Tag Archives entrepreneurship

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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Innovation and the Arab World

Innovation and the Arab World

Ever wonder how the minds of disruptive innovators tick? How their companies work and how they not only breed disruptive ideas but also find ways to bring those disruptive innovations to life with products that change the world?

I have. I confess that I do sometimes with envy, but more often with a lot of reverence and admiration. Celebrating those ideas and successes hold incredible amounts of inspiration for me which help me to continue to look for keys to unlock more of my own innovations and through them also contribute to changing the world too.

But how different are those world-changers are from “normal” people?

According to “The Innovator’s DNA”, a book whose authors spent more than eight years conducting interviews with disruptive innovators and researching the companies they created, found that

“Five primary discovery skills—skills that compose what we call the innovator’s DNA—surfaced from our conversations. We found that innovators “Think Different,” to use a well-known Apple slogan. Their minds excel at linking together ideas that aren’t obviously related to produce original ideas (we call this cognitive skill “associational thinking” or “associating”). But to think different, innovators had to “act different.” All were questioners, frequently asking questions that punctured the status quo. Some observed the world with intensity beyond the ordinary. Others networked with the most diverse people on the face of the earth. Still others placed experimentation at the center of their innovative activity.”

Excerpt From: Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen & Clayton M. Christensen. “The Innovator’s DNA.” iBooks.

Questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting are the important activities which trigger the necessary associative thinking to deliver that new product, business, service or process. Questioning, in particular, the authors observed, is a way of life for innovators and not just a trendy intellectual exercise. Further, innovative entrepreneurs dive deeper into the details to understand the “problem” more fully, and at the same time, they have the capacity to see how those details fit while flying high to look at the bigger picture. They have acute associative observational skills too. They see how others have approached problems and connect threads which are evidently unconnected. They create cross-discipline associations that help them resolve issues.

To be able to innovate, though, an environment conducive to innovation must be present whose chief facet are safe spaces allowing innovators to go against the status quo without fear, and one in which collaboration allows for everyone to thrive. The authors observed that some countries and cultures were more incubative to innovations than others. I found this discovery fascinating.

This is one reason that individuals who grow up in societies that promote community versus individualism and hierarchy over merit—such as Japan, China, Korea, and many Arab nations—are less likely to creatively challenge the status quo and turn out innovations (or win Nobel prizes). To be sure, many innovators in our study seemed genetically gifted. But more importantly, they often described how they acquired innovation skills from role models who made it “safe” as well as exciting to discover new ways of doing things.

From my own personal observations and experiences, I agree with their assessment. The environment in our countries simply does not provide the fertile grounds required for innovation, let alone one that would promote and engender disruptive innovation.

To survive – let alone thrive, the Middle East must inherently change its strategic objectives to allow innovation immediately. Urgently. Why the urgency? Well, without innovation there will be no industry, without industry there will be no economic growth, without economic growth there will be no jobs, without jobs there will be further political turmoil and chaos will rule the day. One that will make the mass migration the world is experiencing now minuscule in comparison.

Our economies are almost totally dependant on oil. There is no single Arab country that has a sufficiently diversified economy. Sure we have glitzy cities with tall buildings and shiny malls, but those are simple veneers to entrenched problems that will disintegrate when our main source of income is depleted. And that, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers is not very long in coming:

There are an estimated 1.3 trillion barrels of proven oil reserve left in the world’s major fields, which at present rates of consumption will be sufficient to last 40 years.

By 2040, production levels may be down to 15 million barrels per day – around 20% of what we currently consume. It is likely by then that the world’s population will be twice as large, and more of it industrialised (and therefore oil dependent).

Forty years to the Arab Armageddon. Hardly sufficient for the required U-turn in our political, cultural and educational systems to save us from chaotic situations that will, in hindsight, make what the Arab world is experiencing now in wars and enforced migrations mere bad dreams. Without this much required intrinsic change in strategic direction to one that is truly inclusive, democratic and one that respects human rights above all other considerations, we are truly doomed.

What I find quite sad and symptomatic of our dire situation, is that culturally, we have elevated the denigration of innovations to an art form. We superficially find causes to complain about what we perceive as deficiencies in innovative products rather than rise to the challenge and take the first step in innovative thinking by at least appreciating innovations and celebrating in their success and use those emotions as inspirations to create our own, or at least emulate those products and services and attempt to improve them and customise them to our own needs. The relationship of innovation and the Arab world must be fixed.

However, with this antagonistic attitude to innovation, one which I fervently believe to have been inculcated through the trifecta of despicably inadequate education which is hostile to innovation, a culture that rewards mediocrity for excellence and repressive regimes more enamoured with personal and tribal short-term gain than ones that far-sightedly invest in their communities, societies and ultimately nations to thrive together and become effective in making a dent in the universe.

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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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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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The reality of doing business in the Middle East

The reality of doing business in the Middle East

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I’m doing some research into the small business environment in the Middle East with the view of introducing an innovative program to help Bahraini youth to make entrepreneurship their choice, their preferred career path. The program is part of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation. It’s the Global Student Entrepreneur Award, or GSEA for short. Reading some of the resources online, I came across this painful piece:

Let’s get one thing straight: doing business in the Middle East is not about enhancing profit margins or improving your skills base.

Unlike emerging markets in Asia and Eastern Europe, this region does not have a ready supply of well-trained, hard-working people – nor are employees cheap – so if outsourcing’s your game you’d better look elsewhere. The reason? In oil-rich states around the Gulf coast government handouts and a ‘not what you know but who you know’ business ethic have removed incentives to work hard or take risks as an entrepreneur. [ source ]

Ouch!

