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baRIng It all Jeff Leach, co-founder N_K_DPizza and the keynote speaker for the SME Advisor Summit, strips his business down to its basics and tells us what makes the brand one of the fastest growing food franchises in the US.

Plus In-DePth coveRage of what we leaRnt fRoM ouR InDustRy-leaDIng aDvIsoRs at the suMMIt XEROX - YOUR NEW WORKPLACE WIN LOADS OF PRIZES TO BOOST PRODUCTIVITY! Details on page 53





Issue 62 January 2011

ADCB BUSINESSEDGE – Cutting edge financial solutions for Small and Medium Enterprises

Issue: 62 January 2011

COntents new world – coming to terms with changed economic realities.”



18 6

editorial board



TRENDS AND UPDATES: A quick look at news and events that will impact SMEs in this region.


SHELF LIFE: New toys and products for you and your business. Like you need an excuse!





THINK TANK: The SME Advisor Editorial Board is an honorary panel of experts, comprising organisations and individuals who play a major role in shaping the regional economy.



sMe advisor summit KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Jeff Leach, Co-founder of N_K_DPizza, strips his business down to its basics and tells us what makes the brand one of the fastest growing food franchises in the US.


MIND YOUR BUSINESS: The SME Advisor Business Made Easy Summit 2010, presented by ADCB, was held on the morning of our awards. It was an event that helped forge relationships, exchange knowledge, and open doors for growth. Meet some of our star speakers. PANEL DISCUSSION: We bring you highlights from an informative discussion on “Business in the brave


SHOW ME THE MONEY: We sought the expertise of some of the region’s leading business minds. Three workshops, each split into a few mini modules, covered various SME concerns. It was interesting to note that this session on money matters had the maximum number of attendees. PLANNING GROWTH: Over these last few months, many SMEs have got back in the game with renewed optimism. Our experts for this workshop explained how to take business to the next level by prioritising human resources, infrastructure, equipment and technology. MULTI-CULTURAL BUSINESS: This region is a melting pot. That brings opportunities as well as challenges. Our experts gave valuable advice on finding common ground and cutting through cultural crossed-signals. PICTURE THIS: Speakers and audience members interacted throughout the day at this vibrant event. Here’s a look.

mitigated, the greatest challenge for small business owners is to find the proper balance between peace of mind and profitability, says independent financial advisor Greg Pogonowski.

PLANNING FOR 2011: The beginning of a new year is a good time to look ahead and consider where you want your business to be in six months, a year, five years down the line, advises Amanda Line, Regional Director, ICAEW Middle East.ess.


ASSUMPTIONS: Take a hard look at what business assumptions need to be questioned in today’s changing world, advises Debbie Nicol, principal consultant and owner of business en motion.


RISKY BUSINESS: A new global study by Juniper Networks highlights the significant security gap as mobile devices shatter boundaries between personal and business use.


STRATEGIC EMPLOYEE SURvEYS: Kenexa Research Institute’s Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Jack W Wiley, provides the business case for employee surveys as a tool for organisation development


COLOUR: How does it impact your business? Dan Smith, General Manager for Integrated Marketing, xerox, MEA (DMO), walks down the colour-technology memory lane and then looks ahead to the future.

Business guru CUSTOMER ExPERIENCE: A customer value proposition has to be viewed in the totality of the customer experience. It is not just about how great the product is, nor how much value for money it offers, or how it is promoted, or through which channels it will be sold, says John Lincoln, vice-PresidentPresident Enterprise Marketing, du.

trade PROMOTING YOURSELF: Small or startup companies need to ensure that their target market is fully informed of their merits, says Dr. Ashraf Mahate, Head of Export Market Intelligence at Dubai Exports, and vice Chair of the Economic Policy Committee, Dubai Economic Department.

Insurance RISK MANAGEMENT: While risk can be managed and its adverse outcomes




Industry watch

Business read

Xerox – your new Workplace



sign off CORPORATE FITNESS: Oh, no, more New Year resolutions! But they’re needed says Guillaume Mariole, from Ignite Fitness & Wellness, as he helps you plan and stick to your annual fitness and wellbeing goals.


Publisher Dominic De Sousa COO Nadeem Hood Commercial Director Richard Judd +971 4 440 9126

never “misunderestimate” a dream Is it January already? A very happy New Year to all of you! 2010 wasn’t a cakewalk by any standards, but it set the tone for a more positive mindset which, ultimately, meant a more positive business environment. They say when the going gets tough, the tough get going. What is that even supposed to mean? Going where, you might ask. These clichés don’t help. What helps, instead, is a combination of real advice, tangible leads or at least the knowledge that others share the same challenges. That’s exactly what we provided at the SME Advisor Business Made Easy Summit, presented by ADCB, which was held on

the morning of our Stars of Business Awards. You’ll find detailed coverage inside and excerpts from an extended chat with our keynote speaker Jeff Leach, Co-founder of N_K_DPizza. He’s one of the most quotable people I’ve met, though not everything he says can be published. For one, because he doesn’t stop talking and two because, like his brand, his quotes have to often be converted into milder versions to suit this region’s sensibilities. Jeff is based in New Orleans but he is a Texan alright! Like George W. Bush Jr, another Texan famous for his quotes, Jeff says what you least expect, which then makes its way around the world in a matter of hours,

making some people turn red with indignation and others with amusement. But the difference is that Jeff is one heck of a smart guy! He’s behind what is one of the fastest growing food franchises in the US and is all set to launch N_K_DPizza’s store in Dubai Marina this month. He inspired many at our summit with his talk. As he says: “People say you can’t launch a brand in the middle of a recession – we did! They told us you can’t raise tens of millions of dollars, but that’s what we did. I was told we can’t go international – we went international when we still had that one little store. I was told we had to wait ten years. Well, we haven’t got time and things have changed.” You’ll find more such inspiration from page 18 onwards. And, to balance things a bit, here’s something from the other Texan who is just as quotable but for totally the wrong reasons (besides, I was looking for an excuse to carry a Bush-ism in the editorial). When fame and fortune come knocking at the door, tell this to the naysayers: “They misunderestimated me.” Until next month...

Ketaki Banga, Senior Editor

CMO Kimon Alexandrou +971 4 440 9149 EDITORIAL Dave Reeder +971 4 440 9106 Senior Editor Ketaki Banga +971 4 440 9115 Sub Editor Mike Byrne +971 4 440 9105 ADVERTISING Group Sales Manager Sandip Virk +971 4 440 9130 CIO PROGRAMMES CIO Programmes and Events Lead Kavitha Rajasekhar +971 4 440 9132 Strategic Marketing Services Lead Sreejith Nambiar +971 4 440 9133 CIRCULATION Database and Circulation Manager Rajeesh M +971 4 440 9147 PRODUCTION AND DESIGN Production Manager James P Tharian +971 4 440 9146 Designer Froilan A. Cosgafa IV +971 4 440 9107

DIGITAL Webmaster Tristan Troy Maagma +971 4 440 9141 Web Designer Jerus King Bation +971 4 440 9143 Web Developer Elizabeth Reyes Published by

1013 Centre Road, New Castle County, Wilmington, Delaware, USA

Head Office PO Box 13700 Dubai, UAE Tel: +971 4 440 9100 Fax: +971 4 447 2409 Printed by Printwell Printing Press LLC © Copyright 2011 CPI All rights reserved While the publishers have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of all information in this magazine, they will not be held responsible for any errors therein.


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tHInK tanK paneLLIsts <<<

SME ADVISOR EDITORIAL BOARD The SME Advisor Editorial Board is an honorary advisory panel of experts, comprising of organisations and individuals who want to help regional business. The idea is to evolve the magazine through such sharing of ideas with key regional influencers.

Dr. Ashraf Ali Mahate

Head of Export Market Intelligence, Dubai Export Development Corporation


Amanda Line

Regional Director, The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales Middle East (ICAEW)


John Lincoln

Vice President - Enterprise Marketing, du


Ashish Panjabi

COO, Jacky’s Group of Companies


Dr. Habib Al Mulla

Founder and Executive Chairman of Habib Al Mulla & Co; member of the Board of Trustees, Dubai School of Government


Ronald Howes

Regional Managing Director GCC, Memac Ogilvy


Dr. Zeinab Karake-Shalhoub

Former Director of Research, DIFC

Deepak J. Babani

CEO, Eros Group


Mishal Hamed Kanoo

Deputy Chairman, The Kanoo Group



Advet Bhambhani

CEO, Jebel Ali Hospital and Lifeline Healthcare


Rajesh Chandy

Academic Director, London Business School’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Professor of Marketing; and Tony and Maureen Wheeler Chair in Entrepreneurship

>> 6



Thamim Ahmed

Vice President, External Relations and Communications, AIESEC United Arab Emirates

>> For detailed profiles, visit:

SHOPTALK trends & updates <<<

Economic Zones World and DIFC to collaborate on economic development of Dubai

Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of the Dubai International Financial Centre Authority with Salma Ali Saif Bin Hareb, CEO of Economic Zones World Partnership will lead to improved financial services for businesses based in Jafza and lead to greater visibility of DIFC based institutions. Economic Zones World (EZW) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Dubai International Financial Centre Authority (DIFC Authority) on identifying and developing products that will enhance



financing services offered to companies based in the Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza). The collaboration is in line with a directive by the Government of Dubai for enhanced partnership and cooperation between Government bodies and organisations. According to the MoU, EZW and DIFC Authority will work together to explore and develop a mechanism for inventory financing for Jebel Ali Free Zone customers.


EZW and DIFC Authority will work together to explore and develop a mechanism for inventory financing for Jebel Ali Free Zone customers

The design and development of a legal and regulatory framework and procedures in which to operate the system will also be covered in the agreement. The MoU also allows for further development of financial services by both parties. Salma Ali Saif Bin Hareb, CEO of Economic Zones World, said: “Access to timely finance is a lifeline for our corporate partners. This agreement with DIFC Authority reaffirms our continued commitment to support our partners through innovative product development.” She added: “As Dubai entities, together, we seek to leverage each other’s strengths through collaboration to achieve Dubai’s economic objectives. It is our deep commitment to add value to our customers that prompted us to seek the best possible support in the development of financial services. The association with DIFC, with its expertise and reputation, will help us reach our collective goals.” Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of the Dubai International Financial Centre Authority said: “Jafza is home to thousands of regional and global companies with their own complex business and financial needs. Our joint efforts with Jafza will ensure that customers are maximising their options and can access the best possible financial services which meet their specific requirements. The DIFC has set high standards in creating a regulatory and legal framework based on the best global practices. This MOU enables us to explore with Jafza how their registered businesses could have access to these services and will also see both the DIFC and Jafza promoting each other’s services and further supporting the economic development of Dubai”

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SHOPTALK trends & updates <<<

Abu Dhabi pushes further ahead on innovation Creative and practical tools and strategies needed to thrive in this current economic climate are among the main topics to be highlighted by two of today’s leading entrepreneurs and innovators at the Second Abu Dhabi Innovation Forum scheduled to be held at Fairmont Bab Al Bahar on the 24th and 25th of January 2011. Alexander Blass, Top Innovator of the Year Award Grand Prize Winner, and Matt Kingdon, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of “?WhatIf! Innovation Company”, are among the keynote speakers of the forum. Presented by Abu Dhabi University and Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, the second edition of the forum will feature new and innovative business concepts and ideas worldwide which can be inspiring and applicable to the region. The event, organised by Aim Events, the events management group of ADU, will gather international experts and leading innovators to discuss the developing

landscape of Innovation in the UAE led by Abu Dhabi. The forum is part of Abu Dhabi Innovation Week, which also features the Innovators Fair and the Innovation Awards. “Through seasoned and recognised innovators sharing their thoughts and experiences at the Second Abu Dhabi Innovation Forum up-and-coming innovators from the UAE will be able to draw plans from the speakers’ experiences to improve their work environments,” said James Graham, General Manager, Aim Events. “The forum serves as the venue for discussion of the latest innovative strategies and brings to Abu Dhabi global insights that will help in the development of the culture of innovation in the UAE and the region,” he added Blass, the youngest grand prize winner of the Top Innovator of the Year Award, will reveal how to reinvent to get on the path of innovation. He will share essential characteristics of successful innovators, some of the challenges

to overcome, as well as learning to generate international buzz for innovations with limited resources. One of today’s most acclaimed social entrepreneurs and innovators, Blass has improved and inspired countless lives across the world through Reality Charity, his invention of person-to-person giving technology on the Internet. With all the capabilities of social networking sites, Reality Charity is the world’s first direct fundraising platform and philanthropy community wherein organisations and individuals around the world may raise money for good causes. Meanwhile, Kingdon will discuss a presentation which will focus on “How to deliver on the Promise of Innovation”. He will provide practical tools and techniques aimed at business leaders who need innovation to drive growth. Kingdon’s ?WhatIf! Innovation Company is helping a wide range of clients in over 40 countries worldwide to innovate and grow by releasing the creative potential of

UAE participates in the ministerial meeting of the Economic and Social Council His Excellency Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, UAE Minister of Economy headed the UAE delegation to the ministerial meeting of the Economic and Social Council which was held on December 21 to 22, 2010 in Cairo, as a preparation for the 2nd Summit of the Arab Economic and Social Development. The meeting will discuss the report of the Secretary-General, which includes the implementation of the



His Excellency Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, UAE Minister of Economy findings and decisions of the Summit of the Arab Economic and Social Development, held in January 2009 and to follow up the implementation


of the Arab summits in regular session during the period from 2001 to 2010. Mr Al Mansoori has emphasised the importance of the meetings of the Economic and Social Council of the Arab League as one of the most important institutions practising joint Arab work and supervising various Arab institutions in the economic and social development fields. “The joint Arab work and to support economic and social development of Arab countries,

their people, products and brands. ?WhatIf! works with clients to increase their innovation capability by cultivating skills, organisational structures and mechanisms as well as identifying and developing how to lead for successful innovation. In 2002, Kingdon co-authored How to Start a Creative Revolution and the highly successful Sticky Wisdom. A respected innovation practitioner and speaker, Kingdon is also director and advisor to five startup companies. The Second Abu Dhabi Innovation Week will be held in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Innovation Week, which will include an Innovators Fair, and the Innovation Awards. The Innovators Fair will showcase new products and innovative solutions and services from local innovators while the Innovations Awards will recognise individuals who have achieved excellence in innovation. Both will be held at Abu Dhabi University Khalifa City Campus on 26th January 2011. which is the main objective of the council, come in line with the policy of the UAE. This Council is the supreme authority for the development of economic and social policy of the Arab world,” Al Mansoori added. The discussions also handled the marine link project and the online networking project for Arab countries and the cooperation in activating the World Bank’s initiative in the Arab world and the Millennium Development Goals, which include the recommendations of the report, the third Arab Millennium Development Goals 2010 and the impact of the economic crisis, global investigation and the report of the Third Arab Millennium - economic aspects.

sHOptaLK trends & updates <<<

Abdul Baset Al Janahi, CEO of Dubai SME

dubai sMe and WIpO join hands to train trainers on Ip asset management The Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development, an agency of the Dubai Economic Department, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) jointly organised the first ever Training of Trainers (TOT) programme on Effective Intellectual Property (IP) Asset Management by SMEs. The five-day training



programme was from Dec. 19 to 23 in Dubai. The programme aims to create a critical mass of trainers with the knowledge and skills to provide preliminary IP assistance to entrepreneurs and university students as well as micro, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) on IP asset management. Trainers attending the programme would be able to function either as master trainers


in subsequent TOTs or advice SMEs on effectively managing IP assets to develop sustainable business models. WIPO is the UN intergovernmental agency imparting IP-related knowledge and competencies in training and consultancy. The SME Division of WIPO works to create awareness and support capacity building among its 184 member countries, including the UAE.

