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I Starting Winning, When I Stopped Caring

The passion that got you started, will not be the same thing that allows you to succeed.

Inherently, I truly care about people, and adding value to people's lives; however, that same level of care hurt my business, and my own pockets more than I care to admit.

I am going to tell you my story with SpartanSC, and share with you how my level of care, and commitment as a business owner, and investor ended in multiple failures that I had to learn from the hard way!


Now, before we begin, it's important to note two fundamental things:

  1. Every mistake I made and overcame is either risk averted, money saved, or earned for my clients.

  2. I am a successful business owner, and it is nothing like I had envisioned it would be.

A brief background:

Since I started my career, I’ve been fighting an uphill battle despite knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my professional life.

I applied to Philip Morris International after college and specifically applied to work in Marketing.

Yet, because my college diploma wasn’t delivered. I had to share my college transcripts - where HR saw that I have over a 4.2 GPA from my accounting courses.

So, they put me in as a Financial Analyst under the Business Development Department with the promise of quarterly departmental rotations. (I was upset at the time, but today, I understand the business reasons for the delays... and if I had been more mature at the time, I would have been more patient).

Sure, I enjoy the concepts and logic of accounting, but I couldn’t imagine doing that for the rest of my life…

Needless to say, I was stuck there for a full year, and no one would give me a straight answer as to why I was still in the analysis team - so, knowing that I wanted to gain more people skills, I applied to transfer to another affiliate (Duty-Free with Arch Marketing & Distribution).

There, I started at the bottom as a promoter, then a Brand Ambassador, then a Supervisor, and eventually as the BA & DF Commercial Manager for the Air Travel Retail - but, I was still missing something.

So, I got a certification as a CHRE to begin my transition to HR.

There, I was exposed to a world far beyond hiring, firing, payroll…

I learned HR is psychology, finance, business development, marketing, and so much more - a true wonderland for people who can’t sit still!

I signed up for my Masters in Organizational Psychology, and took a contractor job at PMI once more in the HR Department, hoping I’d secure a full-time role if I worked hard enough, and get to one day work under the Global VP of Organizational Efficiency in Switzerland.

Unfortunately for me, what I had not known was an HR employee had eventually returned from a sabbatical, and claimed the remaining headcount in the HR department.

While my dream was crushed, I was offered a role as a Regional Commercial Supervisor. - which is not what I had in mind for myself at all - so, I resigned and set off to launch SpartanSC for the first time; or a freelance version of it.

After 3 grueling months of no income, no clients, and struggles, I had to take a full-time job once more.

I took on the role of HR Director at GMK Group of Companies; the group needed me back at Arch, and I found myself attempting to multitask between managing the Airport Travel Retail once more, in addition to the HR leadership role for the group. When I would focus too much on the Airport Sales team, I would receive complaints about lack of focus with HR. When I would focus too much on the HR, I would receive complaints from the Airport team. What was the lesson learned, and value added? From, experience, and later on... education, I can tell you from an experienced and educated perspective that assigning unrelated tasks to one person will set them up for failure. However, you can group related tasks that would give someone more control over their work, and minimize the need for onboarding additional labor overheads. Adapting during a season of Geo-Political impact on the core business! If you are unfamiliar with Jordan, we are surrounded by warzones, and often, we are referred to as the "Switzerland of the Middle East." Our economy is heavily dependent on tourism, and each time regional turmoil bubbles up, we suffer economically as the economic hit on the tourism industry often cascades and trickles down across other sectors. So, I was asked to reduce the size of my department by 50%, and the bad part was that we were just getting started on setting up a full-fledged HR department. Now, I had seen some pretty innovative ideas across my career; so, I thought to myself, "How can we benefit from a fully-fledged HR department with limited resources?" Then it hit me, we needed to take the HR department out of the business, and launch an independent company to create a separate revenue stream, and also serve our Group. So, I took my credit card, and my ID, and started the registration paperwork! Once I began setting things up, COVID shut down the world. - And that was a horrible time to launch a business, especially an HR firm. Did I regret launching a business 10 days before the global pandemic? (Value Added) Not at all! It taught me how to build an agile business that can adapt to Geo-Politics, Natural Disasters, and even as simple as slow business. How caring too much hurt my business! Now, as a consultant on a budget, I had two options... 1) Hire cheap labor, use cheap software, and risk not delivering quality services

