Water and Wealth Creation

On a trip to Kenya, we were faced with a village that required access to clean water. Their wish was to have water, to grow crop that would in turn provide them with the money to educate the boys and the girls of the community (traditionally only the boys were educated.)

In other words, a sustainable solution.

There were 3 key elements highlighted through our research:

1. The correlation between sustainability of wells and community involvement.

2. Most organisations measure track record in terms of wells drilled, not how many are still functioning after two to three years and no reference to the ongoing benefits e.g. economic development, creation of schools etc.

3. Main contributor to wells failing is lack of maintenance.

Applying our methodology, we searched for and identified a number of NGOs, charities and grassroots organisations. We screened them for their capabilities, track record, efficiency, transparency and ability to deliver. We finally chose a grassroots organisation whose model and capabilities were aligned with the needs of the village.

We worked with them to provide water to the village and other initiatives, providing the villagers with the means to become self-sufficient. One such initiative was using their mobile phone to create a maintenance alert and tracking system.

We are forever indebted to the people of Samburu for opening our eyes and the work of The Samburu Project for making a difference to people’s lives.

AMANI™ is in part due to their teachings.

On a trip to Kenya, we were faced with a village that required access to clean water. Their wish was to have water, to grow crop that would in turn provide them with the money to educate the boys and the girls of the community (traditionally only the boys were educated.)

In other words, a sustainable solution.

There were 3 key elements highlighted through our research:

1. The correlation between sustainability of wells and community involvement.

2. Most organisations measure track record in terms of wells drilled, not how many are still functioning after two to three years and no reference to the ongoing benefits e.g. economic development, creation of schools etc.

3. Main contributor to wells failing is lack of maintenance.

Applying our methodology, we searched for and identified a number of NGOs, charities and grassroots organisations. We screened them for their capabilities, track record, efficiency, transparency and ability to deliver. We finally chose a grassroots organisation whose model and capabilities were aligned with the needs of the village.

We worked with them to provide water to the village and other initiatives, providing the villagers with the means to become self-sufficient. One such initiative was using their mobile phone to create a maintenance alert and tracking system.

We are forever indebted to the people of Samburu for opening our eyes and the work of The Samburu Project for making a difference to people’s lives.

AMANI™ is in part due to their teachings.

REAL IMPACT OR GREENWASHING?

REAL IMPACT OR GREENWASHING?

Recent years have seen an increase in ‘sustainability’ initiatives, but there is a difference between real impact and greenwashing. That difference lies in what gets measured and what gets done. Here are some questions to ascertain true impact.

read more
A FOUNDER TO BACK?

A FOUNDER TO BACK?

Most investors say they do due diligence on the team. We have found many fall short in picking up the telltale signs of potential risk factors and what needs to be done to increase the likelihood of success.

read more
WHEN INVESTORS COME IN

WHEN INVESTORS COME IN

Bringing investors on board can help a company scale, but difficulties can arise from growing too quickly. Here’s how we helped a high-growth company tackle transition and the associated growing pains.

read more
8 Reasons Ethics Make Good Business Sense

8 Reasons Ethics Make Good Business Sense

good business

8 reasons Ethics make good business sense
 
Facebook is the latest company to learn the hard way that bad conduct affects stakeholders. The share price has seen a 13.5% drop since the Cambridge Analytica drama. Here are eight reasons why ethics are good for business.

Shareholder Sentiment

Trust and confidence in management affect shareholder sentiment. News related to unethical behaviour negatively impacts this level of confidence. Negative shareholder sentiment does not attract investment.

This is relevant to private companies too, especially family businesses, where reputation and standing of the company impact the family name. Family businesses also have other stakeholders to bear in mind – other family members used to dividend payouts.

Engagement and Retention

Employees prefer working for companies that treat people with dignity, respect and fairness. An environment where employees feel valued. When employees see, hear or experience negative behaviour or practices misaligned with their principles, their trust and loyalty to the company erode. Hence ethics = higher engagement + retention.

Customer Satisfaction

Would you want to do business with a company you don’t trust? Other customers wouldn’t either.

