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Sustaining Your Enterprise's Vision Along with the adaptation of new technology is the need for renewed commitment to open communication and transparency, which will be needed by UAE family businesses in the face of global competition.

By Mohammad A. Baker

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While it boasts glittering skylines and booming international activity, the UAE has also kept its humble, family-oriented beginnings at the heart of its economic fabric. The country's rise to global fame began, in fact, with the family businesses that set up shop here many decades ago- even before the Emirates were unified. These businesses still form the backbone of the UAE economy today.

One study published by KPMG last year states that the major perceived strengths of family businesses in the region are shared values and ethos (54%), and long-term perspective (57%). Nonetheless, these values and perspectives are constantly being challenged as the workforce itself changes. Experts estimate that as many as one-third of jobs today may fall to the wayside in an era dominated by artificial intelligence. This fourth industrial revolution is also happening at a time when UAE businesses are seeking to grow their ranks through a highly-skilled local workforce that is hungry to make a difference.

I am a firm believer that these headwinds can be managed, and that new technologies should be embraced, as they will enable our homegrown, family businesses to compete with their international counterparts. Along with the adaptation of new technology is the need for renewed commitment to open communication and transparency, which will be needed by UAE family businesses in the face of global competition. Communication is essential for any organization. Whether your business has two people or 500 employees, communication helps to build trust and confidence amongst everyone involved. But I also believe that developing processes that govern communication are important to keep things running smoothly and efficiently. For example, who needs to be involved in discussions around business ownership? When financial results come in, how are these communicated, and by whom? By implementing systems of communication, you ensure that there is understanding across the board– and that plays a strong role in conveying clear and coherent messages across the company.

This is especially true when it comes to sharing ambitions for the future. One recent report from Mercer noted that thriving employees are three times more likely to work for a company with a strong sense of purpose, yet only 13% of surveyed companies offer an employee value proposition differentiated by a purpose-driven mission. The ability to share a clear vision for a company helps to build trust, confidence, and commitment amongst everyone involved. These are essential qualities that must be cultivated if a company is to be sustained over not only years, but generations. It's also important to remind stakeholders of your company vision, mission, and strategy, too, before sharing information such as financials and any profit and loss reports.

Through my own experiences at GMG, I have developed some very basic rules to guide communication in family businesses, and to ensure that you are heard.

1. Remember to tell a story

Stories enable people to visualize your message, bringing it to life and therefore making it more memorable. Remind people of your company's history, and its growth story from day one to the present. Keep it as punchy as possible to make it stick in everyone's mind.

2. Keep it simple– communicate in a clear and concise manner

Think elevator pitch, not essay. When you keep your communication brief, the focus is on the core message, and, to repeat the point above, it is easier to memorize a story that's a few lines long, rather than a few pages.

3. Vary the way you communicate

Have one-on-ones and host town halls, send emails and post notices in common areas. You can even have your (concise!) vision emblazoned upon the walls in the office, on branded goods– wherever it makes sense and is visible. This will help to keep it top of mind.

4. Choose your audience

Internally, select "flagbearers," the people who will help to share your message amongst colleagues, such as HR professionals or managers. Externally, share your message across appropriate channels through public relations, social media, advertising and more.

5. Communicate progress

Don't let your message get stale; set out a roadmap that will provide tangible ways to demonstrate your commitment to realizing the company's vision. When you reach a milestone, share it– and invite others to participate, too. Many heads are, after all, better than one.

6. Provide proof

This point links in with the one above; you can't expect people to buy into your company's message and vision without proving you mean it. Live your vision, and encourage everyone in your company to do the same. Provide incentives to colleagues who embody the company vision, and you'll soon get everyone, from the top down, on board.

7. Repetition

There's a quote from Aristotle that sums up the importance of repetition: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." Be consistent in your message. Not only will it be heard and understood, but it will become a mantra that runs throughout your company to shape and inspire the way you and your team work.

When you've mastered the art of communicating throughout your organization, no matter how large or small it is, you will have built a solid foundation for its future.

Related: The How-To: Ensuring Integrity And Succession Planning In UAE's Family Businesses

Mohammad A. Baker

Deputy Chairman and CEO, GMG

Mohammad A. Baker is the Deputy Chairman and CEO of GMG, a dynamic group boasting a diverse portfolio of retail outlets, brands and consumer and B2B services across key sectors such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, sports and fitness, real estate, education and technology.
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