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AMBITION, ATTITUDE AND ACTION


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Ideas are great, but it’s action that turns them into reality. So do you know what you’re creating? Do you know for what purpose? Or are you in danger of getting there at a cost you hadn’t envisaged?

Here are some tips to help you achieve what you truly want – not just what you think you may want.

What is your Ambition?

Nelson Mandela had said: “In judging our progress as individuals, we tend to concentrate on external factors such as one’s social position, influence and popularity, wealth and standard of education…but internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one’s development as a human being”.

So in your defining your ambition, consider and factor in:

  • The type of person you want to become
  • The values and principles you believe in and are committed to
  • The accompanying behaviours and actions that reflect the above
  • Keep Your Attitude in Check

It is pressure and time that develops diamonds, and so it is with character. As lofty and beneficial as your ambition may be, the likelihood is there will be challenges along the way. Integrate them into your plan and have a strategy on what to do if and when the chips are down. Here are some suggestions:

  • Pick a mentor or support team
  • Find an activity that picks up your spirits
  • Adopt principles from martial arts, yoga and other practices
  • Write a letter to yourself from a position of clarity and strength to provide yourself with the courage and insight you need to pull yourself through.
  • Learn to breathe ? – we tend to panic or get stressed when things aren’t working out according to our plan, resulting in a lack of oxygen to the brain, further compounding matters.
  • Build the capacity to identify lessons and opportunities – turning lemons into lemonade
  • Have the wisdom to readjust and fine-tune along the way
  • If you see challenges as rough seas and waves – learn to surf!
  • See how you can harness the circumstances to your advantage.
  • Take Action!

All the ideas and ideals in the world are no good if you don’t act upon them. Imagine your outcome and break it down into the steps you need to take to reach it and turn these into daily do-ables. Here are some suggestions:

  • Include the action in your daily to-do-list
  • Review your actions at the end of every day
  • What went well?
  • Where can you do/be better?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What are you going to integrate into the next day?
  • Set milestones
  • Create celebrations
  • Enjoy the process!

You will be amazed what you can achieve when you set your mind (and heart) on a focal point. So take the first step towards realising your ambitions, the rest is there waiting for you to step up.

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A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON WORK & ENGAGEMENT

Do we treat people like a one-night stand or do we show the level of commitment we would give someone we want to marry? And once we marry, do we work at keeping the relationship alive, or do we take each other for granted?

I can’t think of many people who don’t want to love what they do and feel they matter. On the other hand, we hear of the difficulties organisations have in engaging their people.

So I thought I’d have some fun and draw a parallel between work and love to identify the ingredients that can help unlock engagement. Let me know what you think 🙂

“Luck – when preparation meets opportunity.”

Just as you are unlikely to meet Mr or Miss Right if you don’t make an effort to go out and meet anyone; a job isn’t going to land in your lap if you do nothing.

When you apply for a job, do you know what you want? Do you know what skills, talents and interests you have? Do you know where and how you can best add value? Or are you so desperate you’re just looking for something that pays the bills? Likewise, when you date someone, instead of looking at the entire list of criteria they should possess, have you taken a close look at yourself to see what you bring to a relationship?

Oh how exciting, someone wants me, they’ve asked me for an interview/date.

The question itself seems to validate someone’s worth. Someone noticed them. Hope rekindles.

And then the panic sets in. What questions will they ask me? What should I wear? Am I ready? All along masking the underlying question – am I good enough, will I be accepted?

So you plough through endless blogs and articles, studying the dos and don’ts, making mental notes of what to say and not to say, all along contorting yourself into a bag of knots.

The bigger question is – if you haven’t accepted yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?

It’s fine (for now)

Have you ever known anyone who is dating someone who they’re not planning on marrying? Have you ever heard anyone accept a job offer saying they’ll look for something else? It begs the question – what’s the point? Is the other person aware of the lack of intention or are they investing in something they hope will lead somewhere?

It’s not in what you say; it’s in what you do.

Do we have all experienced people who have promised the world, but have they come through? Are they a person of their word or do they come up with platitudes and countless apologies while still showing the same behaviours?

