Patience, Determination, Focus, Key to Success for SMEs

Aabha Gandhi, Staff Writer
Al-Watan Daily Newspaper, Kuwait
Published on: Sunday, June 14th, 2009

A few minutes into conversation with LEADERS ENTERPRISES and ALZANKI ENTERPRISES Founder & CEO Khalid Al Zanki and you are a motivated person. A young and dynamic entrepreneur, AlـZanki has been in the field of leadership management for the past five years. When he launched his business, one did’t hear of corporate leadership training. Today, AlـZanki”s Leaders Enterprises has been growing steadily.

Though Leaders Enterprises is a small business, AlـZanki has extensive plans to grow his organization into a bigger business.

Sharing his thoughts with Al Watan Daily on the culture of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the country, AlـZanki said: “What determines the success of SME”s business…? (Is that) one question, why are you starting your business? Why you want to build your own business?… Most of the times, people don”t have an accurate answer for that. Eighty percent of the success of the SME is based on that question,” he said.

Explaining the point further, AlـZanki said: “Small businesses are all about working hard. Putting a lot of effort and time to build it up, you are going to make mistakes, you are going to lose a lot of money, you are going to invest, it may work, it may not work, but if you have a clear vision as to why you want to have a business, it will keep you going. It will motivate you.”

There are many challenges to managing small business pointed out AlـZanki. He stated whether one likes it or not there will be many challenges, both small and big ones.”This is the nature of businesses. The same thing with small businesses, because you are not just working with clients, you will work with suppliers, you will work with businesses, you will work with employees and team members, you are going to work with the media. There are a lot of things to handle. It is not just about you as a person who wants to have an office, a luxurious place and say I am starting my own business.”

Investing In Training

Having an idea to start a business is one thing, however, educating yourself and keeping yourself abreast with the latest developments is equally necessary. AlـZanki said that he annually attends training sessions in the United States and despite the negative voices he hears around him, “When I come back, I am always coming back from a totally different perspective or new ideas, new strategies, new tactics. Try to find people who are expert in an area that you really want to develop in your business and go and try to identify and spot what is going on in there.”

Training especially is important when the business is in a start up mode, “This is an ongoing process, it”s one of my goals on a yearly basis to attend at least one of those workshops in the States and come back and add to the business,” AlـZanki said.

Challenges for SME

Generally when people want to start their businesses they want to start something “new”. Emphasizing on the word “new”, AlـZanki said: “Most of the people want to start something new. If it is not something new I will not do it. Not only new they want to keep it to themselves and they don”t want to reveal it until the launch and it is a big mistake.”

He said secrecy closes the doors of listening to what is happening in the market: “You may say okay Khaled they may steel my idea, but they won”t do it the way you will do it. Confidence in the idea is very important,” he said.

Another interesting aspect AlـZanki pointed out was that at the implementation stage of the business idea, there will be people around the entrepreneur ready to give negative feedback. AlـZanki explained that if the entrepreneur does not have the belief in his idea and his business, then the negative voices around him will start impacting his thought process. “If you start listening to this negative feedback you start believing in it. Most of the entrepreneurs listen to the negative feedback,” he said.

A challenge that SMEs currently face are lack of skills. AlـZanki insisted that working on skills is extremely important. “Whether it is leadership, communication, persuasion all these skills should be there. You will be working in a challenging environment, although it is a small business, don”t think about business as a small business it is a big mistake, you are a small size business I agree but build it so that later on you can make it a medium size and then a big size company …all businesses start like this, they don”t just jump and say oh! We are a big business. They start step by step till they reach the bigger vision they have.”

Is Financial Crisis impacting SMEs in Kuwait

Despite the current economic slowdown, AlـZanki for his business tried to find new opportunities. “In each challenge there is an opportunity. Even for me, for example when the financial crisis happened I said this is a crisis that is happening right now, I can”t change it. Let me change my approach, let me find a new strategy that I could implement to actually take this challenge and try to get some opportunities maybe I need to adopt new things that I didn”t do five years ago.”

The key to managing SMEs in times of crisis really is to look at things in a realistic manner. “Even if you listen to the negative side, listen to it, don”t shut it off. Listen to what is going on the negative side, listen to the positive side and look at the situation. Try to have a general perspective of what you are doing, maybe the negative reaction you are getting is a message from the market telling you something, but you are not seeing it.”

Overall support needed

However, SMEs can become big businesses only when they are giving a chance to grow. Sharing ideas on how the youth can be encouraged, AlـZanki said that if the youth are given a chance to grow, it should be encouraged as this will boost their confidence.

Also support from the family is very important. “Families have to support their kids to (let them) take the plunge, since they have the entrepreneurial skills they don”t want to hold it back,” he said.

Expansion plans

Prior to the crisis Al Zanki had plans to expand his Leaders Enterprises concept in the Oman and the United Arab Emirates. However with the crisis, he has decided to push his plans to 2010. For Leaders Enterprises, AlـZanki said he expects his business to grow further in the next five years. He said while the first two years the small businesses are in survival mode, year three is when the brand is in the building mode after which the business starts to expand. “Patience is one of the major keys for success in business.”

An interesting point highlighted by Al Zanki was that small entrepreneurs are often not open to constructive criticism. “Most people are not open minded enough to listen to the other person or the rest of the market. You should listen to what”s going on in the market and have (to) keep your eyes looking to different things going on, and then try to build up on it, here is where people struggle in small businesses.”

AlـZanki is set to host his Leadership seminar starting Today to Tuesday with Tom McCarthy, where they will be sharing business strategies in challenging times. Al-Zanki stated that he may open something with McCarthy in Kuwait. “Maybe Tom McCarthy Leadership Institute, I don”t know,” he said.

Challenges will continue for SMEs in these tough economic times, however Alـ-Zanki said: “You have to find out the opportunities and reshape them (to your advantage).”

Key things to keep in mind while running your SME

1) Focus.
2) Putting in your best effort.
3) Have confidence in your idea.
4) Develop skills that will benefit the business.
5) Listen to market indicators.
6) Be open to constructive criticism

“Even if you listen to the negative side, listen to it, don’t shut it off. Listen to what is going on the negative side, listen to the positive side and look at the situation”
~ Khalid Al-Zanki

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