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Ground Rules

Ground Rules

We’re experiencing growth at Gulf Broadcast and I have to gear up for that influx of new staff and revise the current structure of induction. The intention is to get the new staff to reach productivity levels much faster than we ever had and make their journey a more rewarding one. We already have quite a comprehensive Staff Handbook which we kept revised over the years and I’m happy with its comprehensive content now. It really helps in the induction process.

One thing that it didn’t have; however, is a clear set of ground rules for everyone to follow, so I devised the following 13 Commandments to make sure that everyone is on board.

  1. I’m not your friend.
  2. I’m your boss.
  3. I need to see results within one month.
  4. Don’t bring politics and religion into the office.
  5. Reports must be filled in and submitted.
  6. Business cards and any other material you produce or acquire in the course of representing Gulf Broadcast and while in our employ, remain the property of Gulf Broadcast. This is why you’re getting paid.
  7. If in doubt, ask.
  8. Don’t be late. Be on time. Always.
  9. Participate effectively in the Daily Huddle.
  10. Filing. Do it properly.
  11. Respect confidentiality. Do not send company or client documents to your personal email or drive.
  12. Be presentable. Wear business appropriate attire at all times.
  13. You will be judged on results, attitude, chemistry and team work.

I’ve listed these in no particular order. I know they might sound harsh to some; however, at least they are declared and everyone knows where they stand as well as what’s expected of them. This, hopefully, will create a better and more productive work environment and takes the guessing out of the equation.

Do you have any ground rules you set for your business? I’d love to know. Share in the comments please and don’t forget to Like Mahmood’s Den on Facebook too.

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Forwarding service: ad sales position open in Gulf Broadcast
Under paying myself

Under paying myself

I’ve started reading quite an interesting book by Greg Crabtree called Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits and the very first chapter in that book he talks about entrepreneurs habitually under paying themselves in the false belief that it leads to healthier perception of profits, but he proves that thought is a simple and very dangerous fallacy as it misrepresents a company’s true profitability as the entrepreneur invariably starts using the business as a piggy bank and draws the remainder of his requirements as drawings therefore hiding the actual (normally) bad state of the company.

Shocked? You bet I am!

I’m the first to admit that I need to better understand the balance sheet and know what to look for between the numbers. Having partially gone through an accounting course a few years ago at one of the leading banking training institutions in Bahrain, I still need the numbers to be demystified so that I instantly know the health of the business. I’ve started to take good steps in that regard by hiring a professional accountant on a part time basis to create the reports I need, put in the budget and cash flow sheets based on which I can now make intelligent decisions not just to continue to have a healthy company, but chart a proper and pragmatic growth path.

Having a “proper” pay is – I realise now – a very important factor. So I started looking around for resources to help me equate my position to those like-sized companies to know what a good and comparable salary should be. Needless to say, statistics are not our countries’ strong points, where these issues are deeply buried and one of the taboos it looks like, but I came across a timely article that can give me some guidance:

CEOs in the UAE on average earn Dh1.386 million ($377,664) per annum or Dh115,500 ($31,470) a month – less than their Saudi and Qatari peers with Arabic CEOs commanding 10 per cent premium.

CEO’s from Saudi Arabia top the money list with an average annual salary of Dh1.55 million ($422,280) a year or Dh129,150 ($35,190) a month.

The Gulf Business survey ranked the GCC CEO’s as follows; Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain and is based on CEOs who are responsible for sales of more than $50 million. [source]

While my company is a long way away from turning over $50 million, at least I know now where to look for the information I require, and that is recruitment agencies by looking for someone to replace me and see how much I need to pay that person!

I’ll let you know how I get along.

Do you have any insight on how much I should be getting paid? Can you offer some resources to help me understand this issue better?

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Short sightedness

Short sightedness

Why is it that to every attempt to reasonably increase fees we get an unreasonable reaction? The commercial registration in this country was just BD30 (US$80) annually and there is an intent to increase it to BD50 ($130) so what do we get? Rather than the sane question is what additional value do we get for this increase, we get the Chamber of Commerce bleating that this will “hurt SMEs”. Ok, fine, it might hurt some – which should never have entered business in the first place because of this meagre sum will affect their existence, they’re not worth having in the market in the first place. Their contribution must be negative by all standards. Yet, when we get a humdinger like this one:

The decision to extend the moratorium on Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) fees until the end of the year was yesterday praised by Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) chairman Dr Essam Fakhro.