As human beings we want to believe what people say, believe in them and that this time it’s different. And yet we keep experiencing the same letdowns. At some point, one needs to realise the common denominator to these disappointments is ourselves. Are we discerning enough? Do we look for consistencies between what a person says and does? Do we have the courage and belief in ourselves, what we stand for and represent to say ‘this isn’t for me’ and look for what is right?

Many people seem to behave like one of Cinderella’s ugly sisters – so eager to fit into the glass slipper; they’ll contort themselves into all kind of shapes and sizes to fit in and be accepted. But after a while, those feet will hurt – just as the pain of not being oneself will one day become too hard to bear. So if you want engagement, use the four-letter word rarely uttered in the workplace – love.

DO BUSINESS PRACTICES IMPACT PROFITABILITY?

DO BUSINESS PRACTICES IMPACT PROFITABILITY?

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DO BUSINESS PRACTICES IMPACT PROFITABILITY?


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For a company to thrive, it needs to ensure the wellbeing and level of satisfaction with its stakeholders – investors, employees, suppliers and customers. Recent times have seen how bad conduct results in negative publicity, poor company image and a drop in share price. So should a company adopt ethical practices as a means of improving and securing a company’s economic performance?

Risk Mitigation

According to EIRIS, studies show that ethics-related news influences a company’s share price for better or worse, revealing effects of between 0.5% and 3% of the share price.

The lesson to be extrapolated from the shift in share price is the underlying knock-on effects on the dynamics and relationships that enable that business to thrive, and ultimately the level of trust and confidence in management. Without this trust, stakeholders tend to limit investments, negatively affecting growth.

Private companies may argue this doesn’t affect them since they don’t have a share price. However, they still have other stakeholders to bear in mind, especially customers, suppliers, employees and themselves as the ultimate owner of the asset – its value, reputation and standing.

 

People Taking Care of People

Employees prefer to work with companies that treat them with dignity, respect and fairness. Creating an environment in which employees feel they matter has a residual benefit in propelling them to create positive experiences for customers. However, if employees see, hear or experience negative behaviour, it erodes their trust in and loyalty to the company, and the quality of care they feel compelled or empowered to portray to customers.

 

Customer Satisfaction

Companies with high levels of customer satisfaction tend to generate a higher degree of customer loyalty, repeat business and more market share in the long run. Customers may decline to deal with a company that causes them to be suspicious and afraid. Businesses that genuinely contribute to their community and maintain good relationships with other companies tend to be more successful in the long run. On the flip-side, those who have corporate social responsibility efforts on the one hand but poor business practices on the other, are in danger of breeding cynicism into their customers, and mistrust.

 

Creating Value

Ethical business practices are sound business practices. Instead of being consumed by unnecessary lawsuits and other activities that detract from the mission and purpose, the business can focus on producing quality products and services that enable positive financial results for the company.

 

Financial Health

Beyond regulatory requirements, accurate financial records are essential for sound decision-making and long-term success. Financial records provide an overview of return on effort, a tool to support business to measure its rewards for initiatives taking place in the marketplace. Sound and timely financial records are essential in determining the trajectory of the company, and the ability to course correct where and when necessary. They also provide the ability to respond quickly to opportunities, without adding strain or unwarranted risk. Furthermore, a clear picture on the financial situation of the company will enable it to have the cash flow required to fulfil its commitments, a sound business practice to keep employees and maintain relationships with suppliers.

 

Green Practices

Whether you’re chopping trees or hugging trees, people look for returns.

The fact of the matter is if you don’t keep an eye on your bottom line, the business will be unsustainable. The bottom line is affected by people’s perception, belief and likability of your company. The internet and social media have provided stakeholders with the tools to have a greater insight into the impact businesses have on our environment and society. Customers seek to do business with companies that reflect their values, and suppliers and investors would be wise to follow suit.

 

Unforeseen Circumstances

It is far easier to set off on the right foot in the first place than trying to course correct once calamity hits. That said, genuine errors and unforeseen circumstances do happen. The ability for a business to respond appropriately and speedily speaks volumes in the eyes of stakeholders. However, waiting until a crisis strikes to instil and encourage good behaviours is a poor strategy given the time it takes to overhaul embedded systems, beliefs and practices. These changes result in delayed decisions, negative public opinion and a downward spiral in relationships with stakeholders – not good practice for any business that needs customers, employees, suppliers and investors to thrive.

