3 Important Things Middle East Entrepreneurs Should Do

entrepreneur conference
Image courtesy U.S. Embassy Pakistan Follow | Flickr

In response to a limited number of entry-level corporate jobs, more young people in the Middle East are creating their own companies and expanding the number of jobs available in their area of interest. Entrepreneurship does hold a lot of promise for the economic future of the Middle East, but the business environment is still not conducive to startups. Young entrepreneurs have more assistance and opportunity than ever before, but they still must work hard and persistently to establish lasting organizations.

Luckily, young entrepreneurs in the Middle East are unique. These individuals tend to be highly educated and comfortable taking risks. In addition, they have grown up using smartphones and other key technologies, and they think unconventionally. In short, they have the skills and determination they need to realize success in the entrepreneurial world.

However, to make the best decisions for the future of their companies, young entrepreneurs also need to understand the current Middle Eastern business climate. The following are some steps that young entrepreneurs in the region can take to navigate the complex financial and political framework and expand their businesses:

1. Choose the right market.

The Middle East is not a homogenous economic region. Too often, entrepreneurs, even those who grew up in the Middle East, think that the market does not change much across national boundary lines. Unfortunately, this opinion is far from the truth. Not only do different countries and regions have varying dialects, but they also have radically different cultural backgrounds and income levels. As a result, people in these countries will react differently to products and adopt new concepts at different speeds. Entrepreneurs also need to pay attention to applicable laws and regulations, which can vary widely across governmental lines.

To avoid entering a market that is not ready for a product, entrepreneurs need to do their research and focus on a single market. Often, this is the market in which they grew up and the one that they know the best. When it comes time to expand, however, entrepreneurs must make strategic decisions. Expanding into the next country may not be the best strategy. Instead, entrepreneurs should focus on markets that are similar to the one they have already penetrated. As time progresses, other markets will become ready for the product or entrepreneurs will get a better sense of how to reframe the product for different markets.

2. Incorporate in the right place.

startup meeting
Image courtesy U.S. Embassy Pakistan Follow | Flickr

Incorporation is the very first step to starting a business, and the decision of where to incorporate can have a number of ramifications. Governments throughout the Middle East offer different incentives for starting businesses on their soil. Entrepreneurs need to look for a place with investment capital, but also with potential for supporting their growth. Sometimes, startup hubs like Dubai and Cairo are not the best choice once someone considers all incentives, and this decision may be influenced by the sector in which the startup was created. Some jurisdictions may have benefits for hospitality startups while another city may be the clear choice for consumer goods.

The United Arab Emirates has more than 40 free-trade zones that offer a 50-year exemption on corporate taxes plus 100 percent tax exemption on trade, 100 percent ownership of assets, and 100 percent repatriation on capital, and other tax income exemptions. However, other smaller territories like Oman are also creating competitive programs for boosting entrepreneurship.

3. Find the right talent.

Many entrepreneurs worry that they will somehow dilute their idea by bringing new talent into the equation. On the contrary, the opposite is typically true. Other individuals add new perspectives. By collaborating on and refining an idea, it typically comes out stronger and better suited for the marketplace. The trick is to find other people who are as passionate about the company’s product as the entrepreneur is. The best business owners realize that passion for a specific subject does not necessarily mean passion for their idea, but all employees should have a strong belief in the idea’s ability to succeed if the company is going to move forward.

The Middle East is full of incredibly talented people, so it should not be difficult to find someone who is smart and motivated. For this reason, it is more important to find someone passionate about the idea. Entrepreneurs can always invest in their workforce by helping with education costs and encouraging employees to attend relevant conferences and workshops.

Hiring the “right” talent also involves locating people with skillsets that the entrepreneur is missing. No entrepreneur knows everything about the field, so it is important to find individuals with knowledge that they do not possess.