This July we tried a new style of speed networking amongst the women from the International Business Women’s Group – the female power behind the most amazing city that the world known as Dubai. It was more than interesting and helped me realise the value of connections, relationships and networking that is crucial to get things done and achieved in the Middle East.
In a region with a strong majlis culture (I love the stimulation and insights one gets in these gatherings), maintaining relationships and synergies in social set ups can do wonders that can only parallel in terms of awareness with PR initiatives that companies take.
When I look at my current WIP, I realise that 90% of the potential clients have come to us because of press releases they have read online or on my linked in, via media coverage as a result of press interviews and stories, my amazing alumni mates in 75 countries around the globe, my business groups and contacts in our line of industry on linked in. Even our allies/ partners/scholars have come to us via linked in forums or alumni connections reiterating the power of PR and connections. The other 10% who come to us also establish faith in us partly because we do quality amazing and unique work but their faith grows three fold in us because the media resonates the great work we do and because we have partners who add a load of credibility to the intellectual side of our business.
Which brings me to the point that a lot of people talk about such strategy but do they really understand the meaning of the word and how it applies to a business set up. I get the feeling some people just like the sound of it and find it a glamorous word to throw around without really doing anything about it. One can have numerous strategies in place but without people outside the company talking positively about your work and your affiliations, half the battle is lost because it begins to sound like you blowing your own trumpet when the clients, staff, media & partners should be the one vouching your work and company ethics. Effort therefore should be to continue to cultivate these relationships a lot more than most management teams spend their time on.
In the current difficult times, people become complacent, nasty and cut throat which ultimately projects negative vibes about an organisation that filters through all spheres of life. Some even consult unqualified and uneducated friends, lovers and relatives for advise and next steps to save money which becomes further detrimental to organisations creating even more negativity at the workplace. I believe the energy should be focussed on the positive and making great things happen through the relationships established over the years.
Connections I feel in these difficult times is the key to survival. The world should take a cue from this region on the culture of majlis meetings where great ideas are initiated over a cup of ‘Kahwa’. And for those who scoff at the great ideas that have materialised in UAE, may I point out that UAE is still one of the best countries to work in compared to Europe, USA or anywhere else where people are running away from taxes, horrible weather and would stoop at any level to get a bit of the sunshine in the UAE. Trust me, I had a woman who gave her friends money to call me from public phones in the UK last winter because her main objective was to move in with someone in the UAE to escape the cold dreary weather after she was cut off her regular monthly allowance from her usual sources. At one point she called herself which was a good thing cos I recognised her voice thereafter in a call in another country and the mystery pieces fit together. That’s how desperate people are to be here and we should appreciate this about the UAE instead of moaning and complaining all the time.
So the lesson I learnt recently is to keep up the networking and appreciate being in the UAE which gives us an opportunity to meet people from all spheres of life + keep building relationships. Who knew for instance that staying in touch with my alumni would have linked me to partners in the region who currently have opened doors to us for potentially some of the most lucrative upcoming projects in our field of business. Amazing how these link ups work – make the best of it!