Some may still argue why change when some are getting away with it. Others may wait for regulatory bodies to force them to clean up their business practices, and there will be those who choose to see the tide is shifting – that the manner in which we produce and deliver products and services matters. Now is an excellent time to challenge the ills we tolerate under the guise ‘but this is business’ and start by acting responsibly in the first place.

 

 

Featured in Fresh Business Thinking

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STEWARDSHIP, EDUCATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP


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Family wealth fails to make it beyond the third generation in 90 per cent of cases. This failure isn’t due to poor investment decisions, but rather a lack of cohesion and communication between family members, where the family fragments, and with it the wealth.

Some members of the next generation attend the best schools and universities across the world. However, they are still not adequately prepared for the responsibilities that face them when they return home. Each phase of life presents its own unique set of challenges. Families need to ensure they are doing their best to equip themselves and the next generation with the skills and knowledge they need to move forward in their professional and personal lives.

So how can a family increase the chances of success? Let’s take a closer look at the issues, and some critical stages and situations families and individual family members need to be aware of and consider.

 

Challenges Facing Young People

Imagine a young person getting ready to embark on higher education, perhaps abroad. Youngsters can face pressure from peers or from a desire to fit in and make friends. These can be more pronounced for someone from the Middle East. Sadly, it is common to hear of individuals bragging about their family’s wealth as a way to gain acceptance in a new environment, or of people making assumptions based on origin. If a young person is not adequately grounded and prepared, this can make them easy prey to be taken advantage of by supposed friends.

In such cases, there are two typical outcomes. The first is the young person becomes surrounded by parasites, taking advantage of their wealth. The second is the young person succumbing to peer pressure, taking on harmful behaviours or habits. Although both examples are factors every family, regardless of origin, needs to be aware of, these two scenarios seem to be more pronounced for families from the region, due to the perception of wealth, and the differences in culture and traditions between the Middle East and non-Islamic societies.

 

Who Should Succeed?

Succession does not guarantee success, and being the oldest does not make a person best suited to take over the family business. Families in the region, have traditionally seen the eldest son as the natural successor. However, history and excellent examples of female leadership have shown this is not necessarily what is best for the family or the business. The Middle East is experiencing a cultural shift, with women playing a more significant role in business and society. It would be wise for families to not overlook the women in the family and to capitalise on their capabilities.

The transition from one generation to the next can be challenging at the best of times, but the speed at which society is changing in the Middle East can add a different dynamic to succession. Alignment between personal and family values can be perplexing, but adding traditional, cultural and religious values can add further complexity, especially in times of societal change. Ultimately, the person who succeeds should be the best equipped to ensure the long-term sustainability and longevity of the family wealth, to support current and future generations.

 

Shared Vision

The need to create value to support a growing family is not the sole responsibility of the patriarch. Every member of the family needs to move forward together towards a shared vision. Each member of the family must also take personal responsibility in ensuring they work in the family enterprise only if they add value. Failure to do so jeopardises the well-being of the family enterprise and the family system. No two people have the same combination of skills, talents, interests and aptitudes. So each needs to hone their skills to make them fit for whichever role best suits them – if any.

Consider the Olympics: being the son or daughter of a great athlete doesn’t make you a great athlete. You need to have a particular aptitude, talent and interest. You must also have the resilience, tenacity, passion and stamina to stay the course and win. It is imperative for families in the region to go beyond the default ‘eldest son’ and pass the baton to the family member(s) best equipped to carry forward the legacy and provide the support necessary.

 

Ensuring Sufficient Value and Growth

How does a family provide sufficient value and growth of the family’s wealth to sustain a growing family? With increased longevity, there are now more family members across generations alive at any given time. In the Middle East, this figure is amplified by cultural traditions, creating larger families than other societies. Some families have around 30 family members across three generations. In addition to needing more significant financial resources, larger families can also find it more challenging to create cohesion and shared values among family members, further increasing the potential threat of wealth dissipation.

