Posts Tagged ‘business success’

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‘We have the best working environment around here’ … ‘we changed the whole competition landscape, we are the best now and our competitors have to live with it’ … ‘Our products/services are not comparable to others, we are the best’

Once such kind of mentality starts flying around your organization, then it is in need for a serious therapy; it is going through the ‘illusion of the best’ syndrome! And once you have it, it is the downhill road thereafter.

There is no doubt that the marketplace is a competition arena. However, deciding who is the best should be left to stakeholders and unbiased observers, certainly not to the organization managers only!

And let’s give it some thought; in a business environment, what is the best? the best compared to what? and in which categories? And should we compare our products/services/practices to our competitors only? in our environment only? or should we do that globally? I am sure you can come up with endless series of question like these …

My argument is that the whole concept of being the best should have no place in a business environment. The ‘best in ….’ is a relative term even if based upon ground measurements, because, at the end, those measurements are based on agreements between a number of people.

The illusion of being the best could be damaging on the long run. It generates demotivation and kills innovation; why should we do more, we are the best?!

It happened that I have being sitting once with one of the so-called-managers of one of the biggest companies in the country and he was talking about how they are conducting some of their business. The strange thing is that he was referring to many managerial flaws in his talking, and he was acknowledging those flaws! I asked him ‘it is great that you can put your fingers on the wrong doings that are causing pressure on your staff and your productivity. So why don’t you solve these issues?’ His reply was ‘this is how we do business around here!’ I said ‘but there are many companies around the world that faced similar problems and there are many lessons that you can get advantage of.’ He replied ‘No No No … do not talk about companies around the world. Tell me about local companies. We are the best company in the area and this is how we are running our business’!!!!

I hope you got what I mean now!!


p.s. I think the ‘illusion of best’ syndrome fits Jim Collins’s stage number one of declining organizations; the stage he calls ‘Hubris Born of Success.’ Read more about it in his book ‘How the mighty Fall, and Why Some Companies Never Give in’ published in 2009.


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Days are passing by and the end of the year is around the corner. For a lot of companies and a lot of managers, these three last months of the year are so critical. It is time to revise plans, goals, budgets, and not to forget, performance appraisals are just around the corner.

In such heated situations, there are two types of leaders that you may encounter, or might be yourself:[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=clowns&iid=76347″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/76347/clown-business-suit-with/clown-business-suit-with.jpg?size=500&imageId=76347″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]

  • True Leaders: Those who already have well crafted planes and smart objectives earlier that year. A lot of their goals have been accomplished or about to be completed. However, they might face some missed targets and deadlines here or there. In such situations, they calmly and logically sit to restudy the situation, and ask themselves and their team members a lot of why’s and how’s. They turn obstacles into opportunities and failures into lessons learned.
  • Clowns: Those who built their plans on vague inputs, poor data, and sometimes pure dreams!! Most of their goals are missed, if not all. But nothing will stop them from raising their voices and pointing their fingers on everybody around them, even their own team members. Whenever around one of those, you will start witnessing a lot of fightings during meetings, a lot of heated emails, and a lot of passing the ball theory practices!

Look around you and check; which type of managers are you pumping into more often?

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For any business owner or leader out there; the moment of truth kinda of question could be the following one asked by Jim Collins (according to this HBR blog post):

If your company went out of business tomorrow, would anybody really miss it and why?

Although it’s a simple question, its answer contains the essence of the organization, its soul, and its whole purpose of being alive and competing in the market. If a leader or a number of executives failed to answer such question, then there must be something wrong!

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=confused+woman&iid=5191135″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/5191135/close-young-woman-with-her/close-young-woman-with-her.jpg?size=500&imageId=5191135″ width=”234″ height=”234″ /]There are some interesting points the blog post is referring to in case a leader wants to know why his/her company should be missed. But let’s look at it from the other way around. Let’s see it through the eyes of you; the customer. Think for a moment of a company that you will be really missing if you heard now that it will be a history starting from tomorrow, and why would you miss it?

If you honestly answer this question, your answers will be almost the same as those mentioned in the HBR post, the answers that every business leaders should be aspiring to and working on having in his/her company.

Allow me to be the first to start … These are my choices:

  • Starbucks: This is by far my most favorite brand in the world. You could even say that I am emotionally connected to it. Noting that I am neither a heavy coffee drinker nor someone who spend a lot of times in coffee shops. But I admire it because I feel that they care. They care about the quality of their products and the quality of the services they are providing.
  • Sony: The Japanese electronic manufacturer will be my second choice. I trust whatever products they’re producing. Whenever I see Sony, I see high quality.
  • P&G: Proctor & Gamble, the known FMCG manufacturer. There are no choices whenever that one of the products to be choosing from carries this company name. They have a vast range of brands under P&G, and they are all my first choices especially in Health & Well being and Household care categories.

Now, what are your favorite brands and why?

