Thinking Small

 

 

Thinking Small

 

  • Marketing executives often look for that one big brand building activity that will catapult the company’s reputation into the stratosphere, such as names on sports arenas, pricey event sponsorships, and broad reaching brand campaigns.
  • But before you even begin thinking about investing in big ticket items, I recommend you begin by thinking small and invest your limited resources looking at your company’s reputation from the perspective of your current or prospective clients.
  • Go online. Do your homework. Encourage your team to do the same. Then document the results put a plan in place to clean up your online reputation before you start thinking big.

I am always surprised at the amount of money companies invest in brand campaigns while completely ignoring fundamental brand enhancing strategies that cost virtually nothing to execute.  I’m equally awestruck at the minimal attention paid to a number of easily accessed postings on web and social sites that if left unchecked can completely destroy a company’s reputation.

All too often executives look for that one big brand building activity that will catapult the company’s reputation (as well as their careers) into the stratosphere.  Names on sports arenas, pricey event sponsorships, and broad reaching brand campaigns are just a few examples of the big ticket plays that more often than not leave brand managers scratching their heads or worse yet, unemployed.  It happens time and time again.  Why?  We want to believe in the brand illusion. Like a mirage in the desert, many big ticket brand plays look like a much needed oasis in the desert from a distance. Unfortunately, and usually too late, when we reach that oasis it’s nothing like we expected.

I’m not saying that all big ticket brand building activities should be ignored.  Sometimes that oasis is just that – an oasis!  With the right research and insights, a brand manager can realise excellent returns on these investments.  But that assumes time and effort is invested in researching the opportunity and understanding the target audience prior to making the investment, a step too often ignored or underplayed.  It also assumes your marketing team knows how to leverage the event to extract maximum exposure and goodwill from the investment.

But before you even begin thinking about investing in big ticket items, I recommend you begin by thinking small.  Rather than send your marketing team or agencies scouring for some major event to sponsor, first invest your limited resources looking at your company’s reputation from the perspective of your current or prospective clients.  Start by simply going to Google and typing your company name. Look closely at what comes up.  Is it your company or some other brand? Also look at the paid search sections to see if any of your competitors are targeting you and how.  Now click on the news section at the top. What are reporters saying about your company?  Click on the articles and read the comments. Now click on the images.  What images are associated with your brand? Finally, go to the video section.  And once you’re done with Google, go to Yahoo, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and as many of the highly visited and viewed social sites as possible. Do your homework and document the results.

Next, take the time to visit your own web site or sites and sign up for all of your own marketing and social media programs.  Add your name to all of your company’s contact lists.  Then monitor the quality and quantity of the communications you receive.  Watch your company through the eyes of your customer. What you’ll likely find out about your company may surprise you.

We went through this exercise and discovered numerous misrepresentations and misleading information about our company.  In cases where we signed up for our own programs, we discovered that nothing was being communicated.  Apparently our Marketing and Customer Relations Management teams were not communicating with each other so the events we were sponsoring, the ones in which we created cool web applications inviting guests to sign up and learn more, were actually doing more harm than good by creating an expectation that was not being fulfilled.

As we looked closely at all our findings, we also uncovered a number of difficult but true facts about our customer service that had been in our corporate blind spot for years.  We had always thought our company’s brand was second to none and that our customers’ perceptions of our company were nothing less than spectacular.  By investing a little time and almost no money, we discovered the true was far from our reality.

Immediately we jumped into action cleaning up misinformation and contacting companies that had incorrectly posted false images, videos or statements about our company.  Sometimes the effort paid off and sometimes it didn’t. Not every company or person we contacted was willing to work with us, but most were and we found the improvements we achieved in the quality of information about our brand to be well worth the time invested.

We also began formulating new practices and policies to improve our customer service to stay on top of future issues. We also connected our Customer Relations Management and Marketing teams and we improved our coordination with our customer relations and PR teams to resolve issues before they became viral problems.

This process wasn’t nearly as exciting or newsworthy as sponsoring a football league, which incidentally we also did, but it was probably the most important and least costly investment to ensure our brand building activities were structured upon a solid foundation.  Yes, big ticket items can provide big returns. But it’s the little things that too often go unnoticed that can have a negative impact to a company’s image and completely negate all of the positive equity that has been built through years and years of good brand building activities.

So my recommendation is to always start by thinking small.  Look at your company through the eyes of your clients and prospective clients.  Go online. Do your homework. Encourage your team to do the same. Then document the results put a plan in place to clean up your online reputation before you start thinking big.  I’m confident you’ll eventually find the returns of your big investments to be much better and less risky if you do.

The article is written by Don Romano for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

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E-commerce HR in the Middle East

E-commerce HR in the Middle East

 

  • The speed of UAE’s development have compelled its citizens and expat community alike, to be active catalysts
  • Joining a yet still in its infancy Industry within the ME region, The ‘.com’ genre has many challenges
  • Ensure that you in HR have your creative doors open at all times, take benefit from all the material that is already out there
  • A new age HR, be it service rewards, policies and the biggest player and differentiator ‘CULTURE’
  • We in this region have a lot of potential, an array of cultures and can utilize everyone’s talent in making this an incredible ‘Silicon Valley of the ME’

I have had the privilege of living in Dubai for over 30 years and in those years I have seen some massive and impressive developments – Developments that helped the UAE secure ‘EXPO 2020’! These business & operational changes and the speed of the country’s development have compelled its citizens and expat community alike, to be active catalysts in this infectious need to excel.

I chose to be a part of this exciting journey and took a plunge into a then globally renowned yet still in its infancy Industry within the ME region and joined the ‘.com’ genre. I became a member of the ‘COBONE’ family when it was only 6 months old and have embarked on a rather steep and intense learning curve. We have flourished spectacularly from, Cobone, a daily deal website, to Triperna, a comprehensive Travel Partner. Coming from over 5 years of thorough conservative Banking HR, my idea that I could comfortably apply the same principles were quickly shattered. I determined, rather quickly, that HR in this industry was a different beast. A new age HR was what was required and although not already known to me it was an exciting prospect, one that I was keen to discover and implement. Policies for common classifications within HR, such as hiring, communication, talent development, rewards, performance management, required considerable adaptation and a certain amount of creativity before appropriate application.