 

Investments

As wealth transitions to the next generation, so does the investment focus. For instance, Morgan Stanley’s sustainable investing institute found Millennials (broadly defined as those born between the early 1980s and 2000) are more likely to align their investment choices with their personal values and are twice as likely as the overall investor population to invest in companies targeting social or environmental goals. The research also found Millennials purchased from a sustainable brand twice more often than the average investor population and were three times more likely to seek employment with a sustainably-minded company. Given the size of the Millennial generation, these are factors worth considering when choosing where to invest the family’s capital – be it the investment portfolio, family business or new enterprises the next-generation want to start. Smart families would seize the opportunity by exploring and aligning the family philosophy and its investment principles.

 

Value-creating Enterprises

One way to provide sustainability is through value-creating enterprises. However, with the advancement of technology, businesses in the region are in danger of being disrupted, making innovation, tech-savviness, agility and sharpened entrepreneurial skills even more essential. It is also where the shifting traditions mentioned previously can be a positive influence. With more Arab women tapping into their entrepreneurial capabilities, families have greater potential in wealth creation, further safeguarding the family’s legacy and wealth for future generations. A proactive approach to disruption, embracing the shift in traditional views, and supporting the role of women in business, is a way to benefit all parties.

 

Managing Transition

Transitions are never smooth and for the patriarch, handing over while finding new direction and purpose can be challenging. Over the years patriarchs have gained precious experience and wisdom, and often still want to feel needed and useful. That said, the transition offers an opportunity for patriarchs to harness their knowledge, experience and interests into a new chapter, exploring and undertaking new ways to continue their legacy. As with all change, this has its challenges. Entrusting someone with your life’s work is no mean feat. The region has changed so much over the years this can add an extra layer of difficulty for patriarchs from the Middle East.

Patriarchs have also seen a shift in the values of the next generation and society. The next generation, coming on board with a fresh pair of eyes, is eager to take on new frontiers. Managing succession requires all parties to understand the two perspectives, and finding the balance between them is vital. Passing on the legacy is a gradual process that comes over time, but eventually, there is a need to let go. Leaving the transition to the last minute is likely to leave the next generation ill-prepared, and higher risk for the dissipation of the wealth and legacy.

 

The Process of Succession

Ninety per cent of wealth, globally, does not go beyond the third generation, and the dynamics of families in the Middle East could increase that number even further. The unfortunate statistics demonstrate the intricacies of navigating the phases of a succession process.

Succession is not merely about setting up structures to ensure wealth is passed on. It is an intricate process through which the next generation is equipped with the skills, tools and aptitude to succeed for generations to come. The better-prepared families and family members are, the higher the chance of success.

 

Rethinking Startup Success

We often hear ‘it’s a great company, they’ve raised $x’. This is the wrong metric, and recent disasters (e.g. WeWork, Uber and Theranos) have confirmed this. Thought it was time to peel back the layers on what we should be looking at. Here’s the article featured in Entrepreneur Middle East. read more

Discussion on AI & Intellectual Property

A recent article in Technology Review posed the question of whether AI can be an inventor. In principle, it’s a debate around IP law and whether AI can own ideas it generates. Check out the debate generated on LinkedIn. It’s worth a read. Additional views always welcome. read more

State of MENA Startups 2019

Following on from the recent report on the startup scene in the MENA Region (well done to MAGNiTT and 500 Startups for putting this together), here we peel back the layers on some of the issues raised. read more

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TIPS FOR FRESH GRADS (AND THOSE LOOKING FOR A FRESH START)

 

Work is a great way to expose us to new environments and challenges, presenting us with experiences that will further develop our skills as well as our character.

But for this to happen, we need to find the environment that is most conducive. So if you are young and looking for work, how should you go about it?

 

Know yourself

You have only just graduated so you may think you haven’t got much to say on a CV or a job application. But having spent around 24 years on this planet, there are experiences you have had, observations you have made, things you have learned, views you have started to form. Write them down. Reflect on them. Figure out what makes you tick, what doesn’t. Discern your likes and dislikes. Find your highs and your lows. What you are proud of, where you could have done better. Your self-awareness and ability to extract lessons from experiences will start set you apart from others.

 

Get curious!

You have access to mounds of information on various industries, sectors and even the businesses themselves. Instead of spending time on social media pressing like and share, you might be better off doing some research to see what appeals to you. Make a list of companies that interest you. See what attracts you and what doesn’t. Look up the people who work there. Does anything/anyone resonate?

