Management Issues

Our biggest and most serious problem in Egypt is management. The main reason, as I see it, is because unqualified people reach managerial positions. Those employees gain their way up the hierarchy because they were able to befriend their boss and make a show that they are the best employees ever, although they are unqualified. When they become managers they make a mess.

Here are some of the issues that customers and employees suffer from because of unqualified managers:

1-Lying to customers: some managers think that the best way to deal with the customer is to promise anything (the sky is the limit). They think that whatever the customer asks for, they must promise that they will deliver even if they know they can’t. Some promise delivery dates that they can not fulfill, just to get the deal and then they keep coming up with excuses to calm the angry customer. Some promise to deliver products that they know they can not develop because they do not know the “know-how”. They promise nonetheless and then start searching for someone with the required expertise to hire, a process of course that can take time and effort and it is possible not find him in proper time.

NEVER LIE TO THE CUSTOMER (Or potential customer). The best way to get a deal is to be honest and to promise only what you can fulfill. When the customer deals with you once and sees that you keep your word and you deliver what you promise, he will ask for more business with you and he will recommend you to others. On the other hand if you lie, he will just finish the current deal with you and will never want to see your face again. His frustration and anger will make you loose at least from 8 to 10 potential customers.
2- Overloading employees: To get as many deals as possible, managers accept too many projects at the same time. They do not think of their resources, all they think of is closing the deal. The result is overloaded employees who are worn out, they can not concentrate and hence quality of the work degrades. Managers to exercise their authority start criticizing and pressing more and more on the employee’s nerves. This in turn results in even worse quality of work, missed deadlines, angry employees and angry customers.

BUILD REASONABLE PLANS AND BALANCED WORKLOADS. Do not pressure your employees if you want to get quality. Do not also leave them too much free time. A balanced workload is always wise. Remember that if your employee wears out you will loose all the projects that you were so eager to gain. Delivering two successful projects is better than loosing ten.
3-Being a Dictator: Some managers think that the best way to manage is to become a dictator. They only see and hear themselves. They leave no space for employees to express their opinions. Although, if they think carefully they will realize that if they leave room for discussion they will get better results.

NOT TOO BOSSY / NOT TOO LOOSE. Balance yourself between being organized, firm and exercising your authority and at the same time listening to your employees. Remember you are one team and you should play as a team to win. Remember that you are human and you can and will make mistakes. So, do not rely on your head only. Befriend your employees and gain their trust to get the best out of them. But, do not make them rule!
4-Not being fair: Be fair in evaluating the performance of your employees. Do not judge based on who is nice to you or who is praising you and agreeing with whatever you say. Evaluate based on output and performance.



Sales Plan Guidelines

There are two views for a sales plan:
The First View:
There are three broad areas to consider in a sales plan:
1-The Territory
2-The Account
3-The Call
The second view:
There are four broad areas to consider in a sales plan:

I will explain briefly each view below.

The first view:
1- The Territory:

1.1 Create your territory
a- A critical part of sales planning is discriminating between Poor, Good, Better and Best accounts.
You then divide your time and attention in the way that most of your time is spent where the money comes from. The only way to do this is to give less time to the small accounts.

Your top 5% money volume accounts are “A” accounts. The next 15% are “B”, the next 20% are “C”. The remaining 60% are small players.

b- Create a “Hit List” containing 6-10 large potential prospects and treat them as your “A” list.
Allocate at least 50% of your selling time to your “A”, “B” and “Hit List” accounts.
About 30-40% to your “C” list. And the last 10-20% can be divided among the remaining 60% of customers that provide around 10% of your revenue.

Note: some people say, create your hi list from your competitors’ customer list. I see this as unethical. I think that if we concentrate on doing a better job than our competitors and offering a better service, their customers will move to us without having to deliberately target them.1.2 Map your territory
Take your prioritized customer list created in the first step and plot it on a map with colour coding to indicate importance. Start calling customers to schedule visits. Using your map identify one or two top-tier (A, B, Hit List) to visit in the morning every day and another one or two in the afternoon.

