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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!



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 ]


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.


Body signals, and why I should have listened to them

Body signals, and why I should have listened to them

What I thought was simple enough muscle strain due to the half-marathon I completed in Athens in May, and is fixable by physio therapy, turned out to be a lot more severe!

A couple of weeks after my return, I thought to finally listen to my body signals and go see a specialist. I consulted an orthopaedic surgeon who suggested that it was just the fickle groin muscle and advised physio. I did that for a month and realised a perceptible improvement; however, the underlying problem still existed, evidenced by my inability to ditch the crutch and my constant need with ibuprofen to deal with the pain. I could not put any weight on that leg, and the theories for that conditions encompassed muscle fatigue, knee problems and various others passed on through advice from well intentioned people, including a gardener in a public park in
Brooklyn. According to the very nice gentleman, 6 – 7 pounds of broccoli should do it. That’s what he is on to deal with his problematic knee.

So off I went to see the surgeon again on my return from the States. This one was also convinced it’s a busted knee problem and insisted that I should get some ultrasound scans for the muscles and an X-ray/MRI for the knee. The surgeon wasn’t convinced. After manipulating my leg in ways I didn’t think possible – coupled with excruciating pain – he was convinced that the issue is with the hip. The knee’s reaction, he felt, was referred pain. To be sure, he ordered an x-ray of the pelvic region.

hip / pelvic bonesWhen I entered his office after the x-rays, he was looking at the film and was shaking his head. What he said was worrying, and quite surprising: “this is criminal. a rookie physio should have realised that the problem was in the hip, not the knee. You, my friend have a fantastic tolerance to pain. You have a broken hip! Specifically you have a fracture between the femoral head and the greater trochanter. It’s amazing that you can put weight on that leg. You shouldn’t. What you should do is fix it, and do so quickly.”

Lovely. I knew I am a man, but apparently I’m THE man!

What I have to do now is have an operation to have a couple of screws fitted in to weld the bone in place and provide extra support. This is obviously done under general anesthetic and the recovery could take up to three months.

Lovely. There goes my plan for a summer holiday, and more importantly, running when the season starts again in September.

I, my friends, don’t do things by half. I go all in. Black or white. And my first ever sports injury is at 52 years of age, is a broken hip! Match that if you can 😉

Well, I’m afraid that due to my history with doctors and what my own father, may he rest in peace, went through with them, I don’t take their word as gospel and as much as possible, question them and get a second opinion. That I did, and the second well know orthopaedic surgeon concurred with the first and said that I have to have surgery immediately.

Now that the prognosis was similar, and the remedy very close, what remained now was choosing where to get the operation done and who should perform it. This gave me the opportunity to get a third opinion, because that would also give me the opportunity to check out the German Orthopaedic Hospital and Prof. Dr Heinz Roettinger.

I arranged to see him asap though a good EO friend – his schedule was pretty much overflowing. I’ve been in this hospital before, in fact we produced two films here, one specially for the German Hospital through a production for Venture Capital Bank many years ago.

Frances and I waited in Prof. Heinz’s office. When he walked in, he saw the x-ray on the light-box and without pre-amble said: “we have to operate immediately.” He did take the time to explain the options and recommended implants as a remedy like the first two did. I need now to make a decision as to where I would rather have the operation performed, and which surgeon should have the honour to undertake it.

I wasn’t comfortable to go to the first surgeon as he neglected to take an evidently needed x-ray/MRI to start with which could have saved me weeks of agony. Going to the second hospital wasn’t an option either as it’s not covered by my insurance, and they’re having staff problems; they were on strike for back pay. That left me with the German Orthopaedic as the choice. Unfortunatley they too aren’t covered by my insurance, but at least they agreed to part cover the bills, leaving me to pay fo the major portion. As I’m writing this in my hospital bed, sans pain for the first time in weeks, I don’t mind that. At least the leg is fixed, and I’ll be on a good aod to recover from this episode.

The moral of the story is this: listen to your body. Don’t just go for the goal, but maintain a sustained process. It’ll take time, but you’ll reach there in better health. Don’t rush things and seek medical and experienced advice.

My goal was to run a half marathon and train for it in the shortest time possible, this while going on a strict regime to lose a heap-load of weight just as fast. Those two goals trumped the journey I should have concentrated on, which is to gain a happiness through health. That was my strategic objective. But, enthusiasm took the better of me. It took me just three months to lose more than 25 kilograms, 33kgs when I was at the half-marathon’s starting line. That was eleven months since I started the weight loss regime.