2) Hire the best I can find, use the best software I can find, and deliver actual quality! The thing I learned, is a country that is always fluctuating economically, business owners don't care about quality as much as they care about "getting the job done. and done for cheap" So, I over-invested and was left with almost insulting levels of sales figures and contracts. Because I cared about my team, I resolved to think the solution was to increase sales volumes and hired even more people to bring in more clients... The truth is, that was a horrible idea! Very few companies care about having in-house HR, and with Jordan's economic fluctuations, most companies are not that big to justify having HR. So, our services were not valued, our time was not appreciated, and our experience was not needed. How did I overcome the client issue?

We launched another business in the USA to attract a more international client pool. (which worked, and is working). We fixed our contract terms, and started building a playbook for negotiations based on the frequency of client demands on our contracts that tended to put us in high-risk situations. We launched two services that guarantee monthly cashflow, and add equivalent or even more value to our clients than what they were paying. As the famous Gibran Khalil Gibran said, "We suffered, we learned, and we changed."

(تألمت تعلمت تغيرت)

What we "learned," and have hands-on "experience" in "changing," means significant value added for our clients. Was that enough?

Unfortunately, not. I had taken on too much manpower, and overcommitted to specific clients resulting in freezing potential for the expansion of a successful business model. If we could not grow the new business model, then financially, I was still losing money. I asked my partner to finance us once more, but he had reached the end of his patience with us and said that from here on out, I was on my own in terms of fund-raising. And BOY! Did I reach out to everyone I knew (from the USA to the UAE, and in between). But with the current global instability, and lack of trust in the global economy very few would consider taking an investment risk. (to be clear, all investments are risks). What did I do? I cut down the headcount until we had enough to break even and grow the new model, but it was not without challenges. The key team members I had started being overworked and lacked motivation, and the ones who had left refused to conduct client acquisition anyways. So, I was left with no choice but to automate the jobs of those who refused to act as sales agents, and outsource the rest to something I hadn't thought of before. All this time, I had been acting as though I was on my own, but in truth, I had the backing of a Group of businesses that would support me without question. So, I outsourced our primary service operations (Hire Remote Talent in Jordan) to our centralized departments at GMK Group, which has been a multi-industry market leader since 1952 - which now, gave me a sustainable business plan, and service offerings. For recruitment, I reviewed the process, and now offer specifically the main thing clients need from outsourcing to headhunting firms.... which is sourcing via our SmartStream Service.

Today, I focus on doing what I love most; Managing our CSR arm, Leaders Talk with Leo Podcast, and directly handling the SmartStream Sourcing Service. But even more so, without the burden of overwhelming expenses, we removed all our contracts only have plan policies via our website, and lowered the prices and rates of all our services across the board. Today, SpartanSC offers the equivalent of some of the largest firms out there for a fraction of the price, and the same quality (if not better). What's the moral of this story? By caring less about trying to add holistic value which is super expensive to operate, we picked our niches, and we created stability for ourselves, and more importantly, for our clients. We often overlook resources we already have and are simply waiting to be leveraged. Stop trying to do things on your own... nothing of greatness is achieved without a team with one vision. And for entrepreneurs, build your business around the life you want to live; and stop trying to build your life around your business. (Care a little less, to gain so much more). Best of luck to everyone out there! Leo Khoury, ECRE Managing Consultant at SpartanSC Host at Leaders Talk Head of Strategy & Business Development at Arch Marketing & Distribution

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