Omar Soudodi is best known as the co-founder and CEO of Payfort (A payment processor company like Paypal), and the former general manager of Souq.com, Egypt. (an E-commerce platform that was acquired by Amazon)
Today Omar will give us the most valuable lessons that he has learned through his great entrepreneurial journey, and this is more important than any academic knowledge because these lessons are a conclusion of his personal experience, so read closely and make sure you're taking notes.
1)Lesson One: People are wrong 90 percent of the time:
Omar says: "I used to get very discouraged when people would tell me "It's not going to work" then I started asking them "why?" then I realized that 90% of the time people didn't have a good reason why it would not work. The other 10%, they had a really good reason"
We often are hugely impacted by the opinions of other people in our projects and startup ideas, but we forget to ask them why? and it's so important to ask this question because most of the times people only rely on their impression only, which isn't enough, as an entrepreneur you need reasons for both answers, you should always know why it should work, and why it shouldn't.
So don't let other people discourage you, ask "why" always, to know if they're just assuming or they have solid reasons that you could rely on to better make present your value proposition.
3) Lesson Three: Being insecure is good as an entrepreneur:
Omar says: "I think being insecure is good as an entrepreneur. It keeps you on your toes and make you work hard. Inadequacy is good if you still trust yourself, and you say that is something that I need to put more effort into"
One of the greatest things that differentiate normal people from highly successful people is normal people settle down so early, if for example a normal guy had 1000 clients/month, he would go everywhere talking about himself and his company and how they made this epic success story, instead of aiming to have 10,000 next year.
So there is probably a thin line between being ungrateful and wanting more, you should always be grateful for the great achievements you've made so far, but you should also have the constant desire to build further, and achieve more.
4) Lesson Four: As a leader, you should always stay calm and strong"
Omar tells us about the time when they did what they could to get the business going and they literally had no time to breathe, they were getting it right finally, then a surprise was waiting for them.
The Egyptian revolution came at 25/1/2011, and when they just went on the right direction, suddenly, there is no internet!
Omar says: "The moment they cut the internet on January 28, we asked amongst ourselves, "Now what are we going to do? We're going to send catalogs to people and take order over the phone?" Of course, this was not an option, but just to give you an idea of the mindset that we were all going through at that point"
The revolution took them by surprise, they had to deal with this new reality, the team gathered and became agile and focused on problem-solving.
Omar says that the team's attitude was pretty amazing, they were like "Bring it on, we've seen it all, if there's blood in the street, fine, we're still going to work"
It was so challenging as they were missing the essentials as electricity and gas, their fiber optic router was stolen, but Omar made his best to motivate the team members.
The lesson Omar learned was: "Even when things are tough, as a leader, you should always stay calm and strong"
I could personally link the success of the company to his calmness during these times, because if the team members saw that their boss is stressed and freaking out, hell they would've given up already.
5) Lesson Five: A real challenge should make you stronger, not weaker:
Remember the challenge they had during the revolution? They turned it to their side and it ended up being a benefit for them, could you imagine this?
They not only learned how to go through these hard times, but also they used the situation for their advantage when they ran one of the most successful promotional campaigns that they ever had, they made a campaign selling all the t-shirts and all the calligraphy stuff that had to do with the Egyptian revolution, and many people knew Souq from this campaign.
So they turned a challenge that might break other companies into their competitive advantage, and people bought from them even when at the time Egyptians had almost no awareness of online shopping.
Omar says: "You have to be a dreamer, everything starts with a dream, but if you don't act on the dream nothing is going to happen.
He followed: " I come up with ideas every day, I forget them after ten minutes, unless of course I write them down and make it a point to follow through on them"
So this is a lesson for entrepreneurs and aspiring ones, people tend to overestimate the power of thoughts, and underestimate the power of execution, while ideas are meaningless with no proper execution, and Micheal Dell said it best when he said: " Ideas are a commodity. The execution of them is not".
So give much more attention to the execution, than ideas.
7) Lesson Seven: What makes a business, a business?
Omar says: "If it doesn't solve a problem, then it's not really a business idea"
This is a message for aspiring entrepreneurs who might really think of great ideas, but execute on them and find that they're failure ideas, they find it out so late because simply, these business ideas don't solve problems, they're just some fancy solutions that people might want, and might not, so there isn't a real demand at the end of the day to keep the company running.
Omar says: "You're going to have some failures, and that's how you are going to learn"
Really many people still feelings of fear towards the word "failure", not realizing that really human beings learn the most by failing, and trying again, as Henry Ford said: "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently"
Also Omar says: "Entrepreneurship is not a sprint, it's a marathon"
So it's not just about launching your startup and becoming an established business, but consistently innovate and do the best you and your team have, day in, day out.
Omar says: "It's quite important to keep a positive mindset, you have to get used to dealing with the pain. Any person who runs marathons, they're actually tired by the second mile, and they've got another twenty-five miles to go. You've got to deal with the pain and you have to enjoy it as well"
I have no comments to add, he said it all intelligently and breifly.
10) Lesson Ten: Entrepreneurship is about managing your time efficiently:
Omar says: "As an entrepreneur, you really have to manage your time well, you have to prioritize; You have to keep asking, "Is this important?" You get invited to a meeting, so you have to ask "Is this an important meeting? Is this going to add value to me? to the organization I work with? or would I rather just spend that time at work and then go home and spend time with my family"
Managing your time usually begins with questions, like if I would do one thing now that would make me progress in life, what would it be? You find yourself after this directed automatically to achieve what is valuable, so make sure to ask yourself these questions all the time.
11) Lesson Eleven: Your loved ones are your best supporters:
When Omar was asked about the role of his family in his success and for entrepreneurs in general, he mentioned his wife who was extremely supportive, and while he was launching Souq he was putting in long hours, and it was not easy for her especially during the times of the revolution.
"Basically, your loved ones, they really play an important role in terms of putting you in the right mindset, supporting you and always believing in you, because you doubt yourself all the time.
Having them by your side in tough times when you feel down and you feel like this is not going to work, can remind you why you are doing this, and how you've done it before.
They provide you with support and emotional safety. On the other hand, If you have a partner that is always telling you "This is not going to work" or "why don't you just get a job?" that can be detrimental.
Having your partner on board is extremely important because if they're not on board, it's going to be a very difficult journey at home.
He also says that you definitely have to make time for your family, for your kids, because you don't want to succeed in business, and fail at life!
Mark the last sentence in gold, really this is the best sentence I've ever read; "You don't want to succeed in business, and fail at life"
So that was all for today, hope you've learned much today and I wish that you could write to me in the comments so I know what I have to do better, your review is the most important thing because this content is written especially for you, so I need to make sure you're liking it.
I wish you a great successful life both in business and personally, because as Omar said: "You don't want to succeed in business, and fail at life"
See you at the next article, and thanks for your precious time