are enough to convince people to turn out for them. They seem to think that what we really need in this country are weightless knights who can come and save us from our situation by us shining their Batman logo on the night’s sky. Nice one.

Yeah right.

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How to deal with customer complaints. A lesson from Tamkeen.

How to deal with customer complaints. A lesson from Tamkeen.

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Twelve days ago, I had this to say about Tamkeen:

As you can see above, just one day after posting the initial complaint, which was borne from frustration and previous experiences with Tamkeen, someone took notice of my complaint and took positive action. No less than three Tamkeen personnel called offering to help to resolve the situation. And they did, almost immediately.

Within a day, all paperwork was resubmitted and accepted within their system. The lady in charge of this particular project was immensely helpful and responsive and called me back to assure me that the paperwork was in order and that she has passed on the project to payments.

My other complaint which I shared with those who followed up was to do with the payment period. Tamkeen promises to release payments once all paperwork is accepted within 60 days. I told them that as a small businesses and we simply cannot afford to wait for two months to get our payments, especially when those payment equates to 50% of the total project. Our cashflow won’t allow it. They promised to see what they could do about that too.

Imagine my pleasant surprise yesterday when I found the payment has actually landed in our bank! Just 12 days after the initial complaint. This is excellent.

Thank you Tamkeen for taking active notice of complaints, and thank you too for expediting payments. I hope that as you have proved that you could take such quick action once the complete document set is submitted, that this responsiveness becomes the norm rather than the exception.

Thank you Tamkeen, once again, for your efforts. It is very much appreciated.

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The death of entrepreneurship in Bahrain

The death of entrepreneurship in Bahrain

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a truckful of unread, undistributed entrepreneurship magazines

I arrived at my office this morning at my regular time to be faced with this truck parked just outside. I suspect that the truck’s destination is a recycling plant.

What struck me wasn’t the industry of the workers or that paper recycling is a bona fide operation in Bahrain, what did was the picture I was faced with. I thought it was an indication of the state we are in on multi-facetted levels.

Consider this: the magazine bundles are clearly just as they have been received from a printer, unopened, undistributed and unread. The inference here is that we as a community do not read.

Second: the magazine in question is targeted toward entrepreneurs. Its website describes it as follows: “Rowad magazine aims at being not only a magazine, but a reference tool for entrepreneurs locally and regionally with a vision to reach international platforms. The magazine offers insight on entrepreneurship across all industries which include ; ICT, Arts, Health & Fitness, Film Industry just to name a few.” It is abundantly clear that it’s not benefiting any of its promised targets. It is simply destined to a recycling plant – one hopes – and thus doing more good for the environment than the minds it was hoping to enrich. I can’t help but think if this yet another indication of the death of entrepreneurship in Bahrain.

Third: Print is dead. I honestly don’t know why anyone bothers to print anything any more, especially papers and magazines. We need trees more than useless paper that’s ultimately going to be tossed out. Most information is better provided electronically for obvious reasons, the least of which is searchability and protection and sustainability of the environment.

This was a quite interesting start of my day. One that clearly exposed several elephants in the room, particularly in Bahrain:

  1. Reading is not high on our priority list,
  2. Entrepreneurship here is in dire straights. The majority of “schemes” thrown at it won’t bring it back to life. Tamkeen, in particular, is not working and needs to be shut down. I have come to realise now that Tamkeen is the worst thing that has happened to business and entrepreneurship in Bahrain. It is superficial at best and a Darwinian culling of businesses large and small is the best for the future of this country.
  3. Thirdly, businesses here need to divorce themselves from print media. The utter crap that is being printed in this country is mind-boggling. When magazines exist simply to sell ads and not provide real and valuable content, when magazines’ main contribution is society pictures and pages, it is best to shut them down. Even the Internet doesn’t deserve this crap. Invest your advertising dollars in proper digital marketing and CSR schemes that benefits the community, rather than continue to prop up a dying and completely unnecessary industry.

Good morning and make it a great day!

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How important is a business exit plan?

How important is a business exit plan?

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What’s the average life of a business?

I don’t know for certain, and I doubt anyone else in Bahrain or the Middle East knows either. Statistics of this sort are just not prioritised, and if they are, then they are not published. US statistics suggest that, on average, a Fortune 500 company lasts around 40 to 50 years. The vast majority of small businesses in the UK are around 5 years old, with less than 15% older than 20 years.

