Mazen Farah’s first truly challenging position was in the sales field. Little did he know that having the courage to quit his unfulfilling career in IT would lead him years later to turn his sales experience into a fast-growing sales management consulting firm.
“I didn’t know that what I will learn in sales is what I needed to become a successful entrepreneur. I learned resilience, I learned how to deal with insecurity, and I also learned that the backbone of a company is its commercial arm,” explains Mazen.
Mazen poured all his experience and vigor into Heed, his sales management consulting firm. Today Heed is 6 years old and its team of seven professionals work to help companies in their sales challenges.
Heed’s main tenet with all its clients: No quick fixes. Mazen explains this approach: “Companies have a tendency to tackle their sales problems by hiring additional sales people, or setting sporadic training programs or increasing commission schemes. Alternatively, we integrate science into our approach. All our solutions are based on data and proven facts that we collect for our client. We set our recommendations and work strategies based on those. We understand the problems of the sales people and the problems of the management and we bridge this gap.”
When he decided to start his entrepreneurial journey, Mazen received a lot of deterring comments from people around him: Now is not the right time. The situation in the country is bad. Wait until you have more experience. Yet, he had his mind already set: “I tried different types of employment and I was not happy. I then asked myself: When was it ever the right time in this country? This is just an abuse excuse that you give yourself. When do you ever say to yourself I now have enough knowledge or experience to move forward on my own? You will need to build trust with your first clients and you will grow your own experience from there.“
Recruitment is a big challenge in a consultancy company because it does not sell a tangible product but rather a service that heavily depends on the qualifications of the team. When recruiting for his first team members, Mazen aimed for Class A people: “A Class B employee does not fit in the dynamic and unpredictable pace of a newly launched startup. It is someone who excels in a 9 to 5 system and cannot handle the insecurity and the personal endeavor required in a startup.” He believes that each person who joins a startup adds to its culture, which is just starting to take shape. Mazen also likes to keep a good mix of ‘thinkers’ and ‘doers’ in his team and would optimally aim to recruit someone who is both.
Heed has built a culture around paying very good attention to the client and their company’s needs in order to give well rounded solutions, whether in transforming or optimizing their sales department.
Heed works on setting or enhancing the process rather than improving the individuals because it believes that once a system is in place, a different mix of sales people can still highly perform in it.
To complete that cycle, Heed has developed its own sales academy with a detailed sales program that focuses on a person’s sales knowledge and application and on building their skills and habits. The 6-month program is an alternative to the common 2-day sales trainings where 80% of the information gained is lost within the next few days. The program alternates classroom lectures with presentations and self-study and is slow paced in order not to remove the salesperson from the market. The certificate will be accredited from the Professional Sales Institute in London.
The academy was created to solve a main challenge that Heed faces in Lebanon and the GCC which is the lack of knowledge in sales solutions as companies opt into finding quick fixes for sales pains rather than diving into setting out proper systems. “We’re aiming to educate companies on the importance of our service, converting the mindset of short cuts and quick solutions,” explains Mazen.
Another challenge that Heed faces is scalability. The future growth of the company depends on its ability to scale its product offering and replicating its service experience through optimizing the resources of its people and setting out a well designed work process.
Mazen’s advice to anyone who is looking to venture into entrepreneurship is to make the most out of the resources they have at hand. He speaks of his own experience when starting up: “It is very easy to feel that money is a key factor that will bring you success. It is not. It is how you learn to optimize between the resources you have and the time of implementation that will pull you through.” He continues, “The joy in being an entrepreneur is definitely not the freedom of time, as many might think. It is the freedom of taking your own decisions. What you learn in this journey and its impact on your lifestyle is what will make you live differently.”
“Don’t put too much time and effort on product development and improving it before going to market. When I first started I made a prototype of what I want to offer. Today it has developed beyond recognition. Set out a model that would interest the client and then develop it based on his needs.”