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During a recent interview I was confronted with two comments; “you must be proud of what you’ve accomplished” and “you have made it as an entrepreneur.” Strangely, these lines rang empty. Sure, I work on creating positive change for those surviving without access to the basic essentials like clean water, fresh food, electricity, and healthcare simply because they didn’t have a job to afford any of it. But there is so much to do and then I cringed at hearing the question “Who is your hero?”
Entrepreneurs are independent spirits. Maybe this is why they become entrepreneurs; it’s an intrinsic part of their personality. I’ve never aspired to be “like” someone, and no one was my “hero.” That was until two years ago when I started my entrepreneurial journey with Pi Slice.
When I found my first mentor and coach, he was instrumental in my endeavors to launch Pi Slice and fostered my belief in my values and vision. But you can never prepare for the unpredictable world and the rollercoaster of emotions that the entrepreneurship journey means until you actually step foot into it. Over time, I have learned that mentoring comes in many shapes and forms. It can be a work meeting with someone who gives you candid pieces of advice or it could be the unexpected act of a person passing by that teaches you something that touches you so deeply that it hits you like a crash course you weren’t prepared to take. All experiences add to a deeper personal thread of lessons needed to keep going.
When I was given the opportunity to do CEO Talks, I saw the opportunity to share inspiration in what I call “mentorship on the go.” The talks covered the style of leadership, creativity, business flair and personal traits of some of the most highly recognized CEOs of the Middle East. We tackled subjects of leadership like the why, the how, the motivation, mental toughness, decision-making, ability to change, team, personal traits/values, personal improvement, ambition and more. The conversations were great opportunities for the audience to get inside the heart and mind of the leaders they’ve watched from afar and ultimately inspire them to take on their own endeavors head on.
In tribute to the amazing mentorship I received, here are some of the most inspiring and down-to-earth quotes and lessons that can guide entrepreneurs to new heights within the entrepreneurial journey.
Be bold and execute
Disruptive entrepreneurs need to be audaciously optimistic to launch bold startups that can make an impact around them. Some say it is a characteristic that is innate while others say it can be learned through experience. Whatever the case, ideas and dreams don’t make waves unless they are implemented pragmatically in ways that can’t be ignored. We spoke to Osman Sultan, Chief Executive Officer of Du and Micheal Lahyani of Property Finder who both addressed the need for strategic delivery of bold ideas. Sultan said: “I am stubborn on the vision, flexible on the execution” to express the more critical point of success is one’s ability to pivot and make an idea a reality. Sultan adds to this “I wake up in the morning to be happy. This is the purpose.” And with such an attitude, one can face, architect, and build anything. Lahyani noted that “there is a difference between Ideas and Execution.” So many entrepreneurs think they have the next big idea but what matters is how those ideas come to life.
Problems lead you to consumer needs
Ideas are embraced when they solve a problem or an unmet need. Throughout history, humanity progressed thanks to the creations of bold individuals. Today an entrepreneur’s progressive contribution to society is still well embraced. The best ideas always tackle issues in ways no one has envisioned before. Dany Farha, CEO of Beco capital stated that “innovation is about solving a problem. And innovation in the Arab World could be about localizing business models to the Arab consumers.” Here he acknowledges that by solving a problem, you cater to an audience that has a need-which eventually becomes your customer. Along the same lines, CEO Michael Lahyani says “Focus on pain points that people have, to spark a business that disrupts.” And finally, CEO Ronaldo Mouchawar, CEO of Souq tells entrepreneurs to have a “customer-centric mind. Is our customer happy? This is the 1 billion dollars question in my mind.”
Have passionate purpose and always keep yourself in check
It’s no secret that the entrepreneurial journey is filled with a rollercoaster ride of highlights and disappointments. The only constant is change and the only weapon to keep an individual on course is passionate purpose. Knowing why a particular endeavor matters to you and the constituents you serve is critical. CEO Badr Jafar of Crescent Enterprises states that “99% of the time you are on the journey, 1% of the time you reach success or failure. If you do not believe in the journey – you are not living.” There has to be some committed belief in the vision and the path you take, though it might be unknown what will help you realize that vision. By asking himself “what makes you wake up every morning?” he finds that anticipation is key when embracing the “excitement of the unknown.” Since the path has so many variables, entrepreneurs will be faced with a constant network of family, friends, peers and stakeholders who will undermine their purpose which is why “you don’t need to look for a devil’s advocates – they will find you at every turn!” Yet through it all if you can turn these experiences into the fuel needed to move your vision forward then it will be worth it. “Use your self-doubt to always question your sense of purpose in everything you do.” The 'why' of 'what' you do will always keep you grounded and relentless.
It is clear that many of the quotes expressed by our interviewed CEOs speak to the hearts of many undergoing entrepreneurial endeavors. When I launched CEO Talks, I didn’t want it to be a simple calendar of interview events for the public. I wanted it to be a consistent opportunity to take valuable insight from leaders who’ve been where we are. So next time you hit rock bottom or celebrate an awesome moment, know that some of the best points of advice can come in a quote, an encounter or an incident that just captures the essence of everything you need to hear to keep moving forward. You just need to be open to receive whatever it is you need to learn in that moment – when you’re simply open, whatever you need, will be simply given to you in that moment.