The first-of-its-kind initiative by WIPO in the Arab region, the Dubai TOT programme builds on the ongoing collaboration between Dubai SME and WIPO to enable small and medium enterprises to protect their IP assets and derive a competitive advantage from such assets. Abdul Baset Al Janahi, CEO of Dubai SME said: “The ultimate objective of the TOT programme is to enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of the SMEs in the domestic and the international markets. As the prime enablers of knowledge economy, SMEs should learn how to efficiently manage their IP assets. We are privileged to work with international organisations like WIPO in imparting critical IP asset management knowledge to SMEs, which form the backbone of our economy today.” In September 2009, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai issued Law No.23 of 2009 concerning the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development, one of the Department of Economic Development establishments, recently renamed the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders. The new law confirms the commitment of Dubai Government to support the development of SMEs sector. The law defines the goals and responsibilities of the establishment. Given that SMEs include 98.5% of registered business in Dubai, with 61% of the work force working in this sector, the law aims to strengthen Dubai’s position as a centre for entrepreneurship and enterprise development based on innovation and intellectual property.

sHOptaLK >>>trends & updates

Big changes start Saving the best for last with small steps Masdar is a role model for sustainable business practices

We have to confess that the Media and Marketing industry is our favourite (obviously). But we inadvertently left this out last month. Apologies for the omission and well done to the finalists and winner.


Finding a roadmap for sustainability is a core value of Masdar’s long-term economic vision, and the journey begins internally with its employees. “The START initiative,” Masdar’s employee sustainability campaign, teaches that change happens at the individual level with better decision making and environmentallyconscientious lifestyles. Masdar encourages its employees to be aware and accountable of the environmental impacts of their everyday actions, and the START initiative is a constant reminder. Masdar’s sustainability framework is designed to integrate economic, environmental, and social considerations into Masdar’s corporate strategy, daily operations and internal culture. The sustainability framework is a structured approach to thinking about the risks and opportunities of sustainability. The framework is comprised of four primary components: Masdar strategic sustainability goals, the organisational factors driving sustainability behaviour, identification of relevant sustainability themes and issues and identification of the key sustainability performance enablers. The START initiative’s most recent efforts included a week-long sustainability awareness campaign for Masdar staff. Recently, nearly 200 Masdar staff signed a “sustainability

pledge” and committed to promoting and living a more sustainable lifestyle. During the week, the campaign focused on key sustainability areas – waste, water, energy, and transport – providing staff with practical solutions to make significant change. For example, during the second day dedicated to water, Masdar displayed a compelling visualisation that compared the amount of water used for a conventional, single car wash against a waterless carwash solution. On average a “driveway” car wash consumes 300 litres per wash while a “drive-thru” consumes 110 litres per wash. The “water-less” solution only uses 200 ml of water per wash and relies mainly on environmentally friendly cleaning agents. “While the world waits for mass-scale integration of

“We hope START serves as a template for other organisations in Abu Dhabi and beyond to further develop a culture that integrates sustainability as a key corporate value.” - Dr. Al-Hosany, Associate Director of Sustainability at Masdar

Flying Elephant Parties


welve years ago, David Bayatti and two friends put in GBP 1,000 each and purchased one bouncy castle. Working out of a small apartment, they named themselves Flying Elephant and commenced operations as a children’s party provider, satisfying a need in the market (at the time) for affordable party solutions. Today, Flying Elephant has diversified into ten divisions that service virtually every conceivable area of the events and entertainment industry. The company has faced phenomenal growth, and is SHORTLISTED FINALISTS • Active PR • Content Syndicate • MediaCubed • Mediastow • NTV Technologies

renewable energy, and gamechanging innovations in clean technology, as individuals we are in a position to minimise our impacts on the environment and to reduce our demands for energy by making better decisions,” said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar. Dr. Al-Hosany, Associate Director of Sustainability at Masdar, said, “We hope START serves as a template for other organisations in Abu Dhabi and beyond to further develop a


“Thank you very much to SME, to the judges and to the sponsors. We’ve been doing this for 15 years and we’ve loved every minute of it and hopefully another 15 years of the same.” recognised as one of the region’s leading providers of corporate and family entertainment. As a small business, they have transformed themselves into one of a small number of self-contained event agencies in the UAE.

culture that integrates sustainability as a key corporate value.” An additional incentive to this initiative, which companies across the world should focus on, is that operating more sustainably greatly impacts their financial bottom line. Where money is saved on using fewer resources it can be invested elsewhere. This helps organisations meet their core business targets and facilitate wider economic growth, thus supporting financial sustainability.




speed tHrILLs Epson has announced the Middle East launch of the Stylus Office Bx625FWD, an all-in-one inkjet aimed at smaller business users. With impressive double-sided printing speeds, it is the world’s fastest inkjet printer in its class, and has a significantly low colour cost per page. The automatic document feeder makes it easy to copy, fax and scan double-sided documents, and users can fax, print and scan over Wi-Fi or Ethernet. An easy-access control panel features dedicated buttons for commonly used functions. The Bx625FWD can print business-quality documents at 15 mono or 7.1 colour pages per minute on a wide range of media, and has an easyaccess, front-loading paper tray which holds up to 250 sheets of A4 plain paper for high volume printing. It uses Epson DURABrite Ultra Ink to deliver fast-drying prints that resist water, highlighter pens, smudging and fading. Users can choose from a variety of

new toys for youss. ine and your buansex cuse! like you need

pO BOX rentaL and eZIMaIL Emirates Post Group Holding (EPGH) has launched new improved PO Box rental and EziMail bundle services for corporate customers, with enhanced mail pick-up and delivery services as well as value added services. The bundles are being offered leveraging the combined expertise of Emirates Post, the region’s leading postal corporation and Empost, UAE’s national courier company. As of January 1, 2011, all Emirates Post and Empost corporate customers benefit from a new range of five different bundle offers designed to meet corporate customers’ needs, complemented by a host of value added services, including free courier coupons, mailbags, direct mail discounts and SMS notifications. Under the new plan, Emirates Post and Empost have integrated two key services – PO Box rental and EziMail delivery – to form new bundles that are more convenient for the customer. Five bundles have been created to enable companies to select a suitable category, depending on their mail volumes, ranging from PO Box Light, the most basic of categories, to EziMail Gold, which will offer 50 per cent discount on unaddressed mail up to 40,000 pieces in addition to other benefits. PO Box rental charges for individual customers have not been changed. However, individuals can also subscribe to the bundles after paying the fees, if they feel the need for such services.



cartridges to suit their needs, including xL inks for high volume printing, and individual cartridges mean that only the colour used needs to be replaced. The included Presto! PageManager 9 software makes it easy for users to edit text and manage scanned documents using the Energy Star-qualified Bx625FWD’s Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity.

nOKIa C7 gOes super Fast and super sOCIaL WItH du

Nokia, in partnership with du, has announced a new proposition for users who want to keep in touch with their contacts and social networks on the go. New and existing du Elite Super 100 and du Elite Plan customers can now purchase the new Nokia C7 and receive a free data package of 1GB per month for twelve months by spending AED 100 monthly. du Pay as you Go customers will also be able to take advantage of this offer by simply topping up AED 100 credit to the prepaid line every month. This offer will only be available for a limited time period.


The C7 is the latest addition to the line-up of the new Symbian devices available in the UAE. It features Nokia Messaging, an easy to set-up and use push e-mail service which allows users to mobilise up to ten personal e-mail accounts on one device. It supports all leading consumer e-mail solutions including Gmail, Windows Live, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail and also supports corporate e-mail services such as Microsoft’s Mail for Exchange and IBM Lotus Notes. An additional benefit is that users can easily access their Instant Messaging accounts. The Nokia C7 features a sleek stainless steel and glass full-touch design. The 3.5 inch AMOLED display is ideal for networking, with updates from Facebook and Twitter fed directly to the home screen. The Nokia C7 also opens up a world of apps, videos and Web and location-based services through the Ovi Store.


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sMe adVIsOr suMMIt keynote sPeakeR <<<


Owning a brand like N_K_DPizza (pronounced naked, but spelt in keeping with regional sensibilities) opens one up to many puns. Jeff Leach has probably heard them all but that doesn’t stop him from streaking across the room to the summit attendees, flashing his card and leaving them to gape or grin at the bold text on his card that cheerfully announces “Hello, I’m naked.” Flip the card over and you start to understand, and maybe stop choking over your croissant. Across a background of

hard-to-miss orange is the text: “Strip down to what’s natural, meaningful and true. It’s how we live. It’s how we want everyone to live.” Ah, you get it now. Clever! Like Jeff himself admits, you throw in two very powerful words like naked and pizza into a brand name and you’ve automatically got the attention of most people in the United States. That’s where it all started. His journey began in New Orleans in 2006; following hurricane Katrina, the city became a hub for entrepreneurs. So what triggered it? “When my

erful words two very pow d You throw in brand name an d pizza into a of n io like naked an nt the atte atically got you’ve autom States in the United most people




daughter was diagnosed with diabetes at 18 months old, I began to do a lot more research into food and what we eat,” he explains. “I studied ancient dietary habits, ancient cooking technology, and how the change in cooking technology changed the chemical balance on foods and the subsequent impact they have on our bodies.”

Why pizza, though? “I got into the pizza business for the same reason a robber robs a bank – because that’s where the money is and pizza is where the people are,” he admits. “We didn’t re-invent anything; we just hacked into an existing business

model. The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is trying to re-invent the wheel. We basically have 98% of the same DNA as Domino’s, but there is that 2% difference and that is important.” It took three years to develop the pizza and it’s naked because there is nothing unnatural in it. “There are no freaky chemicals in any of our ingredients. We have 12 different grains, no trans-fats, and fewer calories than most other pizzas.” Having said that, it’s still pizza, he cautions and you shouldn’t have it every day. That’s a healthy dose of the naked truth! This was the one thing that


sMe adVIsOr suMMIt struck me about Jeff – he tells it like it is. The second thing was – he just couldn’t stop talking! In all fairness to him, he makes for great copy, though not all of it is printable. He’s a journalist’s delight for the never-ending stream of quotable quotes, though I can imagine it would be difficult to have a conversation with him and not be sold pizza. He sells his pizza all the time – he even tried it with our photographer and art director during the shoot. Well, it obviously works because it’s been an eventful ride and N_K_DPizza has garnered an impressive slice of the action in a very short span of time. In Jeff’s own words: “So I set up a tiny store – ten feet wide at the front, nine and a half feet wide at the back – the building leans and the roof still leaks till this day, and from that tiny little building we became the most blogged about restaurant in the world over a year and a half ago and still are today as far as I know.” As he’d predicted when it was named, N_K_DPizza soon got the attention of some very interesting people. “I got an e-mail at 5:30 am from my business partner, Randy, telling me that Mark Cuban, the Internet billionaire, was looking for proposals and that we should send him an e-mail. So I sat there in my dressing gown, drinking coffee and hammered out a 1,000 word mail. Fifteen minutes later I got a mail back from Mark, five days later we had a deal and four months later we closed the deal. Mark flew to New Orleans, got out of the van and walked up to this crummy building and said ‘I get it...I get it! I see what you’re doing, so let’s try and scale it.’” And scale it they did.

It pays to be social One very powerful element of N_K_DPizza’s communication mix is social media. It was Mark Cuban who suggested that they

look into Twitter and Facebook and it really helped catapult the brand to consumers and investors. “Another investor who independently found out about us through Twitter was Robert Craft, of the Craft family, the famous owners of the New

controversial, but it’s a refreshing change from politically correct and boringly polite brands. That explains why some of the most obnoxious characters on reality TV get the most air time – not to say that Jeff’s obnoxious, but he’s definitely stepped on some toes

ct that there lly like the fa are People genera d – that they hind the bran be le of op pe st e re ar like the ho are flawed w le s op ip pe sh al on re up relati some messed ve ha s, ho rk w , je us es are , and our boss like we all do bills r ou y pa and we can’t

England football team,” says Jeff as he talks about how they were the most tweeted concept in the world for about two hours back in April 2009. “What we discovered was how social our brand was,” he reveals. They took that revelation and ran with it and there’s been no looking back. The success of the business and the role social media has played has made N_K_DPizza the current poster kid of Twitter proponents. Jeff is only too happy to jump from pizza to tweeting with equal enthusiasm. He encourages the adoption of social media but adds a word of caution – this is only for brands that have something to say. Well, one factor is not having anything to say, but the other is not knowing what to say.

Personality that packs a punch That’s where the brand’s personality kicks in, according to Jeff. He feels that real people and issues, or the human element is what gets people’s attention and, later, loyalty. “Because we are not a big brand, we just basically let it all hang out there. Now, don’t be a jerk obviously, but be yourself.” Being yourself can be

and it’s interesting to watch the action from the sidelines. One of the issues N_K_DPizza has come out against is organic food. “We upset a lot of people and cause a lot of friction. You can learn more about why we are antiorganic food online. We don’t have 87 million diabetics in the US because we don’t eat organic tomatoes – it has absolutely nothing to do with it! People embraced this organic trend and went into the store and bought supposed organic products without even asking questions. We always need to keep asking questions!” Jeff urges. But it all helps grab more eyeballs. “We punch above our weight on a daily basis because we are an interesting brand and people like to talk about interesting things,” he admits. He mentions this outrageous tweet he once let loose upon the world, which was retweeted 4,700 times and seen by over 17 million people. He got indignant e-mails from agency people saying he couldn’t do that to his brand. “And I’m like, yeah! And then we picked up 600 followers,” he chuckles. “People generally like the fact that there are people behind the brand – that they are real people who are flawed like the rest of us, who have some JANUARY 2011

messed up relationships like we all do, and our bosses are jerks, and we can’t pay our bills.” He compares this to purchasing handmade goods, where you can actually see the flaws because they were made by a person and not a machine; but that adds to the charm.

The truth is out there Jeff also explains how social media is not necessarily a medium as it is a tool of transparency. The whole mindset with large corporate houses is that they want to control their messages. “But that’s changed in the last 24 months and I think Twitter had a lot to do with it,” he feels. “I think consumers are calling time on brands that obviously filter their message.” Being in the food business he cites a typical example from that industry, from back in the days when restaurants would talk about their secret recipe as if it were locked away in a vault somewhere: “And that used to be a marketing ploy – ooh, it’s the secret sauce! But today’s consumers wonder what the big secret is – ‘what are you hiding from me that may be hurting me?” Consumers know when you’re not being upfront, he believes.

