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Zev Siegl

Starbucks boss on Gulf Capital SME awards jury

Dubai, August 3, 2014

Starbucks co-founder Zev Siegl has joined the judging panel to determine the winners of this year’s Gulf Capital SME Awards, which recognise the UAE’s SMEs, business leaders and entrepreneurs for innovation, growth and success.

Along with other business gurus and successful entrepreneurs in the UAE, Siegl will evaluate SME entrants in various categories, including Gulf Capital Business of the Year, MasterCard Small Business of the Year, RSA Start-up Business of the Year, Emirati Business of the Year, Online Business of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Business Leader of the Year, Sustainable Business of the Year, Customer Focus of the Year, Business Innovation of the Year, and People and Culture of the Year.

“It has always been my passion to inspire and encourage aspiring entrepreneurs. Starting a business is challenging so I have made it my life’s mission to share whatever experiences and insights I have learned in helping establish Starbucks many years ago, along with other start-up companies since then,” said Siegl.

“Being a part of the Gulf Capital SME Awards gives me a unique opportunity to study how UAE entrepreneurs started their businesses and how they overcame challenges to succeed. The valuable insights gained from serving as a judge for the Awards will improve my ability to help other groups of entrepreneurs with whom I interact at various speaking engagements.”

Dr Karim El Solh, chief executive officer of Gulf Capital, one of the leading alternative investment firms in the Middle East and headline sponsor of the Gulf Capital SME Awards, said: “Siegl is a fantastic addition to the esteemed panel of judges. His wealth of experience and expertise will be of great help and inspiration to the aspiring entrepreneurs participating in this event. His interaction with the shortlisted SMEs and unique contribution to this competition will ensure that this is one of the most exciting Gulf Capital SME awards to date.”

Now in its third year, the Gulf Capital SME Awards, organised by Meed, a senior management data brand, has been honouring outstanding small businesses and individual entrepreneurs, putting the spotlight on success, innovation and growth in the SME sector.

Five big challenges for start-ups

Siegl has identified five key challenges that entrepreneurs in the UAE and worldwide need to address in order to have the best chance for success.
1. The Business Plan
While outlining and writing the business plan, entrepreneurs frequently make inaccurate judgments about the validity of their concept, buyer demand, the competition, and effective methods to attract/retain customers. Excessive optimism is the usual cause for the inaccuracy. Realism is the cure.

2. Financial Forecast

Translating the business plan into pro forma financials is a weak spot for many entrepreneurs. Basic math, data entry and worksheet formula errors can go undetected. At least one expense item is frequently completely omitted and others are not verified. Asking for help from a spreadsheet expert is the way to conquer this challenge.

3. Leadership Team

It’s quite acceptable for an SME to have founders/leaders that aren’t absolutely the perfect fit for the company’s needs, but it is totally unacceptable to fail to build in ways to offset for the weaknesses. There are many ways to compensate for weaknesses.

4. Marketplace Changes

Even if Challenges 1, 2 and 3 are handled successfully, it is possible that the marketplace will change before the company obtains its funding. A technology breakthrough could occur that makes your concept a non-starter. An unexpected, disruptive competitor could appear. Changes in demand and supply might affect the projected sales or profit margins. It’s important to have current information and to modify your plan if necessary.

5. Funding

Funding is a major worry for entrepreneurs. Two common errors that prevent a start-up from obtaining funding are (a) offering investors/lenders a deal that they will want to turn down, and (2) a forecast and plan that are not credible.

“You can deal with these five BIG challenges if you are open-minded and agile in your thinking. It really helps if you have well-informed advisors and friends who are willing to critique your ideas. Seek them out, seriously consider their suggestions and then make your own decision,” said Siegl. – TradeArabia News Service




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