The response we get is an insane

He said the decision was sound, timely and to the point. [source]

And the Chamber – which most definitely does not represent businesses in Bahrain any more (the fiasco of sectarianism, tepid support for local businesses, completely disconnected from its membership, etc) – clap until they pour down with sweat.

Hello! Anyone home?

To anyone who participated in Tamkeen’s initiatives, the medium and long term benefits gained by SMEs is tremendous.

TamkeenFor the first time in this country’s history we have SMEs starting to appreciate the role that structured processes can play in a business’ future, that marketing is not just printing paper bags with their logos on them for the cheapest price possible, at treating their employees as partners and investing in their training is a good idea, that they have the ability to access seed and working capital to incubate and sustain their ideas and they’ve started to look at international markets and realised the tremendous opportunity that international certifications like ISO and others offer them against fierce competition.

Now that well that initiated this seismic shift in the way that SMEs can do business is all but stifled and the Chamber, who should be the first to fiercely fight such a decision, is applauding this short sighted decision.

Mind boggling.

Look, I’m not suggesting that everything Tamkeen does is perfect, most certainly not, but constructively criticising their efforts and programs in order for them to improve and benefit the country’s struggling SMEs is a much better strategy than cutting or completely canceling its funding.

Just when we started to realise that our future depends on modernising our methods and recognising how to sustain our businesses, we get this. Who benefits from this? I can’t think of any other than the big cats who employ thousands of cheap indentured and ill-educated people who are paid a pittance which can only equate to a gross violation of their human rights. How sustainable is that method of doing business? If this is what the government wants to happen, then they might as well start building slave dhows and be done with it.

SME’s desperately need the programs offered by Tamkeen. They should be supported much more than they currently are, in staff, consultants, resources and anything else to make the only government program which is worth its salt carry on. Not have their funding cut and their future made uncertain.

This is an unmitigated disaster for us SMEs.

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Practical Marketing Lessons

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Lessons in practical marketing: on the left are warm colours, bright but warn environment, hi end tv running a high end looping advert, ‘welcome’ used at the ticket machine, services clearly shown with simple icons and a nice well maintained plant inside and a quick service machine outside.

On the right, dark, dingy and old. Mismatched lights, scored desks, claustrophobic blacks, mismatched ad boards, two old tv screens with static content, empty feedback form stand and a pretense at living the environment by having a phone recycling box but no plant in sight, negating the caring message.

Which would you give your business to?

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National Dialogue: Strengthening Economic Competitiveness

National Dialogue: Strengthening Economic Competitiveness

I’ll be involved in the Economic Competitiveness stream this afternoon as part of the National Dialogue, I would love to hear your thoughts on this: best way to do this is to

(1) Present your case,
(2) describe the problem, and
(3) offer a solution.

Please think globally in terms of the country rather than you as an individual or group.

The points I have marked to raise this afternoon is related to the difficulty in registering SMEs and some of the hurdles entrepreneurs face when attempting to do so.

I look forward to your thoughts.


Update 6 July, 2011: The mechanism of the Dialogue is emerging slightly clearer, though the end-result is still opaque. The format of the first session yesterday was allowing each participant – if they wished – to declare his vision and points offered and a time-limit of five minutes per person was imposed. Needless to say, a lot went beyond both limitations.

73 delegates packed the Economics stream to discuss the Economic Competitiveness of Bahrain going into the future; while some have stuck to the declared principle, others have chosen to digress and use the dialogue as a forum to air their grievances. A few – but not many – wanted to pour the ills that the country has been facing solely at the doorsteps of “those bad protestors” and demanded an even firmer application of the law/force – with all that entails.

Now that everyone had their say, the secretariat’s job is to categorise the points raised and summarise the proceedings in preparation for the next meeting in which individual recommendations will be discussed and a consensus might be formed. Points which are in contention will take longer to conclude, obviously, but those will be minor – judging by the atmosphere and the topics raised yesterday. I suspect that the Economic Competitiveness stream will conclude its sessions ahead of the more contentious ones.

Thanks to the discussion with Leena, I’ve submitted the following views to the panel in the hope that some of them will be considered for the final produced document:

ما الذي ينقصنا لنكون قادرين على المنافسة على الصعيد العالمي في القرن الـ 21؟

ما ينقصنا هو الابتكار. ثم الابتكار. و ثم الابتكار.