2- The Account
2.1 Set Targets
After identifying your key customers in the previous step, set annual sales and product targets and goals for each of them. Part of the goal will be to maintain and protect existing business and another part is to grow new business.

After targets are set ask the following questions and set your plan to answer them:
·Do I currently have 100% of the target or do I only have a percentage?
·What can I do to reach the target?
·What competitive threats exist?
·How can I neutralize/eliminate my competitors?
·What habits or practices are standing in the way of my getting my business?

2.2 Create customer records
Targets and action plan should be recorded in each customer record. The record should include important data about the customer and its personnel (sales history, names, roles, phone numbers, etc.)
Information learnt about the account is very important.

3- The Call
This is related to the account plan. The call plan is developed using: Long term targets, progress reports and current marketing or sales promotions. It is about how to utilize what you have and when to call/visit you customers.

Second View
Main topics of a sales plan:
1- Customers
2- Competition
3- Pricing
4- Marketing

· Who are your customers?
· Are your markets growing? Steady? Declining?
· How will you attract, hold, increase your market share?

· Who are your five most direct competitors?
· Who are your indirect competitors?
· How are their businesses: steady? Increasing? Decreasing?
· What have you learned about their operations?
· What do you know about their marketing and advertising?
· What are their strengths and weaknesses?
· How do their services and products differ from yours?
Note: Create a file for each competitor. Save their advertising and promotional materials and any pricing information you can gather. Review these files periodically, determining when and how often they advertise, how they participate at industry gatherings and anything else you can about the way they bring business.

Your pricing strategy is another marketing technique you can use to improve your overall competitiveness. Although your pricing will be based on your industry and cost, it is good practice to know what pricing strategies your competitors are using.

Your Marketing / Advertising Plan is critical in helping you reach your customers and create a unique image for yourself.

A letter to my beloved father

My father died last Wednesday (11-4-2007) and suddenly I feel lonely and insecure. Although I am married and I have my lovely 6 months old baby Mariam, I still feel so lost like a 7 years old child who lost his father. Imagine yourself trying to walk without your backbone; this is exactly how I feel.

My father was a great man. He was a true gentleman, so kind hearted, firm but gentle. He was so honest, hard-worker and with a very high conscious. He graduated from the American University in Cairo in 1960. He studied political science and mass-communication. He started his career as a journalist in the Associated Press for 15 years, then at Reuters for 17 years, then the Middle East News Agency. He then started teaching Journalism at the American university in Cairo. He has been teaching at AUC for the last 11 years. The day he died I saw how much he was loved, respected and appreciated by his students. They attended his funeral and they were deeply sorry for loosing him. When I saw them cry and heard how they speak of him, I cried harder for our loss. But it made me also happy and proud of my father. They dedicated a whole page on him in the newspaper he used to supervise issuing at AUC. The articles they wrote on him touched my heart. It made me cry so hard to read the students talk about him as their father, friend and mentor and not as any other professor. This is a live example that when we die nothing remains except our good reputation and our good deeds in life.

I still see him walking around at home, I still hear him talking to me and I still remember his advice to me. I wish I had enough time to tell him how much I love and respect him. If I am anything good and successful today, I owe it to him and my mother.

My dear dad,
I hope you can feel now how much I miss you, love you, and respect you and how much I am proud of the fact that I am your daughter. May God rest your soul in peace, may HE forgive all your minors and reward all your good deeds.
I will always do whatever I believe that you would have been proud of if you were alive. I will remember every advice you gave me and will abide by it. I will try to raise my child the same way you raised me and my sister, so that I can be proud of her one day the same way I hope you were proud of us.

You will live in my heart forever,

Business Meetings Hints & Tips

I noticed from my years of work experience that managers tend to rush into conducting meetings with their employees without really making sure that what they will discuss needs a meeting.

It is very important to make the right judgment. Is it a meeting, an email, a memo,….what exactly do you need to do to deliver your message? unnecessary meetings are a waste of time, effort and money. And on the long run your team will resent your meetings and will not listen.

How to manage and document your meeting findings is also critical, or else your meeting is useless.