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Let me ask you something; what is the first thing that might form your first impression of a country that you visit for the first time? If you thought of those gentlemen, or ladies, sitting behind desks checking you up with sharp eyes while stamping your passport, then you are right; they are the immigration officers.

I am really glad to read this piece of news about the Saudi General Directorate of Passports (GDP). Its management is planning to provide its staff with intensive English and etiquette trainings. Now this is something really interesting.

Looking from unbiased eye, there is something that you should really respect and admire in these people, I mean the Saudi GDP officials. They want to develop and they are sweating over it. Compared to a number of government service agencies; I would choose them to be my favorite. For me, and I am writing this from Jeddah, they are the only government destination that I won’t worry so much about whenever I am obligated to visit. They have a process and everything there is clear and systematic. I am not saying everything is perfect, but it is somehow organized.

It is the only government agency, from where I see it at least, that adopted some customers service and branding principles from the private sector. They are the only government body that recognized its role as a service provider in addition to its main and official roles. They have gotten closer to their customers by being present in some of the finest malls in the country. They have run a powerful public awareness campaign introducing their new biometrics system. They have provided several and unprecedented electronic services such as Ishaar, Muqeem, and Passports Gate.

And as we are talking about marketing and branding, I really hope that they would change their location in jeddah. It is not that much when we talk ‘brand image.’ ‘Place’ is one of the 7 P’s of service marketing and creating a distinguished service experience, no matter how organized it is from the operational point of view, cannot be completed without a proper place, a proper environment.

Having said that, all the above mentioned services are still for citizens and those living within the country. But when we talk about the Saudi gates and how immigrations officials are dealing with visitors, mmm, the image is not that bright! So by recognizing the problem and working on solving it by providing the above mentioned trainings, I really hope the Directorate efforts will turn out to be a smashing success. After all, it is not only about their brand image, it is the whole country image.

Finally, my ‘free spirit’ statement; I do not know anybody working in the Saudi GDP, and this post has not been influenced by them in anyway 🙂

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Have you met many people who say that their work environment is no other than Utopia … the heaven on earth? I know I haven’t!!

For a lot of employees out there, such work environment can only be a dream. But our fellow blogger and my guest for this post begs to differ; she is living the dream, she is working in Utopia.

Maha Noor Elahi, of “A Saudi Woman’s Voice” blog, is sharing her professional story with us, her story about Dar Al Hekma College at Jeddah. In Maha’s post we could see how great leadership can create a distinctive working environment, how a great leader can contains her subordinates, motivates them, and makes them feel like they belong.

This is another example of a Saudi managerial talent … a Saudi managerial success.

Again, thank you Maha for accepting my invitation to share this magnificent post with us … honored to have you here …

Enjoy the post everybody …



College of Love

When I first came to Dar Al-Hekma College, I thought it was a utopia. Yes… a utopia on Earth and in Saudi Arabia! Well, after a few months of being immersed into career boom-bam daily realities, I discovered that the college was not a utopia at all. Surprisingly, I found out it was something much better than an ancient Platonic dream. I realized that Dar Al-Hekma is a workplace where professionals lead, think, care, and love. It was a completely new realm for me; a novel definition of the word “professional”, especially in a country like Saudi Arabia. It was a new vision that led me to understand that seeking professional excellence is a humane act rather than a mere mechanic inflexible policy.

At Dar al-Hekma, I’ve seen a genuine representative of the Islamic leadership spirit; a spirit that implements hard work and dedication as acts of worshipping Allah. The exquisite incomparable personality of Dr. Suhair, Dean of the college, has made me love work ten times more than I used to a year ago.

Now, some might be thinking, “What a hypocrite! She is definitely asking for a promotion in an unethical way!” Well, I am sorry for those who don’t appreciate this spontaneous emotional revelation of mine. Dr. Suhair is a rare woman who has an extreme incredible blend of contradictions in her personality. Not just that she is witty, brilliant, and humorous, she is also a person who can read faces and understand different minds in a way that enables her to conduct high-profile meetings with a kind smile on her face and a wise crucial decision in her documents. “Phenomenal” is the precise word that describes the leader of Dar Al-Hekma. Unlike most Saudi authority figures, Dr. Suhair attends the college as early as any one of us, employees, and wanders around to observe and guide while she makes friendly visits and ordinary chit-chats. She is the only Saudi leader whom I’ve known who can make her employees laugh, think critically, and feel spiritual at the same time! She is the only dean I’ve seen that students and employees don’t run away or worry when they see her roaming in the corridors of the college! If Dar Al-Hekma College happens to be something, it is because of the positive energy that Dr. Suhair is spreading among us….it is because our Dean leads and loves each one of us.

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=camera+flash&iid=5157847″ src=”0/5/7/8/closeup_of_a_2fbf.jpg?adImageId=10563356&imageId=5157847″ width=”234″ height=”168″ /]Al Eqtisadiah, the daily Saudi newspaper, published yesterday (in Arabic), the results of its yearly ‘Best Working Environment in Saudi Arabia’ competition.

