Managing an existing enterprise is overwhelming in its own right. Managing an existing enterprise in a foreign country as a non-national was an adventure that has forever shaped my life and decision making process.
In 2008, I acquired i2, a struggling telecom handset distributor in Pakistan. Many of my friends and family members thought I was crazy. After all, I was a Lebanese/Argentinian national with little to no experience in managing a business, let alone a telecom handset distributorship in Pakistan ...
On my arrival to Pakistan, I was taken aback. The culture shock was instantaneous and the business environment was unorthodox by any stretch of the imagination.
Had I made the right decision? Was I up to this challenge? I was having doubts.
I quickly realised that I would not be able to overcome this challenge without the right people on board, especially in a country and a business environment that I had no experience in. I needed guidance. I needed a team.
On my first day at the helm of i2, I met with every single employee, from the CFO to the office boy. Within a week, I had overhauled the existing management and established a core team of trustworthy and highly capable individuals to help me turnaround and run the company.
Within a year, the turnaround effort was completed and the company was generating significant revenues and a sizeable profit. Needless to say, I made sure that everyone that contributed to the success of i2 shared in the rewards.
The key to i2’s success was and still is its people. The right people in the right roles. In 2012, I sold i2 Pakistan and began seeking other adventures to embark upon.
In Q3-2012 I acquired a controlling stake in Man’oushe Street, a fast-food chain I founded in 2010 based in the UAE. At that point, I had no experience in the F&B industry let alone a fast-food chain with a large operation in a highly saturated and competitive market such as the UAE and, in particular, Dubai. When I took effective control of the management of Man’oushe Street in 2012 I realised the full extent of its many shortcomings, the most pronounced of which was the absence of an effective management team. This had a direct impact on the company’s operations and services offering to clients and thus on its bottom-line.
I knew I had to use the lessons learnt through my experience at the helm of i2 Pakistan to reinvigorate Man’oushe Street. The most important of which was people. By October 2012, the turnaround effort had begun in earnest through a highly dedicated and disciplined team of individuals.
Within a year, the company had acquired new brand identity with all that that entails, an enhanced service offering and a solid human and systems infrastructure. During that same period, we managed to double Man’oushe Street’s same-store sales and expanded the company’s footprint with a number of new outlets in the UAE.
Today, Man’oushe Street is one of the fastest growing locally based fast food chains in the region. With a number of corporate-owned stores, a dedicated central kitchen and franchises in Egypt, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Abu Dhabi. Man’oushe Street has truly become an F&B powerhouse and the sky is the limit.
Forte in a specific field or industry as an aspiring or seasoned entrepreneur is overrated as an indicator of success. I am a firm believer that success in entrepreneurship favours the bold.
Boldness when it comes to entering new ventures and boldness when it comes to putting your trust in people.
Sound management principles that emphasise heavy reliance on the principle of human resources — i.e., hiring the right people for the right roles — is the key to success in any entrepreneurial endeavour and this requires a recalibration of your entire way of thinking. This includes
• Recognizing and accepting your limitations.
• When you put your trust in others, they will put their trust in you and vice versa.
• Delegating through ownership, not tasks.
• Leading, not managing.
• Developing, not teaching.
• Doing only mistakes in the short term will lead to success in the long term. Getting only success in the short term will lead to mistakes in the long term.
• If you fear people, they will fear you. If you love them, then they will love you (At least this is my philosophy).
• You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with
My experiences in life and throughout my career have ingrained these principles in my psyche and have defined the person that I am today. I hope that the lessons that I have learnt throughout this journey will ring true for seasoned and aspiring entrepreneurs.
The writer is a UAE-based entrepreneur and member of EO.