Understanding the Bigger Energy Picture

With average gasoline prices in the United States passing $5 per gallon this month for the first time ever, energy has really captured the headlines showcasing the very real impact on many people’s pocketbooks and way of life. This has reenergized the dialogue and debate over oil’s usage, the primary feedstock for gasoline, and politically the need to switch more quickly to wind and solar.

Unfortunately, our modern information world of cable news, twitter, and other forms of media showcases unbalanced snippets.  Having spent my career in the energy industry, over the years I have found it rather appalling at the naivete and lack of depth of understanding for such a complex energy/environmental system that fundamentally powers our standard of living.

In my blog of October 25, 2021, on Understanding the Energy Quagmire, the focus was on climate change highlighting the issues around renewable energy and fossil fuels.  My overall conclusion was we needed a more thoughtful balance of the risks and rewards of different courses.

Then in my blog of March 4, 2022, we looked at the concept of energy security being made up of economic security, national security, and environmental security. In other words, energy security plays a major role in the other three primary securities which are central to daily living. Today, we are seeing the impact on economic security which doesn’t receive much attention until energy prices rise significantly.  In the blog, I referenced a presentation that I had given in August of 2021 before Russians invasion of Ukraine.  I made the point in that presentation that we were underplaying the role of energy security in terms of its potential impact on national security, in other words, a lack of balance and foresight.  The Russia/Ukraine war has brought this reality to the forefront.

Today, I received an e-mail from Scott Tinker, Director, Bureau of Economic Geology & State Geologist of Texas who is a Professor at the University of Texas.  I met Scott through my role at the University of Houston’s Global Energy Management Institute at the Bauer College, and my leadership role in the GHP’s Energy Collaborative.  He is incredibly knowledgeable and insightful on the energy/environment complexities and recently produced a YouTube video entitled TEDx-The Dual Challenge: Energy and Environment. 

Scott really addresses the bigger energy picture in a balanced way. He has requested us to share this 17-minute video with friends, colleagues, and social networks.  It will give you much greater insight into the big picture reality of energy beyond simple snapshots through the media.  Please listen to his insight:

Highlighting Rich Hall

Silver Fox Advisors is proud of our members and would like for you to get to know them better.

Rich Hall has been a valued member of Silver Fox Advisors since 2020. He currently serves as a Board member, Chair of the Membership Committee, and Facilitator of two CEO Roundtables (The Woodlands area and in partnership with Houston’s Better Business Bureau).

As the founder of Rich Hall Group, he works with small business owners and leaders to help them achieve their vision of success for themselves and their company. He has extensive experience with family-owned businesses looking to grow, transition to the next generation, or prepare for a successful exit.

In addition to his advisory and coaching services, Rich is the proud father of 3 boys, Jeremy, Mark, and Daniel, and husband to his beautiful wife, Jamie. They’re active members of The Woodlands Methodist Church, and parents to pandemic puppies, Bucky and Riley.

If you would like to learn more about Mr. Hall, or Silver Fox Advisors, see our website at www.silverfox.org/directory

Highlighting Our Members – George Connelly

Silver Fox Advisors is proud of our members and would like for you to get to know them better.

George Connelly has been a valued member of Silver Fox Advisors since 2000.

As a member of the Tax Controversy and Litigation section of Chamberlain Hrdlicka, George is recognized as one of the leading federal tax litigators in the United States.

In addition to his legal work, George is on the Executive Committee of the Better Business Bureau’s Board of Directors, and served on the Board of Houston Public Media for 13 years, including President and a year as Chairman of the Board, Advisor to CEOs through Silver Fox Advisor’s Roundtable program, and much more.

If you would like to learn more about Mr. Connelly, or Silver Fox Advisors, visit our website below.

Featuring Mary L. Kole

Silver Fox Advisors is proud of our members and would like for you to get to know them better.

Mary Kole is the founder of ML Kole, LLC, a consulting practice focused on assisting leaders of public and private companies with the development and implementation of strategies to achieve company or organization objectives. Mary is a professional Business Leadership Mentor, former Chairman, President, and Vice President of Silver Fox Advisors.

According to Silver Fox Advisors founder, Monte Pendleton, “Mary is the most capable person I have mentored in 30 years. She can do anything and do it well”.

If you would like to learn more about Ms. Kole or joining Silver Fox Advisors, visit our website.

Dr. Ken Wells

Featuring Dr. Ken Wells

Silver Fox Advisors is proud of our members and would like for you to get to know them better.

Dr. Ken Wells is one of our newest members. He is a seasoned executive with extensive corporate health experience spanning clinical medicine, health benefits, public health, and pharmacy. He is an Army reservist, flight surgeon, and pilot.