Due to the newness to the region, we lacked solid E-Commerce knowledge and skillset. Thus it was inadvertently necessary to reach out globally for knowledge, people and strategies. What I recognized was that it was essential that you are quick to adopt and implement what is required within HR, be it service rewards, policies and the biggest player and differentiator ‘CULTURE’. This is the one aspect that is so evidently thick within the group, the underlying VALUES that bring a group of people together in an online company and it is quintessential to be one of the first standards that you must formalize and announce.

My tips to you, although I too continue to learn, for HR within this exciting Online World are:

  1. Formalize the underlying energy, ‘Culture’, that brings you all together
  2. Be ready to be very creative, remain fluid without losing structure
  3. Get socially active online (FB, Twitter,  etc), to live within is to understand
  4. Thorough Change Management techniques and knowledge application.
  5.  Hiring will require different innovative methods, use attributes in place of experience, realize an individual’s ability to adapt
  6. Reward systems need to be clearly linked to Performance & Growth
  7. Keep processes simple and transparent
  8. Constant Communication

Initially it may seem like a lot of work and believe me it is! But if done systematically, it paves the way to stable growth. All you have to do is ensure that you have your creative doors open at all times, take benefit from all the material that is already out there, communicate appropriately and implement ensuring you have everyone’s ‘Buy In’. HR plays an instrumental role in shaping the company especially within this industry. Being in this part of the world I believe we have a lot of potential in doing it even better as we have an array of cultures, we can utilize everyone’s talent in making this an incredible ‘Silicon Valley of the ME’. I look forward to sharing my in-depth analysis of various aspects that I have listed above delving into actual activities and hopefully assist newcomers and possibly add to the knowledge base any way that I possibly can. Until then – Onwards and Upwards!

The article is written by Tahira Khan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

 

Trapped in an old leadership? Think outside the box!

Trapped in an old leadership

 

  • Successful business owners should be able to win over and work with people who they do not have any leverage over. This skill can positively surprise you by opening new business avenues.
  • Showing an interest in others will be huge step towards bridging the gap of trust and building a relationship
  • Leaders that are skilled at demonstrating their appreciation for others will gather more cooperation and results than the commander style dictator in most situations.
  • This is why responsible business owners are encouraged to adopt and practice appreciation and humanity with the very people that they have gathered to fight for their everyday interests and those of their business survival.

One of the best ways for leaders today to embrace the concept of inspirational leadership could be to imagine the character played by Tom Hanks in the film, “Castaway.” He plays the central character, a logistic company employee who survives a plane crash, and finds himself marooned on a deserted island. The story unfolds predictably as to how the victim or hero rises to meet the challenges of surviving alone without anyone in sight coming to the rescue.

Moving slightly away from the script, imagine, how a business owner would welcome one or two people they might accidentally meet on the island, who could offer assistance to reach home. How could a business owner achieve this without having power over them or being able to use money as an incentive? After considering modern day leadership demands, it seems to be a wonderful canvass of opportunity to explore this scenario.

Logic can lead us to the possibility that these new people would be instantly appreciated by the business owner with enthusiasm. What tools would or could they use to win over the cooperation of these strangers that have no allegiance or interest to assist their departure from the island? They have no leverage, no ability to give rewards, so what then could happen?

It seems that in order to gain cooperation willingly, the stranded business owner will soon discover that showing an interest in others will be huge step towards bridging the gap of trust and building a relationship.  If they decide they are too important to take time to do that, they may find the other potential helpers either turn their backs and walk away, or eat them.

However, if they play their cards right, and show a genuine interest in the people whom they are recruiting to collaborate with, chances are much higher that they will in-fact begin to see successes. So how does the modern day business person survive in everyday circumstances that involve the challenge of leading people while engaging their willing cooperation and involvement?

It begins with the same behaviors that were deployed by the stranded business owner alone on a deserted island. Leaders that are skilled at demonstrating their appreciation for others will gather more cooperation and results than the commander style dictator in most situations. Empathy, coaching, inspiring and motivating with more than financial gain as the carrot, will drive business faster and further to growth. Employees today need not wait on the weekly newspaper ads to find their own boat off of the island; they can go online and do an immediate search the instant they feel unappreciated or unable to grow.

This is why responsible business owners are encouraged to adopt and practice appreciation and humanity with the very people that they have gathered to fight for their everyday interests and those of their business survival. Inspirational Leadership employs many more tools, one of these is establishing the big picture and how each of these people play a vital role in insuring that goals of the enterprise are reached. As the landscape of leadership today is a potpourri of different styles, there is one thread that can tie all situations together to form a rope of unity.

Empathy. The very thought of deploying this human quality for some employers may frighten them, as their style may lean toward the commander genre. However, the opportunity for SME owners to adopt the concept will motor their voyage further and faster than the stick that drives employees out of the revolving door.

When people in an organisation are appreciated and then challenged to participate in the process of excellence, innovation, loyalty and the extra mile will become part of an amazing transformation of organizational strength. The owners’ ego which dared to envisioned the start up and creation of the business and their natural obsession to be controlling would require an adjustment in order to openly invite others to cooperate and participate in their voyage of greatness. However the rewards could become magical, if they will only dare to ‘cast away’ old leadership models for new and empowering inspirational leadership within their organisations.

The article is written by Michael J. Tolan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Can Brands in the MENA Region keep up with the Oreo Moment?