Levelling the playing field Jeff also enthuses about the business-to-business aspect of social media: “It’s almost like voyeurism. Potential partners are able to watch me and see my elevator pitch on a daily basis. They can learn about our ethos, our products, attitude, and get everything they’ll never get from a report they are not going to read. I think this is going to change the B2B landscape. It is going to create speed and fluidity in deal making, and create SME ADVISOR MIDDLE EAST



sMe adVIsOr suMMIt more lasting bonds between entrepreneurs and investors.” He elaborates on the changes: “We went from a concept to a brand in a lightning flash. People say you can’t launch a brand in the middle of a recession – we did! They told us you can’t raise tens of millions of dollars, but that’s what we did. You can’t have 300500 stores under development in this economic climate, but that’s exactly what we did. I was told we can’t go international – we went international when we still had that one little store. I was told we had to wait ten years. Well, we haven’t got time and things have changed.” He feels social media and the Internet have caused some of these changes and levelled the playing field. “And you can either pay attention to it or you can ignore it,” he shrugs.

Every detail matters N_K_DPizza has grown so much, so fast. Most entrepreneurs have a problem letting go but there comes a time when you need to be more hands off, bring in professionals and not try to micro manage. Has he faced those issues? “I’m not a micro manager, and I’m also not anal retentive,” he feels. “My job is to set the tone, direction and overall philosophy and the execution is carried out by other people.” That doesn’t mean he didn’t get 250 e-mails the day before or that he doesn’t pay very close attention to what’s going on. “I have three executive assistants – three!” and he holds up three fingers for good measure. “One for international, one for domestic, and one for franchise. I know what’s going on all the time,” he states. But, coming back to the question, does he really need to? “We have to, because everything matters right now.



If you’ve got a battleship and it turns a little bit, it’s different; we are still a small destroyer, and we feel every little wave. Every small decision can have a dramatic impact because our concept and brand is so new,” he explains.

People power So now that we heard about N_K_DPizza’s brand ideology and Jeff’s aversion to micro managing – how about the company’s HR ideology. How do they treat their people? “We’ve started talking about that much more in the last few months,” Jeff says as he admits that when you build a company it’s all about speed and getting on to the next thing. “I’ll look back five years from now and probably tell you that the most important thing I didn’t do was hire the best HR person I could find. We focussed on branding, on marketing, on operations and finance, and HR is often left as the last thing you do.” But that’s changing rapidly and they are creating their own type of corporate culture – pretty much like their unique dough. Jeff explains that their typical employee profile includes characteristics like being outgoing, creative, inquisitive, hard working, and possessing a sense of humour. He also proudly declares that they have some very rude people working for them. “We hire personalities first; you can always train talent second. If you can’t take it and dish it back out, you’re not going to work for us. I don’t care what colour your skin is, or your gender; it’s about your

personality. We hire very, very strong people and the strongest people in our office are female,” he reveals. N_K_DPizza also prides itself on being very family and diversity centric. They have a standing policy that any employee who has a child gets one paid year off from work. If that individual is a male, he gets one year off too. Will they be transferring that policy to the UAE where

et out their secr would talk ab s nt ra oy au pl st Re a marketing at used to be recipe and th today’s et sauce! But cr se e th ’s it – ooh, et is – what t the big secr ha w r de on w g me? consumers may be hurtin from me that ng di hi u yo e ar maternity leave doesn’t extend beyond 45 paid days? “Absolutely!” Jeff declares. And he doesn’t care if that person has worked for one day and got pregnant the day after. “If there are kids involved, we go out of our way and are very supportive. But if you don’t have kids, work your problems out before you get into work,” he warns. Another thing they are planning is to make New Orleans and Dubai entrepreneurial sister cities. “The entrepreneurial spirit in New Orleans is mind blowing,” he gushes. “It’s become the ground zero in the United States. It is the new Silicon Valley because we’ve moved from technological innovation to social innovation.” So they intend to provide opportunities for their employees to work

s? th my employee to hang out wi a Now, do I want ve ha I want them to Absolutely not! be part of it I don’t want to personal life;


for a year abroad in these sister cities and other hubs around the world. A lot of companies do that, but N_K_DPizza wants to offer it to even the most junior employees. Jeff also believes in spending a lot of time explaining to people how their job relates to somebody else’s: “I don’t care if you mop the floor; it has an impact on everything else in the office.” They also make time for

group activities. “We don’t go to the zoo and stand in the grass and you-fall-and-I’ll-catch-you kind of nonsense. We’ll go to the zoo and go the chimpanzee cage and I’ll explain why their gastrointestinal system is smaller than ours. Everything is brand related, mission-related team building,” he emphasises. “Now, do I want to hang out with my employees? Absolutely not! I want them to have a personal life; I don’t want to be part of it. I do care about my employees but I don’t want to know too much because that’s often used against you,” he feels.

What goes around comes around One moment he talks about maintaining a healthy distance and the next second he’s off narrating this story about rescuing five Filipino hotel workers in Dubai: “They were getting half their stipulated pay. We drove over to the hotel to find their employer and make a point with


sMe adVIsOr suMMIt him. Two of the girls didn’t speak very good English but we hired all five of them because of their situation. We, as a company, have a soft spot for people who are marginalised and we’ll do everything we can to support them, within the means available.” He’s stunned at the lack of wages and explains how cutting costs in this manner is bad for business in the long term: “These employees are the

ambassadors for our brands. If the kid shows up at your door to deliver pizza and he does not like his job, you’ll know. If he is marginalised or not treated well, you’ll know. If you’re treated well and really have respect for the people you work for, then you build better pizzas, you answer the phone in a different way, you deliver in a different way, you interact with the person who delivers the produce differently. And what happens is – it’s magical in a way – you become something that people feel very positively about, whether they are customers or suppliers or anyone else.” Jeff believes that the impediment to growth and success is people. “It’s just that simple. If you walk into a pizza place and you see a piece of paper on the floor and two guys

just standing there, looking at it – that’s all you need to know about the company. Right there on the spot I can tell you that they don’t care about the food safety or the quality of the product,” he declares. According to him, it’s not just pizza; you’re making somebody’s dinner for themselves, their spouse and kids. That’s a serious relationship. It had better be good. He believes that a company is a living organism and if you, for a second, not treat it like a dynamic being, it’s going to atrophy, and it’s going to cost you a lot of money and time to win it back. It’s just good business sense, according to him. If you treat your employees well, you not only get their loyalty and best output, but also find more people who want to work for you. So you get to pick the best and it’s a domino effect. “But business owners are often very short sighted,” Jeff laments. It’s a tremendous amount of investment – including in terms of energy, he admits – but at the end of the day it pays dividends.

Hope and hard work As an anthropologist he obviously knows a thing or two about people. “All people want is to be recognised; they want incentive and a way up. Everybody wants a way up,” he declares as he cites his own example. “I dropped out of high school and grew up in a mobile home on a trailer park on the wrong side of town. And now

d grew up in a high school an of t ou d pe op I dr e wrong side ailer park on th tr a on me ho mobile on my PhD, I’ve w I am working of town. And no mpany ds, a thriving co got beautiful ki


I am working on my PhD, I’ve got beautiful kids, a thriving company – and I can talk to anybody on anything I have some knowledge about and hold my own ground. It doesn’t matter who you are; you can go anywhere.” He believes in the power of creating that hope within his employees. “For example when I started the pizza place four years ago, I had a pizza delivery kid who came to me for a part-time job. He’s now an equity partner in my company and the director of operations. That was four years ago! And now he sits across the table negotiating ten million dollar distribution deals.” Having said that, he also stresses on the fact that it takes a lot of hard work to succeed. “When my father’s generation had to be in at work at seven, they got in at 6:30 am. The youth now, if they are 15 minutes late they think they are doing good,” he shakes his head, as he talks about how the recession forced us to abandon that complacency and feeling of entitlement. “We’ve now gone through a catastrophic economic failure globally. The game is over. Sitting on bean bags at work, bringing your pet to the office, having a ping-pong table, ‘where’s my equity and share’ – that’s gone. Hard work is back. The world is rolling up its sleeves again and our parents’ work ethic is back.” So what are his parting words of advice for businesses: “I think the last few months have been a wakeup call; companies and individuals who work hard and smart will have an edge. For us, what’s going to determine our success or failure is the quality of our people. It’s just that simple. Money is everywhere – that’s easy to raise. The magic is not raising money, the magic is making money.” That’s a good line. He should definitely tweet it. SME ADVISOR MIDDLE EAST



sMe adVIsOr suMMIt busIness MaDe easy <<<



Jeff Leach, Co-Founder, N_K_DPizza



At a glance

ai si rooms, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dub Location: Meyana auditorium and Mara

Date: 28th November 2010

Agenda: Keynote speaker Entrepreneurs’ perspectives Panel discussion with Q&A


Workshops (breakout sessions) - Show me the money - Planning growth - Multi-cultural business dealings One -on-one consultations




n 2006, Jeff met his N_K_DPizza business partner, Randy Crochet, and their idea of developing a healthy fast food concept was born. Through N_K_DPizza, Jeff has been able to utilise his expertise of health and nutrition by building a business model centred on changing the nutritional profile of takeout and delivery options. He tells it like it is in our cover story this month (page 18).


Ashraf Ghori, Dubaibased filmmaker and Founder, Xpanse CGI


shraf Ghori is an Indian-born artist and filmmaker based in Dubai, since 1975. At age 14, Ashraf gained early recognition in the UAE as a regular illustrator for Young Times. In 1993 he created original comic characters “Shane & Talia” and the UAE’s first English superhero comic strip “Voyager X”. As a student of graphic design in Houston, Texas, Ashraf worked as an artist for Six Flags Astroworld and co-founded Tempest Comics. He produced artwork for independent national comic publications in the US, such as London Night Studios and Titus Press. Ashraf was regularly featured at comic book conventions in Texas as well as the prestigious Dallas Fantasy Fair in 1994. Returning to the UAE, in late 1994, Ashraf worked as a laser shows animator in Abu Dhabi before moving on to independent 3D animation work. In 2007, he launched Xpanse CGI, a specialist design and animation studio producing films, TV commercials, branding and on-line presence. Ashraf’s message from the outset was to keep the faith and keep believing. He noted that throughout his



An Agency of the Department of Economic Development Government of Dubai








An Agency of the Department of Economic Development Government of Dubai


sMe adVIsOr suMMIt

Ashraf Ghori, Dubai-based filmmaker and founder of Xpanse CGI

journey he had many rejections, knock downs but kept going with the belief that his hard work and ideas would pay dividends. “One thing that marks entrepreneurs out from a crowd is their inability in accept no for an answer and to give up after initial rejection. I started off my journey back in 1987 when I was a student. The little mountains of expectation I had were quashed on several occasions; I was told by one editor of a newspaper during a job interview to come back when I got better! I was a little annoyed but not disillusioned and didn’t give up hope.” One of the recurring ideas circulating in the business community in the region is the return to customer satisfaction. Ashraf reiterated this when he talked about the reasons for setting up his own company in 2007. “One of my main motives for forming this company was because I recognised that the industry here was very restrictive – there was no flexibility with other design companies and for me the quality of work was not personal – no-one was willing to go that extra bit. At the time I was working with a lot of people who wouldn’t really go beyond the remit of their basic duties – wouldn’t go out of their way for the client. With Xpanse I wanted to give it the personal attention with an ambition to concentrate more on the quality of my work and the satisfaction of customers. I wanted to keep the work very small and manageable and not go out of bounds. For me the most important thing is that you have a happy client.”


Claire Fenner, Co-Founder, Heels & Deals


fter studying Leisure Management at university, Claire moved to Dubai in 1997 and spent six years working in retail operations management between the UAE, UK and Hong Kong for UK high-street retailers Next and River Island, then over four years as PR & Internal Communications Manager for home fashion brand THE One. After becoming a parent, Claire saw an opportunity and launched Easy Living – The Parent’s Guide to Dubai in March 2008. It is the city’s only free news and listings magazine for families as well as the most widely available resource for parent’s living in the city. With friend Georgie Hearson, Claire then co-founded “Heels & Deals” – the ultimate network for female entrepreneurs’ in April 2009. Their entrepreneurial journeys and passion united them with the goal of helping other women business owners. Determined not to allow the recession to get the better of them, they created a platform

which enables like-minded women entrepreneurs to network online and offline, locally and globally. The launch event of Heels & Deals was attended by 185 women and in the 17 months since they have a community of over 175 members in terms of their events and networking opportunities and have recorded over 1,700 women attend their events. Claire’s main message was surrounded by the notion that starting and maintaining your own business was a matter of vision and hard work. Claire reiterated a theme that was present throughout the day – that background knowledge of business and finance practices were important. “During my employment in Dubai I was constantly researching and looking for ideas that might lead me into a real entrepreneurial life. I’ve got binders of folders and notebooks full of this different research and gathered together just in case one day I could do something with it. “Many people feel that they are not big enough to become an entrepreneur or that their business is insignificant in comparison to all the talk about global economies, but in the words of the late Dame Anita Roddick: “If you feel that you’re not big enough to make an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito!” There is one thing that unites entrepreneurs and makes them different: A lot of people have ideas but never actually do anything about it. With entrepreneurs there is a magical trait of this can-do attitude, a belief in themselves and stubbornness not to settle for anything less than reaching for the stars.” Claire also pointed out the need to establish contacts through extensive networking – She was very forward with her view that initiating relationships with likeClaire Fenner, Co-Founder, Heels & Deals minded business individuals was of paramount importance. “As an entrepreneur you need employees, you need IT and you need funding. And believe me the list can go on and on and on! But one of the most important things is your professional network – a network of people who you can call up for help and advice, people who can refer you and your business. And there are lots of networks in the region, both online and on a day-today practical level. Also look for trusted partners, strategic advisors – surround yourself with people who want to help and support you. Basically learn to attach to people who are working with you and for you and not against you.” Claire finished her address to the summit with a reminder that business in the region was not just about survival. “Figures show that between 40-60% of the UAE’s GDP comes from the SME sector. We all need to work together to help fill this huge gap – remember it’s not just about helping SMEs survive but, importantly, to thrive.”





sMe adVIsOr suMMIt Panel DIscussIon <<<


(L)-(R) Moderator, Dave Crane, MD, The Life Designers; Majed Al Suwaidi, Director of Business Development, Dubai Internet City and Dubai Outsource Zone; Dr. Manoj Nakra, Chief Operating Officer, Mohammed Bin Rashid Est. For SME Development; Claire Fenner, Co-Founder, Heels & Deals; Rahul Dhadphale, Regional Director, London Business School, Middle East; Abdulmuttalib Al Hashimi, Managing Director, Next Level; Murali Subramanian, Senior Vice President and Head Transaction Banking Group, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank; Richard Jones, Managing Director, Coffee Planet; Prashant K. Gulati (PK), Serial Entrepreneur, Chief Executive Officer, Optimistix Ventures and President, TiE Dubai

MEET THE PANELLISTS Majed Al Suwaidi, Director of Business Development, Dubai Internet City and Dubai Outsource Zone Majed Al Suwaidi currently oversees business development at both clusters overseeing sales strategies, functions and activities besides streamlining operations to ensure peak performance of DIC and DOZ regional sales department. He makes sure sales functions policies and procedures are compliant enough for both organisations. Since the time he joined DIC as Director of Sales in April 2006 he has been able to re-organise the sales structure through integration of products and services as well as efficiently segmenting the team based on regional targets. Majed is also heading the FirstSteps@DIC Division which is a unique facility specifically designed for ICT companies wanting to operate from Dubai on a short term basis.