My guess is that small businesses here actually last a lot longer. But that’s not due to their success.

Businesses last longer in this region not because they are better run, or because of the region’s tax-free environment. I suspect that they are allowed to grow older simply because of the archaic bankruptcy laws. The bankruptcy laws here compel business owners to maintain their businesses on life support and even tolerate incurring losses, rather than declare bankruptcy.

You would be right to question why bankruptcy is detrimental to business and entrepreneurship. One reason is because there are serious repercussions from declaring bankruptcy. Those repercussions range from travel bans imposed on entrepreneurs, to them being barred from starting or operating a business thereafter.

Simply put, bankruptcy laws make this region a hostile environment for entrepreneurship and innovation. I don’t believe that business can thrive under these restrictions. Innovation carries an inherent risk of course, and an environment such as this doesn’t allow innovators to take those necessary risks. That is probably why innovation in this region will continue to just be another buzz word empty of meaning.

You can read the Bahraini Bankruptcy law here.

And here’s an excerpt to show you how detrimental it is to innovation and entrepreneurship:

Article 33

Any adjudicated bankrupt may not elect or become a member of parliament, municipal council, Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry or any professional society. He may not become a manager or a director of any company nor carry on the business of commercial agency or any import and export business, stockbrokerage business involving the sale or purchase of securities or sale by a public auction.

An adjudicated bankrupt may not manage properties on behalf of other. However, the competent court may authorise him to administer the properties of his minor children, if such administration is not detrimental to them.

This archaic law is responsible for the stagnation of business and innovation. A significant proportion of businesses here are on life support. And to all intents and purposes they should be declared dead. Yet, they’re kept alive because their owners cannot afford to declare them bankrupt.

I’m not advocating escaping from one’s responsibilities. I am advocating a better law that allows for mistakes to be learnt from. They must be regarded as experiences that help build the culture of innovation.

The above should give you some context on any published statistics here as they do not take these factors into account. They do not present the real situation and statistics should taken with some grains of salt.

Other challenges do exist that limit business growth, of course. The most critical I believe are the lack of clear planning and lack of vision. A critical part of those is that entrepreneurs here do not define a clear exit plan as part of their business planning. I am guilty of that omission, I confess. I’ve never even thought of an exit plan before not found a need for one. However, I now believe that defining an exit plan is critical to the success of any business. It is the exit point at which the conditions are just right for the launch of a phase of more predictable growth. Essentially, it is the transition point from an entrepreneurial spirit to professional management. It is that time at which professional managers must be brought in to manage and create sustainable growth.

Most entrepreneurs, from my own observation, aren’t detail people. They are explorers who have no fear of venturing into dark and deep shark infested waters. One would find them getting out with hardly a drop of sweat on them. Wet they might be, but sweaty they won’t. What would make them sweat is the wait, and being forced to deal with the fine details.

But with a such a hostile environment to entrepreneurship here, how can a business even contemplate the prospect of being sold? Would an exit plan even be considered as part of business start up? Why are businesses even started in this region?

I believe that the primary consideration for starting a business here is to make money for the owner. A piggy bank, if you like, or a cookie jar to dip the hand in whenever required to maintain a certain lifestyle. In the majority of cases, businesses here aren’t to deliver value through innovation. And that is why businesses remain small.

I am not being judgmental. These are simple facts that small businesses and their entrepreneurs live by here. I contend that there is nothing wrong with that situation. But would the term “entrepreneurship” really apply here?

In this environment, what kind of businesses get sold and why? For how much? And in what conditions? And to what effect? Yes, businesses do get sold. Rarely mind you, but they do happen.

One such recent transaction I know of is the sale of the Block 338 restaurant. The Gulf Hotel purchased that property for a rumoured two million Bahraini dinars. Can you imagine how a study like this would help entrepreneurs? At least it would encourage entrepreneurs to develop a road map with exit plans as part of their start-up process. This would force entrepreneurs to focus on business sustainability. And invite them to establish processes that ensure business success. These kind of stories would do more good than empty marketing platitudes.

I’ve alluded to some factors that would make a business sellable above and I do believe that those are the common denominators that work across many – if not all – small business types; be they service or product based.