Companies with high levels of customer satisfaction tend to generate a higher degree of customer loyalty, repeat business and greater market share.  Moreover, businesses that genuinely contribute to their community and maintain good relationships with other businesses tend to be more successful in the long run.

There is a caveat to this. Companies who have corporate social responsibility initiatives but poor business practices are in danger of breeding cynicism and mistrust. This is counter-productive to building brand and customer loyalty.

Focus on Creating Value

A business needs its people to focus on activities that grow the company and create value. Unethical practices are more likely to open a company up to unwanted distractions such as lawsuits. Why would a business engage in activities that detract from creating value?

“Ethical business practices are sound business practices.”

Financial Records

The last two decades have seen a number of cases centred on fraudulent financial reporting. Whilst the effects of misleading financial reporting may boost the company’s stock price in the short-term, there are almost always ill effects in the long run.

Accurate financial records are more than a regulatory requirement. They are key to sound decision-making and long-term success.

Green Practices

I was once told ‘whether you’re chopping trees or hugging trees, people look for returns.”

The fact of the matter is if you don’t keep an eye on your bottom line, the business will be unsustainable. The bottom line is affected by people’s perception, belief and likeability of your company. The internet and social media have provided stakeholders with greater insight into the impact businesses have on our environment and society. Customers seek to do business with companies that reflect their values. Suppliers and investors would be wise to follow suit.

Unforeseen Circumstances

Waiting until a crisis strikes to instil and encourage good behaviours is a poor strategy. It takes time to overhaul embedded systems, beliefs and practices, so businesses are better off setting off on the right foot, rather than trying to course correct when calamity hits.

Genuine errors and unforeseen circumstances do happen. The ability for a business to respond appropriately and speedily speaks volumes in the eyes of stakeholders. When bad news hits, taking prompt and proper action is essential. Delayed decisions fuel negative public opinion, causing a downward spiral in relationships with stakeholders. This is not good practice for any business that needs customers, employees, suppliers and/or investors to thrive.

Counteract Apathy

Some may still argue why change when some are getting away with it. Others may wait for regulatory bodies to force them to clean up their business practices. But the fact of the matter is, we can no longer ignore the impact business has. We can no longer exonerate our actions through corporate social responsibility. We need to challenge the status quo bred under the guise ‘but this is business’. It’s smart to start right – acting responsibly in the first place.

Originally featured in Fresh Business Thinking and updated on 25 April 2018.

Facebook is the latest company to learn the hard way that bad conduct affects stakeholders. The share price has seen a 13.5% drop since the Cambridge Analytica drama. Here are eight reasons why ethics are good for business.

Shareholder Sentiment

Trust and confidence in management affect shareholder sentiment. News related to unethical behaviour negatively impacts this level of confidence. Negative shareholder sentiment does not attract investment.

This is relevant to private companies too, especially family businesses, where reputation and standing of the company impact the family name. Family businesses also have other stakeholders to bear in mind – other family members used to dividend payouts.

Engagement and Retention

Employees prefer working for companies that treat people with dignity, respect and fairness. An environment where employees feel valued. When employees see, hear or experience negative behaviour or practices misaligned with their principles, their trust and loyalty to the company erode. Hence ethics = higher engagement + retention.

Customer Satisfaction

Would you want to do business with a company you don’t trust? Other customers wouldn’t either.

Companies with high levels of customer satisfaction tend to generate a higher degree of customer loyalty, repeat business and greater market share.  Moreover, businesses that genuinely contribute to their community and maintain good relationships with other businesses tend to be more successful in the long run.

There is a caveat to this. Companies who have corporate social responsibility initiatives but poor business practices are in danger of breeding cynicism and mistrust. This is counter-productive to building brand and customer loyalty.

Focus on Creating Value

A business needs its people to focus on activities that grow the company and create value. Unethical practices are more likely to open a company up to unwanted distractions such as lawsuits. Why would a business engage in activities that detract from creating value?

“Ethical business practices are sound business practices.”

Financial Records

The last two decades have seen a number of cases centred on fraudulent financial reporting. Whilst the effects of misleading financial reporting may boost the company’s stock price in the short-term, there are almost always ill effects in the long run.