Dr. Manoj Nakra, Chief Operating Officer, Mohammed Bin Rashid Est. For SME Development Manoj has been the Chief Operating Officer of Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for SME development since 2005, an initiative of the Government of Dubai focused upon developing entrepreneurship, incubating and funding innovative business start-ups.




He has 31 years of experience, of which over 15 years at the helm of organisations as CEO and COO respectively. His managerial expertise encompasses conceptualising and starting innovative businesses, organisational-capability development, building global inter-organisational alliances, raising capital, and strategy execution with bottom-line orientation.

Claire Fenner, Co-Founder, Heels & Deals (see page 23 for details) Rahul Dhadphale, Regional Director, London Business School, Middle East Since his appointment, the London and Dubai streams of London Business School’s Executive MBA (EMBA) programme have joined together for the first time to deliver an international programme experience. Before his permanent move to the Middle East, Rahul was an Account Director with the Centre for Management Development at London Business School. His region of focus for the School was the Gulf and broader Middle East and he was responsible for client relationship development and management in the region.

Abdulmuttalib Al Hashimi, Managing Director, Next Level (see page 32 for details)


sMe adVIsOr suMMIt Murali Subramanian, Senior Vice President and Head Transaction Banking Group, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) Murali Subramanian is the head of Transaction Banking at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank. Transaction Banking is a division of the Wholesale Banking Group, offering industry leading cash management and trade solutions to over 15,000 multinationals, domestic corporations, government entities, SMEs and financial institutions throughout the UAE. Murali has been in this role since August 2009, when he joined ADCB. Prior to this, he was the Head of GTS at Citibank NA for the MENA region based in Dubai, and has held various management roles in GTS in the North African, CIS, and Western European business.

months period and they attributed much of it to his work. A certified NFNLP hypnotherapist and NLP Master Practitioner and life coach, Dave is also one of the best and was known names in regional radio having worked on 99.3 Radio 2FM, formerly the station manager of 104.8 Channel 4 FM and Dubai 92 FM.


Richard Jones, Managing Director, Coffee Planet Richard Jones is the Managing Director of Coffee Planet. He is responsible for providing the strategic platform and direction for the company, for the continuing development of the brand. He has worked in some of the world’s leading companies and has a wealth of knowledge and experience gained from his 15 years of financial, marketing and commercial corporate roles. Prior to setting up Coffee Planet, Richard worked for Danone Group, the world’s fourth largest food company, based in their London Head Office and was responsible for managing the strategic relationship and financial performance with its biggest international customers including Tesco and WalMart.

Prashant K. Gulati (PK), Serial Entrepreneur, Chief Executive Officer, Optimistix Ventures and President, TiE Dubai Mr. Prashant K. Gulati, President of TiE Dubai, is a serial entrepreneur, international business executive and mentor. With more than a decade of responsible management experience in several companies of international repute, Prashant has extreme in depth knowledge as a senior telecommunications, media and IT professional. He has been a consultant, designer and promoter of various ventures in the Middle East and India with some of the major state of the art projects of the region. A post Graduate in Computer Science and Management, PK is the promoter and CEO of Optimistix Ventures, a venture catalysis and consulting company based in Dubai Internet City. The company has successfully promoted ventures in the field of Web Services, outsourcing, vending, hospitality, medicare, media, logistics and ICT. He is an active angel and early stage investor in start-ups and younger companies and innovative ideas. With an active portfolio of ventures in India, Middle East and US, he is actively involved in providing mentorship, guidance and advice to such companies at various levels.

Dave Crane, Moderator and Managing Director, The Life Designers Dave is one of most highly requested trainers and motivational speakers in the market. In the last few years he has worked in Spain, South Africa, Germany, Austria, France, Greece, Egypt, the Caribbean, Italy and Monaco. One motivational session in Greece led to a global company recording a 49% growth in sales within their next 12

(L)-(R) Claire Fenner, Co-Founder, Heels & Deals; Rahul Dhadphale, Regional Director, London Business School, Middle East; Abdulmuttalib Al Hashimi, Managing Director, Next Level, enjoy an animated conversation

Dave Crane: This question is for Majed Al Suwaidi. Majed, from the Dubai Internet City (DIC), the last two years have seen a real change. Some companies are growing and some companies are going out of business. What have you taken as the current climate and what feedback are you getting from business people currently in the market? Majed Al Suwaidi: Well the first thing I would like to say is that there were not as many companies closing down as expected. The economic downturn did not reflect on the companies here as badly as we all first thought it would. In fact, by the end of this year, we expect to surpass the number of companies that registered with us last year and the year before. There has been some economic growth this year and a trend is quickly emerging where there are many new SMEs that are starting up for the first time, where there are more and more business people leaving structured jobs to try and start a business of their own. Even with the downturn of the past few years there are still people who are confident in the region’s ability to offer their business growth potential and see Dubai and the UAE as a place that can give them the best possible start.

Dave Crane: There are a number of opportunities that exist in the current economic climate. Right now there is huge potential for people who have got their act together. What would you say are the opportunities in a downturn for people to expand their business? Richard Jones: I personally think it’s as good a time as any to be an entrepreneur, partly because it opens up space in whatever market you want to be in – the space which the bigger companies have occupied and dominated in better times. Usually there is a period of retreat for the bigger companies. So, effectively, a recession can provide a bit of a shake down in this sense. Consumers are now cautious about their spending and conscious JANUARY 2011




sMe adVIsOr suMMIt about value for money. Small companies that can be flexible with thought and can act quickly can move and occupy a niche or a market segment that would have been far more difficult in previous times. There is opportunity in recession and I think it’s about having a little bit of courage, access to funds and putting in the hard work to implement a solid business idea.

(L)-(R) Richard Jones, Managing Director, Coffee Planet and Prashant K. Gulati (PK), Serial Entrepreneur, CEO, Optimistix Ventures and President, TiE Dubai

Dave Crane: One thing that I recognise, when I talk to people and attend conferences is that people may have emotional intelligence and might be well educated but don’t know how to run a business until they are actually thrown into the centre of it. Rahul Dhadphale: What we are seeing in the changes in education is where the credible establishments are attempting to marry the theory with practicality. There is a lot more research being done into entrepreneurship and with SME development. This is important as traditionally there hasn’t been much research into entrepreneurial support. So business schools are attempting to fill this gap by educating potential entrepreneurs to understand the foundations of setting up and running a business. The role of marketing, the role of leadership, the role of finance and even the role of human resources and managing talent – these are skills that may have been normally taught in school that are now being addressed. Dave Crane: Many of the panellists here attend these entrepreneurial groups and conferences and discuss these practical business issues. PK, have you a practical checklist for what these businesses should be looking at? PK: Well, first of all a lot of businesses I see here haven’t done their homework. When you start a business a lot of things look easy. What I mean by homework is that it isn’t just about researching the idea, researching your target market and so on – you also need to look at people who have previously tried to set up similar businesses and to learn from their mistakes.

Dave Crane: One analogy I always use when telling people about business is to jump and grow wings on the way down. The next question is for Murali. What is the right cycle and when is the right time to approach a bank? What questions should business people be asking about the criteria and whether or not they can do business with a bank? Murali Subramanian: To get the timing right is very important. It’s when a business individual has thought an idea through and transfers an idea into a solid plan for a healthy cash flow enterprise. There is no perfect time to talk to banks but preferably things may move much faster if, as PK as pointed out, homework has been done in advance. When you have worked out your needs and can show a carefully thought out business plan then that’s a good time to talk to a bank.

Dave Crane: Claire, what would you say is the key thing to growing a network of people that are enthusiastic and committed to helping you grow your business?

Claire Fenner: In previous times there was this attitude of here is the product – do you want it or not? But now consumer have more choice 26



Moderator Dave Crane, Managing Director, The Life Designers and Majed Al Suwaidi, Director of Business Development, Dubai Internet City and Dubai Outsource Zone, pick an audience business card for the du Blackberry prize giveaway

and they want more value and they want more for the money they are spending. So it’s more important than ever that you now spend time building a good relationship with your customers and your clients and that business, as a brand, is authentic. With social media now businesses are becoming more and more transparent. If you are not living the core values of your business people will find out in a very short period of time and if you do not make yourself available and transparent to potential and existing customers your business will suffer.

Dave Crane: As Dubai is growing it is becoming a very diverse and multi-cultural society and this naturally has a ripple effect on businesses. Talib, would you like to elaborate on that issue for us. How is the situation with integration of both Emiratis and expatriates in the business community?

Abdulmuttalib Al Hashimi: When seeking an Emirati partner or sponsor try and find someone you know and who appreciates your ideas and your cultural background – where you are from, what motivates you and what you want from your business and try and build a rapport with that person. Like any partnership, there will be a period of testing the waters. We, as Emiratis, have a responsibility to try and engage not just our own community but the expatriate business community – we have to start attending conferences like this and try and interact and socialise on a more regular basis, be it for business purposes or simply to try and make the UAE a more culturally interactive and harmonious society. Manoj Nakra: The key skill is the adaptability of the entrepreneur with the business idea and the value proposition. We as an entity support you in that phase. So therefore execute a business idea to a model which is workable. It’s basically the quality of commitment that is very important and for this we are open to every resident of the UAE. We are prepared to support you in the period of incubation once you say the business model works, and help you to execute it as well. We get roughly100 hundred applications a month, and out of those 100 we will choose one to fund. So we set high hurdles and our process is rigid and in the end it requires time, money and patience on behalf of the entrepreneur.

Want to grow your business? Al Tamimi can help. Al Tamimi & Company knows what it means to be an SME because, like all businesses, we started out as one. Established in 1989, we are the largest law firm in the Middle East region today. We employ more than 360 staff, with offices throughout the UAE in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah as well as offices in Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. With specialization in the areas of Banking & Finance, Construction & Engineering, Corporate Commercial, Dispute Resolution, Family Business & Private Client Practice, Information Technology, Intellectual Property, Maritime, Aviation & Insurance, Media, Property, and Telecommunications, we understand the challenges faced by SME’s today so if you need a lawyer who can give you the best legal and business advice to help your business grow, we can help. For more information visit or contact our head office on +971 4 364 1641 Abu Dhabi
















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Business lifecycle and financing solutions


rom the outset Nilanjan made it clear to the summit that the differentiation must be made between a start up business and an SME as the two most certainly fall under different criteria when it comes to financing options because of what they Nilanjan Ray, Senior Vice President and Head SME Banking, are able to each bring Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank to the table. “When a business plan is presented and verified as workable then that is the point at which an idea moves from a start-up stage to one where it can be considered an SME and a bank will come forward with potential options. “At this time the need for working capital and customers starts to come in. But just as a business needs an initial plan it also needs an exit strategy drawn up. At this stage a bank will look for information particularly in two areas – information and enforceability.” As there has been much talk about the bank’s reluctance to lend to SMEs, Nilanjan went on to explain to the summit audience that in the UAE there is no one unified system to monitor a customer’s account – during the recessionary times some entrepreneurs operated with mala fide intentions and borrowed excessively from one bank and another. The result was that there were no checks and balances or organisation to pick up on these actions. As such banks have become much more resistant in their lending




“In this region it is not a matter of a liquidity problem – most of the banks have sustainable levels of liquidity to start lending. The lending isn’t happening, including to the SME segment, because of this information vacuum.” -Nilanjan Ray, Sr Vice President and Head, SME Banking, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank

to entrepreneurs – one bad loan decision affects the lending potential to ten other potential candidates. “In this region it is not a matter of a liquidity problem – most of the banks in this region have sustainable levels of liquidity to start lending. The lending isn’t happening, including to the SME segment, because of this information vacuum. Banks have not been able to find out, in advance, the position of their customers. And so the enforceability issue arises. In this jurisdiction there is no legal platform to seize physical goods or to take hold of stock in the case of defaulted payments to a bank. If there was a more airtight legal basis then banks would be more aggressive with their lending practices. As such, finance is not therefore reaching the places where it is most needed and is instead going to businesses that have a sustained and proven growth and are at a much later stage of their lifecycle.” He concluded that banks were working closely with government schemes, for example the MBRE scheme, whereby there will be credit guaranteed schemes that might start to fill in the gaps and kick-start the flow of financing. And, as new laws are introduced to define and govern SMEs, then banks would begin to open their doors more to offering finance to smaller and medium businesses. Nilanjan Ray currently heads the SME business in Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB). ADCB is the second largest bank in Abu Dhabi promoted by government owned entities. Prior to joining ADCB in October 2007, Nilanjan had worked in ICICI Bank, Bahrain as Vice President - Corporate & Commercial Banking.