Other factors do exist including market need, share and timing. But having a documented processes is arguably the most critical. Those processes allow the business to transcend its owner. They offer predictable automation that allows the business to function regardless of the involvement of its creator. That intellectual property surely must be the most important thing a business possess, regardless of its genre. That applied equally to the likes of video production houses or manufacturing facilities.

Investors; however, make it plain that while IP is valued, it does not factor much in weighing a business for an investment decision. They put a price on actual equipment the business owns than its intangible assets. That makes IP a component of good will, rather than a critical business asset. This thinking renders service-based businesses worthless for an investment destination.

How can a service business such as mine grow then?

I remember attending a seminar by Carl Gould organised by the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation in Bahrain a few years ago. He identified the seven stages of a business.  What stuck in my mind is his assertion that businesses that depend on their owners for success will never grow beyond “Level 2”. He argued that those businesses do not scale, but are bound by the intellectual input of their creator. The only way those businesses can grow would be for those businesses to grow beyond their creator. Which makes sense. And depends on setting in place processes where a diverse knowledge base and shared across the organisation.

That is the issue I have been struggling with for some time now. Like other entrepreneurs in my situation, I had been looking for a “mini-me”. I have not come close to finding one that could fill my shoes, yet. I understand that the alternative is to delegate and accept that I might have to spread my competencies across several employees. The issue here – and I realise that this might be an excuse – is that the market here in Bahrain cannot support and increased head-count. I tried that approach and failed. Many times.

Could scaling be an answer? Should one open offices abroad to grow beyond Bahrain to capture more business? That growth will surely provide the opportunity to utilise more competencies and spread them across the network.

What’s the issue then? Why have I not take those steps to grow? The simple answer is that I never had the required access to capital. The perennial problem of business growth everywhere, of course, but especially to those in Bahrain.

Trust for small business and entrepreneurs here exist only in platitudes and effervescent glitzy entrepreneurship events. There is no real government policies which help ease this situation. The archaic bankruptcy law is just one example of that failure. The absence of reasonable financing is another. Until these situations are remedied, I believe that SMEs in this region will continue to be non-effective. Their economic impact will remain marginal. And they will never provide real value that might benefit humanity.

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Tumblr? What’s Tumblr?

Tumblr? What’s Tumblr?

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Yes, I know it supposed to be a blog anything, anytime, every time kind of platform that’s hip with the younger crowd. I never really paid it any attention. I do have an account there, of course, but the only thing I use Indifferent Musings for is mirroring this blog, Instagram and I can’t remember what else. If sharing to Tumblr is an option, I generally select that button. I do that off-handedly though, not with intention.

What brought this on my mind just now is witnessing an interview with David Karp, the founder of Tumblr on Bloomberg TV.

david-karp-marissa-mayer-hed-2014
Tumblr founder David Karp (L) and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

What intrigued me most about the gentleman were:

  1. He’s now only 29
  2. Over 400 million monthly users use the product he created, that’s a huge impact
  3. He sold the company he recently founded to Yahoo for US$1.1 billion
  4. He declared that how he managed to create, sustain, nurture and then sell off and continue to head Tumblr as an independent subsidiary to Yahoo were the investors and mentors he had.

The operative words to me are “investors” and “mentors“.

I very much prefer Bloomberg TV over news and general interest channels. It to me is inspiration and education; while the other channels are generally bad news or bad shows, other than NatGeo of course.

I know that both exist in the Middle East, but the numbers, quality and availability of both are extremely restricted. For instance, I read more news that a Middle Eastern investor exited or entered into an investment in the west, than those they enter into in the Middle East. The scale appears to be vastly different too; with investments in the west in the hundreds of millions of dollars while those entered into here are in the double digits.

On a personal level, I’d like the opportunity to create positive impact through my ideas, and am very ready to take on mentors to help me achieve those visions.

I don’t say this haphazardly as I am very serious. I do have many ideas which I’d like to see through to fruition. Ideas from starting a television station to having an small coffee shop. From creating on-demand, multilingual, immersive mobile tourism applications through to starting a college to specifically teach and nurture entrepreneurship. These will have a better chance at achieving impact with the right financing and I’d be a more effective member of those teams by having the right mentors in each space.

I confess that my view above might be judgemental and might be completely off the mark as the above is based on my observations rather than anecdotal evidence. I would really appreciate input from people who actually have experience in the investment markets in the Middle East and of course mentors and mentees on their experience in accelerating growth and mitigating mistakes.

