Badr Jafar is an Emirati impact entrepreneur who serves as Managing Director of the Crescent Group, a family business group, operating in the UAE for over 42 years. The Group today consists of two main companies: Crescent Petroleum, the region's first independent and privately-owned petroleum company in the Middle East, of which Badr is President; and Crescent Enterprises, the company's conglomerate operating across several industry sectors of the global economy, of which he is Chief Executive Officer.
Within as well as outside of the family business, Badr has extensively explored social enterprise and joined and founded initiatives which focus on how business affects society and its reciprocal effect.
Badr founded the Pearl Initiative, a venture between the Private-Sector of Gulf Region of Middle East and the United Nations Office for Partnerships to promote a corporate culture of transparency and accountability. He sits on the Global Board of Education for Employment (EFE), is a member of the Synergos Arab World Social Innovators (AWSI) Program Board of Governors and is a Founding Board Member of Endeavor UAE, an initiative encouraging entrepreneurship in the Gulf Region.
Badr is actively involved in higher education, serving as a member of the American University of Sharjah's Business Advisory Council, and as a member of the Research and Innovation Advisory Council for The Centre of Excellence for Applied Research & Training (CERT) at the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in Abu Dhabi. Badr also chairs the Alumni Advisory Council of the Cambridge University Judge Business School and serves as Board Member of their International Advisory Board.
I appreciate your candid queries Ulrike. It’s worth highlighting at the outset that true “entrepreneurship”, which in my opinion is a combination of passion...
I appreciate your candid queries Ulrike.
It’s worth highlighting at the outset that true “entrepreneurship”, which in my opinion is a combination of passion, skills and experience, can be applied and practiced in numerous real-life situations from absolute start-ups to very mature publically-listed companies.
Whilst I do not hide the fact that I was very fortunate to be brought up in a family with means and did cut my teeth with entrepreneurship from an early age, growing up in a family business which my father founded in the early 70’s, I also had the invaluable opportunity of being engulfed in a number of start-ups establishing a number of relatively small scale business ventures while at school and also university.
The most relevant to your query would probably be my first venture after leaving Cambridge: despite the fact that I graduated with a Masters in Engineering, my decision to establish a fashion accessories business took many by surprise, not least my family.
Having been brought up in a relatively conservative social environment, it was not easy to say the least, to harness interest in my vision. Therefore in order to launch this vision that I had (after 16 months of tweaking business plans after many failed pitches) I managed to secure a small business loan of GBP 50,000 from the Royal Bank of Scotland. This got me going, and allowed me to develop a successful line of fashion accessories.
When I sold the company to a Japanese distributer three years later, the brand was selling in 12 different countries.
However that successful experience of growing a profitable enterprise from scratch was a double-edged sword, in that it probably made me feel overly confident that I could repeat that success many times over. I say this, because many of the ventures I attempted to establish straight afterwards in a host of different sectors including e-commerce, F&B, and property development were not successful – the silver lining was of course that I learnt a lot more from these failures than I did with my initial success!
Later on in my career, after joining the family business and applying what I had learnt to our existing energy business, I worked alongside the dedicated men and women in our business group to establish numerous other businesses under the umbrella of the newly formed Crescent Enterprises.
This gave me the opportunity to be exposed to new business challenges in a variety of new sectors at differing stages in their lifeline (from incubating new ideas to enhancing a 37 year old ports & logistics business). Each of them presented unique opportunities and challenges, all of which required entrepreneurial competencies.
Therefore if I am to try to make a distinction between an entrepreneur and a business manager, it would be that the entrepreneur has an insatiable appetite to make the world a better place by identifying needs, and the desire to offer more effective services or products. And they will go to any length to do so.
Can entrepreneurship be taught to our youth? Absolutely. It can start as early as they learn to communicate, and it is also never too late to practice it. I often say my father taught me everything I know, but unfortunately hasn’t yet taught me everything he knows! At the end of the day, everyone needs to travel their own journey in this wonderfully challenging ecosystem.
I hope this sheds some light on some of my journey, and wishing you good luck in yours.
P.S. Regarding any confusion in relation to the “friends and family” round of fundraising, I did not ever suggest that budding entrepreneurs should go about borrowing money from friends and family. What I was referring to is the typical “Round A” of fundraising that a start-up inevitably goes through, and which more often than not is raised through sources already known to the entrepreneur.
Dear Emad, Putting together the right team is not an easy feat, but it’s probably one of the most important factors for succeeding in business. Henry Ford...
Putting together the right team is not an easy feat, but it’s probably one of the most important factors for succeeding in business. Henry Ford is known to have admitted that his success was not due to him knowing how to do things himself, but to knowing people who did!