As to the running, I just started running at the gym and then outside without much of a plan. I did realise that I have to follow a proper program to attain the necessary experience and stamina to run a marathon, so I downloaded an app to help me with that. But, the app I downloaded unwittingly was for a full marathon training, rather than a half marathon. By the time I discovered that error, I thought I might as well train for the full marathon anyway. That was stupid. So I went from 0km to 21km in about four months, all the while training for a fulll 42km.

Athens Half Marathon, Mahmood Al-Yousif running with Marsha Ralls

I did finish the half-marathon though and got a decent finish time for a first timer; however, I did feel something “give” while climbing that final hill to the finish line – the hill of death. I didn’t stop and never thought of doing so. I crossed the line, to one of the proudest moments of my life.

The down-side was that I didn’t recognise the signal my body was giving. I thought that after running 21 kilometers, that was just muscle strain. The way that I dealt with it was thinking that them muscles needed loosening up, so a couple of days after the marathon I went for a 5km run, followed by various gym sessions over the proceeding days and weeks. My legs were screaming for help. I offered them the help not based on professional advice, which I should have immediately sought, but on what I thought was helpful. As I did not have any experience in the field, I should not have depended on that alone.

With this experience I’ve learnt more valuable life lessons: Quick is not always better; attune to your body’s signals and seek professional advice and finally, join a special interest group and seek their experience and expertise. Much like joining the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation to help with my entrepreneurial development from my peers, I need to join a running club to gain from their expeience and safely develop as a runner.

Hindsight is always a marvelous thing of course. What I want to do with mine is get this leg fixed up and carry on with my quest to gain a happy and healthy life, but attain those goals through good methods and consideration, rather than assume I’m doing the right thing.

Maybe also it would be helpful to just have to remember that I’m 52 and not 25!


A fair price: A slightly damaged leg for a half marathon

A fair price: A slightly damaged leg for a half marathon

When I declared that I was intending to run a half marathon, many had doubts. Others decided to give me some benefit of the doubt and thought that I might be aiming for the stars, but I could reach the moon. A good enough achievement. I must confess that I had doubts too and that I used the opportunity very much like a carrot while continuing my training and weight loss program. Still, as time went by, the more determined I got to actually not just complete the task, but complete it well.

I’m not going to write about the whole program I followed and its various challenges over the last 11 months; that’ll happen in another post, suffice it to say that the genesis of the new me was at 5PM on the 9th of June 2013 in Vienna. That was the moment that I decided to change my life. At one of the lowest points in my life, I determined to be happier. And what I meant by that is better health, better relationships and better goals.

Almost a year hence, I’ve lost 33kgs, have begun to love exercise and have run the Athens Half Marathon and completed it in under 2.5 hours (2:26 to be exact), an improvement of 16 minutes on the best I’ve done while training in Bahrain. Good achievements by any standard I would think.

Mahmood running the Athens Half Marathon 2014 with Marsha Ralls

Alas, being new at this sport thing, I still don’t recognise the signals my body was giving me to take it easy. You see, directly after the marathon, I felt a pain in my right thigh and put that to the gruelling Athens course with its many extended inclines and declines. I brushed it off, and off I limped.

A couple of days later, an activity was arranged for us EOers to go on a guided scenic 5km run in Athens, and yes; of course I joined and ran! However, at the conclusion of that run, my body didn’t leave any subtle hints that I needed to slow down. It put the breaks on and my thigh was as tight as a drum. I simply couldn’t walk without a limp. I took a break and didn’t go on any more runs. The walking from the hotel to the various conference venues was enough to aggravate it. What it needed was some serious TLC. As my schedule was full, that was not forthcoming.

A few days later, I went on another trip, this time to the beautiful German city of Munich for another conference, one that I would speak at (a post will be coming soon). I couldn’t arrive in Munich for the first time and not explore! That, to me is an unforgivable sin. So off I limped to the Viktualienmarkt and the surrounding area. That was painful, but I persevered. The fortunate thing is that the excellent hosts of EO Germany booked me into the quaint Louis Hotel immediately opposite, so it wasn’t so onerous.

