Tag Archives Entrepreneurship

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.


Changing lenses

Changing lenses

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One of the things I love about blogging is the creative and intellectual energy that the process generates which I in turn invest in every post. Yes, the results may vary, but each post holds an issue that I cared enough about to voice. I miss this. When I stopped blogging, virtually since that fateful day in 2011, a part of me went into deep hibernation. And I compensated for that by becoming a consumer of information.

I don’t like that.

And I want to change the situation. I want to go back to being a producer rather than just a passive consumer.

Now although I haven’t blogged as much as I would have liked, that is not to say that I stopped being curious or interested in what’s happening around me. In fact, that lull allowed me to look through another prism which opened up other avenues of interest, and also allowed me to reexamine even some hard-held convictions. I feel this stoppage was indeed a much needed breather to extract myself from my eye of the storm, if not completely, at least to a level which made me realize that the world is even more gray than I thus far believed.

My interest in Bahraini politics has almost completely dissipated. Not because I now feel that the issues have become unimportant – not for fear of reprisals once again for voicing my opinions, though I admit that is always there – but because of the realization that there is no real interest from any side to effect resolutions. Both sides are intransigent to an extent, and the blame – as far as I’m concerned – lies with the ruling regime. It is them, to a very large part, who hold almost all the keys which could bring positive change leading to resolution; however, they currently lack the vision and courage to bring that about.

My interests now have evolved, and I choose this word with intent, to effecting change through entrepreneurship; the launch of a grass root effort to benefit as many of my compatriots as possible. My concentration will be on the younger generation which can well be lost through the rudderless political quagmire if not offered rays of hope to ease the journey into their future. 

In effect, this blogging stopping gave me the required pause to change. Change from simply saying and pontificating to actually doing.

It is this that I shall concentrate my blogging efforts on now. I shall recall my trials and tribulations of this new and active direction, and seek your guidance and help in making this change happen.

Allow me to get into specifics; I have taken on the responsibility of the presidency of the Bahrain chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation. An honour and responsibility I take rather seriously. It is not every day that one is given an opportunity to lead leaders. 

The programs we’re implementing this year can have a profound impact on the local youth entrepreneurship scene; two in particular: the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards and Accelerator. 

GSEA essentially removes the fear of entrepreneurship in rewarding youth seeing their innovative ideas into implenentation. Accelerator on the other hand is to help established entrepreneurs grow their revenue to surpass one million dollars annually. 

I’m excited that the board approved the launch of both this year. In fact, we’ve already announced GSEA and invited applicants to enrol before October 10th. If enough enrol in this enaugural year, we’ll host the live competition by October 20th. The deserving winner will then be sent at the Chapter’s expense to Washington, DC in November to compete in the Global finals. Have a look at http://GSEA.org, for more details, and if you know of any candidates, please encourage them to apply or get in contact with me. 

I shall keep you updated. 

There you have it. The first blog in the new era of Mahmood’s Den. 

Now I’ve got to jump into a taxi to the airport. Bangkok this year was great, but it’s always better to head home. 

It’s good to be back. 


Oy! Yates! Still feel safe here?

Oy! Yates! Still feel safe here?

He might. I and hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis certainly feel anything but.

And no, this is not a feeling that actually is due to the following video, in which police are seen aiding, abetting and participating in the wanton destruction, thieving and ransacking of a Bahraini business. We’ve actually felt that for quite some time, but people, bless them, always thought that we were just being dramatic! The events of the last fourteen months, the death of some 88 fellow Bahrainis due to police and state action, have certainly augmented that reality for us, and we’re now officially fed up!

Here’s the close-circuit camera security video of the Jawad Business Group owned 24-hour Market near the village of Nuwaidrat by the ALBA roundabout recorded on April 10th, 2012:

Will there now be an honest investigation and will there be any consequences to the culprits this time? Considering that this is apparently the 58th (yes, fifty-eightth) attack on Jawad’s enterprises since March last year. And if there is an investigation, what will be the outcome? Well, I’m willing to bet that the police officers involved in this will not be penalized. The thieving policeman who helped himself to water will not even be asked to pay its price. The vandals will be let go, or maybe suffer the indignity of a slapped wrist. But the real penalty will land – once again – on the victim. Jawad Business Group will be made to suffer even more for having the temerity of making such a video available to the public by allowing it to be released.


How dare Jawad do that? Don’t they know that by their action they will have deepened the schism of social hatred? Don’t they know that they have now contributed to the complete breakdown of social cohesion? Didn’t they think that they would have broken down the national unity? And above all else, they have intentionally besmirched the honor and dignity of our illustrious bawasil!

The police and the officers involved there need to be rewarded for their admirable self constraint. And as far as the thugs, thieves and vandals – sorry, the honorable Bahraini citizens who are only doing their duty – well, they’ll probably sleep off their exertions in their barracks for a while, before they’re goaded once again to do God’s work.