What do investors look for? How would you identify and approach the right investor? What are the norms in this space? Are there legal structures in Bahrain and the Middle East that would help nurture and improve this process? How can this process be made simpler? Are there any meet-ups/events that would facilitate meetings between entrepreneurs and investors (not angel investors, or micro investors)?

I’d like to know. Please share your thoughts by entering comments here or simply reach out to me. I’d be very happy to buy you coffee and have a chat.

Have an entrepreneurial day!

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EO Bahrain’s Rock Star Hat Trick!

EO Bahrain’s Rock Star Hat Trick!

So proud to have achieved a Rock Star hat trick for EO Bahrain! That’s the third year in a row that we won the very prestigious award from EO Global. Thanks to the fantastic and committed board I had the pleasure and honour of leading, and the whole chapter for making this happen.

EO Bahrain's Rock Star Hat-trick!
What is EO Rock Star I hear you ask?

The Rock Star Award is awarded to chapters that have achieved overall excellence as determined by successfully completing a comprehensive “checklist” of best practices in chapter management including: chapter growth; value provided; succession plans; attendance at GLC; chapter learning events and calendars; Forum placement and training; communications; sponsorships; finance, etc.

This year, only 38 out of over 140 chapters achieved this status. And only 15 achieved this honour three or more times.

I look forward to EO Bahrain continuing this track record and achieving more recognitions, the process of which will confer more membership value to the Chapter as a whole.

I’d like to personally thank the fantastic board which made this happen:

  1. Safa Sharif, VP and Forum Chair
  2. Deena Alansari, Finance Chair
  3. Hassan Kaiksow, Integration Chair
  4. Nezar Raees, Strategic Alliances Chair
  5. Kevin Craig, Learning Chair
  6. Manal Alzayani, Social Chair
  7. Hussain Kadhem, Membership Chair
  8. Faeq Alolaiwat, MarCom Chair
  9. Luay Khalaifat, Immediate Past President and Rock Star Chair

Well done EO Bahrain, you – literally – ROCK!

 

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Rubber Stamp Culture

Rubber Stamp Culture

In an era where electronic signatures are passé, what is the unbridled fetish the Bahraini government has with rubber stamps? I’m not meaning those stamps which indicate that a paper has been seen, approved or rejected, but the stamps that companies use to stamp their invoices and other documents before they be accepted within the government’s systems. Isn’t the original letter-headed paper and signature enough to affirm its authenticity? Is a company stamp really necessary to add to that authenticity? Why when the manufacture of those stamps is completely unregulated and anyone with a little bit of knowledge could either create a duplicate at will, or even take a stamped paper to a vendor and the vendor would happily recreate it without asking for any form of verification? You see where I’m going with this?

Company stamps are useless. Get rid of that requirement and stop rejecting papers just because they don’t have “an official company stamp”. What official company stamp? Is it registered with an authority? Is it in a computer record somewhere? What if I create a stamp with Mickey Mouse on it with my company’s name around it, will that do? Will that authenticate an already verifiable piece of paper?

Tamkeen are you listening? Get with the program please and stop delaying SMEs payments for such a ludicrous excuse.

And government et al, tell your functionaries that company rubber stamps are no longer a necessity of doing business. You too get with the program. Please!

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Hidden Gems and Treasure Troves in Saar

Hidden Gems and Treasure Troves in Saar

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Once in a while you’re pleasantly surprised by locating a shop with really nice stuff packed into it. A treasure trove really, and I’m not talking about those second hand shops or a car boot sale. I’m talking about shops that are elegantly designed and fitted, but recessed and tucked away from the normal beats. That’s what I discovered this afternoon.

Saar, like the rest of Bahrain, has tremendously changed over the last ten years, let alone over 30 or 40 years. Maybe it’s a bit late to catch up with the various other areas of the island probably due to the mass exodus of the majority expats who preferred this area of the island and made it their own, especially in the seventies to the naughtees. They were so prevalent in this area then, to the extent that a phrase was coined to identify some of those busy-body expat women as “Budaiya Betties” or “Saar Sallies”; spaced-out and closer to fishmonger-mannerisms than class and royalty they proclaim to have. Anyway, to each their own.