Ken serves as Vice-Chair of our CEO Roundtable Committee and an active participant in several of our programs including our recent Lunch & Learn on April 7th when we returned to an in-person gathering at the Houston Racquet Club. Ken joined a panel of other Silver Fox Advisors and updated those in attendance with information about “Hot Topics Facing Business Today.”

If you would like to learn more about Ken or join Silver Fox Advisors, visit our website.

Energy Security

As the Russia/Ukraine war escalates, oil and gas are really back in the spotlight. The rise in our gasoline prices largely driven by national policy to reduce the use of fossil fuels is now being exacerbated by the ramifications of this Russia/Ukraine conflict on worldwide oil prices. I had mentioned this in my recent blog …

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A Serious PLIGHT of the Business Owners and Execs

In my coaching activities, I have found that there is one common issue present in virtually all of these folks that leads to what I refer to as the 3 Ps:

  • Lower Productivity
  • Lower Profit
  • Lower Peace of mind

What is this roadblock?

CONTROL – it seems that most want too much control over many aspects of their business and other affairs. Often referred to as micromanagers

Almost always, they see others performing certain tasks and their first thought is that they could do it better, faster etc.

This leads to micromanaging, a desire to control too many things. This results in

  • Poor time management – spending time on trivial matters
  • Resistance and resentment from workers who want to do it their way – that are doing their best.

The Need for Control

Unfortunately, this need for control usually carries over to other parts of their life.

They want to be the writer and director of the play that is going on in their daily lives.

But because they cannot control so many things, they lose focus and momentum. Then people resist and the results almost NEVER turn out exactly the way THEY think it should or the way THEY would do it.

Since things are not meeting their expectation, this, in turn, leads to toxic emotions like frustration, which can lead to anger and resentment.

And people DO NOT like to be controlled. Like a dog resisting when you pull their leash. And since people are one of any firm’s most important assets, you need to set the stage for them to succeed and not control them.

Breaking this habit of control is the single biggest breakthrough I have witnessed in business owners that I have coached.

After I point out this issue and the negative consequences outlined above, they are ready to get out of that rut.

They are ready to work ON the business, not IN all the details.

Like right NOW.

Time Usage

They reaffirm what they already know – they should use their time on the highest and best use instead of the minutia that comes from micromanaging – in ALL of their affairs.

But habits are hard to break, so I recommend a process that they repeat over and over until they form a new better habit of “LETTING GO”.

That process is:

  1. I ask that they commit to me and another person, to give up fighting to control people and things
  2. They come to realize that while they engage in that fight, they never or rarely win.
  3. I have them realize the value of peace of mind that comes from accepting people places and things for what they are. In most cases you cannot FIX people and have a minor influenced on other things/situations
  4. They are to carry a copy of the serenity prayer with them and when they become agitated with people or circumstances, they PAUSE and read/think about, the serenity prayer.

A good but simple example is traffic.

 Instead of tensing up and/or shouting, pause and read/think about the serenity prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can.

And the wisdom to know the difference

I have seen this work with many people, myself included.

Their state of calm and peace of mind is immediately apparent and rewarding to them, their coworkers, their family, and friends.

Of course, vastly improved results naturally follow from such freedom. .

Do everyone a HUGE favor, let go of the reins and let the world go around.

Note – This article was written by Howard Rambin, of the MoodyRambin Company. He is a Silver Fox Advisor and is available for consultation, advising, and mentoring.

POSITION PAPER ON NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS

Most non-profit organizations’ fundraising struggled in 2020 and 2021 as the Covid 19 economic shutdown forced in-person donor and financial supporter functions to be greatly limited in size and scope or even canceled. Some organizations moved to computer-generated fund-raising events but these events were not as successful in raising money as the more face-to-face get-togethers had been. In addition, many businesses struggled financially just to get their employees paid and their doors open, thus having monies for support to charitable organizations and causes was and is simply just not there.

Further, in Houston, Texas the oil bust of 2020 caused many large companies that operate in the energy sector to limit or completely do away with charitable contributions.

Even prior to these 2020 events there had been a “Trust Crisis” developing regarding non-profit organizations. Ben Gose, a contributor to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, addressed this topic in an article he wrote that was published in the Chronicle’s January 7, 2020 newsletter. This article is very enlightening and worth reading.

fund raising

With all this being said, there were also several very emotional political causes being promoted in this time frame, and many corporations began making contributions to certain groups and causes to show their stakeholders and customers that they are good corporate citizens and are providing support to these groups and causes.

On the Foundation giving side of fundraising, the story was somewhat different in that the stock market provided many Foundations that support non-profit and charitable organizations, increases in their corpora, thus enabling them to have the funds available to make contributions; however, these Foundations are getting more requests than ever before.

