In difficult times, such as 2020, but also this year, business is the most volatile activity that anyone can undertake. It all depends on the preparation, skill and courage of those who have decided they want to be part of this game.
But what happens when you're at the beginning of the road and all you know is that you want to get in the game too? After all its years of activity, Nawaf Salameh comes with a series of advice that can help you have a clear vision and build a good plan for what is to be your next big success.
- Mid winter. I was a fresh graduate of the medical school and was still carefully analyzing the career path I was about to take. Although I really liked the job I had prepared for, something told me that the story in which I was going to play a key role was slightly different from the one I had imagined. I took the step from medicine to entrepreneurship when I was doing my residency. Sometime around that moment, a businessman proposed to me a chocolate export deal. The experience was a success and it didn't take long for the opportunity to repeat the deal came again, but I chose to build my own business with my own script.
I knew then that I was leaving a possibly simpler life, safer and without too many uncertainties, but it was this change of perspective that gave me courage and made me curious. Can I do that?
Strategy, analysis, rationality, but also instinct - I remember that when I was offered to invest in the small factory in Crete, where Alexandrion and Kreskova were produced, I weighed the opportunity a lot. I consulted with people who knew the field better than I did, I worked a lot on strategy and I relied on reason, but what motivated me to take over the reins of the distillery was a rather instinctive episode. When I left the spirits factory in Crete, most passers-by greeted the owner of the business, and that reminded me of my hometown of Marmarita, where valuable people were respected and greeted by everyone else. I knew then that I was doing the right thing.
So, before you set off, rely on analysis, strategy, reason, and if all this confirms your instinct - go for it!
Phasing the business plan - an old man in my family had a wise say - I didn't grow up in one day either - and that applies to business as well. Although it is important to know from the beginning what kind of business you want to build, whether you want a local business, a global business, a business for the next 20 or 200 years, it is vital that evolution is phased and controlled. Especially when you start from scratch.
In my case, the first years were aimed to achieve personal financial stability and that of my family. After this period I entered a stage of consolidation and growth in which I made sure that my business will exist in the long run and that it will generate well-being for all those who interact with it. And in the third stage, for which I needed a lot of patience, meant starting to build for the others around me.
Offer and seek loyalty and surround yourself with people with vision - two important things surprised me unpleasantly in the business world: the lack of loyalty and people who refuse to give themselves a chance. Trust and loyalty are hard to win and are the basis of any successful partnership, whether we are talking about consumers, employees, suppliers or collaborators. Although I had moments when I was disappointed, I managed to bring in loyal and visionary people, for whom a healthy and beneficial partnership for both parties is more important than any gain.
Beware of cheap and fast and eliminate <trickery> - all these terms should not exist in business. A healthy business is built on respect, fairness and trust. Cheap and fast, although it sounds tempting, cannot lead to something sustainable and lasting. Better look for and wish the best for you, for consumers and for those around you - from raw materials and services, to labels and new products. And fairness should not be optional, but a core value of all your employees and of your business. I remember that in Romania in the ‘90s it was extremely difficult to explain to people why the invoice is mandatory. It was hardly known what this term meant. Without exaggerating, I suppose I was among the first to pay taxes and excise duties on alcohol.
History, story, transparency, not just brand - with education, the internet, globalization, access to information, people began to pay more attention to what they buy. They started looking for what was really behind the label. Where is that brand born and produced? From what? Where do the raw materials come from? Who owns the brand? What are its values? How are factory people treated? So branding is no longer that relevant, but the sincerity with which you present yourself. It doesn't matter what star is talking about your product, if your employees don't recommend you, it doesn't matter the label design, if the raw material is not of the best quality, your brand identity becomes worthless if what you do is not in line with what you say. And all this will push us all to produce quality, to pay attention to those details that really matter and to win the trust of the consumer.
Bonus: Luck exists at the lottery, in business there is trust. And if when you go to present your idea to a potential partner and at the end he tells you - you might get lucky - know that it does not refer to luck, but to the fact that you have enough confidence in your plan and your idea, and that for this reason you have every chance of succeeding.