I was travelling through the Middle East this past month and I am always surprised by so many (positive) things that I learn about their management practices and entrepreneurial spirit.
For Iran, it is very possible that sanctions will end in the near future. Of course, this will open many opportunities for Persian businesses at home and abroad. But, there can also be great benefits for business people in the West.
Iranian entrepreneurs have continued to be successful and grow during a time when their currency was significantly deflated, resources were minimum, and they were under imposed trade sanctions. They also experienced the recession, and the supply of goods and services from the outside world was effectively cut off.
So what can we learn from this?
First is resilience: They do not waste time complaining about the global situation, in which they have no control. They focus on what they can do and develop innovative solutions to work around most challenges whether technical, lack of supplies, or geopolitical.
They are resourceful and find ways around inefficient processes and bureaucratic rules that inhibit growth and reduce employment. Since their world could change tomorrow, they proactively fund education and training for their staff.
Another is welfare: There is none for able bodied people who are capable of contributing in some manner. They do, however, look after their most destitute and people who are incapacitated.
To keep unemployment at a minimum and to mitigate the need for welfare, businesses often hire more staff than is required just to keep the masses working. The concept is ̶ if people are working, they will maintain their self-esteem and continue to develop skills so they are ready to fill new positions when they do become available.
This sounds more practical than the government financing a whole new department to collect more taxes, which go to another bureaucracy to distribute, which also must be funded. This results in only a portion of what was collected going to help those who really need it.
Rising business taxes results in higher prices, higher prices results in less business, less business results in more people being unemployed, more people unemployed results in more welfare, more welfare results in higher taxes – and the cycle continues.
A visitor once asked a park ranger why we were not allowed to feed the animals: He replied, because the animals would become lazy; lose their ability to find their own food resulting in them becoming chronically dependent on visitors to feed them. I thought; we should put him in charge of our welfare system.
“It is the right of every individual to have an opportunity to work, the responsibility of every business to provide it, and the duty of government to champion it .”
There is support for the most vulnerable in their society; it just cannot be misused by people as an excuse for not working.
Traditionally, from their Persian roots, Iranians naturally feel an obligation to help the needy. It is also a mandatory obligation of the Islam faith called Zakat. Which is to help the poorest (the mostazafin) in society. So the need for government funded social programs is minimal.
Also, there is a tradition for wealthy business people to bequeath a percentage of their holdings in a form of “perpetual endowments” (vaqfs) for on-going charitable purposes.
My question for managers this week: “What are you doing to maintain a culture of innovation, creativity and responsiveness in your organization in preparation for potential global changes”?
Joseph Sherren, CSP, HoF
President of Ethos Enterprises Inc. & Gateway Leadership Inc.