Further, Foundations have refined their requirements and giving criteria such that the request process has gotten more detailed and lengthier with committees and/or staff having to evaluate requests more thoroughly and provide the Board with very specific recommendations. Most Foundations today require at a minimum that organizations seeking funding have audited financial statements, which is an added cost burden on these charitable and non-profit organizations. Most Foundations will also check with Guide Star/Candid(1) to see if the organization has filed all the necessary organizational documents, like financial statements and 990 Tax Returns with Guide Star/Candid.

NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION RECOMMENDATIONS

Richard Hendee/Horizon Associates, Inc. has been working with and assisting non-profit organizations for years. Further, Mr. Hendee has started several non-profits and has sat on numerous non-profit organization boards. He never agrees to serve on any non-profit board if that organization doesn’t have Director and Officers (D & O) Insurance coverage. In today’s litigious environment legal action of some kind is, unfortunately, a given. Even if the organization did everything right and by the book, if a suit is brought against the organization, typically the Directors and Officers are included in the suit, and the expense of hiring an attorney to defend being right can get really costly, an expense most individuals do not want to risk their personal assets for. Having D & O insurance coverage is a must for any non-profit.

Here are some other key recommendations:

  • Run the organization just like any for-profit business would be run. Eventhough the organization has been given non-profit status by the IRS for federal income tax purposes, it is still a business.
  • Develop a well-thought-out (not wordy) Mission and Vision Statement that clearly states the organization’s purpose and future direction.
  • Create an organizational chart that includes position titles and functional areas of responsibility.
  • Identify areas that need specific levels of expertise, like legal, accounting and human resources, and contract with outside service providers to assure all the details are done correctly from the start, like the Bylaws.
  • Set-up the organization with the Secretary of State in the State the organization is located in and make sure updates are filed periodically.
  • Prepare a thorough detailed Business Plan which includes what the organization does, for whom is does it, how it will do it, who are the management team and board members and what are their levels of experience, who are the competitors, how the organization will be marketing what it does, what the organization’s strategic plan is, and the key: how the organization will be funded and what happens if there are shortfalls in the funding.
  • Develop criterial governance policies like code of ethics, conflict of interest statement, whistleblower policy, directors’ roles and responsibilities, gift giving policy, investment policy, internal controls, and record retention policy.
  • Schedule monthly and annual Board Meeting dates and times and hold these meetings using a formal Roberts Rules of Order(2) process. Agendas need to be created prior to the meetings and sent out ahead of time with any related agenda item documents in order that directors may have an opportunity to review documents prior to the meeting. Further, meeting minutes should be taken at these meetings and approved at the next Board Meeting.
  • Create working Committees like Fundraising/Development, Audit, Finance, Nominating, Executive (if needed). Make sure these Committees meet regularly, take minutes, have specific assignments, and periodically report to the Board.
  • Create a Community Advisory Board made up of key visible community leaders, key business executives, and community group leaders who all can be called upon for fundraising assistance, opening doors that may need to be opened and/or providing invaluable information and support about the communities the organization may be servicing. Try to stay away from putting political officials on Advisory Boards.
  • Assure that the organization is properly protected by carrying General Liability Insurance, Hazard Insurance if the organization has a lot of fixed assets, Workers Comp. if the organization has employees, and event riders to these policies for fundraising events like Galas, Hunting Trips, Golf Outings, Trade Show Events, etc.
  • Create budgets and fundraising goals and regularly review and measure actual results.
  • If the organization has real estate, apply with all taxing authorities for a reduced property tax schedule.
  • Hold annual board retreats to develop annual plans and a five-year strategic plan. These plans should be evaluated and adjustments made periodically especially if a major event occurs.
  • Develop a robust communication plan to keep your sponsors, supporters, stakeholders, community groups, and volunteers updated on the organization, events, and developments.
  • Establish a volunteer group that can be available to help with projects, events, manpower shortage, and the like. These volunteers need to be informed and made to feel they are a part of the organization and a valuable resource.
  • Participate in local Better Business Bureau (BBB) non-profit evaluations. Often individual gift-givers check with the BBB to see if the organization has any complaints filed with the BBB.
  • Prepare collateral materials (3) that communicate your messages and what you want others to know about your organization. You want to make sure that your message is in your words to avoid any miscommunication or key details being left out in any communication chain.
  • Develop an annual giving campaign that is geared around some important date related to your organization, like the founding date. You could always use the end of the year date, as some contributors do tax-saving contributions at that time of the year.

Horizon Associates, Inc., founder by Silver Fox Advisor, Dick Hendee, has developed this non-profit organization position paper to provide non-profit organizations some guidance and assistance as individuals set up a non-profit organization and to provide existing non-profits some directional changes or planning ideas if needed Horizon Associates, Inc. does not guarantee using any of this material will result in your organization being able to achieve any specific results.

