Business in Beirut

PITAPOLICY has gained a new appreciation for technology–not simply because of attending the Annual ArabNet Summit. Although the Lebanese War lasted until 2006, Lebanon’s capital has drastically undertaken measures to boost its economy–notwithstanding the significant re-investment of the Lebanese Diaspora community, which is around 20 percent of Lebanon’s overall GDP. PITAPOLICY is struggling to accept two regular occurrences: 1) power shortages; and 2) EXTREMELY slow internet connection. So, apologies for the delayed post.

Lebanon’s Minister of Telecommunications shared that “he and his ministry will study and review the needs of the Lebanese people first” before investing in the infrastructure needed to support the 4G network. Will telecommunications support show up as a proposal in the array of US Agency for International Development (USAID) programs currently underway in Lebanon?

PITAPOLICY reflected on what “Lebanonization” meant for rebuilding a country physically and psychologically after the 1975-1991 period of conflict and outside intereference. Also PITAPOLICY explored the ruins of Baalbek and Jubail (Byblos is the Greek name), and learned of the series of invasions, the archaeologist guide explained a few key luxuries that informed the larger international development expectations. International development expectations differ between those implementing infrastructure from those depending on it. The latter might argue that such dependence should more realistically be understood as luxuries:

Knowledge Exchange
1) Incorporating a “Plan B” is a must for any entrepreneur formulating a business plan. (Thanks to Desiree of Endeavor Lebanon’s program for sharing that insight after her High-Impact Entrepreneurship Panel on March 31st.)

2) Tipping more than 10 percent should be encouraged for decent service at casual restaurants. PITAPOLICY strongly believes that this will decrease the “baksheesh” culture. If one expects better, and rewards it, the paranoia factor decreases. I promise.

3) Don’t bargain all the time. It’s an addiction that can bite you in the leg if exercised in an obsessive compulsive way. For example, the vendor might say ‘yes’ because he/she has already figured out a way to make up for the “bargain” by short-changing the customer on something else. Just ask the silly college student who kept bargaining by saying “I’m a student, I can’t afford to pay that much!” and got greedy by increasing the quantity she wanted to purchase only to pay the difference on the second item 🙁

Before a Conference:
4) Never schedule a brief meeting right after day 1 or 2 of the conference. You paid a lot of money to attend the conference, be open to impromptu networking opportunities.

5) Bring pen and paper; just because we all have smartphones, there is a strong chance that the phone is going to get misplaced–or God forbid–run out of battery as you try to grab details from a new contact.

6) Always be gracious with the staff supporting the conference. For example, pack blank ‘Thank You’ cards to express specific thanks for tasks or insight that a Media Relations or Tech support staff provided.

During a Conference:
7) ALWAYS, accept to a coffee chat--even if you really want to attend a particular panel you have flown over 1,000 miles to hear. Here’s why: If that person accidently loses your business card in transit, at least he/she has a face to remember and is more likely to follow up upon his/her return.

8) Be professional at ALL times, no matter how high-level a new acquaintance is and how comfortable he or she is hitting on you.

9) Always smile–do not roll your eyes at foolish questions during the Q and A portion. Even if the person raises his/her hand and asks the CEO what planet he is from, do not even grimace or wince. In the high tech days of live-streaming tweets and on site video recordings, don’t be that attendee who’s remembered for rolling his/her eyes on the 30 foot screen.

After the Conference:

10) Conduct your own focus group among the local community. Stepping away from cliches exchanged in the meeting room and government official news will do wonders for your creativity. It is easy to be conservative/quiet/even “snobby” by not speaking with the cab drivers about what life is like. But what is the point of delivering monologues on international development challenges if the target audience for the intervention is not someone you see as a concerned citizen, much less, even on your radar…

Finally, PITAPOLICY learned that no matter how many times a civilization is invaded, destroyed by natural disasters, menaced by wars, or disrupted by corruption, exchanging cultural and institutional knowledge is the best practice for thriving, not just surviving.

On a sidenote, PITAPOLICY dealt with the slower internet connection to research and post by reading Lebanese-British blogger, Nasri Atallah “Our Man in Beirut”. Atallah’s analysis and humor are recommended for immediate reading before conducting research or business in Lebanon 🙂


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Filed under Analysis, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics), Technology

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