إبتكاراتنا ضئيلة جداً؟ لماذا؟

أنا اعتقد انها لعدة عوامل، منها

1.قصر النظر في التفكير في ، والمقاومة الثقافية للتغيير لدى الجهات التنظيمية و كذلك الفردية
2.وجود ضعيف جداً للأطر القانونية المعنية بالملكية الفكرية وبراءات الاختراع
3.نقص شديد في البحوث و التنمية و الجهات المحفزة لها
4.بطيء للغاية في محاولة اللحاق بمختلف نماذج الابتكار العالمية
5.ضعف في تعليم الابتكار
6.روح مبادرة ضئيلة مرتاحة للمبادرات البسيطة – معامل الكبكيك مثالاً – بدلا من التفكير على نطاق أوسع Ùˆ مخاطر أكثر كالإنخراط في عالم التكنولوجيا Ùˆ المبادرات الإنترنتية.
7.في إعتقادي أن جزء من سبب هذا الفشل للتفكير على نطاق مبادرات أوسع ، هي بعض من القوانين واللوائح المعمول بها حاليا التي تقف كحجرة يتعثر عليها المبادر:

مثال على ذلك هو إلزام المبادر بحصوله على شهادة أو درجة من الدراسة للبدئ في بعض المشاريع

1.لتسجيل مؤسسة في مجال تزيين و العناية بالحدائق تفرض وزارة التجارة حصول المبادر لشهادة الثانوية العامة؛ أو
2.لتسجيل مؤسسة في مجال تصميم مواقع الإنترنت، يُلزَم المبادر بالحصول على شهادة بكالوريوس، مع العلم أنه لا يستلزم حصول تلك الشهادة في مجال مطابق أو حتى مقارب للعمل المطلوب. سيما ان تصميم و إطلاق موقع الكتروني في متناول أي طالب إبتدائي

فما هي الحلول المتاحة إذاً؟

1.تحويل العقل الجماعي الثقافي للاحتفال بـ، و تشجيع الابتكارات والمبتكرين، و بث ثقافة القبول بالفشل و أخذ العظه منه كجزء من هذه العملية ؛
2.تدشين قياس الابتكار للمنظمات
3.تطبيق قوانين الملكية الفكرية و إنشاء مكتب الملكية الفكرية وبراءات الاختراع و تكليفه بتوعية وتثقيف الجمهور والمنظمات ، وتسهيل تسجيل براءات الاختراع
4.تخصيص ميزانيات البحث والتطوير في المؤسسات الأكاديمية، والمنظمات الحكومية وتوفير الحوافز للشركات للقيام بها أيضاً
5.تخطيط Ùˆ إدراج نماذج للتنبؤ للمستقبل، والتعلم من أخطاء الآخرين والقفز إلى نماذج مستقبلية – الهند مثالاً.
6.دمج الابتكار في المناهج التعليمية و أنشطة ما بعد الفصل
7.خلق الابتكار من خلال مسابقات العلوم والتكنولوجيا و إعطاء منح للبحث والتطوير و خلق برامج أخرى لتشجيع الابتكار
8.يجب إعادة دراسة القوانين التجارية و تذييل العقبات لتشجيع روح المبادرة بشتى أنواعها
9.و أخيراً يجب ترك السوق لحاله، ليفتي برواج أو نجاح المبادرة من عدمها بدون تدخل الدوائر الحكومية.

What do we need to be able to compete globally in the 21st century?

What we lack is innovation, innovation and more innovation.

Our innovation is negligible? Why?

I think it’s for a number of factors, including

    1. Myopic thinking, and cultural resistance to change, both organizationally and individually
    2. Very weak legal frameworks on Intellectual Property and Patents
    3. A severe lack of research and development bodies and the conditions which stimulates them
    4. Too slow in trying to catch up with various models of global innovation
    5. Weakness in the education of innovation
    6. The spirit of entrepreneurship is limited with small-scale “cupcake entrepreneurship” instead of thinking on a larger scale, take more risks and enter into the worlds of technology and cyberspace initiatives.
    7. I think that part of the reason for the failure to engage in a broader and larger scope of initiatives, is some of the laws and regulations currently in force which stands as a hindrance which trips the entrepreneur:

    An example of this is to oblige an entrepreneur to obtain a certificate or a degree of the study to start some projects; for example:

    a. To register a landscaping business, the Ministry of Commerce requires the entrepreneur to have graduated from high school; or
    b. To create a web design business, the entrepreneur is required to have obtained a bachelor’s degree, even though that degree needn’t be within the same field or even comparable with the initiative under consideration. It’s worth noting that the creation of websites is within the capabilities of most primary school students.

