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Guest Writer: “#1 Business Startup Killer” by Roger Khater

October 1, 2012 2 comments

Dear Reader,

I’m glad and proud to present to you my third Guest Writer on the blog, Mr. Roger Khater.

Roger Khater is a Serial Entrepreneur with an Electrical Engineering degree from USJ/ESIB; in addition to his responsibilities as the Managing Director at IP Engineering Pro, he has main board roles and major managerial functions in Caliber Workforce (Human Resources Services) as a Partner and Maktabi (Virtual Office Services) as the Owner. Roger also serves as the President of the PMI Lebanon Chapter.

To know more about Roger, check his LinkedIn Profile or email him at i@rogerkhater.info

Enjoy the read!

Afif

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Many entrepreneurs whom I often meet have great business ideas, very few though have a good business plan, and the worst are the ones who only have a fancy website, a distinguished business card but no or not enough clients.

Call me old fashioned but the truth remains, starting a business is all about selling, assuming the business idea is viable. The act of selling involves customers, who are real people after all. So bet on people and invest in relationships.

What is the #1 business startup killer nowadays?

It is the course of actions that is driving our young entrepreneurs into having all the necessary business vehicles, from business identity, to website, to social media, etc… But they forget the key business aspect that is to sell their products or services to real people.

I never recall selling anything to a sheep.

If you have a business idea, don’t waste your time, just sell it. Get your first few customers and leverage on them. Capitalizing on your personal relation, enhance the trust quickly and stay close when needed.

Forget about the shiny stuff, they will eventually come at a later stage.

After a few successful deals, reassess your market in $ value, know your competitors, they exist in one form or another, and only now you can decide if the market size is enough or suitable for you. Embrace this market, make it your target, position your portfolio, have a value proposition and again go sell for more.

If after 2 years you are still stuck with few customers that do not generate enough income, drop the idea, change business line and redo the exercise better. Always ask for help, you need that, secure as many mentors, they will make a difference.

The key to success is gaining customers by selling to people.

The accessories are merely a plus.

 

Guest Writer: “Effective Communication: Guidelines & Tips” by Dania Dbaibo Darwish

September 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Dear Reader,

As posted earlier, I’m hosting exceptional guest writers on my blog to share some of their experiences, knowledge and perspective that are worth shedding light on.

In this context, my second guest writer is Mrs. Dania Dbaibo Darwish a holder of a BBA & an MA in Psychology from AUB. She is an Associate Certified Professional Life & Career Coach, a Certified Master level NLP practitioner, a Certified Hypnotherapist, & a trained Counselor. She has a background career in Sales & Marketing of consumer goods; & as a Psychology instructor at AUB.  For several years now, she runs her own practice at Coaching Your 3Ps (Personal & Professional Progress) as a Coach, Counselor, Hypnotherapist, & Trainer. Dania is the founding president of the Lebanese Coach Association (LCA) & is very active in other NGOs. She’s known for her dynamic & positive personality.

To get to know her better check:  Website || Blog || LinkedIn || Twitter || YouTube || Facebook  || Pinterest

Enjoy the read!

Afif

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You all learned how to talk, but did you all learn how to communicate effectively? Effective and positive communication is an advanced skill that requires your conscious practice and effort until it is mastered. It serves living harmoniously with others, persuading, and influencing family, friends, and colleagues on the job. Once you know few secrets about proper communication, your chances of succeeding in all life domains grow up exponentially. Furthermore, your internal voice will frequently be screaming “Victoryyyy!” in major disagreements as you remain totally agreeable to your counterparts. All it takes is entering the mindset of the person(s) you’re communicating with, and then positively bringing them to your own. As a first step, here are some few guiding essentials for casual conversations, interactions, requests, arguments, or confrontations:

Build rapport: Subtly match and mirror the person you’re talking with (i.e. get in the rhythm of the way they’re speaking, body posture, use of language, etc….). Generally, people who are like each other tend to like each other, so do your best to synchronize your way with theirs.

Listen (don’t just hear): We have two ears and one mouth mainly to listen twice as much as we speak. Instead of mentally rehearsing your next argument, actively listen to what really matters to the other person. Their needs will be your guide to satisfy instead of deviating off-topic.