I came across the following document once and I find it interesting and useful. It summarizes a lot of important points to consider in business meetings, enjoy reading it.

© 2000, COMMERCIAL SOLUTIONS TRAINING & Development (214) 503 – 1706


Before The Meeting
1. Is A Meeting The Best Way To Handle Your Communication Need? (Consider A Memo, Conference Call,E – mail, Video Conference, Presentation, etc.)
2. What Must You Leave The Meeting With (A Decision, Commitment, Ideas, Consensus, etc.) In Order For It To Be A Success? (After You Answer This, Revisit The Question Above)
3. What Is The Sequence Of Topics That Must Be Addressed In Order To Accomplish Your Meeting Objective?
4. In What Ways (Discussion, Brainstorming, Planning, etc.) Must You Address Each Topic And For How Long?
5. Who Must Be Present At Your Meeting For You To Accomplish Your Objective?
6. Where Should The Meeting Be Held In Order To Increase Comfort And Reduce Influence? (ie. You Influence More In Your Office)
7. When Should You Meet And For How Long?
8. Have You Prepared And Sent A Detailed Agenda To All Participants?

During The Meeting
1. Did You Arrive Early Enough To Prep The Meeting Room And Yourself?
2. Did You Start The Meeting On Time?
3. Did You Confirm That Everyone Received And Understood The Agenda And Is Prepared To Work?
4. Did You Introduce The First Agenda Topic And Indicate The Preferred Way Of Addressing It (eg.”Generating Ideas Is The Approach I’d Like To Suggest With Our First Item, Sales Initiatives.”)
5. Did You Encourage The Less Talkative And Ride Herd On Monopolizers?
6. Did You Alert The Meeting Members When Agenda Items Were Within 2 to 5 Minutes Of Their Allotted Time? (eg. “We’ve Got Five Minutes Left With This Item, So . . .”)
7. Did You Use A Concerns Flipchart To Capture Unfinished Business?
8. Did You Summarize & Confirm Conclusions And Commitments?
9. Did You Thank Participants?
10. Did You Take Notes?

After The Meeting
1. Did You Complete A Short, Clear Summary Of The Meeting, With Emphasis On Decisions And
Commitments That Were Made?
2. Did You Distribute The Meeting Summary To Every Participant And Anyone Else With A Need To Know Within 36 Hours Of The Meeting?
3. Did You Begin And/Or Complete Any And All Of The Actions That You Committed To During The Meeting?
4. Did You Follow Up With any Meeting Participant Who Made A Commitment?
5. Did You Express Thanks To Any Participants Who Added Superior Levels Of Value To Your Meeting?
6. Did You Probe Any Participants Who Were Unusually Quiet Or Who Expressed Reservations With Topics Or Outcomes?

How to put a Business Plan?

Any business plan in general should include:

1- Defining a plan for ongoing projects:
Any on going project should have a time plan i.e. a deadline for it to be completed, A budget estimate and a goal. We should state how do we intend to benefit from it and what should be the minimal gain out of it.
2- Analyzing all our services:
Putting a plan on how to enhance our service and how to better benefit of what we have. This should have a time plan as well and cost estimate.
3- Analyzing all our existing clients:
The main aim is to see how we can better serve them. Whether we want to offer special promotions to our clients or not. And if we do make special offers, to whom, when and how. The budget allocated for that purpose should be defined. A time plan is very important to pick the best time to place our offer. Also what do we intend to gain out of these promotions is very important since we will spend money so we have to know that we will collect more than what we will spend.
4- A time plan on how to approach new customers.
A well-defined time plan and a budget should be allocated for that purpose as well.
5- Development needs:
All our internal needs to achieve all the above stated points. Things like hiring people if needed, attending training courses if needed, buying needed equipment like computers….and so on.
A budget limit should be allocated for that purpose and all our needs should be well defined.
6- Marketing plan:
Should we use advertising in news papers? or should we plan a seminar and invite people to attend and get to know about our services? what is our budget for such a market campaign? how many adds or seminars can we do for the whole year? All this should be planned ahead.
7- A new Idea:
In any business plan, you have to have one new idea. Something new that you want to do this year. The whole year should be its time limit. A budget should be allocated for it and it should be our goal for the year
8- Market research:
We should carefully study the market and assess the competition. We have to know where we stand facing our competing companies. We have to state our weak points in comparison with the competition and put a plan to solve it. This plan should have a time and cost estimate.

