Getting Inspired During Tough Times Isn't Easy, But It's Got To Be Done

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Based on what I've seen and heard over the last two months, it looks to have been a tough summer for small and medium enterprises in this region. In the UAE, for instance, hushed whispers about difficulties in everything from collecting payments to bad debts have been doing the rounds. But if the picture painted by the Q2 2016 SME Sentiment Survey by Gulf Finance is any indication, then the country's SME sector doesn't seem to be too bogged down by the environment they are in- in fact, their mood remains "cautiously optimistic." And as if to bolster this feeling, Dubai announced at the end of August that 20% of contracts for Dubai Expo 2020 would be awarded to both local and international SMEs- this essentially means that there's set to be about US$1.36 billion up for grabs for the SME sector in the years leading up to the event.

But while that is indeed something to look forward to, it must be said that the state of business in the region currently requires SMEs to rethink and reevaluate their strategies for their growth and survival. I've previously spoken about the bane of laziness that seems to have fallen upon many an entrepreneur here, and while I'm no soothsayer, I do feel that enterprises led by such figures are set to find themselves in hot water very soon. A closely related problem is complacency, the tendency to do things as they always have been done, and it's an issue that I've been seeing in a lot of startups and SMEs lately. With all due respect to the "if-it-ain't-broke-don't-try-to-fix- it" philosophy, it's alarming to see businesses in this tough economic climate go down their regular (arguably boring) routes to try to gain work, and then appear shocked or flabbergasted when they learn their efforts haven't borne any fruit.

For all of the press around innovation that we see these days (and not to mention, the pages we devote in Entrepreneur Middle East extolling the virtues of the same), there definitely seems to be some kind of disconnect between actively talking about things like these, and actually doing it. It isn't enough for entrepreneurs to just have that one great innovative idea to start up the enterprise- that spirit of doing things differently needs to be distilled throughout the company, and how it goes about its day-to-day work. For instance: are you trying to impress a client with the same presentation you used for another customer? Hey, it may work, but then again, don't be surprised if it doesn't: taking the time out to customize how you're going to approach your client would have probably given you a better chance at landing the deal. In a similar vein, if you're going to send out a press release (like everyone else), or send a corporate bio of yourself (again, like everyone else) in the hopes of gaining press coverage: well, don't be taken aback when editors don't reply to your emails- it's all too commonplace for them to even want to take a look.

Complacency should have no place anywhere in a startup or SME (or any kind of business, really), and using staid logic and methodologies in tough business times like these aren't likely to do you any favors. Innovation shouldn't just be when you are starting a business- it needs to be there when you are running it as well.

Related: Stepping Up To The Plate: Giving Entrepreneurs Their Due