Words, tone, and body language: In the famous Mehrabian study, these turned out to have an effect of 8%, 37%, and 55% respectively. Never underestimate, therefore, the profound effects of the silent messages behind your unspoken words. It’s “how” you say things that gives much more meaning.

Address them by name often: You’ll be reaching out for their most prominent identity and softly caressing their ego each time. It will sound like flattery.

Maintain eye contact: This ensures you’re retaining connection. It gives the message that you’re interested in what they’re saying and that they’re heard. Remember how it feels when you’re talking to someone and they look away or roll their eyes? Yes…. Utterly disrespectful!

Empathize: Use your interpersonal intelligence and the ability to be in the other person’s shoes to identify with their feeling, ideas, and situation. Ask yourself: what is it like to be in their position. Paraphrase what they’re saying when you can. This conveys that they’re well understood.

Always ask good questions: You can always direct the flow of your conversation through asking open ended questions. This is a sure way to release your counterpart’s defensiveness and probe them to come to mutual conclusions. Avoid giving unsolicited advice till you’re asked.

Once you arm yourself with the above necessities in your interactions, you can further use the following tips to make any point you want with least resistance by your counterpart. You can disagree without being disagreeable; influence while valuing the other person’s stance; and pleasantly direct others’ behavior. Depending on the argument or the situation, you can:

Get them to agree more:  For beginning conversations, ask questions to get them to agree on, say, 3 things. This is part of building rapport. Questions like: the weather is too hot this morning, isn’t it? The traffic was unbearable today, right? You can, then, introduce your request or the point you want to make.

Focus on giving feedback: At times, you’d want to appraise a piece of work or assess a situation. Don’t criticize by just saying what’s not right. Praise the good points as well. As a whole, your opinion will be better received.

Sandwich your feedback: Whenever you have something negative to say, make sure you sandwich it between two positive statements. Start off by complimenting the other person somehow (relevant attributes, qualities, or work); give your negative opinion (in a nice way of course); and then finish up your statements by praising again. These positive statements act as a sandwich buffering any negativity sensed in between.

Feed forward: When you give feedback, you may need to state the preferred scenario for a specific outcome (e.g. behavior or way). It is an assertiveness technique used in relationships (parent to child, or in partnerships) and mentoring. Don’t remain vague about future direction. Probe them by asking questions to get to the ideal response, or suggest it when they don’t know.

Use the “agreement frame”: Nothing beats defensiveness than agreeing first. Use points in your counterpart’s view to agree with, first. Say things like: “I agree that…. And I respect that…. And I really appreciate that….” Then say: “at the same time, I think that…..” stating your disagreement. Never use the word “but” after agreeing. It negates everything you said before it.

The pleasant “no”: Don’t get caught in saying “yes” to others’ requests at your own expense. When you offer an explanation to why you can’t handle their request, you’ll be saying “yes” to yourself. You can start off by saying: “Yes, I appreciate your resorting to me to handle this. I really would like to help you out. At the same time, I have to…..” and list the reasons why you can’t while offering an alternative way or a later time to do it.

Focus on solutions:  Avoid getting sucked up in discussing the problem and rather consider the alternatives to resolving it (more on “win-win” solutions). In doing that, consider the interests and benefits to both of you (you get that through empathetic listening and asking probing questions).

The above tips are really powerful in maintaining positive interactions with others. After all, research shows that for any relationship to thrive, it is necessary to have 5 positive statements to tip off the effect of one negatively stated comment. To become a positive effective communicator requires a conscious decision. With practice, it will become second nature like all other arts to be mastered :)

Guest Writer: Lessons Learned from Politics by Radhia Benalia

August 17, 2012 11 comments

Guest Writer: Lessons Learned from Politics by Radhia Benalia

Dear Reader,

As per my previous announcement this month, I will start hosting guest writers on my blog to share some experiences, knowledge and perspective that are worth shedding light on.

In this context, my first guest writer is Mrs. Radhia Benalia, the Deputy General Manager of CMCS Lebanon, a 2009 candidate for the BC Liberals for the constituency in Canada, an avid public speaker and translator with strong knowledge in project management. Her article is shedding light on her political experience when she ran for office in Canada in 2009. To get to know her better check: LinkedIn || Blog || Pinterest || Twitter

Enjoy the read!