The key to effective cash management in SMEs

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decision processes, shipping, timely invoicing, monthly statements of accounts and cash-discount policies. ash flow is the primary indicator of a Kamath went on to explain that business’ health. If handled properly your when it comes to the accounts payable company will be in top form but, likewise, department, adopting a not sold until poor management could lead to a serious slump, paid for attitude is a necessity, especially according to Morison Menon partner and CEO in the current market in which many Prabhakar Kamath. Speaking during last month’s customers have defaulted on payments. “Key to effective cash management in SMEs” Furthermore, the financial standings of module at the SME Advisor Summit, Kamath said existing customers should be reviewed, Prabhakar Kamath, Partner & CEO, Morison Menon many people confuse cash flow with profit. especially those who are increasing “The term refers to the movement of cash their order sizes, and it is also crucial in and out of a business. If managed well, the operating cash flow to manage the inventory well. Inventory turnover goals should be set always exceeds the net profit,” he asserted, adding that this may not and monitored, reorder levels and quantities should be set and policies be the case for start ups. The good news for those with good levels formed, the inventory should be verified periodically and inventory of operating cash flow is that bankers would typically be happy to aging must also be monitored. lend to you. So cash flow management is integral to the success of a “Maintain a good relationship with creditors or you won’t get good business and needs to be tracked, chased and captured. This is true credit returns,” he said. during periods of financial boom, but is perhaps even more essential For those who take Kamath’s advice and revamp poor cash-flow in a recession. management practices, the benefits are many, including better terms “Boom-time circumstances tend to allow for some errors, such with creditors and bankers, reduced dependence on financing and as extending credit to the wrong customers – errors that in the long attracting more customers with reputable finance departments. term could harm your business,” said Kamath. But what defines Kamath has more than 17 years experience in the region and good cash-flow management? He suggested that it is necessary to took up his current role as partner of Morison (UAE) Consulting, the have a team in place dedicated to managing a firm’s cash flow, with consulting entity of Morison Menon Group, in 2006. Kamath is also a focus on working capital. the CEO and partner of Morison Menon, based in Dubai International “An exemplary management team should achieve a good Financial Centre (DIFC). In addition, he manages an FII registered in cash-conversion period, which could be accelerated through the Mauritius, which invests in Indian equities, and he is a frequent speaker implementation or improvement of customer purchase and credit on various topics at local and international conferences.


having grown 30%, as companies started to realise the importance of maintaining relations with existing clients. To further illustrate this point, Reggie cited a study by Harvard Business School which demonstrated that a 5% increase in customer loyalty would result in a 25% increase in the hile many companies have been profitability of a business. In addition, it costs fiveto-six times more to acquire new customers than consumed with the challenges faced to retain existing ones and a mere 2% increase in during the downturn, perhaps a customer relations has the same effect as cutting more current concern is how businesses will costs by 10%. He also explained that the customer react to an impending upturn.“The companies profitability rate increases over the life of a retained that work smarter, harder and take action during customer. the tough times will escape the downturn much faster than others,” said Sage Software Director of “Yet, according to the American Society for Quality, 68% of customers change service providers Gulf Operations, Reggie Fernandes. because they are not satisfied with the firm’s But he advised companies the boom-time attitude,” he added. In comparison, only 14% of success formula would fail post-recession. Reggie Fernandes, Director – Gulf Operations, Sage Software customers were reported to leave a service provider “Today, many customers have less disposable due to dissatisfaction with a product. income, firms are operating with fewer resources and margins are tighter. Recession discounts are still the norm and He concluded that companies who split marketing investments customers negotiate, which affects the bottom line. Furthermore, evenly on acquiring new clients and retaining existing ones would be competition is higher and customers will shift their loyalties for smaller successful, as opposed to investing 80% on attaining new customers and incentives” observed Reggie. 20% on retention – the formula typically seen during the market boom In response to these challenges, he said firms must strike a balance and bust. between focusing on bringing in new clients and retaining existing In addition to his role as director of Gulf operations at Sage Middle customers. “Nine out of 10 customers will change suppliers if offered East, Reggie Fernandes founded the Accelerate out of the downturn the right initiative.” He claimed that Sage Software’s customerforum in the Middle East. A business graduate, he has more than 22 relation management (CRM) systems had soared over the past year, years’ experience in the SME sector.

The importance of retaining customers during turbulent times






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Infrastructure and technology from an ICT perspective


any companies have had to rethink their business strategy since the economic recession hit over two years ago. Budgets have been slashed and, so, value for money is something that is paramount in order for many enterprises to survive in the current market. “There are cash flow restrictions within every business and especially in SMEs. This has had a knock on effect and restricted spending on extensive and expensive technology and ICT services for many companies. People are taking a lot of time to carefully choose an operating model that can best serve their IT needs and is reasonably priced,” said John Lincoln, Vice President – Enterprise Marketing, du. Every SME knows that it takes quite a sizeable amount of their cash flow to purchase, operate and service their ICT needs. “For the first time we are seeing providers of ICT services offering the scale of protection and service you need at a price that is affordable for all. Even for the basic horizontal software many businesses have traditionally spent quite a large sum. The good news for SMEs is that there is more and more choice presenting itself. At an industry level, a four-way battle is underway, driven by major players seeking control of the enterprise spend. The advantage now is that there is a variety, with multiple models, and with flexible terms from providers. SMEs need to look for providers offering something specific for them – a tailor made system to meet their needs. Demand transparency and ask for complexity to be removed,” he said. John emphasised that SMEs should now be seeking a one stop




“SMEs need to look for providers offering something specific for them – a tailor made system to meet their needs. Demand transparency and ask for complexity to be removed.” - John Lincoln, Vice President – Enterprise Marketing, du

John Lincoln, Vice President – Enterprise Marketing, du

shop for their ICT needs – a provider should be sending out the message that they are easy to do business with and have a regular follow up service to their customers. “What is now happening in this current market is that it has become cheaper to transfer your service requirements to an outside provider than to manage the needs internally. With this the complexity of the ICT needs, which hindered a lot of SMEs in the past, has been removed. And of course one of the most important day-to-day advantages of managed services is the convenience for businesses.” With over 20 years experience in the USA, Japan, Europe, India, Dubai, Malaysia, Latin America and various others, John has extensive senior expertise in international telecommunications sales, marketing, business development and customer service delivery. He also has executive experience with general management, marketing, P&L, product development and revenue management responsibilities in both consumer and enterprise segments for both fixed and mobile sectors.


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Including your people in the planning phase

Business applications including cloud



alking about the need to bring it all back to basics with growth planning and employees, Debbie Nicol of business en motion, explained during this workshop that planning for growth requires a balance. The purpose of her talk was to provide some tips for leaders who have been brought out of their comfort zone by the changing business landscape. “This crazy world does need some big picture thinking and also requires some basics. There are three basics which everyone needs to bring into their daily operations. Adults fear judgement and in the changing world your workforce is adults – so the first tip for the basics of HR is to make sure your working environment is free of unfair judgement and ,instead, the judgement is going to be substituted with fair measurement that is already in place, communicated and agreed to with transparency and objectivity.” For her second tip Debbie talked about communication and the need to have effective communication within the workplace. “Communication cannot be one way. Leaders who make themselves too busy for questions or who haven’t got the ability to hear when questions come are not going to be effective leaders. Remember that we are living in uncertain times and people are worried about how things are going to work out so questions are something that need to be constantly asked and addressed. How we communicate, what we communicate and the methodology behind the communication are all factors that need to be considered carefully. There has to be time allowance for feedback either during or after this communication. Start with an overview and an end in mind and proceed from there.” Debbie’s third tip was on the concept of intuition and society’s dismissal of its importance. She singled this out as the greatest success factor for taking human resources forward in the future of our changing world. “The ability for people, leaders especially, to stop look listen and feel has never been so important. The intuition will kick in whenever you learn how to connect – whenever there is a level of connectivity then the answers will follow. It will give you the ability as leaders to know when to help your people without them having to tell you and also know when to leave them alone.” In conclusion to her module Debbie emphasised that change takes time and in the beginning creates resistance. It is the basics that will help move through the pain and resistance. Debbie’s career has been solely dedicated to embedding lifelong learning into organisational behaviour, enabling the people to be Debbie Nicol, Principal Consultant, business en motion business drivers.

here has been quite a lot of confusion around cloud computing and what exactly it is that it offers to all businesses, including the practical applications for SMEs. “On a practical note, for SMEs there is the cost effectiveness of cloud computing – it can be paid incrementally, saving in the long run. An organisation can add and Shuveb Hussain, Head of Cloud Computing, K7 subtract capacity as its network load dictates. Better yet, because cloud computing follows a utility model in which service costs are based on consumption, companies pay for only what they use. You can store more data than on a private computer system and there is the convenience of IT personnel no longer having to keep up-to-date with the latest and expensive software for their data storage,” said Shuveb Hussain, Head of Cloud Computing with K7. “Today companies are looking for services that provide what they need while giving them the convenience of and time to concentrate more on their business. Not only does cloud computing offer more flexibility than traditional methods, but also gives a business the luxury of letting their employees gain access to information while they are mobile as well as at their desks. So, essentially cloud computing is fast evolving from a futuristic technology into a commercially viable alternative for companies in search of a costeffective storage and server solutions,” said Shuveb. He noted that according to Gartner, a global technology research provider, by 2012, 80% of Fortune 1000 enterprises will pay for some cloud computing service, while 30% of them will pay for cloud computing infrastructure. “Without the need to purchase hardware, software licences or implementation services, a company can get its cloud-computing arrangement off the ground in record time – and for a fraction of the cost of an on-premise solution.” “Probably the greatest concern for businesses is the notion of cloud computing and its attendant security risks. What a lot companies fail to understand, however, is that many vendors rely on strict privacy policies, as well on sophisticated security measures, such as proven cryptographic methods to authenticate users. What’s more, companies can choose to encrypt data before even storing it on a third-party provider’s servers. As a result, many cloud-computing vendors offer greater data security and confidentiality than companies that choose to store their data in house,” he said. Shuveb heads the Cloud Computing and Virtualisation division at K7 Computing, known as K7 Cloud Solutions. At K7 Cloud Solutions, Shuveb heads the development of the next generation of cloud computing products that cloud-enable hosting providers and data centres. Shuveb has nearly a decade of experience in the IT Industry, having previously worked for companies like Novatium, Aricent and Naturesoft before co-founding Binary Karma. His work experience has taken him from embedded systems to networking and to enterprise IT management systems. JANUARY 2011




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Abdulmuttalib (Talib) Al Hashimi, Managing Director, Next Level Management Consultancy

Tranzeet lounge: An Emirati perspective


alib opened his module with a simple description of an orange and the need to look beyond the outer layer – and in this context emphasised that first impressions based on appearances and continued misconceptions through prejudice are factors all too common in this region. “What you see is not really always who the person really is. For you to judge a person based on the region they come from or the nationality they are and to assume that this will automatically determine how a person should be is not right.” Talib is a subject matter expert on Emiratisation and has built solid




“It’s the accumulation of habits and attitudes that perpetuates the growing divides so it is vital to tackle these issues at an early stage.” - Abdulmuttalib (Talib) Al Hashimi, Managing Director, Next Level Management Consultancy

understanding around the issue using the metaphor of an airport transit lounge. “Tranzeet Lounge is really my version of an ideal of society in this region. You see the workplace nowadays is in danger of turning into a transit lounge in an airport. You have thousands of people going their own way and minding their own business. Two people might sit down and share a table as they eat something but those two people might not even talk to each other – everyone is coming and going, doing their own thing and not really ever communicating or properly interacting,” he said. Undoubtedly a talking point in this region for many years has been the need for continued multi-cultural integration and better working relations between the Emirati and expatriate communities.“For me the ideal version of a workplace should have two main criteria that need to be satisfied; firstly, that workplace should be locally relevant. You want local customers to relate to it. The second criteria should focus on fostering multi-cultural integration in the workplace. I believe this to be important for two main reasons – we have 204 nationalities in the UAE, making us one of the most diversified


sMe adVIsOr suMMIt countries in the world. It is to the employer’s benefit that he or she be proactive in aiding a sustainable integration in the workplace. “The UAE is trying to make its economy one of the most competitive in the world. In order for this to happen there has to be creativity in the businesses and organisations here. A multi-cultural team can provide this creativity. To ignore this integration and the need to communicate can lead to growing cases of bullying and so on. It’s the accumulation of habits and attitudes that perpetuates the growing divides so it is vital to tackle these issues at an early stage.” Addressing the issue of Emirati employment within the private sector, Talib did explain that there are issues both sides need to work on and offered insights into the reluctance of the Emirati community to move away from public sector employment. “I think that the real reasons can be found from cultural motivations or

derived from attitudes and habits. There are various reasons listed as to why Emiratis do not work in the private sector – the reasons often quoted are extensions and results from accumulated misconceived ideals that have been engraved in our society. When I made the transition into becoming an entrepreneur, I was asked quite regularly if I was sure about it. The peer pressure was so great for me to remain in the public sector where security was almost guaranteed,” he said. Al Hashimi is an Emirati entrepreneur, Emiratisation expert, co-founder and Managing Director of Next Level Management Consultancy, an Emiratisation consultancy firm. Al Hashimi holds over 12 years of private sector experience, both as an employee and employer. He is also a member of the advisory board of AIESEC, the international youth empowerment and leadership platform, and is a regular participant in their events where he has been actively coaching young graduates.

Working in a multicultural business environment


azel Jackson centred her module on the idea of business culture and the need to prioritise this above all considerations if a company is to grow and maintain its strength. “You have to create a culture that is both sensitive to diversity and that is relevant and realistic. Regardless of the size of your organisation, the core culture must have a clear definition from the outset. Diversity, building trust and knocking down stereotypes is important, but you as a business owner must define the culture you want. “You then find people who not only meet your competence but meet your cultural requirements. So it doesn’t matter what nationality the person might be, whether they are an Emirati or an expatriate – if they don’t fit into what you want for your company then it’s not going to work. People are often very sensitive to hiring a range of nationalities in order not to seem prejudiced. You as business owners must remain true to yourself and your business – if the person’s values, ideals and practices don’t fit then they don’t fit regardless of nationality. Only when you have the right people sitting down in the right seats on the bus can you decide where you are going,” she said. Hazel discussed briefly the differences in doing business in the region. As there are so many different nationalities, business ideas from all over the world are brought together in one place. She noted that there are

Hazel Jackson, CEO, The biz Group

“You must remain true to yourself and your business – if the person’s values, ideals and practices don’t fit then they don’t fit regardless of nationality. Only when you have the right people sitting down in the right seats on the bus can you decide where you are going.” - Hazel Jackson, CEO, The biz Group


advantages and disadvantages but, of course, all depending on what angle it is observed from. “What is different about doing business here in Dubai? Firstly I think in the private sector versus the public sector the pace of life seems to be very fast. The late nights, the weekend work and the last minute requests and deadlines – it doesn’t matter what time of day it is. “All these things add towards a faster pace. The speed at which you have to try and do everything can be quite intensive. But on the flip side you often are dealing with such a variety of different nationalities that it can prove more rewarding financially, socially and professionally – it certainly makes for more interesting conversation in a room where there might be 16 different nationalities. I think that SMEs in this region go through so much in order to set up and maintain the business that it really is difficult to find the sort of experience that you have here.” Hazel Jackson is the co-founder and Chief Executive of the bizgroup, a UAE-based business consulting firm consisting of companies specialising in corporate training, teambuilding and business strategy. SME ADVISOR MIDDLE EAST



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Picture this


Totally engrossed audience members during a breakout session



Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all about the networking


The registrations desk was busy from the word go


The coffee breaks were just as intense and animated as the rest of the sessions



Our moderator Dave Crane kept the audience members on their toes. Check out the live Twitter feed behind him, so attendees could post questions and comments for all to see


Our Tranzeet Lounge columnist and multicultural business expert Abdulmuttalib Al Hashimi charmed the attendees with his candour and warmth

6 Keynote speaker Jeff Leach, Co-founder of N_K_DPizza, peppered his talk with numerous amusing anecdotes



Now thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what we call a power lunch!

Hazel Jackson, CEO, The biz group, in an animated conversation with attendees


Nilanjan Ray, Sr. Vice President Head, SME Banking, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, provides one-on-one consulting on banking issues

one-on-one consultation sessions were 11 Our a big hit. Here Mita Srinivasan, Director, Market Buzz International, advises an attendee on social media. JANUARY 2011



BusIness guru custoMeR eXPeRIence


the eXPeRIence Is the PRoPosItIon A CUSTOMER vALUE PROPOSITION HAS TO BE vIEWED IN THE TOTALITY OF THE CUSTOMER ExPERIENCE. IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT HOW GREAT THE PRODUCT IS, NOR HOW MUCH vALUE FOR MONEY IT OFFERS, OR HOW IT IS PROMOTED, OR THROUGH WHICH CHANNELS IT WILL BE SOLD, SAYS JOHN LINCOLN, vICE-PRESIDENT-ENTERPRISE MARKETING, DU. Entrepreneurs, marketers and businesses talk about the customer value proposition. It is often meant to describe how the core product or service is designed to be used by the customer. This is a fallacy and it ignores the need for a totality of experience approach that is required by any business offering any proposition in a competitive environment.