Can Brands in the MENA Region keep up with the Oreo Moment

  • Creative agencies will need to collaborate more with content production groups to create standout real-time marketing for their clients
  • Crucial to any brands objectives is creating sustainable, engaging customer relationships and improving the overall experience of the customer  
  • In 2017 it’s predicted that 87% of spending in the entertainment and media industries will be allocated to digital media
  • New media is globally reshaping brand communication strategies which demand high quality content that is more cost effective and faster to create

Hot on the topic of conversation at the moment is creating that triumphant “Oreo Moment.” From the US to Saudi Arabia, brands are preoccupied with finding that one pivotal moment of glory in the new media space that grabs everyone’s attention. Are we ready to create standout real-time marketing in the MENA region?

With the help of content creators, the answer is yes. We’re living in an era where previously unsung content creators become the heroes, and will be pivotal in defining a new value chain industry model. Agencies will focus on collaborating more with content production strategists to ensure that the immediacy of new media can be achieved

Advertisers and marketers have realised the importance of human-to-human conversations with their audiences, regardless of whether they are businesses or consumers. Creating sustainable, engaging customer relationships and improving the overall experience of the customer is a critical objective. The consumer is captured by stories that make them feel emotionally connected to the brands they use. It’s now common knowledge that the most effective way to form that connection is through the use of visuals: an image, a video, a gif etc. By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer Internet traffic according to Cisco, whilst it’s common knowledge that almost half our brain is involved in visual processing.

As speculation gains traction that the old media industry will eventually implode, the future of content becomes clearer. Talking for the sake of talking, creating content that doesn’t ignite engagement or generate interest isn’t enough. Never has strategy been more important. Content management has to be driven by specific goals, a defined plan that addresses the meaning of success.

Content distribution has to be quick, relevant and impactful. Audiences across all media channels, social or otherwise, are bombarded with content which means only the salient brands will succeed. With the rise of free open source content readily available to all, the responsibility to communicate in ways that are authentic and interesting pose opportunities and challenges for all brands. It means that old ways of doing things has to be reassessed.

The amount of content generated on a daily basis on new media channels supersedes perception. Only campaigns with powerful ideas that are professionally produced carry across the right message to the right audiences, filtering through the algorithms that determine what type of content audiences are seeing. In 2017 it’s predicted that 87% of spending in the entertainment and media industries will be allocated to digital media.

The MENA region has an opportunity to focus on strengthening the quality of ideas and content created for new media channels. Campaigns should be produced with the same creativity and craft as traditional media campaigns. Content producers, such as stills and video production houses, will become more and more relevant as the region begins to adapt to real-time marketing models.

The media world’s paradigms are changing. New media is globally reshaping brand communication strategies and collaborations with content production strategists, to generate better content that is more cost effective and faster to create, will become more important than ever.

Source: http://www.pwc.com/us/en/industry/entertainment-media/publications/enter…

The article is written by Jesus Blanco for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Renewable Energy Adoption: Why it means much more than a simple diversification of energy base for the Arab nations

Renewable Energy Adoption

 

  • The abundance of renewable resources in the region, coupled with negligible environmental impact, are the key enablers for renewable energy adoption in the region.
  • Most Arab nations have announced big ticket renewable energy projects and have set ambitious renewable energy targets to reduce dependence on the oil economy.
  • However, apart from diversifying their energy base, Arab governments can utilize this opportunity to address macro issues such as youth unemployment, and lack of entrepreneurial and R&D ecosystems in the region, and build a more sustainable future.

Arab region has been a late but strong starter on renewable energy bandwagon: While the developed countries of the Western world have a significant head-start when it comes to embracing renewable energy technologies, the Arab world has been late to join the race. This lack of initiative was largely driven by easy availability non-renewable energy resources, which get heavy government subsidies creating an entry barrier to ‘relatively expensive’ alternate energy sources. This was also backed by lack of technological knowledge and policy framework in many countries.

In the last few years, the region has made strong progress towards adopting renewable energy and many countries in the MENA region have acknowledged the potential of renewable energy to ensure sustainable energy sources for many years to come. The major factors that are driving the growth of Renewable energy in the region:

1. Energy security for net-oil importers: With growing population and rapid urbanization, energy demand in the region is increasing faster than ever. The demand growth is driven by increasing need for electricity for domestic use and devices, heating, cooling, and desalination of water. Meeting this demand will become even more difficult for most countries considering the rising oil prices. Therefore, investing in alternate sources of energy can help these countries ensure energy security for future. This is the key driver for growth of renewable energy in countries that are net-oil importers.

Chart 1: Renewable Energy Investments – Oil Importers vs Oil Exporters

Renewable Energy Adoption 1

Source: Arab Business Review, REN21

Net-Oil Importing countries: Djibouti, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, and Tunisia

Net-Oil Exporting countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE, Yemen

2. Substitute for domestic oil usage for net-oil exporters: For countries that are net-exporters of oil such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and UAE renewable energy sources can be used to substitute the oil used for domestic electricity generation. With the declining cost of modern renewable energy technologies this investment makes even more sense as it can boost present oil-export volumes, while ensuring a sustainable solution for domestic energy consumption for future.

3. Abundance of renewable resources: While the Arab region is characterized by its rich oil and gas reserves, the abundance of renewable resources in the region had gone unnoticed until very recently. Due to its geographical location, the region gets highly concentrated sunlight and has several sites with suitable wind speeds for developing highly efficient wind farms.

4. Favourable policy frameworks: As per REN21, by mid-2013 all 21 MENA countries had set renewable energy policy targets, and 18 countries had introduced renewable energy promotion policies to help achieve their respective targets. If all the countries are able to meet their targets, the renewable energy capacity of the region will reach a massive 107 GW up from 2012 levels of approximately 1.7 GW.

Chart 2: Projected Non-Hydro Renewable Energy Capacity in the MENA Region

Renewable Energy Adoption 2

Source: REN21

5. Reducing environmental footprint: According to World Bank, 85% of GHG emissions in the MENA region come from energy production, transformation and use. Gradual substitution of oil based domestic energy – which has significantly high carbon emissions – with renewable energy is definitely the right prescription for MENA economies, which are often criticized for doing little towards pushing the sustainability agenda.

