The Crying Child That Created a Mission

child

This is a re-post of an article by a dear friend of mine Marc Romano . I am sharing this in order to help Marc spread the word and assist him in obtaining the financial support the school requires. Please read on and do share with your social network.

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One-evening last week, while on a walk, I met a young child who was in tears and a mother who couldn’t seem to console her. I asked if she was okay and if there was any way I could help. The mother explained that her daughter was told her school, The Cobblestone School, would be closing down for good at the end of the month.

Cobblestone is an independent, Nonprofit school located in the heart of a historic part of our city. It is funded by its own resources and not tax dollars but depends greatly on charitable contributions. I was very familiar with the school and what it has represented to the children and the teachers who make it so special.

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Why You Should Undertake a Brand Risk Analysis

As brand marketing professionals we delve into the structural issues of developing a brand and often invest heavily in the brand building process but do not take into account the associated risks or undertake a Brand Risk Analysis on those risks .

As the importance of brand for an organisation has grown over the years, the risks too, have proportionately grown.

The global financial crisis triggered major socio- economic changes and issues of transparency and trust along with growth of social media usage, have been catalysts in moving brand risk to center stage and in the limelight.

Brand risk management should be identified, measured and managed within the enterprise risk management framework of an organisation.

Given that brand risk is multifaceted—strategic, operational, financial, regulatory and are often managed by organisations in individual silos or through departmental based planning– being able to get a true picture of potential brand risk is poor.

Brand risk evaluation and planning doesn’t deserve such silo based approach but a much more strategic and integrated approach.

Let’s start with “What is brand risk?”

Under traditional risk management, which is originally the domain of the finance department, brand risk has no definition. It comes across as an output from other identified risk areas such as lawsuits or adverse regulatory decisions or supply chain issues.

In layman terms we can define brand risk as threats to the brand equity or threats to the brand differentiators that make consumers choose one product or service over the other. Thus brand risk can be defined as anything that threatens:
1. The sustainability of current and future demand for a company’s product or service
2. The company’s commercial freedom

The key internal areas where brand risk is, usually, generated are:
1. Poor manufacturing quality
2. Poor customer service (brought about by dissatisfied or not-in-sync with the brand philosophy employees)

External areas are:

  1. Behaviour by consumers—boycotting the products or services of the company due to change in perception brought about either by a change in the brand differentiator communication or experience OR due to changing social values
  2. Retail space capturing, buying out of stocks, removing stocks on display etc tactics by competition
  3. Political or community opposition to the brand to do business within a geographical region which limits its ability to develop.

The value of approaching brand risk, in a comprehensive manner, by looking at the brand all round from the point of view of answering the question— “what can affect the sustainability of the brand?”– provides a useful framework for risk analysis.

Such an analysis can aid in corporate planning for business growth as well as in being a measurement for brand equity as a value.

Changing Islamic Finance

 

The growth of the global Islamic finance industry has created the need to review and implement change in a few key areas. One of these is the much debated topic of availability of competent talent and jobs for these talents.

Today the industry is in critical need of connecting the dots between itself, academia and students to ensure its long-term sustainability. There is a dire need for globally accepted professional standards that enables development of competent talent keeping the relevancy that industry needs along with strategic talent development and career planning within organisation of the industries.

I had the pleasure to interview two luminaries of the global industry–Mr. Daud Vicary Abdullah, President & CEO of INCEIF- The Global University of Islamic Finance–and Mr. Richard Thomas–Chief Representative of Gatehouse Bank in Kuala Lumpur– to get an understanding of how this can be addressed by academia and industry.

 

This article was first published in the Islamic Finance Today April 2015 issue.

Is the Islamic Economy for People?

It’s amazing how little we actually focus on ‘people’ in business in spite of the fact that it is people who make everything happen. An organisation exists because of its staff, partners, customers and other stakeholders, i.e. people. The value proposition of any organisation and any industry, for that matter, is totally dependent on the people involved.

Globally behaviour of people, across countries and across socio-economic strata has changed vastly. Impacted by financial crises and the rapid proliferation and use of social media, people are now interacting more and more as interest-based communities.

Where does the ‘Islamic economy’ fit in among all this?

Given the high growth in the Halal & Islamic finance industries the Islamic economy has come into the spotlight with Dubai’s announcement of re-inventing itself as an ‘Islamic economic center’.

This is great news for a variety of reasons:

  1. Business growth opportunities for corporates and entrepreneurs.
  2. The seven pillar strategy of UAE provides strong growth impetus to additional industries in the Halal sector.
  3. Increasing job opportunities which will then impact on increasing consumption.
  4. Increased requirements of up-skilling of industry professionals.

For organizations to capitalise on the opportunity a very tightly focused strategic approach needs to be there.

The driving force for the Islamic economy is the Islamic financial services & Halal. These would be in pole position whilst the powerhouse that would provide the fuel to these two sectors would have to be the education sector.

As one takes an overview across these two industries one notes that the approach to strategic development still appears to be using the classical method of having a ‘USP’ – unique selling proposition – i.e. developing strategy from a product perspective.

Not that this is wrong.

But given the massive behavioural changes that occurred in the last decade, not acknowledging the impact of those changes in business strategy is akin to ignoring reality.

For organisations, to be successful in establishing a robust Islamic economy, a very clear focus and emphasis on developing business strategies based on understanding their people who are involved in the business eco-system, has to come about.

There are two key points here:

  1. Robust economy: This means ensuring sustainability of each organisation’ earnings so that the organisation stays in existence and industry growth is maintained.
  2. Understanding People: Business is run by people – the organisations’ staff – for people – customers, vendors, partners. Without acknowledging and understanding what motivates people, business strategies would be way off mark.