A fantastic personal experience Anyone who owns an Apple product knows the superiority of its usability or the product proposition. Have you ever wondered about the totality of the proposition experience? That’s what I recently experienced. At the end of December 2010, I made my customary trip to Northern California to spend the Christmas holidays with my family. As it often happens, I was once again requested



by a colleague to pick up an Apple product – in this case a MacBook Pro for her son. I went into an Apple store in Walnut Creek in Northern California and was greeted very pleasantly by all the sales associates who made eye contact with me. Mind you, this is not the first time that I have walked into an Apple store; I have been there many times to get the iPads, iPods, Macs and all that expensive stuff that has the potential to drastically diminish one’s disposable income in a matter of minutes. My focus normally would have been to get the best deal or the best value for money. But this time I was specifically requested to get a particular model for which I expected to be fully reimbursed by my colleague. So with no money worries, I focused my full attention and keenly observed the store, its people, surroundings, service and types of customers. JANUARY 2011

I assured her that three minutes was not a delay at all. Imagine my surprise when I was handed the box roughly two minutes ahead of the promised three minutes! What an amazing experience – a classic case of under promising and over delivering

Under promised and over delivered For starters, I felt the shop was conspicuously located in downtown Walnut Creek. It seems to be a universal trait for Apple stores to be so strategically located. I have been to their stores in Tokyo, London, San Francisco, San Jose and others. My other observation was that the store was enticing and welcoming. Even if you had not planned to buy anything from Apple, passing through the street where the store was located would have drawn you in. The store was brightly lit and all the electronic gadgets were well placed with enough space for someone to walk around. The prices, model numbers and specifications were clearly displayed. Although that particular store in Walnut Creek appeared to be busy, I got the sense that I would get immediate attention and service as the number of sales associates on hand seemed more than adequate. I was approached by a young lady who introduced herself as Raven. She had a very bright and pleasant personality about her. She was courteous, professional and extremely knowledgeable. Since I knew exactly what I wanted, she did not hassle me with a lot of up-selling and cross selling tactics that you would experience in other stores. She had what seemed to be a mobile gadget (an iPod touch) through which she placed my order and transacted the payment. She inquired if I wanted a receipt and that she could offer it by e-mail as well as hand me a hard copy. She showed

BusIness guru my e-mail address which was already stored in the system (based on my previous purchases) and rechecked with me to confirm if she had the correct address. After about two minutes or so after the order was placed, she logged on to a desktop system (which, of course, was a Mac) and confidently announced that the box would be delivered to me in about another three minutes. She explained that the stock was coming from upstairs hence the delay. I assured her that three minutes was not a delay at all. Imagine my surprise when I was handed the box roughly two minutes ahead of the promised three minutes! What an amazing experience – a classic case of under promising and over delivering. Just imagine that. My colleague’s son was fully aware of the product and the model, my colleague and her son thought that it offered the best value for money. I walked into one of its store and picked up the merchandise and had one of the best shopping experiences that I ever had (and I hate shopping)! Just imagine the totality of experience that Apple has designed for its customers. It is not just the technological superiority of its cool gadgets, but rather a perfect endto-end experience.

So what is the customer value proposition? The customer value proposition is the totality of the end-to-end experience of the offer. This is a framework that entrepreneurs should seriously consider. They have to think of the proposition experience in terms of the customer lifecycle. The key experience design elements of the customer lifecycle should include the different phases from the time the customers gets to know of your product or service to the time the customer leaves you. Here’s a quick checklist for each stage.

Getting to know How do you make the proposition known to your potential customers? How do your messages and

John Lincoln, Vice-PresidentEnterprise Marketing, du,

ABOUT: John Lincoln has over 20 years telecommunications experience in the USA, Japan, Europe, India, Dubai, Malaysia, Latin America and various other countries. He has extensive senior expertise in international telecommunications sales, marketing, business development and customer service delivery. John also has executive experience with general management, marketing, P&L, product development and revenue management responsibilities in both consumer and enterprise segments for both the fixed and mobile sectors. In addition John has an impressive operational and management portfolio of established proven expertise in incremental business value creation and management of large multi-cultural teams in Vodafone Global in the UK, Japan Telecom in Tokyo, AirTouch and Pacific Bell (now AT&T) in San Francisco and Tokyo, Airtel in Delhi and other telecom and technology companies. Additionally he has extensive large scale business development, M&A and operational project experience across the USA, Europe, Asia and Latin America. John has an MBA and MS in Telecommunications from the Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California, USA. You can find John’s personal blog at

advertisements look like to the customer? What is the visual experience that the target customers will experience? Are your messages friendly, easy to understand and differentiating from your competitors? How do you make sure that customers will only receive a call if the proposition or service is appropriate for them? How will you make sure that you make the call to your customers only during appropriate times? How do you make sure that your agents can explain the benefits of your proposition, the relevant specifications and options available and if it is suitable for your customers?

Purchasing What is the buying experience in the store, through a Website or a call centre? Are the processes simple, clear, nonbureaucratic and easy to understand? What is the delivery time period? Is it complicated? Is there a long wait? Are the prices transparent, predictable and honest? Are your front line staff fully trained to explain and make the buying process easy? Do your customers have easy access to a sales channel to purchase the proposition? How do you make sure that the order capture process takes less time using a single form which can capture all options and scenarios? How do you get your customers to sign a single contract with a single set of terms and conditions for the whole set of services? How do you make sure that once the customer has completed the purchase, your sales agent goes through a checklist of information to set your customer’s expectations on the next steps? How do you make sure that your customer knows where he or she can go to get information about the status of their order once it is placed? Activating or enabling the service How can the customer start to use the service? JANUARY 2011

Is the signing on process simple? How do you make sure to inform the customer if there is any change to the customer’s appointment date?

Using Is the proposition easy to use? Is it complicated and cumbersome? Is it confusing? Is it easy for your sales and service staff to explain? How will you make sure that the activation process will feel like your customer is receiving a single product, rather than a group of separate products stitched together? How will you welcome the customer once the service is activated or enabled? Billing Are the invoices easy to understand? Are the bills delivered promptly? How will you make sure that you give the customer a choice of billing options? Payment How will you make sure that your customers have a choice of local or easily accessible payment channels? How will you give confirmation to your customers when their payment is received and when it is allocated to their account? Contacting How will you make sure that your customers are able to reach you? Leaving How can a customer leave your service and get refunds and final bills?

Seize the opportunity This might be a tremendous opportunity for you to differentiate in your space as most small (and some large) businesses try to limit the allocation of resources to this important aspect of business. Planning and thinking through seriously the end-to-end experience of your customers is part of the winning formula. In the end this will pay off handsomely and you will not only delight your customers but also be laughing your way to the bank. SME ADVISOR MIDDLE EAST




If youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got it, flaunt it Small or start-up companies need to ensure that their target market is fully informed of their merits. This is even more important when exporting to foreign markets where the product or service is competing with domestic as well as established international suppliers, says Dr. Ashraf Mahate, Head of Export Market Intelligence at Dubai Exports (formerly known as the Dubai Export Development Corporation), and Vice Chair of the Economic Policy Committee, Dubai Economic Department.




It is often the case that small or start-up firms are established by former employees of large companies who have identified a cheaper method of producing a good or service, or one that is more efficient or effective in its use. As such one would naturally assume that customers would fall over themselves to purchase these products and services rather than those of their larger competitors. So the obvious question is why this not usually the case despite the superior product or service produced by small or start-up firms?

Communicate The simple answer to this question is that current customers are not reminded of the value add that they have received from the


purchase and potential customers are not informed of the merits of the product or service in question. Therefore, the small or start-up company needs to ensure that their target market is fully informed. This is more so the case when exporting to foreign markets where they compete with domestic as well as other international suppliers. In such a crowded market SMEs need to ensure that consumers are able to identify their product or service with relative ease. In reality this type of communication need not mean that a company has to spend vast sums of money on advertising and marketing activities. In fact, in most cases all it takes is for the company to use cheap but innovative communication techniques. Before developing the communication techniques a small or start-up company needs to evaluate its product or service against those of its competitors to ensure that there is a real distinction or value that that can be promoted.

Do your homework In the case of foreign markets the firm may need to visit the country either through an official trade mission or a private visit. Trade missions tend to be organised by export promotion agencies such as Dubai Exports (formerly known as Dubai Export Development Corporation) in the case of Dubai. Private visits can be arranged independently or through the numerous export consultants. The main aim of these visits is to understand the products or services offered by competitors, the marketing and distribution channels, communication methods, pricing strategies used, and so on.

Be different When communicating with customers it is always dangerous if not suicidal to have a “false boast”

as the customers will know soon enough and so will the competitors. Once the truth is realised then the company will lose credibility in the market, which it may never regain. It is far better for a company to identify or even develop areas of differentiation than to adopt false or non-existent ones. One area where a small or start-up company can create differentiation is in the payment terms that it offers its customers. Large companies with their higher fixed costs may not be able to offer flexible payment terms. A good example of this was the case of a small wood supply company in the USA which enjoyed little competition, if any, until a large national chain opened a branch less than 20 miles away. The small wood supply company could not compete on price against the large national chain due to its purchasing power. More importantly, the small wood supply company could not compete on the product differences because at the end of the day a plank of oak (or any other wood) from one supplier is the same as that from another. Through providing flexible payment terms to small contractors who often tend to lack working capital, the small company was able to maintain its prices and retain the bulk of its business. However, this strategy was only successful because the company was able to use word of mouth to inform contractors of its flexible payment terms. In foreign markets the company can secure its accounts receivable through export credit insurance. In the UAE this is provided through the Export Credit Insurance Company of the Emirates.

In a crowded market SMEs need to ensure that consumers are able to identify their product or service with relative ease. In reality this type of communication need not mean that a company has to spend vast sums of money on advertising and marketing activities

on their brand image. Various consumer surveys and studies show that customers positively view guarantees as it removes the risk of making a purchase. Hence guarantee terms usually tend to be a deal clincher. However, the same studies show that few firms actually emphasise, or in some cases even fail to state the guarantee that the product or services come with, in the false belief that customers may already be aware of this value add. Even if customers may be aware of such a value add it is important to remind them. This is more so the case at the point or time of sale when customers are evaluating between different products and services. There are countless examples of retailers who have become very successful on the single aspect of their “money back guarantee”. The most cited example here is Marks & Spencer, the UK retailer which started life as a small market stall and grew largely on this simple concept. However, it was the company’s ability to communicate this aspect to its customers that allowed it to grow and gain new customers. Do keep in mind that in foreign markets, companies need to ensure that they comply with country’s rules and regulations regarding guarantees and their promotion on the good as well as the location of sale.

Know your customer Creating a difference in the mind of the buyer is all about knowing what they desire. In other words it is of little use to communicate a message that the customer has little concern or regard for. Therefore, a small or start-up company needs to know what is important to the person making the buying decision. Focus group sessions are a very important means to understand why consumers buy a particular product. These sessions also allow a company to understand what induces

Highlight deal clinchers It is often the case that small companies are far more eager to build a customer base and hence offer guarantee terms which are far more generous than larger companies who can ride JANUARY 2011




customers to buy the products of its competitors and arrive at a list of purchase drivers which allow it to develop its communication message and method.

Dare to compare More often than not, communication messages which can be backed up with measurable factors tend to be the most effective. An example of this is the case of an orange juice producer who stated that its product had twice the natural content compared to its nearest competitor. Such measurements allow the buyer to make easy and direct comparisons between different products. Also, the fact that the consumer has the information readily available at the time of purchase implies that they are able to make informed decisions in favour of the smaller company. In some countries companies may need to follow certain guidelines or regulations when making claims regarding their product or service.

Spruce up the service and delivery In some cases it is very difficult if not impossible to differentiate the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s product from those of its competitors. In such circumstances competitive advantage and differentiation can be obtained in the delivery process. Smaller companies tend to have far better local knowledge of their customer base than their larger competitors and are able to excel on delivery times as well as service. However, very few small companies actually boast their ability in this area even though studies show that customers not only value service highly but they also have low tolerance for late delivery. There is evidence to suggest that companies who boast their delivery times and service levels tend to have higher sales than those that do not. The danger with boasting delivery times and service levels is that it gives the customer a yardstick by



Dr. Ashraf Ali Mahate, Head of Export Market Intelligence, Dubai Exports Development Corporation

which to measure the performance. In other words, if a company states that they will deliver a pizza in ten minutes and does so the consumer considers it to be normal and expected. However, if the company delivers the pizza in, say, 15 minutes instead of the promised ten minutes then the customer has a far greater negative experience and impression compared to a company that did not make such a promise but took exactly the same time to deliver the pizza. Therefore, it is important that if a company makes a promise it is able to keep to it or compensate the customer. Although, delivery is an important differentiating factor, companies need to be aware that logistics and customs procedures may differ significantly from their own country. Therefore, before making such a claim the company needs to appreciate the â&#x20AC;&#x153;on the groundâ&#x20AC;? delivery time which takes into account local factors and hurdles.

Tell them about the free training Smaller companies tend to have owners who are able to offer low cost or even free training to their customers which larger firms with their higher costs cannot always match. Training allows smaller companies to showcase their product or service to existing and potential customers and hence reinforce the value add aspects. At the same time training allows smaller companies to obtain insights JANUARY 2011

It is far better for a company to identify or even develop areas of differentiation than to adopt false or nonexistent ones. One area where a small company can create differentiation is in the payment terms it offers

into how their customers intend to use their offerings. From a customer perspective, free training reduces the cost of purchase and ensures that the purchase will lead to immediate returns for the buyer. More often than not, sellers may not fully value the importance of training and hence not use it in their sales communication. The bottom line is that if companies are able to boast their product or service features not only will they retain as well as increase their customer base but also develop their brand image. The brand of a product or service depends largely on its features and value add and not just advertising. In the long run companies that communicate more effectively with their customers will tend to have their loyalty and goodwill. This is more important for small and start-up companies who do not have the large advertising and marketing budgets of their larger competitors.

ABOUT: Dr. Ashraf Mahate is the Head of Export Market Intelligence at Dubai Exports (formerly known as the Dubai Export Development Corporation), which is an agency of the Dubai Economic Department. Dr. Mahate is also the Vice Chair of the Economic Policy Committee with the Dubai Economic Department. He has written a number of journal articles, chapters in books and edited books in the areas of economics, finance and banking. He has also presented papers at major international conferences. Dr. Mahate has provided extensive consultancy services to various organisations in the areas of banking, economics and finance. He has been a director of a number of companies including a venture capital company and a private equity fund. Dr. Mahate received his doctorate from Cass City University Business School in London (UK) which was ranked by the Financial Times newspaper as the 12th best university in the world for finance. He read Economics at University College London, followed by a Masters in International Economics and Banking at the University of Wales in Cardiff. Dr. Mahate is a professional educator and received his training at the Institute of Education (University of London). He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Managers (UK) and a Member of the Institute of Commercial Management (UK). He is also a member of the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS).