With a company of your size, it is critical that you hire a team to compliment your skills and bring new knowledge and expertise to the table. So, as a first step, you need to assess your requirements and determine the skills that would bring the most value to your business. Only once that’s clear should you start looking for people. Understanding what and who you’re looking for will make the search much easier.
If your personal networks are not sufficient, consider using various hiring channels such as recruitment agencies or head-hunters for senior positions. Also, be sure to take your time in hiring the right people. Do not “settle” for a candidate just because they’re the best of the lot. Getting these early-stage hires right is key to your business success. And be prepared for an iterative process and fine-tuning along the way.
Once you find the right people, make sure you keep them by motivating them, challenging them, and making sure they get sufficiently rewarded for their efforts.
Wish you the best of luck putting your new team together.
Dear Cameron, You ask a key question, the answer to which has been analysed in thousands of books, articles, and research documents. In short, the first...
You ask a key question, the answer to which has been analysed in thousands of books, articles, and research documents. In short, the first step to motivating your employees is for you to be motivated yourself! It is important that you are enthusiastic and excited about what you do, for you to have a chance of instilling the same excitement into your team.
In terms of motivating everyone through the same process, unfortunately there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. All employees are different and have different motivations. You need to understand what motivates each individual first. Some are driven by financial gain, others by a sense of purpose, status, or continuous learning.
A good way for you to discover this about your employees is through regular and frequent feedback sessions. These don’t necessarily need to be formal and documented, in fact, they’re better kept as informal discussions revolving around specific tasks, goals, performance KPIs etc. Such feedback sessions serve a dual purpose – in addition to helping you understand what motivates each individual, they also help motivate them. People in general like to know how they’re progressing against certain goals. It provides a sense of security, acknowledgement and accomplishment.
Once you know what motivates each individual, you will need to apply slightly different tactics to each person or situation, whether through recognition and appreciation of one’s work, or simply giving the person an opportunity to continuously learn and develop their skills.
At the end of the day, motivating your team is probably the single most important role of a manager. It has been proven over and over again that motivated employees are more productive, creative, and ultimately more valuable to a company. So as a manager, focus on your motivational skills. It will pay back dividends.
Dear Prakash, Fortunately for entrepreneurs, the labuor law in the UAE is relatively straight forward and easy to understand. It is available online at...
Fortunately for entrepreneurs, the labuor law in the UAE is relatively straight forward and easy to understand. It is available online at http://uaelaborlaw.com/ for anyone to read. It is important to review these laws entirely before starting to hire staff. Some vital decisions you would need to make before hiring relate to the type of contracts to provide (limited vs. unlimited), and duration of the probation period.
You also need to be aware of the consequences of hiring into certain positions. There are certain scenarios which require an employee to complete two years for one employer, before they move companies. If they leave within this period, they will not be issued a work visa for the new company. It will save you time, money and resources if you’re aware of these stipulations before you start interviewing candidates.
Another area to be aware of is hiring from competitors. It is actually possible for a competitor to block the visa issuance of an employee transferring to you if they can present a strong enough case around the transfer of knowledge and business. This may not be fair practice, but it happens.
Again, though the UAE labour law is less complicated than most other countries in our region, it is very important to have a good understanding of it before you start hiring.
Dear Danny, In terms of your most senior staff, though you might not be able to afford the big salary demanded by a seasoned industry professional, you...
In terms of your most senior staff, though you might not be able to afford the big salary demanded by a seasoned industry professional, you should be able to attract them to join your company if you were to use a more entrepreneurial approach. There are various ways of doing so, such as offering a compensation scheme which correlates with the future profits of the company, or formulating some form of stock options (you can search online for more about this).
In such cases, very good talent can be brought on board in return for sharing some of the profits or compensation that is tied directly to their and the businesses’ performance. This type of person would not be your typical employee looking for a safe and secure job that generates a guaranteed income, but rather someone who is willing to be innovative and take a risk with you in hopes of bigger returns in the future. I would advise that you look for senior staff are entrepreneurial themselves and willing to take the risk with you in the early days of a start-up.
In terms of the junior staff required for an F&B business, it would be much harder to entice them the same way. Here you would probably need to pay market rates based on the quality you require.
Look forward to hearing how the concept develops.
Dear Dominique, Sustained growth over four years is a great start, so congratulations on that front. There are three very important functions in your business...
Sustained growth over four years is a great start, so congratulations on that front.
There are three very important functions in your business line: sales, project execution, and cash flow management. Assuming the first two are taken care of by yourself and a small team, your next most important function is finance and accounting.