With all these factors combining to create an ecosystem that will drive renewable energy growth in the region, governments in the region have the opportunity to build a local supply-chain for the renewable energy industry.

This will enable them to address several macro challenges by taking steps such as:

  • Breeding local entrepreneurs: The governments should create more business opportunities for local entrepreneurs, so that they can be a part of this growth story and reduce dependence on expats in the long run. For example: The Saudi Government has created an environment. For example, the Tunisian Government launched the PROSOL programme in 2005 aimed at building local solar energy supply chain, while revitalizing the solar thermal market in the country. Encouraged by the Government’s initiative TuNur Ltd. – a joint partnership between a group of Tunisian investors and UK-based Nur Energie, aimed at constructing a 2,000 megawatt Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant in 2015. This project is expected to create 1,500 direct and 20,000 indirect jobs for the manufacturing and operation of the plant.
  • Creating an efficient R&D ecosystem: While extensive R&D programs related to the renewable energy are being undertaken across the globe and the governments have an option to buy the solutions, there is still scope for improvising and localising the available technologies to deliver best results in the atmospheric conditions that prevail in the Arab region. The Government can take this opportunity to facilitate local R&D by investing in the required infrastructure.
  • Skilled employment: The government can also invest in institutions that can support the demand for skilled workforce required by this industry. This will help them address the problem of youth unemployment which most of the MENA countries are facing right now.

Case Study: Local Content Promotion by Saudi Arabia

In 2012, Saudi Arabia unveiled its renewable energy targets of installing 54 GW of renewable energy by 2032, which break down as 25 GW of concentrated solar power (CSP), 16 GW of solar photovoltaic (PV), 9 GW of wind 3 GW of waste to energy, and 1 GW of geothermal energy.

While achieving these targets, the government also plans to address the larger goal of boosting the local economy, and has come out with a white paper detailing the proposed competitive procurement process. The procurement has been designed to not only get the most competitive price for the projects, but it also has check-in mechanisms to ensure promotion of local content. Some of the salient features of the procurement programme are:

  1. Project bids will be assessed based on price as well as “rated criteria,” which include the developer’s financial capability, experience, development status, and the project’s local content. The rated criteria will have 30% weightage in the overall bid score.
    • The local content will be evaluated as a percentage of local spend from the overall project budget, and bidders achieving 60% local content will be rated highest.
    • The local content requirement will encourage bidders to launch joint ventures with local players and establish manufacturing plants, which will give a fillip to the local economy.
  2. The project winners will also be required to invest back in the local economy through training facilities, research advice, and procurement from local manufacturers.
  3. Two separate funds sourced by taxing project revenue have been created to train local employees on solar PV and CSP technologies, and fund local renewable energy R&D projects.
  4. Developers are incentivized for employing local labour – employers who are top 5% in terms of local jobs will be compensated higher than average for every employee.

We believe that these features can help Saudi Arabia address its larger problems of unemployment and lack of entrepreneurship culture, to a certain extent and other MENA countries facing similar problems can learn from them.

SourceREN21, K.A.CARE

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Seven Tips for Doing Business in the Middle East

Seven Tips for Doing Business in the Middle East

 

If you are moving to the Middle East for a job or business, keeping these points in mind point can help increase your chances of success:

  • Do not rush while greeting people
  • Building trust is important since personal and professional relationships are not separate
  • Verbal commitment is honored and valued more than contracts and agreements
  • Patient is a great virtue – both before and during business meetings
  • Negotiations will be tough and sales cycles will be long
  • Best way to communicate is to have face-to-face meetings
  • Avoid business talk at social gatherings

Any plans of moving to the Gulf region to pursue your dream job or start a new business venture or partnership? If yes, then before you do so, there are a few things you should bear in mind — these are related to business culture, business etiquette, meeting protocol, negotiation techniques, etc. all specific to the region. Business in the Middle East runs on a very different track as compared to other regions worldwide, especially the Western world. In the points below, we will offer you some tips that will prove helpful for you while conducting business the Middle East.

1. Do not rush while greeting people: While meeting and greeting people in the Middle East, do not mind if the handshakes last for a longer duration or if your hand is held while you are being led to a different place. This is because one should wait for the other individual to withdraw their hand first as per Islamic etiquettes. And yes, always use your right hand to eat, shake hands or hand over any item to anyone. If you are a male member of the team and are being introduced to a female colleague, it is advisable to wait and see if a hand is being extended. If not, then one should not try to shake hands. In terms of addressing people, Arabs are informal with names while doing business and like to be addressed by their first names.

2. Building trust is important since personal and professional relationships are not considered separate: In the Middle East, business is carried in a very different manner as compared to the Western nations. Business relationships are formed on mutual friendship and trust, and personal matters are prioritized over everything else. Arabs prefer to do business with people they know and like.  So, if you have friends working at the right places at the right time, the road to a successful business trip is laid out for you.

3. Remember that verbal commitments are valued more than contracts and agreements: Middle East’s culture accords more value to someone’s word as compared to a written agreement. So before you make a promise to deliver something, be sure that you will be able to complete it, since failure to do so can lead to a loss of respect and reliability.  Contracts are merely a memorandum of understanding rather than fixed binding agreements.

4. Have patience before and during business meetings: Do not schedule meetings too ahead of the actual date as changes in personal circumstances of your Middle East counterpart can impact your appointment.  Also, the initial meetings will revolve around knowing each other; so, it’s only after several meetings that the actual business talks would start once the trust and compatibility factors are established. Do not mind if meetings are chaotic. People will take phone calls during meetings and might enter the meeting room unannounced and start discussing their own agenda items.

5. Negotiations will be tough and sales cycles will be long: Arabs are excellent negotiators. Bargaining can be seen everywhere, be it a shopping outlet or a board room.  Decision making is slow with bureaucratic formalities increasing the delay further. Also, sales cycles are a lot longer in the region as compared to the West. You should not expect immediate results from initial meetings and make sure that you follow up, arrange further meetings and maintain correspondence. Refrain from using high pressure business tactics as they can backfire. Be flexible and patient! In fact, patience is the most valued virtue in the Gulf and if you can demonstrate it in the most frustrating business situations, you will surely reap the rewards.