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InsuranCe RIsk ManageMent <<<

PRoceeD wIth cautIon


Trying to completely eliminate risk from your business is unrealistic and can be prohibitively expensive or cause you to institute policies that may be so risk averse that your business never grows. When many business owners think about “risk management” it’s usually limited to purchasing standard insurance protection



without much consideration for other ways to protect the business. Risk management can be very complex, but it doesn’t have to be at first. Get started with a simple, easy to follow plan for managing and mitigating business risks and if needed expand from there. Take these steps to put an initial risk management plan into place at your company: JANUARY 2011


Having a good grasp of risk management for your business will also be important if you plan to raise capital from investors. It is essential for getting them comfortable with the investment opportunity. Reckless leaders take reckless risks; prudent leaders take calculated risks

Identify risks Some risks are common to most or all businesses. Others are very specific to your business and only you as the owner can know them. The best way to approach this is to use a standard risks checklist as a start and then add to it based on your specific expertise. Any business owner who wants one can e-mail me and I will be happy to send one that addresses potential risks. Some initial risks to think about are: Property losses – typically occur from physical damage, loss of use and/or criminal activity. Business interruption losses – occurs if your business stops selling for some reason (say because of a fire). In addition to the property losses incurred, the company would not be able to produce goods and sell them. This “interruption in your business activities” can be protected. Liability losses – refer to legal liability for damages or injury caused to others by your company. Key person losses – refer to the costs associated with an important employee or owner becoming sick, disabled or dying. The impact of a key person loss on a small business can be catastrophic. Injury to employees – refers to the costs associated with an employee becoming injured while at work.


Determine your company’s vulnerability for each risk Vulnerability is a function of probability – what are the odds that a particular risk will materialise and cost – and how much does your company stand to lose as a result. The goal of this step is to quantify which risks are worth worrying about and which


ones aren’t. For the ones that are worth worrying about, the question becomes how affordable is it to protect your company against that risk. If a particular risk has a low probability of occurring and if it did it would cost your company a maximum of $50,000 in losses but it will cost $45,000 to protect against this risk, it may not be a good use of resources to protect against it.


Prepare contingency plans Contingency planning goes beyond just buying insurance, although this is very important. There are many ways to manage risks, including: Implementing policies that value employee safety over speed Installing a security system to guard against property losses Avoiding transactions with dubious potential customers Training high potential managers on the roles and responsibilities of their superiors to protect against key person losses An effective risk management plan is comprehensive and creative; it goes beyond insurance.


Acquire the right types of insurance Insurance, however, should not be forgotten or minimised. It is a central part of risk management. The key types of insurance are: General liability insurance – This covers expenses related to legal liability for injury to a third party. It typically covers property damage, bodily injury, medical expenses and the cost of hiring legal counsel to defend your company. Product liability insurance – Covers expenses related to legal liability for injury or damage caused by a defective product. If your company manufactures, distributes or sells products at retail then it would be wise to obtain product liability insurance. Professional liability insurance

Entrepreneurs are living the dream, but are they happy?

There is a saying; youth is wasted on the young. Risks early in one’s career tend to have much more upside potential than downside. If one tries something of greater risk and it does not work out, there’s time to go back to a safer and more conservative path

1. People who risk things earlier are happier. There is a saying; youth is wasted on the young. Risks early in one’s career tend to have much more upside potential than downside. If one tries something of greater risk and it does not work out, there’s time to go back to a safer and more conservative path. 2. People who live their lives through experiences are happiest. According to The New York Times, doers, not talkers, come out on top. Meaningful experiences, such as travelling and spending time with friends, create nostalgic happiness that lingers. 3. Keep close relationships. Entrepreneurs have no free-tim e, but they need to make time for friends if they want to be happy. In our professional careers, we think about relationships for their business networking value, but relationships give us something much more than connec tions to facilitate business; they can actually be the biggest drivers of a positive and healthy lifestyle. The leading health experts of our day emphasise this need. 4. Never stop learning. Intellectual curiosity and a desire to stay relevant are hallmarks of happier people. Success comes from you knowing who you are and what your values are, and from being able to recognise success because you’d already defined it for yourself in the first place. Diving into an endeavour without those fundamentals is a pretty sure recipe for making sure you never accomplish the thing that it turns out you wanted. But there is a difference between being foolhardy (like jumping off a cliff with a tent strapped to your back!) and taking sensible calculated risks, tempered with a “back up” (or insurance) if things do not go to plan.

Greg Pogonowski, Independent financial advisor

– Similar to product liability insurance, but for services instead of products. This protects against malpractice, errors and negligence. It is sometimes referred to as “errors and omissions” insurance. Commercial property insurance – Covers the loss of and damage to business property. Property losses and business interruption losses discussed in the first step are typically covered by commercial property insurance.


Monitor and adapt as needed Risk management plans should be reviewed and updated regularly. Taking a few days every six months with your financial JANUARY 2011

adviser to review and update them for the current conditions of your business is a wise investment. This review meeting should also include the owners, department heads and (if warranted) a risk management consultant. Many times insurance companies – with an eye on reducing payouts on claims – provide hands-on advice on mitigating new risks as they come along. This is where your adviser will prove themselves. During the update period it would be a good time to reach out to them as well. Having a good grasp of risk management for your business will also be important if you plan to raise capital from investors. It is essential for getting them comfortable with the investment opportunity. Reckless leaders take reckless risks; prudent leaders take calculated risks. Risk management is the “calculator”.

ABOUT: Greg Pogonowski – DipPFS, MAQ, CertCII(MP), MDRT, is an independent financial advisor with over 26 years experience in the Financial Services profession and works with Pinnacle Asset & Wealth Management. He can be contacted by email at: or telephone: 050 8769035.



Business growth 2011 <<<

Go for growth The beginning of a new year is a good time to look back, to reflect on what was achieved over the past year, which challenges were faced and how they were dealt with. But it is also an opportune time to look ahead, consider where you want your business to be in six months, a year, five years down the line, advises Amanda Line, Regional Director, ICAEW Middle East.

Research suggests that growth and globalisation are likely to be two key words for 2011. Gulf businesses are among the world’s most optimistic




about and positive towards both. According to ICAEW’s latest Global Enterprise Survey, the vast majority of businesses surveyed in the region are planning to grow in the next two years. A

large percentage is also hoping that some of this growth will come from other markets.

Growth in the region Businesses’ ambitious growth plans correspond with growth projections for the region as a whole. The International Monetary Fund’s latest forecast suggests that GDP growth in the UAE, for example, will increase from being negative in 2009 to 3.2% in 2011. Egypt is predicted GDP growth by 5.5%, Qatar by 18.6% and Saudi Arabia by 4.5%. The average growth prediction for the region as a whole is 5.1%. Gulf businesses are also among the most positive globally about the impact increased globalisation

BusIness grOWtH

will have on their business. While growth and globalisation will undoubtedly bring challenges, businesses in the region also see plenty of opportunities.

Last year’s challenges 2010 was a tough year for many businesses – small and large, both in the Gulf and in many other countries around the globe. One of the challenges very many Gulf businesses had to face last year was accessing finance. As many as 51% of the businesses surveyed in the ICAEW Global Enterprise Survey said that their competitiveness had been adversely impacted by changes in access to finance. Other factors posing challenges included changes in interest rates, raw material costs and exchange rate moves. However, what posed challenges to some businesses provided opportunities for others.

Challenges ahead Looking ahead, businesses expect some of these challenges to fade. More than a quarter of businesses suggested that changes in access to finance would have a positive impact on their business in the coming year. Nevertheless, access to finance will always be a key issue for most businesses, especially those with ambitious growth plans. Success will often hinge on your ability to secure finance. Ensuring you remove as many barriers as possible to getting your hand on the cash when needed will therefore always be an important task for any growing business. It is important to keep your house in order – not only when you prepare to speak to financiers. Being as transparent as possible with potential lenders or investors, whether they are

banks, venture capitalists or family, and providing as much and as high-quality financial information as possible can help you a long way along.

Going global Many businesses in the Gulf are keen to spread their wings; as many as 70% of the Gulf businesses questioned for the Global Enterprise Survey have plans to expand into or increase their market share in other countries in the next couple of years. While the sample included larger businesses as well, there are many smaller businesses looking to capitalise on the great geographical position the Gulf has by looking at markets outside their home country. That brings us back to finance again. Expanding into other markets is likely to require finance but there are also many other challenges to get to grips with. Entering a new market successfully requires knowledge of key issues, an understanding of the appetite for your offerings as well as familiarity with the cultural “rules” in these markets. It is critical to do your homework properly so you are as wellequipped as possible.

New year, new opportunities A new year is always a good time to put the thinking cap on for a bit, revisit your business plan and strategy, and carefully and critically considering whether your plans are current and relevant. There are a lot of questions worth asking yourself, including: Do you have the right resources to deal with the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead? Does your staff have the right skills to help your business

achieve its goals? Are there lessons learnt by other businesses that you can learn from? Are the products and services your business offers Amanda Line, Regional Director, ICAEW Middle East still relevant in the market place, given the changes over the past couple of years? What are your competitors doing and how does it impact on you?

Success will often hinge on your ability Seek advice to secure If you are at a crossroads and finance. about to enter a territory you are Ensuring you not familiar or comfortable with, it is worth seeking professional remove as many barriers advice. Perhaps you need to talk a lawyer about business law as possible to to in one of the markets you are getting your considering expanding into? Do hand on the you need to speak to a financier about potential opportunities? cash when Could you benefit from asking needed will business advisors for help with therefore your financial management? always be an Meeting peers through formal important or informal networking events can also be of huge advantage task for any to your business. A lot of good growing information has been shared business. It over a cup of coffee, so give it is important a shot. to keep your Whatever your line and size of business – have a prosperous and house in exciting New Year! order ABOUT: Amanda Line was appointed as the Middle East Regional Director of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) in September 2009. The ICAEW provides leadership and practical support to over 132,000 members in more than 160 countries, working with governments, regulators and industry in order to ensure the highest standards are maintained.




ManageMent assuMPtIons



How many of your business decisions are made out of habit, because that’s how things have always been done and you are comfortable with it, or maybe due to notions you never thought to question? Let’s start with some soul searching. Ask yourself these tough questions: Why is it that we design our job structures and roles in a traditional way when our values and priorities may be completely different? Why is it that we are choosing to ignore our intuition in business? Why is it that we choose to use the same suppliers which we know, without going out to discover others? What could happen if we did change? Why are our business hours set as they are? What will be the outcome if we



choose to subject a customer to this process? Why do we choose to keep our office where it is? How does this office serve business needs? What might happen if we chose to question these practices? Perhaps we may discover more cultural alignment, convenience, customer delight or efficiency. Perhaps we would feel the fear of stepping beyond the known. Perhaps we would reconnect to a level of curiosity necessary to stimulate a new way of being in business. Just as a rough diamond needs friction before it sparkles, so too an organisation needs stimulus to emerge in a changing world. The very process of questioning assumptions takes us to the realm of alternative, providing us an opportunity to open our minds and challenge the way we think and act. Ultimately, by doing JANUARY 2011

so, this can ensure our energy is placed into proactively creating and driving our business desires rather than reactively managing any change we may now face. All it takes is the desire to ask the first question, and a willingness to “hear” the response. Business as it was may never be again, so what are you doing to ensure your place on the future business stage? Let’s look at a few examples.

Success story Diane, a team leader of an international logistics company chose to look at her customer databank


in ways never applied before. She classified and displayed customers in numerous and differing ways, discovering new and relevant relational information. For example, when she viewed her customer base according to revenues, and compared it to the analysis of ratios of profits and volumes, efficiencies entered the business development matrix. The analysis impacted activities of the business development, sales and operations teams. The yield was less “busy-ness” and much more “business” activity. The profits soared and the customer database became a strategic business enabler, all because one simple question was asked – what is it that I may learn if I choose to change the way I consider my databank.

Case in point The government of a developing country has established a staff programme based on length of service. Every three years, a promotion would be applied for most individuals. Wise leaders would recognise a symptom of a deeper cause when overhearing statements in the workplace such as “you are not paid to think”, facilitating time-based work practices and a culture of attendance to duties. What might happen if the way of work was challenged with some simple questions: What options exist to time-based systems? What would be the consequence of these options to a project’s completion? With just two basic questions, productivity, accountability and results-orientation could start eroding the issues of entitlement mindsets, whilst opening possibilities for competency and productivity. Sound familiar?

Inception When questioning assumptions, we are really looking to change the way we think and act both individually and collectively. Yet if we don’t know how to change the way we think and

act, the result may not be worth the investment of effort. Start with this.

Just as a rough diamond needs friction before it sparkles, so too an organisation needs stimulus to emerge in a changing world. The very process of questioning assumptions takes us to the realm of alternative, providing us an opportunity to open our minds and challenge the way we think and act

a. Consider the senior stakeholders What limitations are your leadership team surrounded with? For leaders to work this way, they need to be led this way themselves, be that by the senior stakeholder or their own selfleadership. People become what they are surrounded with and are the mirror image of you. Do your leaders have the entrepreneurial spirit to explore options and ask targeted questions, the social skills to engage in open and transparent discussions and a competency and interest to seek out change, to encourage journeys into previously unchartered frontiers? Are they able and willing to look out and bring in, recognising that external influences can balance an otherwise unbalanced inside-out approach. Effective senior stakeholders accept that the expertise of today no longer rests with just one individual. b. Consider introducing elements of a learning organisation A learning organisation is generally one which is stimulated by thought, diversity, risk, clear vision and by change. It will prioritise relationships and the sharing of tacit knowledge. It will forge relationships with competition as collaborators. It will partner with industry organisations and network regularly. It will ask before it tells. It will allow the building of meaning together, demonstrating that not only can the leaders offer guidance but so too those who face the customers every day. It will generally display a sense of fun and adventure, with a high curiosity level and a priority to a coaching leadership style. Questioning assumptions will be a core activity driving deep systemic change and transformation. c. Consider an external provocation Changing the way we think and act may require external influence from people and resources that are outside the realm of the norm. JANUARY 2011

Brownbag lunch gatherings that pose provocations, resources that provide alternatives, professional development techniques that stimulate discussion or networking with leaders from other industries can all provide stimulus for assumptions to be questioned.

Ask yourself To what degree are questions welcomed in your organisation? With whom and what mindsets do you surround yourself to enable and open a questioning environment? How do you personally respond when your leaders question you? How do you encourage more curiosity in your organisation?

Write in and share In no more than 100 words, showcase how the practice of questioning assumptions has reaped benefit to your organisation. The chosen response will be published in the magazine, and shall receive a copy of Debbie’s recently-released book Corporate Embers: business-promoting insights for the soul of the corporation. E-mail with the subject line “Assumption”.