Many start-ups tend to neglect this part of the business early on so that they can focus on growing the business. However, cash flow is crucial to a start-up, especially one in your industry. You rely on subcontractors for executing your work while payments from your clients tend to come at a later stage, and sometimes after an event. Therefore knowing and planning your cash position at every moment, present and future, is of utmost importance and is critical to you being able to execute and deliver on the services you’re selling.
I hope this answers your question.
Dear Khalid, This is a real challenge that many start-ups face in the UAE. Thankfully, with growing interest and an improving entrepreneurship ecosystem...
This is a real challenge that many start-ups face in the UAE. Thankfully, with growing interest and an improving entrepreneurship ecosystem, chances of finding people with a similar mindset are better now than ever before.
And that is exactly what you need: people with a real interest in being entrepreneurial who are willing to take a risk in joining a start-up for the opportunity to be part of something big, something they can be proud of. Typically, such people can be attracted at a lower cost than usual if they’re provided with a compensation mechanism that is tied to the growth and success of the company. Additional compensation could be in the form of profit share, or bonuses based on milestones.
In addition to taking the regular route of finding employees, you should also expose yourself and your business to any and all sorts of entrepreneurial events and venues where you can network and interact with like-minded people. Events like Arabnet or venues like The Impact Hub or Make Café are where you’re likely to find potential candidates.
Happy talent hunting!
Dear Khalil, You ask very valid and reasonable questions to which there unfortunately aren’t any ‘silver bullet’ answers. To answer your first question...
You ask very valid and reasonable questions to which there unfortunately aren’t any ‘silver bullet’ answers. To answer your first question, achieving your goal is really entirely up to you. Is it possible? Absolutely! How? First and foremost, you need to be fully convinced with the uniqueness of your idea and have done your homework. Put your idea down on paper, research your target market thoroughly (visiting as many of the existing pharmacies in the Emirates you are targeting as you can), and understand the basic financials behind the business. By doing this you’re serving a dual purpose: firstly you’ll have a basis on which to decide for yourself whether the business is viable or not; and secondly, you’ll show any potential investors that you’ve really done your due diligence and are able to convince them that it’s a viable business.
This brings us to your question about funding. Generally most small startups in our Region begin with seed money from personal savings and/or family and friends support; something to get the business going and to provide a proof of concept. Whether this seed money is available or not, you’ll need to build up a network of potential strategic investors and/or partners. This requires networking with people from the industry you’re targeting by going to any events, conferences, social gatherings, and anywhere you can find people that are interested in your idea or are running similar businesses. You may also try entering business plan competitions, startup weekends, crowd funding platforms, startup incubators, etc… Even if you don’t find the funding required from these sources, you will get very valuable feedback and connections that will help you shape your idea and eventually achieve your goal. Which, to answer your last question, never is and can never be guaranteed! Just make sure you’re never afraid of asking questions, asking for help, and most importantly, never be afraid of failing. Nothing gets you more ready for your next venture than failure. As Winston Churchill once said “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm”.
Best of luck Khalil,
Dear Francina, First off, congratulations on having the courage and discipline to embark on this exciting journey of entrepreneurship. Regardless of the...
First off, congratulations on having the courage and discipline to embark on this exciting journey of entrepreneurship. Regardless of the industry, I believe there are always potential investors for any startup, it’s just a matter of knowing where to find them.
In your case, and since you mentioned that you need support with the business side of the venture, you should probably be looking for a STRATEGIC investor. In addition to providing capital, such an investor would more importantly provide expert advice and access to networks in your specific industry. To do this, you need to start pitching your idea to anyone fitting this description that could potentially invest or connect you to someone who would.
You can grow your network through attending industry events, conferences, social gatherings, and anywhere you can find people that are interested in your idea or are running similar businesses. In the process, and until you find the right partner, you will receive valuable feedback that will help you tweak and adjust your concept to better suit any investor.
Best of luck,
Dear Hani, This is a better time than ever to be looking for funds, and especially for ideas that are already running and have a proven concept (i.e....
This is a better time than ever to be looking for funds, and especially for ideas that are already running and have a proven concept (i.e. are already generating sustainable cashflows). Finding an investor is all about networking and making sure you’re rubbing shoulders with anyone and everyone that might be interested in investing in your business, or introduce you to someone who would or could. This requires networking with people from the industry you’re in by going to any events, trade shows, conferences, social gatherings, etc.