6. Best way to communicate is face-to-face: Verbal communication is preferred over written communication in the Middle East. The written word is treated as less personal and hence you can find your emails receiving no response for some time if you do not follow up through phone calls. A few countries such as Saudi Arabia do not prefer to do serious business with Western people over phone and thus a personal meeting is the only option you have!

7. Avoid business talk at social gatherings: If your Gulf business partner invites you to a house party, do not try to discuss business at any point of time. You can bring something small as a token of thank you. Do not gift alcohol as it is not consumed by Muslims. There will be a lot of socializing and small talks before the meals are served to the guests. It is considered good manners to reciprocate the hospitality that you receive. Hospitality is held in high regard throughout the Middle East and people take great pride in lavish shows of hospitality — never ever refuse it as it can be considered offensive!

While you keep these tips in mind, take care of some of these points as well:

  • During Ramadan (the holy month of fasting for Muslims), do not eat or drink in front of Muslims
  • While eating, do not use your left hand; it’s considered unclean
  • Do not cross your legs and display the sole of your foot towards anyone
  • Never interrupt Muslims during namaaz (prayers), a religious ritual they perform five times in a day

Just remember these tips and you will not face much difficulty while doing business in the Middle East!

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Hospitality & Luxury, We need to rethink!

Hospitality & Luxury

  • As guests become more discerning and demanding and look beyond the discounts, clever and catchy promotions, real customer satisfaction can only be achieved by delivering high-quality service.
  • Innovation and creativity on the part of hoteliers is needed to transform an ordinary experience of a guest to an excellent one.
  • Adding a bit of luxury and delivering it with highly trained staff is essential for high quality hospitality, and it can achieved by simple tweaks here and there and following a disciplined approach in recruiting and training staff.

In the Hospitality Industry the main goal is guests’ ultimate satisfaction, their expectation to receive it and our way of delivering it! So have we gone off track, trying to correct the situation with discounts, clever and catchy promotions and wasting marketing money? It’s time to reconsider what makes a memorable experience, as guests are becoming more discerning, more experienced, more aware and no longer swayed by our claims of value, and therefore they are becoming more demanding?

It requires an investment from hoteliers to be innovative and enter the realm of excellence.

Thoughtful hoteliers need to serve up their aces to their guests in such creative ways, being inspirational providing signature class services, tingling “invitees” senses, from the time the guests arrive to the time they bid adieu.

We have to get a step further than the expected, tried and now seemingly ordinary set of “luxury” amenities such as bathrobes, handmade soaps, natural fabric mattresses, branded speakers, Television or the clock and radio, 60 channels in various international languages, complimentary newspapers from around the world, have actually become quite common for an outstanding luxurious property,

We need to set standards for experiential excellence!!

Some ideas below:

  • Develop a statement signature fragrance for your property and for its rooms &suites.
  • Offer your guests crisp linen, mists and sleep balms.
  • Introduce a dedicated Fragrance Butler who serves up a fragrance menu tailored for Lady guests and for Gents.
  • Appoint an inspired tea & sparkling water sommelier for your afternoon high tea service.
  • Establish among with your 24 hrs in room dinning an on call in- room mixologist with a selection of cocktails for all tastes.
  • A “sleep” butler who will be well-armed to combat any situation, that the modern, hectic, stressed way of life has “offered” us with a list of curative cocktails, sparkling and coconut water and savory snacks – a different pillow menu : water-filled version, NASA-designed Swedish Memory Foam version, a foot body cushion or an iPod-ready lullaby pillow, aromatherapy bath products, comforting treats like warm milk, cookies and calming teas, sleep mask, lavender linen oil etc……..
  • In-room spa treatments (the hotel’s masseur/masseuse star available on call) and a specialty anti-oxidant menu.
  • Offer a personal shopper & customized concierge service.
  • Better organize your private Chef services.
  • And the list goes on……….

To offer outstanding service, a luxury property needs great TEAM, both management and front/back of the house employees, with emotional intelligence. This means intuitive people sense, empathy, and genuineness and……… of course the hospitality personality, the face of the property, “the Maestro” this goes further than cheerfulness, what is needed is graciousness, kindness, humor and savoir faire, a Hotelier with cosmopolitan flair and originality, both, essential ingredients of the recipe to offer even more awe-inducing hospitality moments to “invitees”!

Our people is our strength! we also need to rethink on how we could improve our recruiting & training methods “train both, recruiter and  trainer”! and avoid making costly hiring mistakes.  For the recruiters to learn how to read between the lines to determine real competence Vs fluff. Identify the essential human competencies which are necessarily requested in the extremely sensitive world of hospitality: charisma, quality, attitude, behavior, sensibility, enthusiasm, passion.

We’ll also need a particular level of expertise, knowledge and functional skills, but before all we need Imagination which is more important than knowledge, what will make us stand out from everyone else is our values and characteristics that define how we operate, think and contribute. Hotel Owners and Operators have to invest, and provide us with the necessary “funds”, on what is missing Inventive People!

In conclusion we can say: “when love and skills work together then expect a masterpiece”

Exceptional service is about making difference and creating magic!!!

The article is written by Nicolas Frangos for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

ISO 26000 as CSR thinking guide to achieve sustainable business

ISO 26000 as CSR thinking guide to achieve sustainable business

  • Social responsibility is an organization’s legal and voluntary duty to consider its social and environmental impact of its decisions and activities.
  • ARAB Business needs social responsibility as way of doing business because the successful businesses of tomorrow will be those that lead and create value both inside and outside the walls of the company.
  • ISO 26000 covering sustainability pillars as thinking guide can help your business to run in an environmentally, economically and socially responsible way.

What is sustainability?