  • (1) GuideStar/Candid is an information service specializing in reporting on U.S. nonprofit companies. In 2016, its database provided information on 2.5 million organizations. In February 2019, GuideStar merged with Foundation Center to become Candid.
  • (2) Robert’s Rules of Order is the basic handbook of operation for most clubs, organizations and other groups. So, it’s important that everyone know these basic rules! Organizations using parliamentary procedure usually follow a fixed order of business.
  • (3) Collateral material is any media material used to promote a company’s products or services. This includes everything from print materials like posters and flyers to digital content like catalogs and e-magazines. Anything you can use to communicate your company’s brand message is considered marketing collateral.
small business owners

Leaders: Setting a New Standard

Welcome to 2022. Yes, we have entered a new year. Like many of you, I have reviewed my accomplishments and plotted a course for this new trip around the sun.

As for me, I have chosen a noble task.

I want to help 10,000 business leaders and company owners become Better Bosses. Let’s start with WHY.

For a long time, there has been a saying among HR professionals. “People join companies but quit bosses.”

Have you ever felt that way? I know I have.

The individuals who get promoted into management jobs and/or start businesses rely on chance and circumstance for ways to figure out how to lead a team. Experience tells me that most fail in some way or another.

I think it’s time we seriously focus on making our bosses be accountable for better behavior.

It’s Tradition

First, let’s be real. In western commerce and so-called ‘big business’, we have this strange tradition of promoting the brightest bulb on the string to be a supervisor when a spot comes open. The logic goes something like this.

“Sally is our best producer. She would be the best one to lead this team.”

WRONG! Instead, we usually end up ruining the best producer and frustrating the team because Sally doesn’t do well leading people. (No knock on Sally. It could be a Bill or a George here too.)

In the case of the entrepreneur, this person has an idea for a product or service. So they start a company. The idea takes off. Pretty soon the owner knows they need a bigger team to keep things going. Hiring begins and the fun starts.

Like the promoted high-performer, most small business founders seldom know how to manage people.

In both cases, you can hope for a collection of positive experiences with prior bosses to model good habits, but guess what? Those folks had their own journey arriving where they were. So did you really get a good lesson?

Nature or Nurture?

Then there is another thought. In the halls of most business schools, you can find a raging debate among academicians about whether leadership is born or bred, nature vs nurture.

I’m not going to rehash the whole debate here. Instead, I will say this. I have met and worked with clients who clearly have more natural talent to be a leader. They have a sixth sense of reading people and making decisions. They are comfortable at the podium speaking to a team or a whole organization.

These individuals do shine in positions of leadership, running companies. And, like professional athletes, they get better with coaching to help them refine the natural-born skills they seem to have.

I wanted to play sports in school. But growing quickly to six feet tall before any notion of hand-eye coordination kicked in limited my future in athletics. Obviously, I was NOT a natural-born athlete. The few things I’ve tried since then, like golf or tennis, have required hard work.

On the other hand, I have worked with clients who did not start with “natural” leadership ability. Instead, they embraced the need to be a leader. They worked hard to learn concepts, principles, and values they could use to become better leaders and, hence, better bosses.

Therefore, my observation is simply this. Some people may be born to be leaders and get better with training. Others can learn to be better leaders with the right coaching, hard work, and commitment.

Back to Human Resources

I knew a global HR professional who boldly led a charge to redesign his company’s entire HR role. His premiss said, “If we trained better managers, our people problems would go away.”

While the company didn’t accept the theory outright, they did permit him to test it with a large global project he was assigned to support. The results were never empirically proven, but the overall success was positive based on exit reviews and employee feedback.

The idea is solid. Better bosses can make a difference in the way work teams view the company. More importantly, it impacts the quality and quantity of work contributed by employees.

Today’s Situation

Add to the above factors the rapidly changing world of work today in the face of COVID lockdowns, remote working, and workforce change.

Studies are beginning to emerge wherein labor pools are voicing one common theme. People are tired of toxic cultures created by bad bosses. Here are a few of these studies:

Management teams who have historically ignored employee feedback are being systemically voted out of office. No, I don’t mean literally, because there is no such vote. But symbolically, they are receiving a “no confidence” vote from people walking off the job. The “Great Resignation” it is being called.

In essence, the modern workforce is saying “Enough!”

Should You Be Surprised?

If you are in a management position, now is the time to take action. There is always time to review what you do with your team. You can make a change.

Want to be a better boss? Here are a few tips to help get the journey started.

First, disconnect from the tradition and legacy of your company’s “less than” culture. Take a serious inventory of the standards enforced by tradition. Does the culture rely on command and control leadership styles?

More specifically, does the culture rely on any aspect of interaction that serves to diminish an employee’s status? Is it customary to always talk down to the people below you by job grade?

When an employee brings bad news, are they subjected to ridicule and admonishment?