Welcome, to another safe day in Bahrain.


Off to KL


It’s only a week since I came back to the island after an excellent and fruitful holiday. That holiday was followed by a hectic – but fortunately very fruitful – week spent in the office. Now, I’m off with my crew to Kuala Lumpur to cover another of the Power-Gen series of international power conferences and exhibitions. I promise you that an even more hectic work schedule will continue for the week where we’ll be producing three distinct corporate films, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the experience once again.

I hope that you too have had and shall continue to have fulfilling times my friends, in whatever endeavor you chose.

Until then, expect some pictures from KL!




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?


The Nazi is coming!

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I couldn’t believe my eyes as I drove to my office this morning…

This is what I saw:

When I called the owner to offer advice, she abjectly refused to accept that “Nazi” might be an bad choice for such an establishment. And a drunk Nazi is even worse!

“How do you know?” she challenged
“Because it’s common knowledge,” I replied
“Yes but did you check on the Internet?”
“No, I don’t need to”
“It’s MY name anyway, I don’t care what you say. I’ve used it all my life” she said
“What’s your name dear?”
“Naziha, and Nazi is my nickname” – you can almost see the determined jaw there
“Why that’s a lovely name, in Arabic and Persian of course, but it has a totally different meaning in English” I tried to explain
“But the Ministry registered this name and they never complained” she retorted, naturally assuming they know better!
I felt that I wasn’t getting anywhere so I thought I’d end the conversation:
“Well, I explained my points to you and I hope you will get the facts checked. This could affect your business and as a neighbour, I wouldn’t wish that on you.” I concluded.

Putting the phone down, I decided to look into the CR records to see if some moron actually registered names like these, and guess what? They did!

We have:

  • Commercial Registration No 27226-3
    Commercial Registration Name NAZI BOUTIQE in Bu Kawara
  • our new neighboars: Commercial Registration No 43249-10
    Commercial Registration Name NAZI BEAUTY SALON
  • Commercial Registration No 59215-1
    Commercial Registration Name NAZI CONSTRUCTION in Qalali

I hope someone bothers to educate the Ministry of Commerce soon on these things for them to at least advise business owners before they formally register such names.

The most worrying thing, however, is not the name, it’s the young lady’s complete ignorance of recent history. And that of the employees of the Ministry of Industry & Commerce too. I would excuse the former, but not the latter.



10 ways to murder your company

Sound advice from FT.com on the top 10 ways how to massacre a company, big or small, and believe me I have copiously sinned at various points in my business career as I can identify with a number of these points.

1. Take on too much debt. Companies usually go bust because they owe the bank too much. If you have no borrowings, you can survive a lot. We have lived through an era where it made sense to borrow and buy if you could; now everything has changed, and certain lenders are taking no prisoners. If there are problems looming, move early to raise capital. If you leave it too late, there may be nothing left to save.

worriedguy2. Choose the wrong business partner. Plenty of companies hit the wall thanks to disputes between owners. It happens even between siblings. If you go into business with someone, be cautious before taking the plunge and have a proper subscription agreement – and keep communicating, even if you disagree.

3. Become overdependent on one customer. Most small non-consumer businesses have just a few clients. If they lose a big one, they are likely to fall into sharp loss. The answer is to diversify if you can, and try your best to be an irreplaceable supplier so that you can never be dumped.

4. Get ill. Many small businesses sink because the founder gets sick or injured, and therefore can’t work. So take exercise, eat sensibly, drink in moderation, stop smoking, buy insurance and try to plan management cover in the event of an accident or other enforced absence.

5. Make a mess of a major IT project. I have seen companies hit the rocks because they spent fortunes on computer systems that did not function properly. I’m not suggesting you never invest in technology, but make sure you take expert advice, and embark on such a move only when the time is right.

6. Get into a price war. Companies frequently undertake suicidal contests with rivals in a desperate attempt to seize market share. This tends to be a zero-sum game that benefits customers only, and leaves the operator with the least cash broke. I prefer to sell on quality or other differentials. Discounting is a dangerous pursuit.

7. Sign a burdensome property lease. I have witnessed many professional services companies go under because they signed a long-term lease on too much office space at the wrong rent – and then revenues collapsed. It must be the main reason for accountancy, law and architecture firms having to dissolve. Now would be a great time to start such a business if you can generate the orders.

8. Forget your customers. I am constantly surprised at how often one experiences poor service, especially in competitive fields. Almost everything is a repeat business, and if you are treated badly by someone, you don’t purchase from them again – and you tell your friends not to go there too.

9. Never evolve. Successful companies can fall into the trap of saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” to every innovation that comes along. They grow complacent and allow newcomers to eat their lunch. Long-term winners are always improving, questioning, adapting. No commercial formula lasts for ever.

10. Don’t bother investing. Certain proprietors strip their business of every penny of cash, starving them of capital. But every undertaking requires maintenance and refreshment – otherwise the facilities grow tired and inefficient, and new product development evaporates. If you dividend everything out, you will eventually discover that you own a wasting asset.