Sustainability means:

 “Meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – The classic definition of sustainable development established by the U.N. Brundtland Commission in Our Common Future (1987).

It is means that growth must be both inclusive and environmentally sound to reduce poverty and build shared prosperity for today’s population and to continue to meet the needs of future generations. It is efficient with resources and carefully planned to deliver both immediate and long-term benefits for people, planet, and prosperity.

The three pillars of sustainable:                                               ISO 26000 as CSR 1

  • Development – economic growth
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Social inclusion

Carry across all sectors of development, from cities facing rapid urbanization to agriculture, infrastructure, energy development and use, water availability, and transportation.

Cities are embracing low-carbon growth and public transportation. Farmers are picking up the practices of climate-smart agriculture. Countries are recognizing the value of their natural resources, and industries are realizing how much they can save through energy and supply chain efficiency.

Why ARAB Business needs Transnational toward Social Responsibility?

Social responsibility is an organization’s legal and voluntary duty to consider its social and environmental impact of its decisions and activities. A corporate responsibility strategy outlines the ways that an organization contributes to sustainable development, engages with its stakeholders and behaves ethically.

ARAB Business needs social responsibility as way of doing business because the successful businesses of tomorrow will be those that lead and create value both inside and outside the walls of the company.

How ISO 26000 covering sustainability?

ISO 26000 defines seven principles of social responsibility:ISO 26000 as CSR 2

  1. Accountability: being answerable for decisions and activities and their impacts on society, the economy and the environment.
  2. Transparency: openness about decisions and activities that impact on society and the environment.
  3. Ethical behavior: in accordance with accepted principles of right or good conduct
  4. Respect for stakeholder interest: respect, consider and respond to the interests of its stakeholders
  5. Respect for rule of law: mandatory
  6. Respect for international norms of behavior
  7. Respect for human rights

ISO 26000 covering sustainability pillars as thinking guide helping your business to run in an environmentally, economically and socially responsible way.

THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY CHALLENGE:

  • It helps clarify what social responsibility is,
  • Helps businesses and organizations translate principles into effective actions and shares best practices relating to social responsibility, globally.
  • It is aimed at all types of organizations regardless of their activity, size or location.

THE ENVIROMENTAL CHALLENGE:

ISO 26000 makes recommendations on how to identify significant environmental aspects and minimize the environmental impact of organizations’ activities.

Principles such as the precautionary approach or environmental risk management should be respected and promoted.
Four topical issues are addressed in this core subject:
  1. Prevention of pollution Measures: aimed at preventing pollution and waste to improve environmental performance.
  2. Sustainable resource use: Key areas include energy efficiency, water conservation/access to water and material efficiency.
  3. Climate change mitigation and adaptation: In addition to climate mitigation, organizations need to address adaptation by understanding their vulnerability, identify significant climate risks, and plan and implement adaptation options.
  4. Protection of the environment and restoration of natural habitats: Protecting and restoring habitats and the various functions and services that ecosystems provide.
THE ECONOMIC CHALLENGE:
Sustainable business for organizations means not only providing products and services that satisfy the customer, without jeopardizing the environment, but also operating in a socially responsible manner. Pressure to do so comes from customers, consumers, governments, associations and the public. Far-sighted organizational leaders recognize that lasting success requires credible business practices and the prevention of such activities as fraudulent accounting and labor exploitation.

ISO 26000 contributes to the economic growth of companies  taking a step towards the pursuit of global performance and can increase client satisfaction and trust, and promote harmonization between corporate social responsibility and existing documents, treaties, conventions and other ISO standards.

Why ISO 26000 helpful for business?

The International Standard ISO 26000 help Business to:

  1. Design and build a social responsibility strategy tailored to any fields and size of business
  2. Adapt this strategy to any legal, cultural or political environment
  3. Manage social or environmental issues specific to any fields and size of business
  4. Engage employees, communities and business partners in your strategy
  5. Win greater trust and credibility as a socially responsible organization.

ISO 26000 as CSR 3

References:

http://www.worldbank.org/

http://www.iso.org/

http://pubs.iied.org/

http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/

http://www.internationallawoffice.com/

http://www.strategie.gouv.fr/

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

UAE – Innovating to Grow & Diversify

UAE – Innovating to Grow & Diversify

  • The UAE has been able to quickly and successfully transform itself from an oil-based economy into an innovative, knowledge-based economy; actively promoting innovation through policies and initiatives aimed at developing the three pillars of the innovation ecosystem – human, financial and technological capital
  • Being the first-ever World Expo to be held in the MENA region and themed as ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, Dubai Expo 2020 is expected to strengthen the innovation ecosystem in the region.
  • UAE’s private sector will need to play an increasingly important role in supporting the government’s agenda and promoting the national innovation ecosystem to ensure that the UAE is able to maintain and strengthen its position as a hub for innovation, not just in the Middle East, but across the world.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which used to be known as an oil-based economy, has been able to quickly and successfully transform itself into an innovative, knowledge-based economy over the past decade. In fact, knowledge-based revenues now constitute a greater proportion of the nation’s GDP than oil revenues, having grown from 32.1% in 2001 to 37.5% in 2012. In its move towards becoming a knowledge-based economy, the UAE has diversified its economy, becoming a key player in the real estate and renewable energy sectors, in addition to becoming a global hub for trade, financial services and tourism. This vision to become a knowledge economy is evident in the UAE’s Vision 2021, which aims to build a nation where ‘knowledgeable and innovative Emiratis will confidently build a competitive and resilient economy’.

The nation has been actively promoting innovation through policies and initiatives aimed at developing the three pillars of the innovation ecosystem – human, financial and technological capital. 

Let’s talk about the human capital first as it is the most critical and fundamental pillar for all innovative changes. UAE has advanced its human capital on numerous fronts. Thanks to consistent investments across all education levels, UAE boasts one of the most advanced education systems in the MENA region. Moreover, advancing women’s education and economic participation has led to women taking up leadership roles throughout the country.