Why is there a need to focus on people?

A focus on people has to be taken on board as the behaviour of the people impacts very heavily on an organisations’ ability to perform well.

Here’s how:

  1. Culture:
    With business growth opportunities shifting towards Asia and Africa, organisations are now faced with understanding what the new consumer behaviours is like in these new markets. Within such vast markets the end consumers’ behavioral patterns differ across and within countries. Simultaneously, organisations have had to look at on-boarding knowledge workers and millenials in their work-force in order to manage this growth. Knowledge workers and millenials have different behaviours based on age, experience and environmental background.
    So today the need of the hour for organisations is to take on board how these diverse behaviours from people connected to their business are affecting their performance and acceptance of their brands. Internally, these behaviours impact the work culture within an organisation. This culture, in turn, manifests externally, and focuses on the way relationships are built with the external stakeholders.
  2. Leadership & Engagement
    The people or staff of an organisation are the physical manifestation of that organisation. The behaviours the staff display are, in essence, a representation of the organisation’s culture and values. This brings to fore an emphasis, for the organisation, on its leadership and employee engagement.

    Increasingly, the demand on leadership is becoming one of creating influence and social buy-in or, in other words, developing engagement based on aligning personal values and mission (of an employee) with that of the organisation.
    Leading to having, as far as possible, engaged and happy employees in order to ensure the organisational brand is delivering authentic value.
  3. Involvement
    Engagement leads to having the employees at the center of the overall brand experience. This focus involves understanding the organisational culture prevailing, discussing change areas if needed, fine-tuning desired behaviour and communicating it to the employees in a manner that brings about acceptance. Active involvement of employees becomes critical as without this the brand vision and brand delivery cannot be achieved.

Going forward what can the organizations involved in the Islamic economy do?

Focusing on people means re-calibrating how business strategy is approached. Instead of a product-centric approach, one has to move into a people-centric or behaviour oriented approach that fits the environment.

Here’s how:

  1. Develop business strategy from a perspective of the purpose you are in business for and how that purpose fits the environment. This process will entail understanding the people, impacted upon by the business, and their needs. This entails understanding cultural behaviour of all the stakeholders and developing the strategy based on that understanding.
  2. Develop the organisations’ leadership & management strategies to fit the business strategy. This means have the right people in the right functions.
  3. Lastly undertake activities, as initiatives, which clearly show the organisations’ understanding of the cultural behavioural nuances of its stakeholder.

Organizations that do focus on such an approach will be the ones sustainable in the long run and with strong brand loyalty.

 

(This post was first published in Investvine in Apr 2014)

Why good leaders make you feel safe

 A brilliant talk by Simon Sinek on how trust is grown, by a leader, by making employees feel secure.

 

Here’s the synopsis of the TED talk:

What makes a great leader? Management theorist Simon Sinek suggests, it’s someone who makes their employees feel secure, who draws staffers into a circle of trust. But creating trust and safety — especially in an uneven economy — means taking on big responsibility.

 

The Ramadan Legacy Project

In business there are times when one comes across a brilliant idea and one is left wondering why didn’t I think of that!

A small talented group of young Muslims driven by their beliefs have developed a Ramadan Action Plan.  With a vision of creating innovative ways that Muslims can experience Islam this group has brought some very handy tools to the Muslim world. There ideas and enthusiasm keeps amazing me and I hope it’ll do the same for you.

 Ramadan Legacy.

Ramadan Legacy App

Guest Post by Osmaan Majid

 

Al Hasan Al-Basri said, “Son of Adam! You are nothing but a number of days, whenever each day passes then a part of you has gone.” The Ramadan Legacy project aims to capture those days.

Ramadan Legacy is a brand new smart phone app designed to take your Ramadan experience to the next level. It combines smart technology and beautiful design with spirituality and learning, all to help you organize your worship to make Ramadan easy and enjoyable.

As of 2015, the Ramadan Legacy team have created practical and simple tools that have been enjoyed and adored by over 10,000 people across the world. The headline product was last year’s Ramadan Action Plan – a 68 page printable planner which was distributed from Glasgow, to New York and Singapore.

This year, the vision is to create the world’s #1 Ramadan mobile experience.

Some of the features include:

  • A Legacy Board that captures and visually represents all of your worshiping activity which, in years down the line, you can look back to and see how you performed each Ramadan
  • A 30-day planner filled with daily ayaat, ahadith, Du’as, a checklist and more.
  • A journal which allows you to capture and share your daily thoughts
  • A live feed of app users sharing their Ramadan reflections from around the world
  • A knowledge library for your learning and inspiration
  • and more

The underlying theme of Ramadan Legacy is to not only provide an app, but an entire experience through a range of products that empower you to continue the Barakah of Ramadan throughout time.

You can support the legacy by participating in the crowdfunding campaign and donating at: www.launchgood.com/ramadanlegacy

 

Marketing today is all about people

The marketing function has undergone tremendous changes in the past decade. Today marketing involves technology, engagement and most importantly creating and delivering an authentic brand experience from the employees’ and consumers’ perspective. Brand value as an asset, in monetary terms , is now fully dependent on
this brand experience.

A Forbes article– Are today’s CMO’s tomorrow’s CEO’s?’ aptly shows how marketing heads have the best holistic picture of a business due to their concentration and clarity of understanding the end-benefit of touch-points and infrastructure requirements to deliver the required brand experience.

Does the Islamic Finance industry understand the huge potential that marketing brings to its business and brand?

This is the question I try to answer in my article– ‘Marketing Islamic Finance’– that was published in the Jan 2015 issue of the Islamic Finance Today, and I explore  how modern-day marketing can work for Islamic Finance, both across Islamic finance and non-Islamic finance markets.