By Luke Johnson – FT.com · heads up by Guy Kawasaki

Let me add an 11th point which I am currently suffering from and am actively seeking advice to redress:

11. Don’t have an HR policy. Treat every employee differently, put them on arbitrary pay scales and use haphazard methods of evaluation.

I am convinced that every company, no matter how small, must have an HR manual or written set of procedures and regulations so that employees know what they could expect from a company and know without a shadow of a doubt that they are being treated fairly with a good chance of progress.

I’m sure there are many more factors too like not investing in staff training, not being communicative, not being fair etc, but the 11 points above I think are the most important.

Do you have any others you can contribute?


The Chamber’s folly

IMG_3034A new board of directors have been elected to lead the Chamber of Commerce forward. Apart from a few new faces, the incumbent board remains largely intact. The birth of this new board; however, was a bit onerous.

Arriving at the Chamber to render my vote at 1pm, I discover that there are over 200 voters ahead of me. The speed at which the numbers were called suggested that it will be a long wait, so rather than just remaining in the ante-room, I went to have lunch with my wife in the nearby Seef Mall. I came back after lunch, some 45 minutes later, and my turn was still to come, but another 100 voters or so. This thing is going to be slow.

IMG_3032So like so many others, I sat back and chatted with various colleagues awaiting our turns. The hold-up was clearly not the organisation, there were many pods serving people as they came in. The hold-up was rather the penultimate step in the voting process, one that is governed by the Chamber’s own by-laws. It appears that voting must be done manually on paper, and before receiving the ballot, the voter must sign against his or her company’s membership register. Add to that the fact that each commercial registry (rather than person) is eligible to vote and that many people had multiple entities, and the fact that some eligible voters abrogated their right by assigning their vote to a block – some allege this is a prime method of buying such votes – one could easily recognise the bottleneck.

IMG_3031So we waited for our turn to come up. That wait; however, wasn’t without entertainment! I personally witnessed two almost-full-blown-fists-flying fights between candidates and other representatives and officials! I still am unaware of why those fights started and frankly, I wasn’t going to even attempt to find out beyond recognising the so called businessman/candidate who was seeking votes and making absolutely sure that I would not vote for him.

The papers the next morning carried several reports of alleged corruption and corrupt practices. I wasn’t privy to the alleged vote-buying. I clearly witnessed several infractions which should be noted and corrected for future elections. As Human Rights personnel were present to monitor the elections, I hope they noted them too and have raised the proper objections with the elections committee.

Here are my observations:

  • 1. Candidates were milling about unhindered in the ante-room, clearly still campaigning;
  • 2. Candidates supporters/family/friends were also present in the room and they too were actively campaigning for their candidate;
  • 3. As every voter received a queue number, and as the wait was very long, some candidates exchanged higher numbers with lower ones, clearly attempting to influence the voting process. If someone gives you a number that will save you an hour, what would it cost you to simply tick their name, I mean you still have 17 more choices to make!
  • 4. I was aghast that Kadhem Al-Saeed gained the most votes. For a first time candidate and one who has been convicted and imprisoned for harassing a minister, I find it surprising that his candidature was (a) accepted and (b) gained the most votes, even surpassing the incumbent president of the Chamber!
  • 5. The other surprise is another first time candidate – Mohammed Sajid Sheikh – a controversial figure, gaining the third highest votes cast. This gentleman apparently was helped by the large Asian business community in Bahrain, but his candidature created a flurry of unsavoury accusations, least of which that he doesn’t speak Arabic properly, being Pakistani originally whose mother tongue is Urdu, and like Mr. Al-Saeed, both are alleged to have worked for months prior to the elections to buy as many votes as possible. The surprising results for both gents speak for themselves. As each candidate must be seconded by two members of the Chamber, I’m not sure what Othman Sharif and Jawad Al-Hawaj had in mind when they seconded this unsavoury gentleman, regardless of his origin and affiliation.

This brings me to my hero of the day. And that is my good friend Jassim Abdulaal, an MP of note in the first parliament in 2002 (and my tough auditor I must say) who stood up to Sheikh when the other ruffled his feathers unnecessarily at the end of the evening after the gates for casting votes have closed and his supporters complained about a lone person still to vote in the voting hall:

I’m not very optimistic that this board will actually enact any changes to the business society in Bahrain, nor can I see them creating an effective lobby to push parliament and the government to create better opportunities for businessmen and women, especially when you consider that their traditional roles have been severely curtailed by the advent of Google on one hand, and the creation of various government institutions like the EDB, Tamkeen, and others who individually and collectively do and have done a better job.

Now with at least two members of this new board buying their way in (allegedly of course), they water down the effectiveness of the board and its respect in the community.

No wonder that for the first time in its modern history, HRH the Prime Minister didn’t bother to visit them on election day.