So Saar has developed into a business attraction lately. First came the Najibi Centre, then a little down the road we had St Christopher’s School and between the two several shops, restaurants and even shopping malls popped up. The latest addition to that class of properties is the quaint Saar Mall, just a few steps from St Chris and Alnakheel Mall, the second mall to be inaugurated in the area, I’m not counting the Country Mall, it’s on the Budaiya Highway of course, but not in the Saar area.

Saar Mall has quite a number of shops already open, we thought of exploring a bit before we had our coffee at Costa, our preferred coffee destination. This mall sports the customary food hall which is quite unexpected. I was under the impression that “provincial malls” are more low key affairs. They do contain restaurants of course, but I didn’t expect a full fledged food hall. Or maybe it’s just me.

Upstairs in the food hall, they have quite an attraction: a huge fish tank with salt water fish. Nimo and the like. Though I’m really unsure why that tank also has mollies and guppies. I thought those were fresh water fish, no? Maybe they’re food for the little shark with its permanently attached sucker? A weird feature on both sides of the main tank are open sub-tanks with fish in them as well. I shudder to think how those fish will fair. I have a vision that people will be trying to catch them, or “feed” them by tipping their food trays in, or even squeezing their left-over mayonnaise and catchup packets there too. I hope no one does. It will be a shame to vandalize that feature. It would be good too if the mall management spent some time properly cleaning that installation. The green algae is building up, and the water, as of this afternoon, is a bit murky.

It is on the same floor that we discovered quite a nice shop. Innovation Bahrain. I must confess that I have a fetish for interior decor and furnishings shops. I love nicknacks; though I’m banned from buying any because Frances says that our house is stuffed and can’t take any more. I ignore her once in a while, and she tolerates my “rebelliousness”, but I know that she has the final, silent, word. I notice the disappearance of some of the items I purchase sometimes. I am also pretty sure that the BSPCA thrift shop has been the beneficiary of some of my trinkets too.

Anyway, have a gander at this lovely treasure trove:

Panorama of Innovation Home in Saar Mall

Quite cool right? I’m definitely going to visit again, if not to buy, then it will be for inspiration.

As to the mall itself, I just hope that its owners become a bit selective to create a nice variety of shops. There is an indication that is not on their mind at the moment, with three phone shops and two phone pods upstairs, something that the nearby Alnakheel seems to be much better at in their selectivity. I also hope that it keeps its cleanliness and not transform into a villager backwater where no one would choose to visit unless they’re compelled to do so.

It was a pleasant afternoon.. and the coffee was good too.

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Recruiting the wrong type of people

Recruiting the wrong type of people

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There are so much resources availalble now for entrepreneurs but I still get it wrong a lot of the times! Nothing beats experience I guess; however, that’s the expensive route.

Without a doubt, the most expensive mistake I keep on repeating is recruiting the wrong people. Time after time. How can I get out of this spiral?

Let me explain to you my process of recruiting at Gulf Broadcast:

  1. Advertising in industry sites
  2. Sift and filter the CVs
  3. Check portfolios
  4. Connect with interesting prospective employees
  5. Ask for a referee list
  6. Conduct an initial Skype/In-Person interview
    1. If possible, invite other staff members to sit in so we can cross-check each other
  7. Contact referees and ask them pointed questions and most are good enough to respond (see below)
  8. Call referees and double check details
  9. Conduct a second interview and drill down into the details
  10. Take a cool-off reflection period of 3 or 4 days and consider whether chemistry and potential exist in the person being interviewed
  11. Conduct final interview and pose any concerns
  12. Double check responses if anything warrants that with referees
  13. Negotiate salary and benefits
  14. Send out the legal documents
    1. Offer Letter
    2. Confidentiality Agreement
    3. Employment Contract
    4. Employee Handbook
  15. Reach agreement and sign documents
  16. Initiate induction process (documented in our Employee Handbook)
  17. Start mentoring and on-boarding process
  18. Start producing

Recruiting reference checklist:

  1. Could you briefly describe your relationship with ___________?
  2. When did you work together and in what capacity was ____ working?
  3. How long did ____ stay in the job?
  4. Would you evaluate ___ as a good team player?
  5. What is the best thing you remember about ___?
  6. The worst?
  7. Would you hire her/work with ___ again?
  8. If ___ left the job, why did ____ leave?
  9. What would you evaluate as ___ strengths?
  10.  ___weaknesses?
  11. What is his general competence level? Does ___ catch on to what is required quickly?
  12. What is the level of his creativity not only in the art of creating films, but also problem solving and dealing with people?
  13. What was __ attitude to work? Was there any issue in working within office hours, attitude to call-outs and working outside of the regular office hours?
  14. How would you evaluate ___ relationship skills with the clients?
  15. Would you like to comment on anything else?
  16. How highly would you recommend her for being our producer and director? (score from 1 worst – 10 best)?