What are the available solutions then?

    1. Transform the collective cultural mind to celebrate, and encourage innovations and innovators, and create a culture of acceptance of failure and take cues from it as part of the journey to success;
    2. Inaugurate a mechanism to measure innovation in organizations
    3. The application of intellectual property laws and the establishment of the Office of Intellectual Property and Patents and task it to raise awareness and educate the public as well as organizations in regards to IP and patents and also facilitate an easier process to registre of patents
    4. The allocation of budgets for research and development in academic institutions, government organizations and providing incentives for companies to do well
    5. Planning and the inclusion of models to predict future trends, and learn from the mistakes of others – a successful example of this policy is India
    6. The integration of innovation into curricula and extra-curricula activities
    7. The creation of innovation through science and technology competitions, and giving grants for research and development, and create other programs to encourage innovation
    8. Trade laws must be re-examined and remove obstacles to encourage entrepreneurship
    9. Finally, the market should be left to its own devices and let ideas succeed on their own merit without governmental interference.

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Bahrain’s, conducive to doing business?

The Bahrain Investors Centre in Seef Mall, the out-dated model for doing business.

Got to get this off my chest. I want to start a new company specialising in offering web solutions. No big deal, I hear you say, and you’re right and am in total agreement with you, as this particular activity is prevalent and school kids of all ages are very capable of offering such service and some have even made a goodly amount of money for their minimal trouble.

Alas, this is not the idea with our illustrious Bahraini government. To them, if one wants to create websites, one needs to have a bachelor’s degree (I presume in a related field) first. And they won’t even allow the investor to circumvent that by ensuring that whomever he hires are at the required level.

As my qualifications falls short of that mark; me merely qualified as a maintenance engineer on aircraft like Boeing and Airbus jetliners, in addition to being a qualified commercial pilot with multi-engine and instruments rating, I’ve been sent packing by the Bahrain Investors Centre.

I guess I can apply for a Samboosa shop license now and offer web services through it.

Talk about business friendly Bahrain. Ludicrous.

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Entrepreneurship & Exits

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I attended another excellent seminar yesterday organised by the Entrepreneurs Organisation’s Bahrain Chapter in which I am a current member, this time by Cambridge Emmanuel College’s Professor Jack Lang, a successful angel investor and serial entrepreneur, who talked about one of the entrepreneur’s dilemmas: how to exit a company.

I couldn’t give the presentation any justice by attempting to recall the wealth information imparted, but let me leave you with this excellent podcast of an interview by Personal Life Media. Make the time to listen to it if you’re interested in entrepreneurship, I can promise you that you won’t regret the time spent.

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Entrepreneurship

I’ve been to a nice seminar this afternoon at the Entrepreneurs Organisation, of which I’m a member, exploring ways to grow one’s business. The EO’s education, or “learning” program is quite good and is the one most important reason (so far) which attracted me to the group. They organise excellent seminars and workshops led by experienced entrepreneurs or someone of international import to share his or her experience with us. As my business is experiencing growth, this particular seminar, “Grow your business” was of particular interest to me and my team. It featured Steve Strauss, an accredited author, entrepreneur, lawyer and syndicated columnist. I invited Rachel Heywood who is the producer and director at Gulf Broadcast whom I thought would not only benefit from the seminar too, but could also add value through her experience.

Through the short couple of hours we spent together with leading entrepreneurs in Bahrain, the interactive discussion was very interesting and listening to each other’s experiences was eye-opening at some times. Almost like bulbs going on as the discussions continued with this sophisticated group.

One of the questions raised was how us as individuals translate the term “entrepreneur”. I listened to several definitions, and although they were quite correct and true, I still was uncomfortable with most of the definitions because I thought that they lacked something which I can’t put my finger on. Ultimately, I spent a few minutes thinking about what it meant to me, and I think that I finally came to a definition which encompasses the meaning of entrepreneur and entrepreneurship to me personally which I’m going to share with you here:

An entrepreneur is an incubator of innovation through which opportunities are created that ultimately benefit both himself and the larger community. The byproduct of this process is the creation of collective wealth.

What do you think? What does the term “entrepreneur” mean to you?

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