Got business problems or challenges at work? With his Two Cents page, Loaay Ahmed shares his expertise in strategic management consulting to help managers, employees and entrepreneurs thrive.
Q: We want to grow from a small to medium sized company but every area of the business needs development and it’s just simply not possible to cater to them all with the budgets we have today. Any idea how we can approach this situation?
In one small company with less than 50 employees, the team has collectively the ability to speak six languages, win table tennis championships and dance competitions, decorate cakes professionally, put together some unique flower arrangements, and play some decent football. As for professional skills, this group can defend a legal case, teach Calculus, design a GPS grid, and book airline tickets using IATA systems, and more. None of these employees are hired for any of these skills in that company. And their management is not aware of most of their talents. Your employees might have hidden gifts that you’re not aware of. Reach out to them before contacting regular providers in the market. If you offer employees a benefit exchange scheme, you could lower cost and get them more engaged in the company.
For example, if your website needs are quite basic, ask your employees before requesting a proposal from web developers. One of them might have programming or design skills that you didn’t know about. In exchange, you can offer a few extra days off or even your reserved VIP parking spot for a month – a little humility from a boss makes him/her more human to the employees and more approachable. Another example, if you were short on cash to spare but desire to be more active with your corporate social responsibility, is to offer employees perks such as extra bonuses, days off, airline tickets to Dubai, just to name a few, for providing community service during working hours in areas that matter to the company and to the employees. It’s not called Human Resources for nothing…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: My generation (born in the 1990s) looks at senior management as people who have accumulated experiences, which most of, are irrelevant today. When will senior managers get that times have changed?
The door of the DeLorean time machine is open and you’re invited to travel through time and see your future self. You found that you’re behaving like a C-Zombie, an executive board member with an expired attitude. You just watched yourself approving pay packages without linking them to results and you approved rolling out crippling Policies and Procedures systems all in the name of standardization. You are shocked and wondering, “How did I become like that?” Many people seek change as they see the previous generation as old fashion and not in touch with reality. When they themselves become older they face a new group that looks at them the same way they did years ago. To protect what they built – because they believe they’re right – some weird overprotective decisions start to flow aimlessly until retiring.
I’m not saying one side is right and the other is wrong. Balance is needed for both generations to coexist. For example, one generation finds it important to wear formal clothes while the other does not see it as a prerequisite for developing one’s mind or behaving professionally. While the former is concerned with negative first impressions, and rightfully so, the latter desires less stiffness. For most occupations, there’s nothing wrong with wearing semiformal attire with some creative twists that express one’s own unique personality while maintaining a professional image. Standards and consistency are desperately needed in many businesses around us; but so are well thought-of improvements. For tested practices to survive, rigidity in the implementation must disappear first…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: I came to work in Kuwait a few months ago and I’m horrified by the amount of imported retail brands in this market. Why aren’t there more local brands in malls?
Decades before oil, Kuwait’s welfare had always been dependant on trade merchants. They had a strong influence on the economy since it was their financial contributions that provided the budgets needed for the country to manage in the early days. There are many reasons why being a trade merchant in Kuwait made more sense than producing something locally. For example, lack of natural resources to use in manufacturing anything. With such a harsh environment, Kuwaitis turned to the sea. They dove for pearls to sell to other markets and built ships for wealthy individuals and markets. Kuwait’s location encouraged trade merchants to exist. How could they not, when they had such a strategic position geographically? It was profitable to buy wholesale from the East and sell retail to the North and West.
As our nature is to be slaves to pattern and since old habits die hard, the trade trend became a permanent style of entrepreneurship. Having said that, there are many local businesses that exist outside shopping malls. Maybe those business owners lack the knowhow of strong brand management experience to turn their business into a large household name in the region. Also, the small market size doesn’t leave much room for real growth without reaching out to international markets to expand into; but again, the limited expertise by some and the risk-averse mindset kills such attempts. Relying on importing has its downside, but without imports there are no exports…and that’s just my two cents.
For Loaay Ahmed’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to [email protected]. Regrettably, only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.
Loaay Ahmed is a management adviser and strategic expert. To learn more about Loaay and his consulting service, strategic business therapy, visit www.knightscapital.com.