Break that chain. Treat people with respect. No one deserves to be subjected to harsh emotional lashings for trying to do their job.

Next, decide on an intentional change in the way you look at your responsibilities.

Shift your thinking. Can you do more to represent your team? Are there better ways to show your support for them?

Then, upgrade your communication ability. Are you the best communicator you can be?

Step outside your own box for a moment and get a read on the way your messaging lands. Ask for some 360 feedback about your communication style and effectiveness.

Just because you say it, doesn’t mean people get it.

Make your communication a true two-way exchange. State your issues, then ask for feedback on the spot. You can start with a simple ask from your people, “Please tell me what I said, in your own words.”

Communication is King

Also, don’t rehearse tragedies.

This is a line I picked up from the hit TV show “Blue Bloods.” It means don’t dwell on the bad stuff going on. If something fails, make a one-time review of why, learn from it, then move on. Don’t keep dredging up the negativity.

With this also, never use a team or individual fail to justify a ‘public execution.’ Good people fundamentally know if they made an error. You as the boss, don’t have to keep reminding them of it.

Finally, learn how to read the room.

Pay attention to what is going on around you. If people seem on edge about a problem that is in front of them, you have to handle the problem first. Then you can announce a new piece of guidance or instruction. You can’t teach a sailor to tie a knot when the ship is sinking.

The New Year

Turning the page on the calendar is a great way to reset your own focus. Please take a moment to think about how you manage and lead your team.

Can you be a Better Boss? We all can do something to up our leadership game. Why not join me in making 2022 the year of the Better Boss?

Case Study: The nybl Story

Every small growth company has a unique story to tell including lessons learned. 

The insights from their story and lessons learned help drive their company forward into the next phase of their journey.

For others who are orchestrating their own growth, these insights can be invaluable to help them in their journey.

Overall, my 4 Stage Growth Model for Small Companies provides a useful conceptual framework in assessing your current position and planning for your next stage.

My blog entitled Achieving the Take-Off Stage in Small Business describes moving from the Growth Stage to Take-Off with some mentoring advice.

It is particularly challenging to move into this Take-Off Stage. So, I felt hearing the story of one who has done it would be beneficial for those pursuing this leap.

One of my clients has been receptive in sharing his company’s story, and he has also become a mentor for young entrepreneurs.  

I want to introduce you to Noor Alnahhas.

Our relationship began in January 2017.  Noor was one of three principals in a software development company.  The other two principals were technically focused while Noor provided the business perspective.  He had graduated from the Wolff Entrepreneurship Center at the University of Houston Bauer College of Business.

Silver Fox Advisors CEO Roundtable

While the entity had been operating for a number of years, it had no definitive vision or substantive plans for the future which was quite concerning to Noor. 

I suggested that he join my CEO Roundtable where he could get insights on planning from other CEOs of small growing companies.

At the time, each member was utilizing the EOS (Entrepreneur Operating System) framework to explain to other roundtable members their future plans. Noor found the EOS framework from Gino Wickman’s book TRACTION Get A Grip on Your Business most helpful in pulling together his thoughts for the business.

 It also became clear that the leadership structure of the company was not going to get them where they needed to go.

Silver Fox Advisors Fox Den

As the plans took shape, my suggestion was for him to participate in a Fox Den where the Silver Fox Advisors provide a review of the business plan and challenges. 

Generally, there are four advisors with a moderator to coordinate the session.  The plans and issues are provided in advance, so the session provides focused advice.

Noor felt this was extremely helpful because the advisors did not have a built-in bias as do personal friends, investors, and so forth.  They were frank and straight forward in their commentary and assessments. Just what he wanted and needed.

Advisor Role

I have been an advisor and mentor to Noor for some five years now.

Two main aspects of our discussions have been strategy and leadership.  One of my reasons for developing the 4 Stage Growth Model for small companies was to provide a framework for clients like Noor.  It has been an integral part of their planning.

Similarly, the Leadership Personal Profile has been a tool to help leaders understand themselves better and where they need to develop further.  Noor has been a champion of the profile. 

Here are some insights into his profile that will help you understand the nybl story.

Part of Noor’s personal vision is to build companies, chase opportunities, and work with people he enjoys being around. 

One of his key values is finding the positive as he believes negativity achieves nothing.

His perspective on life is there is no such thing as luck, just opportunity meeting preparedness.  If you fall three times, you just have to get up 4 times so that every failure is a step toward success.

His character statement starts with “I am a fun, friendly, and honest person who will do whatever it takes to deliver on my commitments/promises. 

He recognizes that he needs to think more before acting and listen more than talking.

As you can see, Noor is a high achiever.  He strategically looks for the solution in every challenge pondering new and out of the box ideas if that solves the challenge. His leadership brand is chief of dreaming stuff up.