Building the financials and valuation of the business can seem like an enormous challenge for someone who doesn’t have the background. For this, you’ll need to ask for input and feedback from someone who has that capability and experience – there is no exact science, however there is tried and tested methodology to value early stage business models according to a combination of factors, including proprietary intellectual property, financial projections, market comparators etc. Business in the tech sector also have very specific and generally accepted valuation methodologies, since many of these types of businesses do not have tangible assets. By doing this exercise, you’ll get very valuable feedback that will help you build the right financial plan that potential investors need to see.
For each person that you pitch to and doesn’t fund your business, you can ask them for feedback, and also for a contact of someone else that would be willing to listen to your pitch. Angel investors by nature are interested in entrepreneurs and are always willing to help. There are currently a number of SME and early-stage funds that are either already running or being set up, including the likes of WAMDA Capital Fund, BECO Capital, and a number of SME debt funds such as the ones setup by The Emirates Development Bank or HSBC.
Wish you all the best in your adventures,
Dear Gaetano, There are various ways to find Angel Investors. Usually the first option is to approach friends and family, followed by your own business...
There are various ways to find Angel Investors. Usually the first option is to approach friends and family, followed by your own business contacts. If your direct contacts are not able to seed your startup then they might at-least be able to connect you to others who may invest or point you in the right direction, all the while building your contacts network.
Networking is the name of the game when it comes to fundraising. There are also various entities and platforms that connect you with angel investors and support crowd-funding. Such networks and platforms are quite common these days and include the likes of Eureeca (http://eureeca.com/), Angel’s Den (http://angels.angelsden.com/), Angel List (https://angel.co), and of course Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/).
Dear Abdulaziz, As mentioned in my reply to Hani, there is no exact science to business valuation, however, depending on the type of business you’re running...
As mentioned in my reply to Hani, there is no exact science to business valuation, however, depending on the type of business you’re running, and the stage it’s at, there may be existing methodologies that are commonly followed for your type of business. Usually, the easiest way to do this is to find a publicly traded company that is as similar to yours as possible, and then follow the valuation methods that market analysts have applied on it. If finance is not your area of experience, it would also be recommended that you find someone who can help you in this area.
In your case, and since it seems that your business is not possibly as profitable as it could be, it is important for you to have a plan on how you’re going to turn the business profitable and be able to show that to any potential investor. You’ll need to explain where this investment will be utilized to turn the business around and eventually provide a positive return to the investors. Profitability and Return on Investment (ROI) play a huge role in the valuation you’re going to approach investors with.
Wish you all the best in your endeavours,
Dear Ali, There are quite a few initiatives in the UAE supporting Emirati entrepreneurs. A couple of the most established government initiatives are the...
There are quite a few initiatives in the UAE supporting Emirati entrepreneurs. A couple of the most established government initiatives are the Abu Dhabi Khalifa Fund and Dubai SME. Both of which not only provide funding to startups, but also support startups at every step of the way by helping with the development of the business plan and financial forecasting through to providing advisory and business incubation services.
There are also some other financial institutions that have been given a mandate to provide a percentage of their lending to SME’s. Such institutions include Emirates Development Bank, HSBC, and Emirates Islamic Bank. Each of these lenders may have specific requirements in terms of sector, industry, and business type but all are catering to SME’s owned by Emiratis.
In addition, our President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa very recently approved an excellent new legislation, under which federal authorities and ministries must contract at least 10% of their procurement budget for purchasing, servicing, and consulting to SMEs.
Hope this works out for you.
Every entrepreneur needs a helping hand. With so many aspects of business to untangle, understand, and master, expert advice is not simply a bonus – it’s essential.
With that in mind, Arabian Business has teamed up with one of the region’s most prominent and successful entrepreneurs and business leaders to give you invaluable one-on-one information and advice.
CEO of Crescent Enterprises and Emirati serial entrepreneur Badr Jafar will host the Arabian Business Entrepreneurs Clinic, answering your questions about the things that matter most to you.
As well as CEO of Crescent Enterprises, Jafar is also MD of the Crescent Group, President of Crescent Petroleum, founder of the UN’s Pearl Initiative, board member of Education for Employment, member of the Synergos Arab World Social Innovators Program Board of Governors, founding board member of Endeavour UAE, and much more.
Active in higher education, the arts, and countless entrepreneurial projects, Jafar is also a board member of the Young Presidents’ Organisation, was honoured as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and is vice-Chair of their Global Council of Energy Security.
Whether it’s funding, licenses, staffing, or any other aspect of starting and maintaining your own business venture, Jafar will hand-pick some of the most common, confusing, and pressing queries to answer from our inbox every month.
The current topic for the Entrepreneurs Clinic is ‘Marketing’. Go ahead and ask away by clicking on the “Ask a Question” link above.