The UAE government’s budget allocation to education makes up more than 20% of the overall budget amount — this is way above than the benchmark average of 13%. Besides overhauling primary, secondary, and higher education systems, the nation is facilitating expansion of higher education institutes by establishing world-class local universities, attracting foreign universities to open branches in the nation, and entering into international partnerships. For instance, the Masdar Institute was established in 2007 in close cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). All these efforts have paid off, with the UAE’s rank on the Education sub-pillar of the Global Innovation Index going up from 65th in 2011 to 15th in 2013.

Second key element of knowledge economy is the financial capital because even the highly skilled human capital can fail to perform to its full potential without sufficient funds. Several sources of funding are available in the nation, including government funds, equity investing and crowd funding. Government funds typically provide early-stage funding and include the Khalifa Fund, the Expo 2020 fund, among others. In terms of equity investment, venture capital is the most accessible, despite the low risk tolerance of VC funds. The number of regional VC funds actively investing in the region is going up. Also, the number of VC deals has increased by 50% between 2010 and 2012, with 47% of the investment focused on technology.

Along with human capital and financial capital, technology accounts for another critical element for facilitating ground-zero innovation.  Although the UAE’s R&D expenditure as a percentage of its GDP (0.47% in 2011) is still below international benchmarks (global average of 2.08% and the OECD average of 2.32%), it is launching several targeted initiatives to develop its R&D efforts. Besides driving R&D in universities, the UAE government is keen to establish scientific hubs, for example, TechnoPark was set-up as a science and technology park managed by the Dubai Institute of Technology (DIT). Also, the Masdar Institute is developing a technology for desalinating sea water using renewable energy sources, and building the London Array, the world’s largest offshore wind farm.

The UAE’s innovation ecosystem has been encouraging many residents to become entrepreneurs. UAE-based technology start-up launches are expected to increase at a faster rate than the MENA average. By 2015, the UAE is expected to witness 185 new technology-based start-ups. Furthermore, the UAE government has reviewed its intellectual property and copyright laws with an aim to align them with international standards.

Exhibit 1: Snapshot of Some UAE Start-ups

UAE – Innovating to Grow & Diversify 1

Source: The Global Innovation Index 2014: The Human Factor in Innovation, Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

The UAE topped the World Bank’s Knowledge Economy Index (KEI) among Arab countries, ranking 42nd globally with a score of 6.94. On all the four pillars of the knowledge economy—the economic and institutional regime, education, innovation, and information and communication technologies (ICTs), UAE was ranked among the top four Arab nations.

While the UAE leads the Middle East with a global ranking of 46 in overall innovation performance, Dubai is the first city in the region to establish first knowledge centers, including Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and Knowledge Village.

Further, the Dubai Expo 2020 is expected to benefit several sectors of the economy such as hospitality, tourism, trade, shipping logistics and real estate; nearly $7 billion (Dh25.7 billion) has been allocated for development and infrastructure projects in Dubai so far. Being the first-ever World Expo to be held in the MENA region, the Expo will also add more than Dh140 billion to Dubai’s GDP, create nearly 277,000 new jobs and draw over 25 million visitors.  The theme of Dubai Expo 2020, Connecting Minds, Creating the Future emphasizes the importance of partnerships and innovation for building a sustainable world today and in the future­. Especially Dubai Expo’s new 100-million-euro Expo Live initiative will help drive innovation by uniting research institutes, companies, citizens and entrepreneurs across the globe in finding solutions to global challenges.

Exhibit 2: World Bank’s Knowledge Economy Index (KEI) Ranking of Arab Nations

UAE – Innovating to Grow & Diversify 2

Source: IMF, MRD/Orient Planet

Overall, if we look at the UAE’s innovation ecosystem, it seems that the pieces of the puzzle are falling into the correct places. The nation now boasts a number of unique advantages, such as strong education system, a diverse talent pool, a growing innovation culture, and a number of targeted R&D initiatives. While the UAE government has been capitalizing on these strengths and issuing relevant policies that address the issues of talent, funding and stakeholder cooperation, the private sector will need to play an increasingly important role in supporting the government’s agenda and promoting the national innovation ecosystem to ensure that the UAE is able to maintain and strengthen its position as a hub for innovation, not just in the Middle East, but across the world.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

10 Time Management Techniques that will Make You Highly Productive

10 Time Management Techniques

  • Efficient time management not only increases productivity, but also reduces stress levels and increases our happiness quotient.
  • We share some time management techniques that are a combination of age old (and still effective) methods and latest technological applications, aimed at helping you make the most of your time and helping you become highly productive.

Time waits for none. This age old adage is probably more relevant now than ever.

Between running for meetings and completing other “important” tasks on a given day, do you often find yourself wondering why does a day have only 24 hours? And does the thought of a never ending to-do list stress you out? Also, does it happen that despite your best efforts, critical tasks are still left incomplete at the end of what seems like a long day? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you – like most of us – need to change your time management techniques, because efficient time management not only increases productivity at work, but also reduces stress levels and increases our happiness quotient.

The suggestions that follow are a combination of age old time management techniques and latest technological applications, aimed at helping you make the most of your time and helping you become highly productive.

1. Maintain a calendar and plan your day (and week) in advance

While going to work, if you are unsure of what you want to achieve on that particular day, then you are more likely to miss your targets than achieve them. Hence, it is advisable to spend a few minutes to plan your day and working week in advance.

The quintessential diary/notebook is one way of planning your calendar. And for those that have already embraced or want to embrace technology to plan their calendar, you can consider using Doodle, an online tool which simplifies the process of scheduling events, whether they’re board or team meetings, dinners with friends, reunions, weekend trips, or anything else.

Make sure that you demarcate between on-going tasks and one-time tasks, and update your planner periodically to ensure that it reflects the evolving list of things that need your attention. Creating and maintaining a planner may seem tedious to start with, but once this activity starts giving results (higher productivity and effectiveness), it will become an inevitable part of your life.

