x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Fast, tasty and profitable fit for Endeavor

The Life: A group of 16 "high-impact" entrepreneurs were selected for participation in Endeavor, which provides networking and mentoring. Here is how some businessmen hope the group will help them going forward.

Levent Yilmaz, the chairman of Baydöner, centre, has been termed a 'high-impact entrepreneur' by Endeavor Global. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Levent Yilmaz, the chairman of Baydöner, centre, has been termed a 'high-impact entrepreneur' by Endeavor Global. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

For Levent Yilmaz, the chairman of the Baydöner restaurant chain in Turkey, the secret to selling loads of Iskender doner for as much profit as possible boils down to knowing his numbers.

The thinly cut grilled meat, served with hot tomato sauce and cool yogurt over pitta bread, is a favourite among Turkish eateries, including the 50 locations that Mr Yilmaz oversees.

But to get the biggest bang for each lira, Mr Yilmaz's chain offers just one main dish and only six sides so that food procurement costs and food wastage are kept to a minimum. His employees are trained to turn around every order in an average of only seven minutes. And each customer is usually out the door within half an hour, with the same chair often being used more than 10 times in rapid succession, "which is providing us lots of efficiency", said Mr Yilmaz.

This approach has helped to qualify Mr Yilmaz as a "high-impact entrepreneur" in the eyes of a group called Endeavor Global, which offers networking and access to business mentors from Fortune 500 companies, as well as consulting firms and business schools in the United States.

Increasingly, the organisation is focusing its efforts in the Middle East, having partnered with Abraaj Capital in Dubai while expanding into Lebanon and, in the coming months, Saudi Arabia. Abraaj and Endeavor also said last week that they were "actively scoping prospects" for a presence in additional countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including the UAE and Morocco.

While no entrepreneurs from the Emirates have yet been included in Endeavor, at least one local entrepreneur was invited to address the group's international selection panel, which convened in Dubai last week. There, judges picked a total of 16 entrepreneurs - including Mr Yilmaz - who operate in countries such as Egypt, Brazil, Chile and Mexico and whose ventures show great growth potential.

Baydöner, for instance, added 27 locations last year and said revenue grew by 90 per cent in that time. But it wants to expand further, including outside of Turkey.

"We need a very important thing: an international network," Mr Yilmaz said at the selection meeting. "In Turkey and here [in Dubai], it was excellent to meet with the members of Endeavor. They gave us very good clues and strategic advice."

These kinds of networks can help entrepreneurs to speed up the growth process by providing valuable introductions and by lending credibility to relatively unknown ventures, said Muwaffa Lahham, the chief executive of E3, a healthcare IT company in the UAE that works on supply-chain issues such as tracking the shipment of surgical instruments and the expiration of pharmaceuticals.

Mr Lahham was able to tap into a group of business executives and customers such as big hospitals in the Emirates after his company was one of five that garnered an investment in 2010 from Riyada Enterprise Development, which falls under Abraaj Capital and funds small to medium-sized businesses.

"It helps a lot when you are part of an ecosystem," said Mr Lahham, who, as a panellist during Endeavor's event, spoke about doing business in the Middle East. "You're just sharing your struggles and your strategies and progress and improvements, so that network is great."