The unbiased observer has nothing but to thank the newspaper for the idea and its apparent efforts in preparing the winning list. By showing some of the winning companies’ managerial practices, the newspaper is actually giving bright examples of open minded, modern, and well educated Saudi management. I particularly liked KPMG practices in enhancing its work environment in addition to its culture of providing all employees with the  opportunity to participate in their company’s major decisions. I also liked ABB’s intensive employees’ trainings and scholarship programs. And not to forget Bupa and its remarkable electronic training platform.

For those following this competition from the past years, some names are turning to be usual guests on the list, for example, ABB, Bupa, Panda, and KPMG. While on the other hand, big names such as Saudi P&G (Modern Industries) and Al Mara’ei are missed on this year’s list.

All in all, I have two main comments on this list. The first one is that when closely looking at the names taking over the first posts, you could not help but notice that most of them are international names working in the Saudi market. So it can be argued that their success secret lays in their well adaptation of universally tested practices. I do not mean this as a criticism; on the contrary, I am a big supporter of looking at what others are doing in the management field to be influenced by their best practices and experiences, and most importantly, to avoid their mistakes.

My second remark is that we should notice that this competition is only open for companies willing to participate and provide some data about their policies and HR practices. So its results can not be generalized without cautious. Big and known companies are not yet willing to be part of this competition, and that would only leave you to wonder …. why!!!???

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It is time to talk about another local business success story; and how can we talk about successful organizations without talking about Al-Baik.

It is next to impossible that you are living in Jeddah or ever visited it without being to Al-Baik. The local fast food chain has been around since 1974. After 35 years by now, the restaurant is mainly operating in Jeddah with minimum number of branches in Makkah, Madinah, Yanbu and Taif. Arguably, Al-Baik possesses the highest market share and customer loyalty amongst its competitors especially in Jeddah; noting that when I say competitors, I mean international multibillion brands like McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut etc …

Let’s shed some lights on Al-Baik main success recipes :

–          The Quality & Price: for those of you familiar with the debate surrounding Porter’s Generic strategies, Al-Baik is a living proof that you could follow a strategy that combines both differentiation and cost leadership. Although there are a lot of restaurants serving fried chicken, the quality and taste of Al-Baik are certainly unique and its prices are way below the average.

–          The Trustworthy Brand: Al-Baik has a very strong brand equity whether we are measuring it by evaluating the restaurants’ products or by studying its brand impact on customers. Al-Baik brand communicates strong messages of quality, fast service, trust, affordability, convenience, and social responsibility. Its management has been very smart emphasizing these values into the brand using different methods of advertisements, public relations, or even by spreading stories about the brand. The entrepreneurial story of its founder and how he struggled to raise his community awareness about eating outside the home which was strange back then and how he has been working alone in the restaurant preparing the food, serving it, and then cleaning the small shop are all meant to build some kind of connection with its customers. Also, some suspense and mystery would not hurt either; the secret chicken formula that is only known by few individuals is one of the most preferred stories amongst such food and beverages organizations (didn’t you hear similar stories about Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and KFC?)

–           Superb Customer Service: whether we are talking about fast service, servicescape design, or cleanness of the restaurants environment; Al-Baik is providing exemplary services in all of that. Even more, Al-Baik is one of the few restaurants that introduced items to the menu based solely on customers’ suggestions.

–          Convenient Locations: Al-Baik marketers are masters in choosing locations for their restaurants; I have never seen a branch of Al-Baik without it being packed with customers. The huge expansions they carried out in Jeddah have been built on population distribution analysis. That is why wherever you live in Jeddah now; there must be Al-Baik branch within your easy reach.

–          Social Responsibility: Al-Baik has always been known for its socially related campaigns. They have a regular presence in Hajj seasons providing free meals to pilgrims and they are periodically campaigning for environmentally related causes like banning smoking in their restaurants or preserving the city clean image. Furthermore, their active participation in the aftermath of Jeddah floods by providing free meals to those devastated by the catastrophe is one shiny example of how organizations could be interacting with its society.

Nevertheless, staying on the top is not an easy job. Al-Baik management has to deal with many issues to facilitate its growth. One of these important issues is on the mind of every fan who happen to live outside Jeddah; how much should they expand? Should they consider opening new branches in other cities at the Kingdom? What about being multinational or even global?

Moreover, how Al-Baik should respond to the growing concerns raised by healthy and organic foods advocates (it is selling fried chicken, right!!)? And most importantly, how its managers are going to maintain its competitive advantages and how are they going to nurture its sustainability strategy?

Finally, the free spirit statement; this is to confirm that I do not know, or have any relation with anyone working at Al-Baik management or restaurants, and this post has not been influenced by Al-Baik or any of its partners in any way …

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