Accurate financial records are more than a regulatory requirement. They are key to sound decision-making and long-term success.

Green Practices

I was once told ‘whether you’re chopping trees or hugging trees, people look for returns.”

The fact of the matter is if you don’t keep an eye on your bottom line, the business will be unsustainable. The bottom line is affected by people’s perception, belief and likeability of your company. The internet and social media have provided stakeholders with greater insight into the impact businesses have on our environment and society. Customers seek to do business with companies that reflect their values. Suppliers and investors would be wise to follow suit.

Unforeseen Circumstances

Waiting until a crisis strikes to instil and encourage good behaviours is a poor strategy. It takes time to overhaul embedded systems, beliefs and practices, so businesses are better off setting off on the right foot, rather than trying to course correct when calamity hits.

Genuine errors and unforeseen circumstances do happen. The ability for a business to respond appropriately and speedily speaks volumes in the eyes of stakeholders. When bad news hits, taking prompt and proper action is essential. Delayed decisions fuel negative public opinion, causing a downward spiral in relationships with stakeholders. This is not good practice for any business that needs customers, employees, suppliers and/or investors to thrive.

Counteract Apathy

Some may still argue why change when some are getting away with it. Others may wait for regulatory bodies to force them to clean up their business practices. But the fact of the matter is, we can no longer ignore the impact business has. We can no longer exonerate our actions through corporate social responsibility. We need to challenge the status quo bred under the guise ‘but this is business’. It’s smart to start right – acting responsibly in the first place.

Originally featured in Fresh Business Thinking and updated on 25 April 2018.

Water and Wealth Creation

On a trip to Kenya, we were faced with a village that required access to clean water. Their wish was to have water, to grow crop that would in turn provide them with the money to educate the boys and the girls of the community (traditionally only the boys were...

5 things to keep in mind if you want a great culture

5 things to keep in mind if you want a great culture

Corporate Culture

5 things to keep in mind to set a great culture

Ask a person the reason they love to travel and oftentimes they say to experience different cultures. Human beings seem to be intrigued by the social norms and ways of living of their fellow man in different cities and villages around the world. Having the experience and exposure to other cultures somehow adds a certain colour to our own lives, a certain richness.

What we are less aware of perhaps are the unique cultures we create in these environments we call workplaces. Just as the reality of visiting a country rarely reflects any possible depiction portrayed in a brochure, company culture is hard to convey by text printed in a company handbook or website, but rather better experienced by its essence, its spirit. But how can we translate something seemingly ethereal into something more tangible and why is it even important? Here are five things to keep in mind to set a great culture.

The ‘spirit’ of a company

Just as any culture around the world is formed over time through traditions, cultural norms, societal needs, forms of communication, behaviours and attitudes, so too is a corporate culture. We create the environments we work in through a combination of day-to-day interactions. Environments that come with particular qualities regarding desired and accepted behaviours, attitudes, principles and modes of communication. There is one main difference though – I am not aware of any society in the world that set out to create a particular culture intentionally, consciously. Rather the culture morphed through the ages.

Some companies morphed in the same way, directed mainly through the attitude and conduct of the board, leaders and managers, and the behaviours that were tolerated. But if you stop to think about it for a moment, through corporate culture we have an awesome opportunity. Through our actions, we can shape and form a mini-society that lends itself to our highest ideals. We can enable others to step up to the plate and be their best, to focus on and achieve a unified purpose and direction.

And quite scary in the wrong hands… So how do we get it right?

Setting the Tone

If you want to set the ‘right’ culture – start with yourself. Whether you are aware of it or not, your character, your personal conduct, value system and manner of treating others is akin to a metronome, the timekeeping device used in music to keep everyone in sync. So ask yourself some key questions: Who are you, what do you stand for, what drives you? How do you treat others? Are you a person of your word? Can you be trusted? Do you come across as friendly, approachable, aloof, firm but fair? What is your prefered style of communicating? Are you formal, structured, agenda-led, walk around the floor? How do people interact with you and react to you? What is your business ethos and how does it translate into practice?