 Over this period, Noor has relocated to the Middle East and has now become the CEO of the reformulated company named nybl.  Here is the nybl story in Noor’s own words.

Noor Telling nybl Story


“Nybl, its structure, strategy and subsequent success are all the result of the lessons learned over many years of doing the wrong thing. But these lessons came much later than the events that brought them about, and I only learned these lessons when I got external, unbiased feedback, mentoring and support – which came from the CEO Roundtable, Mentoring from Lane, and the Fox Den feedback.

The difficulty with achieving moderate success is the complacency it can lead to. The previous enterprise I was a member of had fallen into the moderate success complacency rut. While I was not satisfied, some of my partners were and this was a significant concern for me. This lack of satisfaction drove me to find a source of advice, mentoring and help to get out of the rut, and achieve my personal goals and ambitions.

During my undergraduate studies at the University of Houston, I had the privilege to work with Ralph D’Onofrio, a member of the Silver Fox Advisors, in mentor roundtables setup as part of the Entrepreneurship program in the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship. I remembered the valuable lessons I learned from Ralph (which I still use today). I set out searching for a way to find a similar source of help. After finding several very expensive roundtable and communities – I went back to the original source at the Silver Foxes and discovered the CEO roundtables. It was exactly what I was looking for, and best of all, it was free. I sent in my application, and after a few interviews I was placed into a group led by Lane Sloan.

The roundtable had a group of CEOs from diverse industries and business types, but it was quickly clear that we all faced similar challenges. I learned from everyone’s experiences and challenges. I shared my challenges, thoughts and ideas and I got incredible feedback, suggestions, advice, and thoughts shared from the CEOs in my roundtable. While the CEO Roundtable provided an immense value, I realized that I needed more one-on-one mentorship. This is where journey with Lane begins.

Lane’s approach on mentoring me was strategic in and of itself. First, we identified my personal strengths and weaknesses, which helped us both understand where I was and what I needed to do to improve. He then helped me map out my personal purpose so we could both understand my personal drivers and motivators. From there we worked together to define where the company was currently in the 4-stage growth model, and where we wanted to go. And finally, he combined all of these to develop a complete strategy. Short term, long term, personal and business. It’s been an incredible adventure. I learned things about myself I never knew. But most importantly this entire process was the jet fuel to our nybl Rocketship.

I’ll go into the values and importance of each of the steps Lane took, but I must point out the most important one of all: being a guiding north star. Building a sustainable, profitable and scalable business is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. If it were easy, everyone would do it. It’s stressful, all-consuming, and at times downright demotivating. It takes a ridiculous level of commitment and belief in your concept to battle through all of that. The problem is sometimes, you might just have a bad idea. This is what I believe is the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur: you must believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that the impossible task you are setting out to accomplish is achievable even when no one also has been able to achieve it. So, at what point do you give up if it’s not working? Or, how do you know to continue your perseverance at the most difficult times? How do you know if your idea is actually a good one? You need someone like Lane. A trustworthy, experienced, mentor, advisor, friend to tell you, without any agenda or bias, if your idea sucks and it’s time to throw in the towel or if what you have is really something and you should keep fighting for.

People will be happy to share their opinions. Why “you’re crazy” and “you should just get a job” because that’s the only world they know. Or, how it’s irresponsible to “put all your eggs in one basket”. Your true friends and family may be supportive even when they shouldn’t be because they believe that’s how they should help, by being your support system. With Lane as my mentor, I didn’t worry about intent, agenda or bias. When I was doing something wrong, he would point it out. When I chased shiny objects that were diverting my attention from the vision, he told me to focus. When things were going great, he cheered me on. But, most important of all: when it was difficult, stressful, and reaching a point where I could easily give up, he would explain where he saw opportunity. He didn’t tell me what to do, or why to do it. He allowed me to peer through his lenses, see my journey from his perspective and realize, that if what I was doing didn’t make sense, he would have told me. That is the most valuable insight I got from Lane. It allowed me to hustle and work harder. To believe, even when everything seemed impossible, and to get through the most difficult times. Throughout the rest of this article you will come to see the incredible mentorship, advice, and value Lane’s coaching provided, but there is no doubt that being a guiding north star is one of the greatest values of all . So, find your Lane Sloan. It will change your life.

Our adventure began with identifying my strengths and weaknesses as an individual, and as a leader in my organization. The interesting part was the reasoning behind this exercise. Contrary to the usual approach, it was not to “work on my weaknesses”. Lane had a great approach: if you improve your weaknesses, and don’t build on your strengths, you end up being average. Instead, focus on your strengths to turn them into superpowers and compliment your weaknesses with those who have them as strengths. That creates 2 superstars instead of one average individual. Based on the outcome of my Strengthsfinder test, we devised a plan on how to augment my weaknesses using my team and build on my strengths. This was the first step, and it allowed us both to know where I should and should not spend my time. This exercise also taught me one of the most valuable lessons – when and what to delegate to my colleagues, who were better than me at their strengths, my weaknesses.