And of course, for all the points above, the plan has to be honest and realistic. Never overestimate or underestimate your capabilities. Also never include something in your plan that you know you can not and will not accomplish.

Successful presentation hints and tips

Presentations are meant to deliver a message to your audience & you might also want to reap a benefit out of them (like sell your new product). To be sure your presentation is a success, use the following tips:There are two factors that affect the success of a presentation: The speaker & the presentation material itself.

I. The Speaker:

1- Prepare long enough before the presentation time.

2- Conduct timed rehearsals at least twice before the presentation. (Even better if you can do it with some of your colleagues or friends to collect feedback & enhance your presentation)

3- Make sure you are well dressed, clean and looking bright. The Speaker’s appearance is a critical factor in making the audience willing to listen.

4- If number of speakers from the same company will conduct the presentation, it is better if they wear a uniform, a dress code or at least a badge with the company logo (to give a uniform appearance).

5- Speak clearly & surely.

Not too LOUD Not too FAST

Not too LOW Not too SLOW

6- Control your body language. Do not make unnecessary movements that could distract your audience. Point only when needed and use your hands only when needed. If any point needs acting to elaborate on it, do so.

7- Have Eye contact with your audience. This reassures people that you understand and is sure of what you are talking about. This makes your speech more convincing.

8- Avoid Jargon or abbreviations unless explained.

II. The Presentation:

1- The topic has to be defined and clear.

2- The message that you want to deliver has to be defined and clear.

3- Visual aids are very important. Use more images, videos and effects than text. One image can explain much better than 100 words and your audience will remember it much easier after your presentation is over.

4- Divide your presentation into: Introduction, Body and Ending. Prepare your audience in the introduction then make them understand when you reach the body of your presentation then wrap up to remind them of the important points in the end.

5-Leave room for interaction with your audience, whether in the presentation or through questions and answers at the end.

6- Distribute handouts if needed.

Email writing skills for business

From my professional experience, I learnt a few hints and tips about email writing for business purposes that I would like to share.

We all have the tendency to write the same way we speak. Writing is different!
When you write, especially an email, you have to be very clear, short and to the point.

1- People tend to resist reading very long emails, even if they are important. So you need to write short emails.

2- Written words are harsher than spoken ones. The same thing that you can say to someone, if written can annoy or hurt him although it did not when orally said. This is because when you speak it out, the way you say it makes a difference. So take care, when you write an email, revise it several times to make sure that the tone of it is not harsh and will not annoy your reader.

3- After you write your email, proof read it for rephrasing. It is important to make sure that all sentences can not have more than one meaning. If you write sentences that can be interpreted in different ways, you will loose the aim of your email. You can even cause problems or delayed deliveries.

4- Never use colors, special signs (like exclamation mark), Capital letters or bold fonts to express your anger or to emphasize something. It gives the impression that you are fighting. Even if you have the right to be angry, do not show it this way because you will definitely lose your audience.

5- Never use abbreviations unless you mention the full phrase first and its abbreviation beside it in brackets. Then in the rest of the email body you can use the abbreviation. (Unless of course it is a well known abbreviation in your business or something that is frequently used and you are sure it is known to the recipient)

6- After you write your email, proof read it again for spelling mistakes. A business email with spelling mistakes is repulsive.

7-After you write your email, proof read it a third time for grammatical and logical mistakes. A business email with such mistakes is extremely repulsive.

8- Do not CC: someone on an email unless absolutely necessary, requested by a manager or the CCd: person will do something related to the email (has a role).

9- The color of your font should not be red, green, yellow or blue. Use colors that are comfortable for the eye and would not cause your recipient to refrain from reading your email.