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One Size Doesn't Fit All: Khaled S. Fathi, Founder And MD, Inspativity The company is driven by the sole premise that people are the driving force of any successful organization and investing in their capabilities should come first- even before product development.

By Sindhu Hariharan

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Inspativity founder and MD Khaled S. Fathi

Dubai-based human resources consultancy Inspativity believes it has all that it takes to stand out in a region that has too many HR organizations. The company -a long-time dream for its founder and MD Khaled S. Fathi- is driven by the sole premise that people are the driving force of any successful organization and investing in their capabilities should come first- even before product development. To incorporate this belief into operations, the founder believes in being equipped with "the occupational science of people and what drives them to succeed at work." While the origins of the enterprise were marked by the entrepreneur's own "dilemma of readiness," armed with professional qualifications from the British Psychological Society, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and a Master's Degree in Human Resources, Fathi quit his cushy corporate consulting job to follow his "calling," to see where it takes him.

For those among you who dream of turning business owners while drudging through your daily jobs, Fathi's leap of faith may well be an inspiration. "Work on Inspativity started in November 2015, when my wife [Sara] and I were travelling back from Cairo to Dubai, and on the back of a boarding pass, Sara and I started scribbling down what the company was about and what its name would be (Inspativity is short for Inspiring Creativity)," recalls Fathi. "It took me three months to build a website, design a brand and logo, build content, and register a company," he says, in perhaps a testament to anything is possible in this part of the world, if you have the will.

Since that humble beginning, Inspativity now employs the services of over 30 associates and industry experts supporting them on a project basis, with Fathi joined by just one business psychologist on a full-time basis. "2016 was a slow first year, but 2017 was closed with revenue enough to expand and hire the first employee," says Fathi. "2018 looks very promising, with a strong pipeline for Q1, and we are looking into hiring a junior consultant before the close of Q1." Fathi believes that all this has been possible owing to their firm conviction that one size does not fit all. "When the entire HR consulting business is geared towards "productization' and automation of solutions, we are the salmon going upstream," he says. "It's not easy, but it's sure worth the effort and is appreciated by our clients." Recognizing that today's workforce crave engagement and happiness at workplaces, Inspativity is on a mission "to improve organizational performance looking at each company differently, not a quick, easy fix that may or may not work."

Khaled S. Fathi, MD, Inspativity. Image credit: Inspativity.
And how does the enterprise do that? Inspativity focuses on "defining, measuring, developing and engaging talent," and incorporates latest research in organizational psychology and other HR streams in each of these pillars to enable their clients to make informed human resource decisions. Inspativity defines talent by analyzing client's value systems and objectives, measures it using a combination of psychometrics (how people prefer to behave at work) and cognitive abilities, develops people through a tailored program, and engages workforce with an engagement model developed in-house to "diagnose and understand more about what drives employees to succeed and thrive in their organization."

Related: Understanding The Millennial Workforce

And in this journey, the company managed to receive a boost by attracting Dubai Airports as their very first client. Since then, Inspativity has worked on projects for SABIC, Al Gurg Group of Companies, and others. "While we don't have a "popular' offering, the most delivered was a bespoke competency interviewing workshop, where we equip managers with the skills necessary to effectively assess and hire candidates for roles through scientific standards and practices in interviewing (adapted from the British Psychological Society)." Not just that, in a rarity for regional small businesses, Inspativity is also entirely self-funded, with Fathi adding that they "have no immediate plans to raise any funding. We believe that the success of the company would be measured through organic growth."

Speaking about emerging trends in the region's HR space and how the company is working around them, Fathi says that the rise in the culture entrepreneurship is shaking things up a bit. "With every new startup, a forward-thinking employee (or more) leaves a multinational or large organization, meaning that the entrepreneurial skills are slowly diminishing from companies, and its only a matter of time when organizations around the world would need to reconsider their high performers retention strategy if they still wish to grow," says a candid Fathi. With more and more professionals feeling more valued providing their skills as freelancers than in corporations, Fathi says the growth of gig economy is also a shift to reckon with- which Inspativity has its eyes on. "In the US, it is estimated that by 2020, 40% of workers will be independent, and the Middle East is following path," he adds.

A scene from an Inspativity workshop. Image credit: Inspativity.
Here's an excerpt of the interview with entrepreneur Khaled S. Fathi, founder and MD of Inspativity:

1. Globally, there seems to be an increasing emphasis on employee engagement and wellbeing for retention. Would you say that the MENA region is recognizing the importance of this sufficiently?

"Unfortunately, no. Gallup's engagement results show that only 15% of employees across the MENA region are engaged. Organizations are slowly realizing that it's not anymore about the promise of a lifetime job in return for employee loyalty. With a tap of a screen, employees can have access to a plethora of jobs, information about other companies, salaries and much more. The social stigma on job-hopping is so 2010, and in a drop of a hat, people change jobs if they are not happy. Yet, companies are so slow in establishing engagement interventions that really work for their people and usually try random remedies that seldom work. Companies need to look inward than outward if they were to address issues and concerns affecting engagement and happiness."

2. In a crowded HR services market in the region, what are a few key strategies you use to convince companies to pick your services?

"We initially need to demonstrate value. Making a bet on a small company is risky and it's always safer (and easier to justify to management) to go for the bigger consultancies. Almost all of our won projects started with a free analysis piece, which demonstrated the quality of the service we provide. Our very first client, Dubai airports, contracted us for one session on employee engagement and wellbeing, and before the session was concluded, they asked for seven more. One more strategy, is that we are not afraid to be blunt, we would share our professional opinion with clients and advise them if something is not working, even if they think it is. We believe it is our responsibility to be honest and transparent. We also do not have shareholders to report financial targets to; we work for passion and are keen on delivering exceptional work because we love to, not because we need to. And when the major feedback from clients is around our passion, commitment and determination, we know that we are different from what they've encountered before."

A scene from an Inspativity workshop. Image credit: Inspativity.
3. What are your top three tips for an entrepreneur to start a business in MENA?

[First], someone once said, "the best time to grow a tree is twenty years ago, the next best time is now". If you have a good idea and believe in it, launch. It's better to try and fail than to never try at all. As an entrepreneur in Dubai, time and place could have never been better. A growing economy, a regional and global hub and an ever growing hunger for innovation. [Second], be prepared to fail on your first attempt to launch a product or service. You can't have a perfect offering from the start, but with resilience, and an open mind for customer feedback, you will begin to refine, adapt and improve, and ultimately build something that people are eager to buy. If you don't fail, you don't learn, and if you learn, you compete better. [Third], don't work in isolation. Keep an eye on what's happening in your market. What your competitors are doing and what your clients are interested in. Keep in tune with regional and local news. Always up your game by developing yourself and your skills- what you are good at today, may be redundant tomorrow. Be ready and develop tomorrow's skills today."

Related: How To Forge More Productive Relationships With Employees

Sindhu Hariharan

Former Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Sindhu Hariharan is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.  She is a financial consultant turned business journalist with a FOMO when it comes to everything technology.

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