The second step of the process was my personal purpose. This was life changing for me. Prior to defining my personal purpose, I constantly faced internal battles of work / life balance and making decisions related to the mix of business and personal. As an entrepreneur, that line is very blurry. But, after being brutally honest with Lane and myself during the Personal Purpose exercise, everything became crystal clear. I had, without even knowing, created a prioritization hierarchy for everything in my life by simply defining what I wanted to achieve – my personal purpose – in all aspects of my life. Now, this may sound daunting, but the exercise is very well thought out and takes approximately 2 hours with a great coach taking you through it. These 2 hours were the best I ever invested in myself. Understanding my personal purpose also created goals, targets, and milestones for my personal life. I always had a business plan, timelines and milestones for work, but never applied the same level of thought and planning into my personal life. Defining personal purpose makes every decision, whether personal or business, a simple decision. It either fits and delivers on your personal purpose or doesn’t. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!  

Once we had defined my own strengths and weaknesses, and my personal purposes we now moved on to the business.

The process for the business was similar. We began with an audit like approach – defining where the business sat in the 4-stage growth model. If you’re not familiar with it, the 4 Stage Growth Model, as it is defined by Lane, categorizes businesses based on their growth stages, and helps in building a strategy to move from one stage to the next. It is important to identify where you stand, in order to identify where your focus needs to be now, and where it should be in the future. The Four stages are Development, Growth, Take-off and Expansion. Through this analysis we identified that nybl was at a critical point: moving out of the growth stage, and into the take-off stage. But, we were still acting like a company in the growth stage. Our organization was not ready for take-off. We did not have the proper processes, systems, organizational strategy, and internal leadership that take-off requires. As a leader, I had to take responsibility for the position we were in. Most of it stemmed from my lack of developing my internal team into leaders of their own. This is, by far, the most important quality of a leader – to build their team into independent leaders capable of carrying the mission and vision forward on their own with guidance.

“if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”

  • Lewis Carroll

Before working on our short-term strategy, we first mapped out the long-term strategy. Once that was complete, we knew where we were going, and could devise the short-term strategies that would take us from one milestone to the next – our path to success.

This began in January of 2020. The original 7, as I like to call us (the 6 co-founders and our founding investor) sat down for 5 days to decide where we wanted to go. We emerged with a vision. A company built to transform data into intelligence, and a long-term strategy to be a camel, not a unicorn. A sustainable, profitable company that will be much, much larger than a unicorn, and not mythical! To become the largest technology innovator in the Middle East generating human, technological, and economical value in the Middle East and exporting them to the rest of the world. That was our plan for nybl.

Now it was time to get to work.

Now that we had this Big Hairy Audacious Goal in mind, we set out to map the path to get us there, one milestone at a time. The first milestone was to prepare our company for the take-off that was we were on the verge of. This was a gargantuan task in and of itself. It meant hours of discussions, planning, strategizing, re-planning, re-strategizing and more discussions. We worked on everything, beginning with the organization. We mapped out the current team, their strengths, and weaknesses and where they could become superstars of their own. We identified the gaps, and weaknesses that no one had strengths to fill, and set out a plan on how to build a world changing organization.

Every hour of conversation with Lane turned into tens of hours of work with the team. Lane and I met on a weekly basis, sometimes twice a week when the progress permitted. The company began to take on a life of its own. Mind you, this process began during COVID, right when we all got locked down. At a time when we had no clue how we were going to even make payroll at the end of the month. But, having a clear vision of where we were going and what we wanted to achieve gave us the energy and motivation to power through the most difficult times. It enabled us to take one rejection after another from investors (we were not ready for them at the time). We took every rejection as a learning opportunity: how could we have done better? Where did our messaging fail? What did we do wrong? How can we improve in the next round? We learned. We improved. Most importantly, we continued to build the foundations for expansion.

We emerged from lockdown with an incredible plan. One that paved the way to the company we are today. In the past 12 months, we’ve grown from an 8 person “start-up” to a truly global scale-up with 40+ people all over the world working with more cohesion than organizations running for years. This was not luck. It was preparedness meeting opportunity. It was the hard work put in to focus on the foundations to enable sustainable growth. Most importantly it was thanks to the invaluable coaching from Lane Sloan, the support from our initial investors and my incredible co-founders. We owe everything to this group of people. An incredible handful of people who believed in our vision and supported us every step of the way. Shriprakash, Ayman, Rawan, Rashad, Mohammed, Essam, Saleh, Karim, my Father Nasser Alnahhas and of course Hugo. Of course, my co-founders and the entire nybl team – thank you all!

