Interview by Citypages Magazine by Kinda Al-Fares, Kuwait – Issue Feb 2015
Innovation is what makes the world go round, and in Kuwait it has been the driving force behind the changes that are taking place in the small businesses arena. Khalid Al-Zanki is one of those people who is contributing to this culture of newness that the business community is experiencing by way of an exciting new podcast that he launched and which has grown in popularity since he first launched it.
CityPages sat down with Khalid to ask him about LAUNCH ON FIRE.
Introduce yourself to our readers Khalid.
I was born in 1978 in Kuwait, I am the face of ALZANKI ENTERPRISES, the creative force behind its launches, and a formidable team builder. I’m the founder and CEO of the first product launch agency in Middle East, which was launched in 2005, and I’m the host and producer of the first business and entrepreneurship podcasts in Middle East, LAUNCH ON FIRE Business Podcasts. I built my first business at the age of 23, reaped profitable rewards and was labeled “A True Leader and Entrepreneur” & “Most Influential Person Online”. I’ve been positioned as one of Kuwait’s Top Marketing Mavens (trusted expert), because I share real life advice as someone who has been there in his own ventures. An entrepreneur almost since birth, it all started with childhood dreams of becoming a businessman running multiple businesses that would make a difference in the world. Basically, I’m a classic example of turning a personal obsession into a business success in Kuwait.
What did you receive your formal education in and where?
I’m a computer engineer. I received my formal education from the College of Engineering & Petroleum in Kuwait University. It is one of my secret weapons in business success, which has shaped my important skillsets.
Tell us about your career path until you reached the point of establishing LAUNCH ON FIRE.
I started my career working at College of Business Administration in Kuwait University’s Information Technology Department for a few years. One day, a friend from one of the departments who moved to private sector invited me for coffee, and he shared that there was an open opportunity in the company he works for. I had three interviews in one week, and then decided to quit my job with the university and accept a new challenge in Salhia Real Estate Company. It sounded great, but guess what, the government seemed to follow me there too! The company hired a director who used to work for one of Kuwait Government Agencies for 15 years prior. I never thought this would happen, but it did. So, while working in the company, I noticed average leadership was demonstrated in both the public and private sectors. Quick research was done to find out more about outstanding leadership and how we can raise the level of leadership and build true leaders in the country. Hence, I launched my first business LEADER ENTERPRISES, which was the first leadership development company in Kuwait. It was dedicated to delivering outstanding leadership seminars, workshops and programs. My team and I had outstanding performance in such a small and a competitive market. We had great success and we turned sand into gold. In 2008, the financial crisis hit the global economy; so I did my research and asked for advice from the best in the field of business and economy about what to do. The outcome was shutting the business down in mid of 2009, and I took a warriors break. After that I re-launched ALZANKI ENTERPRISES, which is known for positioning people and companies products and services for profit through proven marketing innovative product launch solutions. World-class product launches are responsible for the success of giant businesses today.
How did you get into the business of Podcasting?
Part of my investments helped me to be a member in many platinum mastermind groups internationally, back in 2006 podcasting was one of the new media platforms which allow people to produce content online, for audiences to consume that content anytime and anywhere. The community was talking about it, and at the beginning we had failures and successes in utilizing and monetizing the podcasting platform. Today, there are at least 500 millions podcasts listed on Apple iTunes, and some podcasts succeeded and many failed for various reasons.
Where did you find your inspiration to start the LAUNCH ON FIRE Business Podcasts?
I was inspired by the markets needs and wants, and started LAUNCH ON FIRE business podcasts for three main reasons; the first reason for there is no central location where information about local entrepreneurs is shared. The second reason is that the podcast gives people a chance to get to know the entrepreneurs better. The third reason is because there are common issues, stories, or matters applicable to entrepreneurs in Kuwait that people would love to hear. Also LAUNCH ON FIRE does not highlight the success of entrepreneurs reaching a certain level; in fact it highlights failures and lessons they learned.
What steps did you take to ensure that you were conducting the podcast in the most professional way?
