Sarah Hammoud is the Business Development Consultant at Engineering Group Contractors EGC a dedicated Security Integration company based in Lebanon. Sara attended the ‘Helping SMEs Build Resilience’ training sessions launched by Berytech following COVID19 and the consecutive crisis that hit Lebanon, heavily impacting businesses including EGC.
We talked to Sara about the impact of the pandemic and the local crisis on the company, how they dealt with payments, transitioning from survival mode to growth mode and the future of the business.
Q: What is the solution that Engineering Group Contractors (EGC) offers?
A: Operating for over 33 years, Engineering Group Contractors (EGC) is a dedicated Security Integration company based in Lebanon. Our portfolio encompasses full turnkey solutions in the fields of Lightning Protection & Grounding System, Integrated Security Systems, Networking, and Telecom Systems. Through combining a world-class product portfolio, knowledge of our customers, and investment in our staff, we deliver year-on-year growth through offering our end users tailored solutions, helping them to secure their business and properties. Our clients include Middle East Airline, Solidere, ABC Mall, Dar AL-Handasah, MAN Enterprise, and many more.
Q: How did the economic crisis, covid-19, and Beirut blast impact your work, your progress, your vision, and your company’s mission?
A: The global pandemic combined with the financial crisis and persistent deteriorating situation in Lebanon have negatively affected our business. Some of our team members left the company to relocate outside Lebanon, several ongoing projects were put on hold, while other projects were resumed at a financial loss resulting from the massive devaluation of the Lebanese currency. Moreover, we lost the payment facilities with our suppliers as they are located outside Lebanon; before the crisis, we were able to pay them after 90 days of shipment while now we are required to pay them before packing. We were unable to make these payments from our account in the bank and were forced to buy dollars based on the black market’s exchange rate while we were collecting payments from our clients based on the official exchange rate of LBP1,515.
Q: What were the key measures taken to overcome these challenges? What were the main strategic decisions that you took?
A: To survive the difficult phase Lebanon is witnessing, our management made strategic decisions to retain our team and seek new business opportunities for EGC. We are paying part of the salaries in fresh dollars and focusing our efforts on seeking clients able to pay us in fresh dollars such as embassies and NGOs. Our updated strategy includes revamping our quality controls and internal processes, accelerating our digital transformation, and expanding our presence in target African and MENA countries.
Q: Why did you attend the training? What were you hoping to get out of them?
A: Our set strategy reinforces EGC’s commitment to continuously challenge and redefine its operation modes to keep delivering quality service to our clients. Attending the YBI training sessions was an opportunity for our team to gain knowledge in key areas of business growth, learn about tools that enhance business performance, and have fruitful discussions with experts in business, sales, and culture.
Q: What were the challenges that you were facing that you hoped to tackle through what you learned in the training?
A: Like many SMEs, we are currently conducting market research to grow our business in target African and MENA countries. The Access to Market training combined with the one-on-one with the sales consultants allowed us to conduct our research properly and explore go-to-market strategies that leverage digital communication and limit the need of our team to travel and be physically present on-site in the early stages of establishing our presence in the selected countries.
Q: How did the training impact your decisions? What have you been able to achieve because of it?
A: The training offered by the YBI program along with the one-on-one sessions with the experts provided valuable support to our team. Brainstorming with experts and receiving feedback from them on some of our ongoing projects was an opportunity for our team to gain the perspective of knowledgeable individuals external to our company. This allowed us to see our work through the eyes of an outsider and identify specific areas that needed to be updated or developed further.
Q: What are the opportunities that you are looking at for your business and what do you need to get to them?
A: To implement our strategy and transition from survival mode to growth mode, our company has initiated several projects. Our projects include working towards receiving the ISO 9001 on quality management, growing our business growth and sales teams, and implementing an ERP system along with other automation tools that increase business efficiency and performance.
Q: How do you see the future of your business?
A: Our vision is to make our world safer to live, work, and communicate. To achieve our vision, our team is committed to architect and building customer-centric systems that comply with the highest standards, employ the latest technologies, and sustain our environment.
By delivering on this promise and using our values as our guiding compass, EGC can continue to offer tailored security solutions allowing individuals to live safely in a world where consumption patterns, work modes, and life experiences were largely redefined by the global pandemic.
Abou the program
The ‘Helping SMEs Build Resilience Program’ was launched by Berytech under The Rapid Response and Recovery Programme, led by Youth Business International (YBI) and funded by Google.org, to support underserved micro, small and medium businesses to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Learn more about the program: https://berytech.org/programs/helping-smes-build-resilience-program/