Your people

The people you surround yourself with and the manner in which you interact with them speaks volumes. If for instance, you are smart enough (and humble enough) to realise that you are not great at everything and surround yourself with people who are ‘better’ than you, you have set the scene for greatness. That is of course if you also create the environment for them to speak their mind and you are open-minded enough to listen.

Measuring success

What does success look like for you and your company? Is it just about profit at all costs? What milestones do you measure and reward? Does the manner in which objectives are met really matter and are they taken into account? Are certain behaviours tolerated, just as long as there are results?

Aligning vision with practice

A lofty and noble vision is all well and good but it’s what you do in practice that counts. Do not underestimate the impact that your individual actions and conduct have in setting the standards and the cultural tone. So ask yourself: Do you want to create an environment in which compromising behaviours are tolerated in the name of profit? Or, do you want to generate an environment that nurtures, develops and engages competence and character, to build great companies that add value to more than just their profit margins?

As featured in WorkLab

Ask a person the reason they love to travel and oftentimes they say to experience different cultures. Human beings seem to be intrigued by the social norms and ways of living of their fellow man in different cities and villages around the world. Having the experience and exposure to other cultures somehow adds a certain colour to our own lives, a certain richness.

What we are less aware of perhaps are the unique cultures we create in these environments we call workplaces. Just as the reality of visiting a country rarely reflects any possible depiction portrayed in a brochure, company culture is hard to convey by text printed in a company handbook or website, but rather better experienced by its essence, its spirit. But how can we translate something seemingly ethereal into something more tangible and why is it even important? Here are five things to keep in mind to set a great culture.

The ‘spirit’ of a company

Just as any culture around the world is formed over time through traditions, cultural norms, societal needs, forms of communication, behaviours and attitudes, so too is a corporate culture. We create the environments we work in through a combination of day-to-day interactions. Environments that come with particular qualities regarding desired and accepted behaviours, attitudes, principles and modes of communication. There is one main difference though – I am not aware of any society in the world that set out to create a particular culture intentionally, consciously. Rather the culture morphed through the ages.

Some companies morphed in the same way, directed mainly through the attitude and conduct of the board, leaders and managers, and the behaviours that were tolerated. But if you stop to think about it for a moment, through corporate culture we have an awesome opportunity. Through our actions, we can shape and form a mini-society that lends itself to our highest ideals. We can enable others to step up to the plate and be their best, to focus on and achieve a unified purpose and direction.

And quite scary in the wrong hands… So how do we get it right?

Setting the Tone

If you want to set the ‘right’ culture – start with yourself. Whether you are aware of it or not, your character, your personal conduct, value system and manner of treating others is akin to a metronome, the timekeeping device used in music to keep everyone in sync. So ask yourself some key questions: Who are you, what do you stand for, what drives you? How do you treat others? Are you a person of your word? Can you be trusted? Do you come across as friendly, approachable, aloof, firm but fair? What is your prefered style of communicating? Are you formal, structured, agenda-led, walk around the floor? How do people interact with you and react to you? What is your business ethos and how does it translate into practice?

Your people

The people you surround yourself with and the manner in which you interact with them speaks volumes. If for instance, you are smart enough (and humble enough) to realise that you are not great at everything and surround yourself with people who are ‘better’ than you, you have set the scene for greatness. That is of course if you also create the environment for them to speak their mind and you are open-minded enough to listen.

Measuring success

What does success look like for you and your company? Is it just about profit at all costs? What milestones do you measure and reward? Does the manner in which objectives are met really matter and are they taken into account? Are certain behaviours tolerated, just as long as there are results?

Aligning vision with practice

A lofty and noble vision is all well and good but it’s what you do in practice that counts. Do not underestimate the impact that your individual actions and conduct have in setting the standards and the cultural tone. So ask yourself: Do you want to create an environment in which compromising behaviours are tolerated in the name of profit? Or, do you want to generate an environment that nurtures, develops and engages competence and character, to build great companies that add value to more than just their profit margins?