ABOUT: Debbie Nicol, aka “the enablist”, principal consultant and owner of business en motion, assists organisations and leaders to move ahead through change. She works with organisational development, change management, corporate cultures and learning strategies. For more information, visit



Industry watch Security concerns <<<

Risky business

A new global study by Juniper Networks highlights the significant security gap as mobile devices shatter boundaries between personal and business use. The survey shows smartphone security concerns are running high, yet 81% admit sneaking onto employer networks without permission. In a global consumer study released recently, Juniper Networks found that four out of five people cite “level of security” as a top or high priority when buying or using smartphones and tablet computers – and more than half are anxious about losing their mobile devices, protecting their identities and protecting their families with parental controls. At the same time, nearly three out of four people surveyed use their mobile devices to share or access sensitive personal or business information. The research, commissioned by Juniper and conducted by KRC Research and Synovate with more than 6,000 smartphone and tablet users across 16 countries, reveals a blurring of the lines between the personal and business use of mobile devices and highlights the need for more stringent and better integrated mobile security. Almost 44% of the respondents use their devices for both personal and business purposes,



while fewer than 4% use them strictly for business. If business leaders think they can keep the devices at bay, 81% of the respondents admit using their devices to access their employer’s network without their employer’s knowledge or permission – and 58% do so every single day. “Smartphones and tablets have become the new onramp for information, applications and commerce – yet they are quickly becoming an onramp for security threats as well,” said Mark Bauhaus, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Service Layer Technologies Business Group at Juniper Networks. “Fortunately users are growing very aware of the security, identity and privacy issues involved. Now the industry needs to step up and make security an integrated part of the mobile experience, not an optional afterthought.”

Identity and privacy More than 58% of smartphone and tablet users surveyed fear JANUARY 2011

Almost 44% of the respondents use their devices for both personal and business purposes, while fewer than 4% use them strictly for business

losing their devices and not being able to recover the data and information on their device. A similar number (64%) are extremely or very concerned about the possibility of identity theft resulting from the use of their mobile device. It may come as no surprise then that 41% of the respondents say that the level of security is a “top priority” and 40% say it is a “high priority” when considering the purchase or use of a smartphone/tablet. Yet the study reveals that there is a gap between the level of security that users want and the amount of security they will manage themselves – only 24% of respondents frequently change the security settings on their

Industry watch

The study reveals that there is a gap between the level of security that users want and the amount of security they will manage themselves

mobile devices. 35% do so only when a need arises, 31% rarely or never change them and 9% are unfamiliar with the security settings on their mobile devices. Moreover, 14% of respondents say neither their smartphone nor their tablet is password protected.

Additional research findings More than 76% of consumers surveyed use their smartphones or tablets to access sensitive personal or business information, including: 51% to enter or modify passwords; 43% to access banking or credit card statements; 30% to access utility bills; 20% to share financial information such

as credit card numbers; 18% to access employer’s proprietary information; 17% to access medical records; and 16% to share social security numbers. Of the 16 countries surveyed, India (90%) showed the highest level of user concern for mobile security issues, followed by Brazil and Russia (88% each), Germany (86%) and China and Italy (both at 85%). Respondents in Hong Kong (70%), Belgium/ Netherlands (74%) and the US and Japan (77% each) were the least concerned by comparison. Business and personal use varied by region and country, with personal use dominating in Canada (72%), Japan (70%), France (67%) and most other countries. China, Russia and Brazil were the JANUARY 2011

leading exceptions with 75%, 65% and 61% combined business and personal use respectively – and Belgium/Netherlands reported the highest business-only use (12%). Responses varied even more widely on the question of accessing employer networks without the employer’s knowledge or permission. Smartphone/tablet users in the US were the most conservative, with only 52% admitting to unauthorised access. Brazil, Russia, Japan and Italy were the most aggressive, with 94%, 93%, 90% and 90% respectively admitting to unauthorised access. Password protection levels were fairly consistent across countries, with only 10% to 20% not having passwords – with the exception of US respondents, where 25% reported not being password protected, and India and Singapore where only 8% and 6% reported not being password protected. Concern levels about specific threats were also fairly consistent, with the exception of India and Brazil where concerns about phone/data loss (84% India, 75% Brazil), and identity theft (87% India, 82% Brazil) were well above the norm. Russia and Singapore were also well above the norm for phone/ data loss (68% Russia, 79% Singapore) and identity theft (82% each). Respondents in the US were among the least concerned – only 43% for phone/data loss and 46% for identity theft. Belgium/Netherlands was less concerned on phone/data loss, with only 41%. The survey was conducted via global omnibus surveys by phone and on-line during October 2010 with more than 6,000 smartphone and tablet users from a pool of 16,000 consumers across 16 countries. SME ADVISOR MIDDLE EAST


BusIness read stRategIc eMPloyee suRveys <<<

Dr. Jack W Wiley, Founder and Executive Director, Kenexa Research Institute

ask anD you shall succeeD KENExA RESEARCH INSTITUTE’S FOUNDER AND ExECUTIvE DIRECTOR, DR. JACK W WILEY, PROvIDES THE BUSINESS CASE FOR EMPLOYEE SURvEYS AS A TOOL FOR ORGANISATION DEvELOPMENT In his book Strategic Employee Surveys, published in September 2010 by Jossey-Bass, Dr. Jack Wiley explains that survey programme purpose, survey content and survey follow-up processes should all derive from business strategy. In the first part of the book, he offers specific examples of how to measure safety, ethics, union vulnerability, work and life balance, and diversity. He also reveals the drivers of employee retention and employee engagement and how to measure them along with examples of survey content that best predicts customer satisfaction and loyalty and other business performance metrics. With each type of survey content, he also presents the most recent




normative results, useful for placing results from any organisation into the proper interpretative context. The second part of the book offers specific guidance on the other key component of ensuring employee survey programme success: the survey feedback and action planning process. Wiley outlines a time-tested seven-step model of survey feedback and action planning, explaining each step of the model and providing real-life client examples that identify the most common pitfalls of the overall process. Readers will learn how to navigate around these potential problems and will receive advice on how to set goals for improvement from one survey measurement to the next. The book concludes with

a discussion of the characteristics of leadership teams whose organisations achieve sustained improvement over multiple iterations of survey measurement. Dr. Wiley is recognised internationally for his groundbreaking research that links employee survey results to measures of customer satisfaction and business performance. He is also the creator of WorkTrends, an international survey research program that produces results featured in both scholarly studies and the popular press worldwide. He has more than 30 years of experience consulting with organisations in the healthcare, financial services, manufacturing and retail industries. “As both a researcher and a practitioner, I know the employee survey process can be a very powerful tool for organisational development. This book speaks to the two elements of a survey programme that most differentiate between successful and unsuccessful initiatives, the two elements that most impinge on the power of an employee survey process to bring about desired change. I hope that readers will find this book addresses the strategic issues in employee surveying, the higher-order decisions that are imperative to program success,” commented Wiley. “This book is a must-read for any HR manager or consultant with strategic ambitions,” said Ingwer Borg, Director, Center of Survey Design & Methodology at GESIS and professor of Applied Psychological Methods, University of Giessen (Germany). The book is available now in print and Kindle e-book through


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In 1964 when people asked “Where will television go?” the answer was, “Where can it go? Television is as developed as it will ever be.” Basically, people didn’t envision the future for television. Today, though, we know that television has moved well beyond the form and function it had achieved in the 1960s. Today, television means cable and satellite delivery, plasma screens, and even YouTube. And, of course, today it’s all in colour. When we ask the same question about colour imaging – “Where will it go?” – we get a similar response: “Where can it go? Colour imaging is as developed as it will ever be.” But in reality, the past decades have witnessed a rapid development of colour in all spheres of technology – not just colour televisions, but also colour printers, colour mobile phones, colour multifunctional printers, and so on. Colour science is on a strong track, and we at Xerox are constantly improving our portfolio to meet a growing demand for colour printing. Colour technology, and the development of printing in general, has seen many changes in the last few decades. In 1959, the first automatic plain-paper office copier hit the market. The next evolution came when copiers and printers went electronic in the late ’80s. That triggered the development of colour for office printing. This is similar to what happened in the colour



offset business, which blossomed in the late ’50s and ’60s when all the prepress work and scanning became electronic and delivered much better colour quality at a much faster pace. With the breakthrough to electronic copiers and printers in the late ’80s, good quality colour copiers were suddenly available in the market. At the same time computer processors were becoming powerful enough that printing colour without needing a massive computer became a possibility. The next colour “revolution” took place between 1995 and 2000. Colour development accelerated rapidly when printing devices started to look like presses. Speeds jumped to 40 or 50 pages a minute. By 2000, colour images were delivered at a rate of 100 pages per minute thanks to a quantum leap in colour technology; the iGen3 Digital Printing Press. Today, colour is two or three times more accurate than it was four years ago. Much of that technology and knowledge is now implemented in various printing products with dramatically improved software. What had to be done in the lab and took more than four months to accomplish back in 2003 is now being done by customers, at their own sites, and with a press of a button. This has made a huge leap in our expectations about the future of colour technology. Xerox has also come up with many more different kinds of colour JANUARY 2011

What had to be done in the lab and took more than four months to accomplish back in 2003 is now being done by customers, at their own sites, and with a press of a button. This has made a huge leap in our expectations about the future of colour technology

Dan Smith, General Manager for Integrated Marketing, Xerox, MEA (DMO)

printers. Xerox probably has the widest range of printers, all the way from a 980-page-per-minute continuous feed system down to $250 desktop machines. Xerox is rolling with the fast-pace of technology improvements like the advances the computer started to see six or seven years ago so that we can make colour better and better. Now the challenge for Xerox, which prides itself on getting colour consistently right, is to make all these printing devices behave the same when it comes to colour. Over the past 10 years, colour has become much more than not a specialty or an add-on. It is the norm. People don’t think in black and white. They see and even dream in colour. Because the human experience is not monochrome, the printing experience has to follow suit. It was hard to make colour prints 100 years ago. It was hard to make colour prints 40 years ago. Today, you can do colour printing easily, cost-effectively and, more importantly, on a very individual scale. For example, you can take photographs, send them to a Website and have a single copy of your photo book delivered to your parents. If we ask today where colour is going, let’s not make the same mistake we made about television in 1964. There are many more exciting dimensions to be discovered about the use of colour so that we can experience the full visual impact of the printed page.

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Xerox decided to create a little These last couple of months, putting the right tools in their ile r fun for SME Advisor readers wh ck from the slowdown stronge , ba ce un bo m the est hands to help cki wa der who sent the best, than ever. Xerox offered the rea ce scenario a colour monster most colourful photo of an offizes such as a laptop and print from Xerox and many more pri rth thousands of dollars! management software, wo

This month Xerox makes it even more simple to WIN great prizes! Xerox wants to know what your favour colour is! Green, Blue, Red, Yellow, Purple…Which colour makes you smile in the morning? Which colour influences your mood? Which colour helps you work better? So how do you get your hands on thousands of dollars worth of prizes including a monster colour machine from Xerox - jam packed with the latest, modern print management software to ensure your office is ready with the right tools that stand out from the crowd, as well as some very funky laptops for your team…? Simply email us at, stating your favourite colour in the subject line, by 6pm, 25th January 2011. Once we have all your entries, we’ll draw a winner which will be published in the following issue of SME Advisor

Previous winner for the 2010 Xerox SME Competition is... The Imperial Palace. Check out the winning photo!


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MakIng youR ResolutIons woRk foR you NOW THAT A NEW YEAR IS UPON US COMBINED WITH THE FESTIvE INDULGENCE OF THE LAST FEW WEEKS, ARE YOU, LIKE MANY, CURRENTLY PUTTING SOME THOUGHT INTO YOUR ANNUAL FITNESS AND WELLBEING RESOLUTIONS, ASKS GUILLAUME MARIOLE, FROM IGNITE FITNESS & WELLNESS. Most of us resolve to be fit next year, as we devour the last cupcake and loosen the belt, and we even declare our intention to achieve the goal in record-breaking time. But all too often it seems nothing but a distant memory by the end of January. Making the changes required seems like too much hard work so we gradually slack off. Sounds familiar? Whether you want to lose a few pounds or train for your first triathlon, follow our top tips to make sure your resolutions become tangible goals followed by successes achieved. You’ll also realise how much more energy you have for work. Staying fit is good for your bottom line – pun unintended.

Base your resolutions on more than a fleeting thought We all have moments when we resolve on the spot to do something, so having a strong initial commitment is an absolute essential. But be prepared for some hard work, continued commitment and, yes, a little sacrifice. The first month will



always be tough but after that you should have a routine so you won’t have to try so hard. Most experts agree that it takes around 21 days to form a habit and around six months for it to become a part of your daily life.

Be specific Saying you want to lose weight or get fit or have more energy at work are pretty worthless statements. If your resolutions aren’t definitive, how will you know when you’ve reached them? It’s better to be more concrete, for instance, aim to lose 10 lbs or run a 10 km race and set a realistic timeframe to work towards. Be realistic Probably the most common reason for failed resolutions is the fact that they were entirely unrealistic and therefore simply not achievable. If you are a tall and heavy-set, you simply can’t aim to weigh the same as Jennifer Aniston; if you are new to running, biking and swimming, ditch the grand plans to finish an iron man and aim instead to start with a mini-triathlon.


Create a plan of attack You need to create a detailed action plan of how you want to get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you are post-resolution). If it’s about losing weight and exercising regularly to relieve your bad back – what with hours of sitting in front of the computer – think through details like how often you’re going to work out, for how long, where, when and even with whom. Write these details down, post them where you can see them and continually monitor your progress. Break it down Depending on how ambitious your resolution is, you may need to break it down; rather than one huge intimidating goal, break it into a number of smaller ones and set milestones for each one. If you resolved to run a ten km race for example, make mini-goals such as running five km in less than 30 minutes, adding upper body strength sessions to your training, and running 1km in your fastest time ever. Reward yourself when you reach each milestone to keep motivation levels sky-high. Believe to achieve You need to believe you can achieve your resolutions; unless you believe you can 100% reach them, you will have no true motivation. Those who think they can and those who think they can’t are both right; the power of positive thinking knows no end. Some people like to write down positive affirmations to help instil self-belief, others swear by visualisation techniques or creating a vision boards which depicts you after you have achieved your resolution. Find what works for you and stick with it.

Have a backup plan Weak moments are inevitable so prepare for them. You will always hit bumps along the resolution road so think about little strategies to help you overcome these moments. Deep breathing often helps, picking up the phone to call a friend, or look at your resolution on paper to re-affirm what and why you want it. Track your progress Keeping a journal to track your progress can be the simple difference between resolutions achieved or ditched. Record as much detail as you can which will create a blueprint of your miniaccomplishments and set-backs. Don’t go it alone Declare your resolutions to those around you. When we are held accountable to our family, friends and colleagues, it’s often easier to stay on the right track. Reach out for support too; ask a friend to be a mentor, seek professional support from a fitness expert or join online forums to help you along the way. Ultimately, the start of a new year is the perfect time to turn a new page. A new year symbolises a new start thus a great opportunity to eliminate bad habits and establish new routines that will help you grow physically, emotionally and mentally.

ABOUT: Guillaume Mariole is the Managing Director of Ignite Fitness & Wellness. For more information visit, call +971 (0) 4 305 0844 or email


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SME Advisor Middle East - Good advice for better business  
SME Advisor Middle East - Good advice for better business  

SME Advisor Middle East is aimed at business owners and senior executives across the GCC. The magazine addresses real issues faced by busine...