There are many steps in the process; I’ll highlight the major ones. The number one step is to identify a market need and anticipate a trend ahead of time, and then formulated the idea and designed a blueprint launch plan. The second step was, we did a quick survey to see if our business community and entrepreneurs were whiling to participate and share their stories with the world. Finally, we asked for advice from professional audio production experts, because quality sound really matter in the world of podcasting.
Where do you meet all your guests that you’ve interviewed?
I’m part of various business and entrepreneurship communities in Kuwait, and I’ve developed a very solid network of entrepreneurs, professionals and experts over a decade, both locally and internationally. On the other hand, the massive success of LAUNCH ON FIRE first season created a massive interest, and people started calling us for interviews or nominating entrepreneurs and/or experts for the podcasts.
How much time does it take to conduct your interviews?
Usually, it takes 30-60 minutes.
What kind of technical set-up does one have to have to begin a basic podcast?
A very basic one, you can start with a desktop or laptop with USB microphone, along with a website that syndicates episodes/podcasts with Apple iTunes or any other podcasting networks.
Where do you get your energy from, seeing how busy you have become lately?
I get my energy from the LAUNCH ON FIRE community and raving fans. It is such an awesome feeling, when one of podcast listeners/subscribers shares their aha-moments from the interviews that I record, and when an entrepreneur shares the exclusive content with our audience that adds greater value.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day usually looks crazy, it starts at 6:00 AM. I spend few hours getting ready for projects and initiatives that we manage. Then, I take a break in afternoon to refresh and energize, then we start recording interviews during the evening time, and sometime I record morning interviews. Finally, I evaluate the day and prepare for brand new day.
What do you do for fun or to relax?
For fun, I spend quality time with family and best friends. Relaxing is important, I rejuvenate during weekends and I make sure to spend time with myself, yes alone! I enjoy reading books, listening to music and watching business related videos or business shows.
Do you have any new projects in mind that you feel will become as popular as LOF?
Of course, there are a few projects related to business. I can’t talk about all the projects at the moment, because we’re still connecting things and brainstorming ideas. You’ll be the first to know, when we start launching. By the way, I will be starting a solo-podcast, the main aim of this podcast to help individuals, startups and entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.
Have you experienced any setbacks during your employment history?
Yes. It is part of the game. If you want to win in life, you will face setbacks and challenges. The road to success is always under construction, you’ve to keep moving forward. Never give up!
Now that you’ve yourself interviewed a diverse group of business owners, what is the one thread in common that you have found that ties them together?
That’s a great question; I love it! Since LAUNCH ON FIRE is a story-based podcast, I got the opportunity to learn more about entrepreneurs and their stories. There are many common factors, I will highlight few. (1) They work in and out of their business, (2) They all faced high levels of negative emotions and thoughts throughout their business journey, but they believed in themselves and their ideas, (3) They have the power to improve the business environment in Kuwait, they just need a chance to prove it, (4) They have the willingness to create massive success stories. If our audience listens to at least one podcast a day, then they will find-out more inspiring, common factors between every guest we’ve interviewed.
How do you plan on further developing LAUNCH ON FIRE?
That’s a secret plan Kinda. If your readers follow LAUNCH ON FIRE, they’ll be able to connect the dots. Personally, I’m devoted in developing LAUNCH ON FIRE and taking it to next level, we’ve huge responsibility towards our 20,000+ podcast listeners.
Who are your own mentors or influencers? How have they affected your life career wise and personally?
I have the best mentors around me. When it comes to being the best, it pays to learn from the best. I look for the best in the field always; I never surround myself with mediocre mentors. If any of your readers interested to get great mentors, just drop me a message; and I will be more than happy to share with them the mentors affected my professional and career.
What is your most favorite time of day?
Do you have a favorite destination?
My favorite destination is California, USA – I love it!
What is your advice to anyone who needs encouragement in their career path?
When you live for other’s opinions, you are dead. I can’t tell you what the worst opinions in my life taught me. And, I don’t live in the past, I always look forward. Surround yourself with an “A+” Team, don’t waste your time with average players or leaders.
What is your one message to Kuwaiti youth, who want to make something of themselves?
Never wait for permission from others, and follow your heart. Develop your skills, because when opportunity knocks the door and you’re ready you’ll have a much better chance at taking on an opportunity than when you aren’t ready.