As featured in WorkLab

Water and Wealth Creation

On a trip to Kenya, we were faced with a village that required access to clean water. Their wish was to have water, to grow crop that would in turn provide them with the money to educate the boys and the girls of the community (traditionally only the boys were...

A fresh perspective on Women and Leadership

A fresh perspective on Women and Leadership

Female Leadership

A fresh perspective on Women and Leadership
It always amuses me to see the look of bewilderment when people hear that I love working in the Middle East, and even more surprised when they find out I had a successful practice in the region. This surprise is for the simple reason that I’m a woman.

I understand how there is a perception that women are not respected or highly regarded in the Middle East, therefore making it difficult to fathom how a woman could have a successful business. But in my experience, the traits that seem to be more abundant amongst women, such as insight, intuition and inclusion, seem to be trusted and appreciated in the Middle East, enabling us to not only contribute but also play our role in business

But I am just as bewildered as those who find my success in the Middle East surprising, by some of the rhetoric around women in the workplace and leadership in the UK and London specifically. A recent article on the matter pointed out that 15% of Senior Leadership roles in the City were held by women, and the majority of those by foreigners. The article went further by attributing this ‘fact’ to the foreign women’s swagger. The truth of the matter is, given that London is a global financial center, there is a strong likelihood that a senior leadership role will have a regional or global focus and if the potential candidates haven’t had any international experience, they simply don’t qualify, swagger or not.

That said, the ‘swagger’ comment did get me thinking, and led me to reflect on the great Arab women I have had the privilege of interviewing and working with. They are highly intelligent, very well-educated and extremely insightful – ingredients which are prevalent amongst many women around the world. They don’t seek to be liked but rather have the courage of their convictions. They don’t have to speak loudly or demand to be listened to, but still have their views be known and considered. They tend to speak less and act more. They are compassionate and kind but don’t tolerate fools.  But above all else, there is a particular ingredient in their presence and demeanor, described perfectly by a dear friend from the region – “we are salty not sweet”.

 

From Segregation to Sisterhood

It’s fascinating when you think about it. Yes, women in the region tend to live more segregated lives. This means that instead of competing with men, they understand and nurture the concept of sisterhood, encouraging and supporting each other. When they get older and enter the corporate realm, government or family business, they are purposeful and have a quiet self-confidence, an inner strength which is ready to come out and be deployed in a broader spectrum. And contrary to popular belief, they are welcomed in the workplace and encouraged to grow and rise through the ranks. Have they had challenges to overcome? Absolutely. Challenges have shaped their character, balancing their resilience, perseverance and determination, together with their faith, patience and belief in a higher power. Formidable indeed.

So what are some of the ingredients that help foster women’s capabilities in this way that we could instill to make our companies more balanced, diverse and better equipped to handle the changing times?

 

Vision & Purpose

If you want to attract, nurture and keep the best women, consider what difference your business makes, why it matters. Frankly, if your business isn’t concerned with anything other than profit, you are going to face challenges in finding and keeping people with character and competence – women  or men.

 

Interview From the Inside Out

If you are using an interview simply as a checkbox exercise to see if the person has the skills for a particular job, you are missing out on a great opportunity. A person’s CV is merely a scratch on the surface of not only who this person really is, but also how far their capabilities can extend. Context is key.

As a starter, why don’t you put the CV aside and get them to tell you their story. Adopt a curious mind,  seeking to learn about the person’s experiences that has brought them to the present day. This approach can open up an individual’s character, their way of thinking, approach to challenges, and the environment and factors needed to bring out their best. You never know – you could even learn something along the way.

 

Don’t Hire What You Don’t Appreciate

This may seem a bit of a shock, but frankly, if you don’t see how someone adds value to your organisation, why hire them? And if the person is onboard, why aren’t you listening to their viewpoint and perspective?  If you want yes people who just go along with what you say, you are wasting your money in hiring great people. A recorded message to yourself telling you you’re doing a good job will suffice. But if you hire us, listen to us. We have a different perspective. It may not be what you want to hear but we are here to add value. Allow us – there are skills, traits and natural capabilities just waiting to be engaged. If you don’t appreciate us, we’ll find someone who does.