The article is from Startup.co.uk which defines itself as

the UK’s leading independent, online resource for anyone starting and growing a business.

The article continues to rip the culture of “deservedness” in the Gulf in particular while offering grounded glimpses of what the future might hold, as emphasis is shifting in the area – supposedly – in the education field and governments are now preferring technical skills over religion in formal study. I’m skeptical about this assertion in particular. I truly believe that the best way to fix a wrong is to recognise that it’s wrong in the first place.

Anyway, I encourage you to read the article. It’s a good wake up call and provides a good platform for us to start fixing things. If not for us, at least it will be for future generations.

I hope that by EO Bahrain introducing GSEA, that’s a good step in that direction. Let me know if you know a young enterprising Bahraini who is in university and has been running his or her own business for the last six months. I’d love to talk to them. Hopefully they’ll qualify for GSEA and a future that is less bleak than that article provides.

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It doesn’t take one

It doesn’t take one

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People think that entrepreneurship depends on just one person, the entrepreneur. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Entrepreneurship isn’t a one-man game but a team sport. Yes, the entrepreneur is normally the leader, the visionary or even the bully that pushes the ideas forward; however, if success is to be achieved it will depend on a team of people to make things happen.

Look at Felix Baumgartner. Do you really think that he alone was responsible for the success of his freefall from the stratosphere? Hardly.

felix-control
click the image to view the incredible video of the jump

To be successful, you need more than entrepreneurship. You need people who believe in your vision and who will jump on your train. Without them, you might find success, but it will be rare and very, very hard.

A thought for the Eid Holidays. Eid Mubarak my friends!

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Running after the money

Running after the money

running-after-the-moneyOne simple but powerful mantra I’ve followed that led to many of my successes is “don’t run after the money, it will always run away from you; do your job well, and money will come running after you.” This advice was given to me by my late father, may he rest in peace. I must confess that I dismissed it at first, not fully understanding its significance. Now, several years later and after its been proven time and again, I actually live by it.

It’s a universal truth. If one concentrates on doing their job well, use their passion, creativity and diligence to make something useful, they’ll ultimately be amply rewarded. Money, after all, is a by-product of success and it’s never the other way around. At least, not in a sustainable fashion.

How has it been for you? Did you receive a poignant advice that you found quite effective and now live by?

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We Are SPARTA!

We Are SPARTA!

Who’s not familiar with that blood-curdling cry before the hapless messenger gets kicked into the well to his death? Very few I think. That particular scene in the film 300 must now be one of the most popular in film history. That shout conjures up images of pride, determination and patriotism.

We are Sparta!To me, the word “entrepreneur” conjures up powerful images too. Positive and inspiring images of determination, direction, achievement and success. And you know what? I used to associate that word with others, not me. A small businessman is what I was comfortable with and if anyone identified me as an entrepreneur, I thought they were talking about someone else. But once I started to accept being an entrepreneur, magical things started to happen. Strange how simply changing the lens, changes reality.

The truth of the matter is that being an entrepreneur is within everyone’s reach, and that description needn’t even be specific to “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit” as the dictionary would have it, but I rather associate it with the act of answering a need and creating something useful, normally against objections or hurdles, thus, taking measured risks to make a difference. Financial gain is simply a byproduct of that success.

Looking back, I would have found success much sooner had I had mentors whose experience and expertise I could have benefitted from. I can count many instances where losses or failures could have been averted by having that much needed voice.

Now, it’s time for me to pay it forward. I’d like to have the opportunity to mentor young entrepreneurs and help them on their journey. Through my association with the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, there are several programs that will allow me to impart knowledge in a structured manner in order to project the value of mentorship even farther. The Global Student Entrepreneurship Award in particular is one program I’m quite interested in. I believe that through it I can leave a positive impact on my community. GSEA, incidentally, is an annual competition in which young entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and businesses in a competition format in front of EO members. These judges select winners based on defined EO-set criteria and the winner gets the opportunity to be sent to Washington, DC to compete in the global finals.

There are specific GSEA entry criteria of course; chief amongst them is for the competitor to be a current university student at the time of the global finals, have a business which has been continuously running for at least six months and that enterprise is for profit.

EO Bahrain is running GSEA this year – the first in the Middle East – and we’re accepting entries and nominations. Should we receive a good number of entries, a live pitching competition will take place by the 20th of October 2013.

Yes, we fully realise that time is extremely short; however, we’re determined to run it this year and to learn from the experience. We launched this initiative last month, in September. That gave us the opportunity to understand the some of intricacies of running such a program. We’re in this for the long haul though, hence, we intend to visit schools and universities almost immediately to encourage students to aim to compete in next year’s GSEA.

Why am I so passionate about this? Simple. Apart from the obvious benefit of having self-sufficient families and creating a better and more resilient economy, I truly believe that the best method to resolve our political problems is to grow an entrepreneurial middle class. I’m convinced that the thing that will resolve our political situation is a strong and vibrant business sector. It will also ensure that whatever solutions that are put in place will be sustainable.

Will this create our own cadre of Spartans? I don’t know. I do know that if one has something to lose, he’ll fight to keep it. Maybe if we create the platform for Bahrainis to really take ownership, they’ll fight to keep it. That’s probably one of the definitions of patriotism.

Now it’s your turn to help. Do you know anyone whom you could nominate to enter GSEA? Please visit http://gsea.org and fill in the form. If you need help or just want to pass on a name and number, please do feel free to contact me.

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