2. Prepare a to-do list

One of the ways to ensure that you remain focused on completing the most important tasks on a given day, is to have a list of to-do’s with all the tasks you intend to do in the day.

The to-do list is intended to help you remain organized, by breaking larger tasks into smaller ones, thereby making them more manageable and easier to track and achieve. These tasks may be classified under different heads such as work, home, and personal.

You can consider using WorkFlowy for making and managing your to-do lists. WorkFlowy is an organizational tool that can help you organize to-dos, by making a list of high level ideas and tasks and then breaking them into smaller pieces. You can subdivide lists like this almost infinitely. Apart from managing to-do’s, this tool can be used to collaborate on large team projects, take notes, write research papers, keep a journal, and much more.

3. Prioritize and focus

Once you have prepared the to-do list, the next challenge is to prioritize the tasks and focus on completing them.

You need to ensure that you are focused on important things, and not just urgent things. Some tasks may be urgent but have lower strategic value, and completion of such tasks will give lower returns. It is important that such tasks are not prioritized over important tasks – which you should be reflective of your long-term goals and priorities. You can use a 1-5 coding system for prioritizing tasks – 1 for high priority items, 5 for low priorities, depending whether the task is high-yield and high-priority, or low-value, fill-in.

Most importantly, once you have a prioritized to-do list defined, make sure that you set a realistic timeline to complete it, and stick to it! Within each day, you can focus on the most important and challenging tasks in the morning, when you are fresh and have most energy. You can move towards some of the less important tasks in the second half of the day, when your energy and attention levels are relatively lower. To start with, incentivize timely task completion by rewarding yourself for meeting timelines. Once you fall into the habit of timely completion, such rewards won’t be required.

4. Delegate

We all tend to make a common mistake of biting off more than we can chew, i.e. we tend to take on more work than what we can realistically complete, which ultimately leads to stress, frustration and exhaustion. Therefore, it is important to delegate work to peers and subordinates as per their skills and abilities.

Ask yourself a simple question – am I doing something that someone else within the organization could do? If the answer is a yes, then you need to delegate. When another person who is fit to do a job takes over, it is like getting twice the work done in same timeframe.

Also, administrative tasks like photocopying, filing, etc. take lot of time, but do not yield high returns. You may be doing these things yourself right now to save cost, but if training a person on it can save your time in the long run, then it is worth it as the time that you will save can be focused on innovation, skill building, and other value added tasks that will help you grow as professional.

Remember, ‘delegation’ is not running away from responsibilities; rather, it is an important management skill that separates successful leaders from the not-so-successful ones.

5. Learn to say “No”

Most of the times, our inability to say ‘no’ leads to confusion. When instead of saying a ‘no’, we say ‘maybe’ or ‘I will do that’ or ‘let me see’, it sets wrong expectations for others and puts pressure for us.  So, make sure that you do no leave a conversation hanging by saying ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ to something you can’t do. Also, don’t always feel a need to give reasons for refusing a task. A simple ‘no’ is enough in most cases.

Remember, most people appreciate honesty, and will not feel hurt if you set the right expectations at the outset. Instead, the heartburn (and loss) will be much higher – for you and for the other party – if you are unable to deliver and live up to your commitment.

6. Avoid Procrastination

Procrastination affects productivity and may result in loss of time and energy. It occurs when we put off tasks that we should be focusing on right now. It may give a temporary relief, but soon you will start feeling guilty of not having started the task and become more anxious to complete it, which may eventually lead to inability to complete the task on time or in the proper manner.

So, try to take decisions immediately when possible as the best time to do anything is NOW.

7. Prefer sequential-tasking over multitasking

You may feel that that if you multitask, you will gain more efficiency. However, we are usually better off when we focus on one thing at a time. For example, writing e-mails while speaking on the phone may seem like an efficient use of time, but the reality is that we may take up to 20-40 percent more time to finish our tasks when we multitask than if we do it in a sequence. Also, such an e-mail could be full of errors due to lack of attention paid while drafting it.

Therefore, it is better stay focused on one thing at a time, and after the first task is complete, move on to the next task.  Multitasking may sound fancy and it sure creates a lot of activity, but it reduces productivity levels and should be avoided to improve time management.

Bottom line, move from multitasking to sequential-tasking.

8. Avoid unnecessary appointments

Controlling appointments can play an important role in time management as unnecessary appointments can lead to wastage of time and energy. Also, we tend to attend meetings without having clarity on the agenda/end objective and without reading the documentation beforehand. These meetings end up being unproductive. Therefore, it is important to avoid unnecessary meetings; and for those that you do attend, make sure that you are well prepared so that those meeting result in concrete next steps and results.

9. Keep distractions under control

We lose about two hours a day to distractions – which is quite a lot time. These distractions can come from emails, colleagues, phone calls from customers. To manage time effectively, you must minimize distractions and manage the interruptions effectively. For example, you may put a busy message on IM chats when you want to concentrate and let people know that they will be disturbing. You can also consider blocking Facebook and other social media platforms if they are not meant to be used for business, and end up being distractions rather than enablers. Instead, you can have dedicated computer terminals/cyber café within the office premises, where employees can spend their break time tending to personal e-mails and visiting social media sites.

10. Take Breaks

Ensure that you take 10-15 minutes break from work after regular intervals, as long sittings increase stress and reduce productivity levels. We may think that we are capable of working 8-10 hours on a stretch, but it is impractical to concentrate and be productive and efficient without relaxing and recharging ourselves.

So take a walk, listen to music or do whatever you like to make sure that your breaks help you recharge. It is, however, helpful if you can plan your breaks to ensure that your colleagues know when you are away and don’t end up expecting anything urgent in that time frame. Also, take some time off from work, plan vacations and spend time with your friends and family. It will refresh you and also increase your productivity.

The above are but some tips on how to improve our time management, and ultimately it is for each one of us to design- and stick to- a plan that meets our needs.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review