 

Be brave (and vulnerable)

Reach out to the companies and people you have identified to learn more. It may seem daunting picking up the phone or sending a mail to a complete stranger, but the world we live in is intimately connected. Jump on LinkedIn and track them down. See if you know someone who knows them. Create and leverage your network. Once you get hold of them, ask them about what they do. What they love about it, what they don’t. What types of people do they look for? Do you fit? Don’t hold back from telling people your aspirations. Even be brave enough to say you don’t know and you’re exploring. You will see that people are pretty kind and are willing to lend a helping hand because you know what, we’ve been there, we know what it’s like. Decent people will help and encourage you to find the right path.

 

Listen

A mentor once told me, “You have two ears, and one mouth use them in that proportion (and engage the grey matter in between)”. Ask smart questions and listen intently. Listen to what is said and what is not said – sometimes more is shared in the spaces in between. And also listen to yourself – some call it their gut, others their intuition, this will help you figure out if something is right for you or not – the package may be tempting, but are these people you want to spend your time with?

 

Do It!

Don’t be surprised if you are offered an opportunity along the way. Don’t overthink it. At some point, you must take a decision, and once you do, do it wholeheartedly. Just make sure you can learn from your boss, and s/he or someone else in the organisation will take you under their wing.

Rethinking Startup Success

We often hear ‘it’s a great company, they’ve raised $x’. This is the wrong metric, and recent disasters (e.g. WeWork, Uber and Theranos) have confirmed this. Thought it was time to peel back the layers on what we should be looking at. Here’s the article featured in Entrepreneur Middle East. read more

Discussion on AI & Intellectual Property

A recent article in Technology Review posed the question of whether AI can be an inventor. In principle, it’s a debate around IP law and whether AI can own ideas it generates. Check out the debate generated on LinkedIn. It’s worth a read. Additional views always welcome. read more

State of MENA Startups 2019

Following on from the recent report on the startup scene in the MENA Region (well done to MAGNiTT and 500 Startups for putting this together), here we peel back the layers on some of the issues raised. read more

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MORAL COURAGE AND CORPORATE CULTURE

It is not in calm seas that our character and integrity are tested but in times of crisis. It is at these times that mistakes are likely to happen.

When people think of ethics and social responsibility in the corporate context, they perceive it as a simple matter of determining what is right and wrong. Since we do not live in a world where decisions are a matter of black or white but more in shades of grey, steering the right course is not always a clear cut decision. With increased diversity of cultures and nationalities in the workplace, the topic of ethics and social responsibility becomes ever more complex, and one that should be treated with attention and focus.

Every company in hiring executives seeks people with integrity and good moral standards, but how do these translate to the corporate culture?

Every organisation has a value system. But is what the company says it stands for and the value system communicated, aligned with desired behaviours, practices and reward systems? There is little point in having formal policies and procedures that prescribe one mode of behaviour, if people are positively rewarded for achievements where an alternative and ‘non-desirable’ behaviour is applauded in terms of raises, bonuses and promotions.

Sharing the value system of an organisation enables the individuals within it to look within themselves and align their values and subsequent behaviour with that of the organisation, making them stronger people and better corporate citizens. Making this a topic of continual attention in an organisation has a resultant impact on the level of openness, integrity and trust amongst colleagues. Research has shown that in organisations with such systems, people within the organisation are motivated to not only be stronger representatives but better enabled to handle turbulent times such as change or crisis management. Continual attention to ethics in the work place sensitises leaders and staff to how they want to act consistently. And this comes from the top – leaders who lead by example will set the tone for the whole organisation to follow.

Ethics programmes have also been shown to support employee growth and development. A study cited in the Wall Street Journal found a direct correlation between the level of emotional health of an executive and the results of a battery of tests on ethics.

Having ethics as part of the organisation’s agenda better prepares employees to face reality with the resultant effect that they feel more confident and ready to deal with whatever comes their way.

Another benefit is the impact ethics can have on a company’s public image if people perceive those organisations as valuing the manner in which business is conducted more than profit. Recent years have seen greater attention to this factor, with more companies reporting on their social responsibility and analysts making it part of their agenda in their valuation of company stock.

In the meantime, we need to ask ourselves how are we contributing to the sustainability and longevity of the local economy? How are we ensuring that our actions have a positive contribution for the next generation and beyond?

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