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

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.

 

Project Management for NGOs Workshop

Dear Readers,

I’d like to invite you to a workshop that I’m organizing and delivering as part of my work with CMCS Lebanon. Details below.

Workshop Topic: Project Management for NGOs
Date:  September 16 & 17, 2013
Time: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Venue: CMCS Lebanon Office – Hamra
Facilitator: Afif Tabsh, PMP®

Target Group:

  • NGO’s Board Members & Founders
  • NGO Consultants
  • Program & Project Managers/ Coordinator/ Assistants
  • General/ Grant Coordinators
  • Team/ Committee/ Task-force Leaders
  • Company Managers with interest in CSR Projects/Programs
  • UN & International Organizations’ Staff

Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand the difference between NGO projects and private sector projects.
  • Understand and identify how to use standard tools and techniques of project management in NGOs.
  • Understand the relationship between the Knowledge Areas in the PMBOK (PMI) in relation to NGO’s terminology and way of work.
  • Understand how to develop a project idea into a full project management plan.

Description:

  • A practical hands-on workshop designed in alignment with the international standard of project management along with the best practices in Project Management in NGOs.
  • Covers key topics and issues that everyone can build on to enhance the way they transform project ideas into fully functioning plans.
  • Includes numerous discussions, reflection sections and exercises.
  • Is approved by AUB and certified by PMI thus PMP/CAPM holder can claim PDUs for it.

Fees:
$ 550 US (including CMCS Customized Course Manual, a Process Chart, Certificate of Attendance, 15 PDUs, and Snacks & Refreshments). VAT included.

For Registration: PM for NGOs Registration Form

For More Information:
OFC: (+961) 1 345111
Mobile: (+961) 71 69000
FAX: (+961) 1 346111
Email: lebanon@cmcs-mena.com

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

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 :)

Awarded the Laureate Global Fellowship

Dear Friends and Readers,

I hope you’re doing well. I am writing this post to gladly announce that I have been selected to be 1 of 20, from among thousands of applicants worldwide, to be awarded the “Laureate Global Fellowship”  as part of the YouthActionNet program by the International Youth Foundation.

Launched in 2001 by the International Youth Foundation, YouthActionNet strengthens, supports, and celebrates the role of young people in leading positive change in their communities. Each year, 20 exceptional young social entrepreneurs are selected as Fellows following a competitive application process. The year-long Fellowship program includes:

  • Skill-building
  • Networking and Resources
  • Advocacy

You can read more about the 2012 Laureate Global Fellows Announcement and check my profile and the other 19 Fellows on the Meet the Fellows Page. Moreover, you can better understand Aie Serve, the organization that I’ll be representing, by visiting its Website and its Facebook page.

I’m excited about this year-long fellowship and eager to learn, grow, network and share! 🙂

3 Elements of Mind Mapping

Image

Many have seen me use mind mapping in meetings, workshops, brainstorming sessions and even in project planning. Now what many don’t know is how and when to use mind maps. So I’m going to share with you some quick insights on its origin, usage and basic guidelines.

Origin

“Min-Map” as a term was made popular by Tony Buzan in Britain in the 1950s though the term itself was present before. Nevertheless, visual representation of information is not a novel idea, it dates back to the third century when Porphyry of Tyro, a philosopher, graphically represented Aristotle’s concepts. Back then they knew the value of graphical representation of ideas and it’s still valid till today…people retain graphical information more than textual.

Usage

If, like most people, you think that mind maps are a tool for brainstorming only…think again! It can be used in a multitude of ways..some of them are:

  • Note Taking
  • Project Planning
  • Cause-Effect Analyses
  • Root-Cause Analyses
  • Brainstorming
  • Evaluation
  • Creativity Enhancing
  • Concept Explanation
  • Listing of Related Items

Obviously the list is not exhaustive, but it gives you a good idea of where to start.

Guidelines

Now if you’re planning to do a mind map, here are few recommendations by Buzan himself (with personal amendments) to ensure you’re utilizing it well.

  • Start with a word or image at the center.
  • Use not only words but also images, diagrams, drawings or anything that helps in expressing.
  • Switch between Upper and lower cases when needed to stress on some main ideas.
  • Each word/item is to be put on a line by itself, they don’t like sharing the same line.
  • All items must be connected starting from central idea/word/image and growing outwards, no hanging fruits.
  • Draw thicker/longer lines for more “important” ideas.
  • Use different colors for branches, ideas..etc. to stress on differences.
  • Try out several small mind maps to find your style before you start using it for business or studying.