Afif

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Lessons Learned from Politics

In 2009, I was nominated as the candidate for the BC Liberals for the constituency of Surrey-Whalley in beautiful British Columbia. A unique experience. The election campaign happened “fast and furious” as I was nominated a few weeks only before elections. Fact is: I have done, seen, and lived the unanticipated, and these are the lessons learned I wanted to share:

Lesson 1:

If you ever think of going into politics, I’ll say you better keep pristine records. The other camp will cheerfully cut you to pieces and feed you to the dogs if they have anything on you. Even speeding tickets. Don’t break the law; don’t even lie about your résumé. You know what they can do with that!

Lesson 2:

Practice public speaking. Tirelessly. I was fortunate enough to have been teaching public speaking for a few years, and I surely had the chance to practice, and for a “rookie”, I did pretty well in debates and speeches, so I’m more than grateful for what I had learnt prior to my entrance into politics.

Lesson 3:

Hire a campaign manager that has the guts to tell you off and criticize you. Mine did repeatedly. He made me work 3 shifts and got me to talk about things I never thought I would a hundred miles an hour. Besides, he took care of me, chased me around every day of the campaign with a pack of vitamins, and made sure I ate well. My campaign manager was more important than I was for the campaign, and I couldn’t have done it without him.

Lesson 4:

Lose weight or wear those braces before you are nominated. What I mean to say is if anything makes you extremely uncomfortable about your looks, then remedy to that before you see yourself on camera and become devastated. You’ll see a lot of yourself everywhere. Every day.

Lesson 5:

Choose a campaign photo you’re comfortable with.  You’ll be seeing the photo on billboards, posters, and even on TV; take the time to choose. Three years later, I still am glad I wasn’t forced into making a quick choice.

Oh, and about comfort, make sure you have a few pairs of very comfortable shoes. Trust me: The investment is worthy.

Lesson 6:

If you don’t have enough good people around you, don’t do it.

I was extremely lucky. My team was wonderful. Everyone worked so hard, and they were known for being one of the most supportive campaign teams ever.  I couldn’t have done it without them either.

Lesson 7:

Walk tall.

You‘ll be criticized over and over again, and then some. You’ll take heat, and it’s not going to be pretty. Candidates are criticized by journalists, constituents, and even by people who endorse them. Listen objectively, learn, and work on improving yourself. Do not waste time feeling resentment. It is useless.

Lesson 8:

Make yourself available to your constituents. Listen with heart. During the campaign I was “summoned” to a meeting with a group of citizens who were irate about the way the party I represented handled a safety issue in the area. I wasn’t the decision maker, but lobbied for the concerned constituents, and they knew I cared. It feels good to remember that I did not let those people down.

Lesson 9:

Learn about the history of your party and your constituency, and fill in any gaps you might have. You’ll be asked about things that happened when you weren’t even born and will be sentenced to political disgrace if you do not have the answers. I was once asked about a constituent allegedly abused by the police. I hadn’t heard. Trust me, I didn’t look good then.

Lesson 10:

Nothing is off the record with journalists. When my signs were vandalized during the campaign, I had a journalist make me think four times over an interview that I wasn’t on camera anymore in an attempt to “elicit” what she wanted me to reveal. My team had warned me, and fortunately, I didn’t beep a word.

Lesson 11:

Keep your family close. Do not let your campaign team become the “middle-man”.  Always make sure your children know where to reach you. Listen closely to your spouse, and do not make any major decisions about your career without your family. They will be part of every bit of it. My family stood by me every minute of it, and I do thank them for that.

Lesson 12:

Be ready to move on whatever happens. Your life does not stop on ballot night. Whether you make the seat or not, there is much more to think about , work for and live for.

Lesson 13:

Read the numbers well. I was glad to find out that I had gotten more votes than my incumbent opponent did the first time he ran. Definitely what many considered a huge success, especially considering all the circumstances surrounding my nomination.

In Conclusion

I hope this was helpful. However, I’d like to say that the biggest lesson I have learnt from my political experience is not to enter politics unless it is for wanting to make a change, a good one. It is only then that it can be rewarding.

Being a public figure and submitting yourself to scrutiny is definitely not a bed of roses. It takes a toll on your health, personal life, and even your freedom. If you’re doing it for the power or for the money, then DON’T. It is just not worth any part of it.

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