You would think that with this careful process, I’d be able to limit the “bad apples” before they hit our office. Right? Well maybe I do, especially when you consider that it’s not just my opinion that is taken into consideration when we employ people.

But no.

To be fair to myself. The “bad apples” in almost every case aren’t discovered immediately on employment. In most cases, the enthusiasm of a new employee starting is electric and everyone is affected by it, but, reflecting on the situation as I type this (who said blogging is not therapeutic?) they manifest themselves a bit later, from a few months, to even over a few years.

Let me analyse:

The ones that get weeded out after a few months are almost always sales people. Although they are mentored by me personally with sincerity, those who don’t survive with us are those who do not achieve their sales quota. Some, unfortunately don’t sell a single fils before they are cut out and bid farewell to a hopefully more fulfilling future elsewhere. A lot of those, for some reason, become disgruntled employees and  flip the coin to try their luck in court. This has become such a regular occurrence that we started to add a legal contingency fund in our annual budgets, if they naively go into gambling, we’re determined to be more than ready with our royal flush. Unfortunately this attitude is much more prevalent with Bahraini employees.

The technical and creative employees are easier to deal with. It’s very easy to find out their capabilities within the first week of their landing. If they have the right chemistry, we heavily invest in them to bring them to our standard. We continue to monitor their output and eek out the best we can out of them and help, guide and mentor them to a better state. We’ve seen some employees really shine. A lot started with just technical capabilities and low self esteem, low belief in their creativity and talent and I nurtured them to be superstars by the time they moved on. If the chemistry isn’t there, I cut the losses short and wish them luck in their next position and off they go.

The fact remains that every time I go through this recruiting process, I get exhausted. Running the marathon is nothing to on-boarding new staff. This is emotionally and physically exhausting. It’s also hard for me not to take employee failures personally. Whenever we had to release them for whatever reason, I feel betrayed. Maybe because of the level of passion and time I invest in them. I guess this is one thing I have to learn not to do. I should learn not to take things so personally and treat them as “just” employees. Hard, but doable. It might require the installation of a “layer” between me and them, something I do not cherish. And this is not me. I’m an “all in” kind of person.

Going back to the problem, if I can call it that, I’ve got to find a way to employ successful sales people. Sales people who authentically feel the responsibility bestowed on them, and who have the deep rooted need to succeed and revel in the challenge. Looking back, it feels to me that a lot of them were not motivated by success, but by how much secure salaries they can draw. They were averse to installing a performance-based pay system. They wanted a fat basic salary, and little or no commission. Maybe this is the insight into what I should be looking for!

The best I’ve employed were motivated first by how they can use our products and services to contribute to a larger cause, rather than the money they potentially can make off the sale. In some cases, in time, some succumb to getting as much as fast as possible. That’s when the problem with their character manifests itself and the writing gets clearly written on the wall counting down to their departure. Invariably, their sales suffer and almost stop. It gets easier to see through them and their motives; thus, lose that important trust they create with clients. I need a better radar to see this faster and release them before they damage not just their careers but also our own reputation. I need to find the right language and communication method to reset them and their expectations and remind them why they got involved in this business in the first place.

So what’s the solution? How can I stop the time wasting and energy sapping process of on recruiting unfit employees?

I don’t have the answer and I would love to hear your input into this.

What I can conclude with, is something a wise man once told me: “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” Thank you Mr Redha Faraj. Although I do have metrics and KPIs that every position has to live by, the mistake I have done in the past, and must correct going forward, is that these KPIs aren’t methodically adhered to. What happens, I think, is that over time I get lulled into a sense of comfortable trust. That trust, ultimately, time after time, gets abused. Therefore what I shall do going forward is document all agreements, expectations and processes and hold people responsible to their KPIs.

What else can I do to get out of this cycle? What are your experiences, rather than advice?

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