 

As featured in Women’s Prospects 

It always amuses me to see the look of bewilderment when people hear that I love working in the Middle East, and even more surprised when they find out I had a successful practice in the region. This surprise is for the simple reason that I’m a woman.

I understand how there is a perception that women are not respected or highly regarded in the Middle East, therefore making it difficult to fathom how a woman could have a successful business. But in my experience, the traits that seem to be more abundant amongst women, such as insight, intuition and inclusion, seem to be trusted and appreciated in the Middle East, enabling us to not only contribute but also play our role in business

But I am just as bewildered as those who find my success in the Middle East surprising, by some of the rhetoric around women in the workplace and leadership in the UK and London specifically. A recent article on the matter pointed out that 15% of Senior Leadership roles in the City were held by women, and the majority of those by foreigners. The article went further by attributing this ‘fact’ to the foreign women’s swagger. The truth of the matter is, given that London is a global financial center, there is a strong likelihood that a senior leadership role will have a regional or global focus and if the potential candidates haven’t had any international experience, they simply don’t qualify, swagger or not.

That said, the ‘swagger’ comment did get me thinking, and led me to reflect on the great Arab women I have had the privilege of interviewing and working with. They are highly intelligent, very well-educated and extremely insightful – ingredients which are prevalent amongst many women around the world. They don’t seek to be liked but rather have the courage of their convictions. They don’t have to speak loudly or demand to be listened to, but still have their views be known and considered. They tend to speak less and act more. They are compassionate and kind but don’t tolerate fools.  But above all else, there is a particular ingredient in their presence and demeanor, described perfectly by a dear friend from the region – “we are salty not sweet”.

 

From Segregation to Sisterhood

It’s fascinating when you think about it. Yes, women in the region tend to live more segregated lives. This means that instead of competing with men, they understand and nurture the concept of sisterhood, encouraging and supporting each other. When they get older and enter the corporate realm, government or family business, they are purposeful and have a quiet self-confidence, an inner strength which is ready to come out and be deployed in a broader spectrum. And contrary to popular belief, they are welcomed in the workplace and encouraged to grow and rise through the ranks. Have they had challenges to overcome? Absolutely. Challenges have shaped their character, balancing their resilience, perseverance and determination, together with their faith, patience and belief in a higher power. Formidable indeed.

So what are some of the ingredients that help foster women’s capabilities in this way that we could instill to make our companies more balanced, diverse and better equipped to handle the changing times?

 

Vision & Purpose

If you want to attract, nurture and keep the best women, consider what difference your business makes, why it matters. Frankly, if your business isn’t concerned with anything other than profit, you are going to face challenges in finding and keeping people with character and competence – women  or men.

 

Interview From the Inside Out

If you are using an interview simply as a checkbox exercise to see if the person has the skills for a particular job, you are missing out on a great opportunity. A person’s CV is merely a scratch on the surface of not only who this person really is, but also how far their capabilities can extend. Context is key.

As a starter, why don’t you put the CV aside and get them to tell you their story. Adopt a curious mind,  seeking to learn about the person’s experiences that has brought them to the present day. This approach can open up an individual’s character, their way of thinking, approach to challenges, and the environment and factors needed to bring out their best. You never know – you could even learn something along the way.

 

Don’t Hire What You Don’t Appreciate

This may seem a bit of a shock, but frankly, if you don’t see how someone adds value to your organisation, why hire them? And if the person is onboard, why aren’t you listening to their viewpoint and perspective?  If you want yes people who just go along with what you say, you are wasting your money in hiring great people. A recorded message to yourself telling you you’re doing a good job will suffice. But if you hire us, listen to us. We have a different perspective. It may not be what you want to hear but we are here to add value. Allow us – there are skills, traits and natural capabilities just waiting to be engaged. If you don’t appreciate us, we’ll find someone who does.

 

As featured in Women’s Prospects 

Water and Wealth Creation

On a trip to Kenya, we were faced with a village that required access to clean water. Their wish was to have water, to grow crop that would in turn provide them with the money to educate the boys and the girls of the community (traditionally only the boys were...