Apart from those short walks, I went to the adequate hotel gym and did some exercises, primarily on the bike as that seemed to be the only machine which didn’t tax my legs too much. Ignoring the pain, I continued to exercise every day. Once again, I should have stopped, but lacking the experience in sports injuries I continued in the program. I’m 52 and that was the very first sports injury I suffered! However, once I finished a one hour stint on the bike and went on the elliptical, my thigh finally has had enough. It put the breaks on, and did so rather hard. I could hardly breath, let alone move!

A while after I regained my breath, I borrowed one of the hotel’s umbrellas to use as a temporary crutch. Battling the pain, I managed to hobble to a specialist cane and umbrella shop nearby, unfortunately, they didn’t have a walking stick my size and the guy responsible for cutting them wasn’t available that day. I carried on with the umbrella for a while. A couple of days later, my friend and host Karl Funke insisted on gifting me a crutch he no longer had use for. Very generous indeed and highly appreciated. I cannot tell you how that helped me navigate my way through airports to get home, and am still using it.

Thanks to another good friend, Karla Solano, who urged me to see a physio therapist and put me in contact with ones she uses. I booked an appointment immediately and off I went to see them. My leg was thoroughly checked and their conclusion was that the muscles in my right thigh were completely exhausted; thus were in a complete tense state, rendering the leg useless. I could not walk nor put any weight on the thing. Being subjected to ultrasound and acupuncture therapies for just one session has improved it tremendously. I would say that the improvement I felt must have been close to 100%! I must say that going to the physio is a life changing experience.

I’m off again this afternoon for another session where I hope it will improve some more. It had better as I have to go on another production trip and the use of my legs would be much required!




Breakfast with Inspiration, the humbling activism of Rüdiger Nehberg

Breakfast with Inspiration, the humbling activism of Rüdiger Nehberg

I am truly humbled with the stories of Rüdiger Nehberg whom I had the absolute honour of meeting for breakfast this morning along with my friend Zahra Al-Harazi in Munich, Germany. We’re all invited to speak at the annual #EOGermany conference, this year entitled Rule Breakers.

Rüdiger is a passionate philanthropist leading the fight against female genital mutilation in the Muslim world, from the inside. He got the Al Azhar to proclaim it a sin and is working now to get the grand muftis of Saudi to do likewise.

Earlier in life he crossed the Atlantic 3 times; on an 18 meter fir tree, a paddle boat and a bamboo raft from Africa to Brazil and into Washington to deliver a letter from Amnesty Int’l to George Bush.

He fought for the rights of the indigenous people in Brazil for 20 years and effected change. He also authored 30 books of which many were translated to multiple languages.

Truly inspiring. Please Google him and offer help if you can. We definitely need him to speak at the OIC conference and meet with people of influence to further the cause and stop the heinous crime against women.


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. 


Bahrain, this is probably a good time to change your lens

Bahrain, this is probably a good time to change your lens

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A few weeks ago I attended an “EO University“, an event organised by the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation for its members from all over the world, this time, in the fabulous city of Istanbul. The University is a intense learning experience in which attendees get to listen to world-class speakers for three days and be inspired by their vision. Apart from that, there’s a lot of networking through many opportunities that every single attendee leaves enriched with new world views and many new and lasting friendships.

One of the speakers I particularly liked is Shawn Achor, the Happiness Professor, as I like to call him, who’s opened up new horizons for me and truly inspired me to think of new ways in which to view our situation in Bahrain. In fact, since my return from Istanbul, I have resolved – and generally succeeded – in adopting a more positive attitude.

My view now is basically this: being negative will NEVER resolve a situation. To achieve resolution, one’s lens through which a situation is viewed must change and be replaced with one that has a patina of positivity and belief in a shared and successful future in order to envisage a resolution in the first place. Further, every Bahraini has a duty to seek out an equitable resolution through positive, rather than insular and myopic views. We should actively choose to replace that opaque negativity smeared lens to one that is clear and which allows positivity and a belief that a resolution is possible.

Shawn Achor talks about this, and many other aspects associated with positive thinking and happiness and how those impact positive outcomes and even achieve better efficiencies and guarantees of success. Please spend less than eight minutes listening to Shawn Achor speak about this phenomenon. I welcome your positive comments and actions to resolve Bahrain’s situation and get us to move forward as one society happily living in one cohesive nation.



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?


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.