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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

A ‘don’t do’ list keeps you on track

On my business’ "never to do" list is to never work on a project that I personally do not believe in - even if the cheque is very appealing.

I cannot give something my time and dedication if I believe that it would be a failure or if it goes against my morals and values.

My colleagues and I were drafting a social media marketing campaign when this issue came up. As we filtered through the list of social media influencers in the UAE, we came across a name of an individual who had over 1 million followers. One of my colleagues said how this person would market anything as long as it paid well. This issue is not a strange phenomenon when it comes to social media influencers in the region, and many users question their credibility about the products they promote, which brings us to the next point.

As you plan on developing your business, I strongly recommend coming up with a "don’t" list, or a "never" list of the things that you would not do as it conflicts with your values. For instance it could be something very personal such as: “I will not support products that are tested on animals,” or “As a social influencer, I will never promote businesses that do not support community members.”

But I would also suggest some things to include in your list that I personally found very useful when it came to my business: don’t start without a lawyer. Even if your business is small, it is good to seek advice from a consultant so that you preserve your rights and that of your customers; review your business requirements, and draft agreements with the help of lawyers. Big firms may be expensive, but there are many smaller firms, and freelance lawyers who can help you with that. However, I strongly recommend that you do not skip that part and make sure that your business is well protected as you launch.

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When working on your branding do not ask too many people for their advice and feedback. It is good to have a couple of acquaintances or target audience members to get back to, but do not ask too many people. You will just confuse yourself and you will find that even if your logo is designed by the best design agency out there, there will still be people who do not like an aspect of it. It is a matter of taste at the end of the day.

Do not shy away from your customers. Your customers make or break your business and you need them in order for your business to survive. No matter how silly a complaint seems, make sure to answer it in a timely manner. You will come to find that if you provide a good customer service, it would not matter if another business opens around the block, many favour good customer service over everything else.

Do not underestimate the power of social media. If you are not on, your customers will think that you are out-dated. It is like saying that you do not have a mobile phone. Evaluate which channel is the best match for your business and be on it. It will show your customers that you are there for them, and it provides good ground for market and customer research. You can see what your competitors are up to, and which pages or topics are your customers most engaged in.

Last but not least, do not do everything yourself. Sure, you can be multi-talented. I think that way about myself, but you will soon realise that it is best to focus your energy on one or two aspects of work instead of stretching yourself too thin. Learn to delegate, and ensure that you have a back-up plan in case things go bad. Say, God forbid, that you got sick, will your business be able to sustain itself for a week or so? Do your team know how to handle things when you are away on holiday?

Work on your "don’t do" list along with your business’s "to do" list. It is just as important and will help your team know more about your company’s values. If you have not done this before and your business is well established, you can still start today. The good thing about this list is that it could evolve and stretch with time and the ever-changing scope of work.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages her branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi. Twitter:

@manar_alhinai