I hope the above helped a little bit and I wish you the best of luck in mapping your mind!

5 Dos & Don’ts of Leading Volunteers

Being a volunteer myself involved in leading volunteers, I get to reflect often on how things are done and how to improve.

It is without doubt that leading volunteers tends to be tricky as you’ll have to ensure motivation and commitment are high at all times. Moreover, you’ll need to take care of the feelings and aspirations of the volunteers, no matter how young or old they are.

So to make things simple, I am going to share with you 5 Dos and 5 Don’ts in managing and leading volunteers:

Dos:

  • Thank volunteers at every milestone, every good report, every job well done. There is no upper limit of how much you can thank them and how. It can range from a simple thank you email, a tap on the shoulder, to inviting them for a free dinner/lunch/get-away.
  • Give volunteers space to make decisions and have a say in what is being done. Barely anyone likes to do donkey work or to simply follow steps given, let the volunteer role be more demanding and challenging.
  • Lead by being a role model, show the way and be the first to step up for action. It takes people a very short time to realize preachers from doers.
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up… oh and did I say it’s important to follow up? You wont imagine how smooth things will go if you just remind people if they missed something ,follow up on tasks to be done and make sure things are progressing as planned. If you just sit there and expect volunteers to get things done without any follow up..at least at the beginning, then you’ll be surprised.
  • Be friendly, polite and respectful. Yes they may seem trivial, but so many times discussions, emails or meetings can become tense, issues urgent, stakes high…that you might lose your temper, say something mean, be a bit harsh or disrespectful. Once you do that..you know you’re going to lose some one from the team or lose their trust and respect to say the least.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t underestimate any volunteer’s abilities, knowledge, network or creativity. You’ll be surprised with how much people can do when you believe in them.
  • Don’t blame or criticize volunteers publicly. Keep morale high and respect of others to each other and to yourself, if you have something negative to say…say it one-to-one.
  • Don’t take all the credit. Give credit where credit belongs… if the team is doing a good job, you owe them the credit, not yourself.
  • Don’t be biased for personal reasons. Give work, credit or thanks for those who are doing work…not for those you like or you’re friends with.
  • Don’t keep information hidden to yourself. Sharing knowledge, experience, information, contacts ..etc. with your  team is key to show them you trust them and to empower them with what they need to lead…to become self-motivated and self-managed.

I hope those few things help you out! 🙂

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Project Management for Entrepreneurs

I have been doing some enthusiastic research on the topic, and I have come to realize that most of the current corporations and governments are not being able to provide enough jobs for the hundreds of thousands of young Arabs who graduate every year. Besides, those amongst them that were planning on emigrating lost their chance to travel to the US or Europe for dream jobs due to the economic downturn.

With 60% of the Arab nation being under 30 years old, the number of educated individuals is rising, and yet the supply of jobs is inadequate. In this context, numerous institutions, banks, and government agencies are focusing on fostering entrepreneurship among youth.

Consequently, hundreds of startup projects and initiatives are being launched annually by young entrepreneurs who have the education, the idea, the drive, but lack the experience and the systematic approach to enhance their chances to succeed in their ventures.

This gap has certainly led to numerous failed initiatives, shattered dreams, and lost investments. Imagine all those young aspiring youth, full of enthusiasm and creativity, but crushed by their own inability to drive their business enterprises to success.

The fact is, good ideas are a dime a dozen. The true value is in the ability to transform those ideas into reality…and rare are those that have the intrinsic knowledge to go through the process. In this context, I have realized that project management skills, knowledge and tools come in very nicely to fill a gap for the aspiring entrepreneurs and empower them to be able to transform their ideas into a reality.

So after some well-thought of analysis, I have pinpointed 5 project management mantras from which entrepreneurs can surely benefit from:

  1. Ability to clearly define the scope of their startups, products, services and communicate it clearly.
  2. Knowledge of how to break down the scope of work into clear and comprehensive work packages, schedule the work packages, and work on a budget accordingly.
  3. Skills in recruiting the right people, engaging them, and motivating them to work synergically.
  4. Communication skills with main focus on unifying terminology used, choosing the proper communication channels, and disseminating the right information.
  5. Expertise in understanding possible risks that are inherent to new ventures and ways to manage them. This usually becomes better with time…trial and error being the best tutor.

That’s what I have in mind so far, I hope it helps. Knock them out!

 

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