Our Growth stage organization had become a take-off organization. Individual members were now leaders. Each with their own path, milestones, and responsibilities as part of the rocket ship we called nybl, barreling through space. As the saying goes, we were here to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and we were all out of bubble gum J 

2021 was our transformational year. We began the year with a major theme: getting our house in order. This meant organizational, structural, legal, financial, and most important of all, people. All part of the 4-stage growth model, to be ready for expansion.

We began this transformation with our people culture. It is my belief that every single company in the world is a people company. Regardless of the product or service a company delivers, it is the people of that company that manufacture the product or deliver the service. Together with our newly appointed Chief People Officer (Reem Osman, our savior) we built an organization destined for success. We made it our goal to be the best place in the world to work. If our people loved working at nybl, their output would be stupendous. And it is! 

We brought on a CFO (Shoutout to Hans and Kristian from Finstrat Management). Through their fractional accounting & finance service we built a financial structure fit for multinationals. We had solid financial metrics, we planned, we budgeted, we forecasted, we analyzed and repeated. Over, and over until we had it right.

We built our team out with the structure for expansion, and a focus on culture. Software developers, data scientists, industry experts, product champions. This focus on our people enabled us to develop world changing technology, and this technology yielded incredible products. These products brought business and as a result we signed multiple long-term, global contracts during 2021 to set the stage to move nybl from take-off to expansion in one year. And what an incredible year it has been.

We entered 2021 with 14 people. As I write this today, we enter 2022 40 strong and growing. Our biggest competitors are now our partners, and our journey is just beginning. 2022 marks the year we shift from take-off to expansion.

 And we’re not going to just expand, we’re going to explode. We explode with an arsenal of tools including our culture, technology, strategy, and a vision and a mission. Lane and I continue our sessions on a regular basis. Each time, analyzing our strategy, making pivots and adjustments where necessary, and working on each step towards our giant goal.

Our milestone for the year is to become a Billion-dollar company (yes, with a B). Not through valuation from investors, but by sheer volume of business, technology, and innovation. It is our first critical milestone in our journey to becoming a camel. It’s an incredibly challenging milestone. One that is exciting, motivating, and fun! So much fun, I sometimes forget it’s work.

Peter Drucker says “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. I’d like to add my own twist to his quote: great culture combined with great strategy eats whatever it wants. That is the essence, the secret sauce to nybl. Incredible culture, with incredible strategy. I wish I could say we thought of that all on our own. But we owe our success to our team, our investors and to every person and organization that supported us along the way.

To The Dubai Future Foundation, and The Dubai Future Accelerators: Thank you for believing in a handful of people with nothing more than a vision.

To Smart Dubai Government, Dubai Health Authority and ADNOC: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to prove ourselves when no one else would give us the time of day.

To our investors and board of advisors: Without your unwavering support we could not have survived the difficult times. Thank you for your belief in a vision and mission greater than all of us.

To the nybl team: Without each and every one of you Rockstars, none of this would be possible.

To the original 7, my ride or die co-founders: This is the result of your dedication and belief. Our Journey is just beginning, and the dream is becoming a reality.

To my Mother, My Father, my Wife, and my beautiful Daughters: I love you. Thank you for the support and for being my light during the darkest of days.

And of course, to Lane Sloan: Thank you for taking on a scrappy entrepreneur who wouldn’t give up and imparting the most valuable of your assets: your time, and your knowledge. You are a gift, a treasure.” 

My Remarks

When I asked Noor to write the nybl story, I was interested to see what he would say.  This is not really a typical case analysis with detailed financials and particular steps along the way.  It is all about his learning and feelings that led nybl to fulfilling the Take-off Stage.

You feel the energy and passion that Noor has in the business.  It for sure has been a challenge.  Today, as Noor said he does not see this as a job or work rather instead an exhilarating fun experience that he looks forward to every day.

Results make a difference: the huge revenue growth, investors coming to him, unsolicited people wanting to join the company, next generation culture, inspired employees, an incredible hiring system, leaders emerging at every level, an adaptive growing organization, a well-structured financial system, linked operational processes, reputation growing faster than marketing and so on.  All this contained in the strategy and forward plans. The key elements in taking off.

Noor’s incredibly lofty goal of becoming a billion-dollar company may appear unrealistic to you, but Noor believes it.  He has done the research on similar companies in the artificial intelligence space and their position. Reaching take off requires lofty goals so I am careful not to dampen his enthusiasm.  He is willing to put the aspiration in print!

Finally, you may feel Noor is taking an early victory lap by thanking everyone who has been a part of nybl reaching Take-off.  This is only one stage in the nybl journey ahead.  Yet, it is crucial one.  For Noor, the present position is a relief in many respects seeing the company take off and his thanks to the many contributors is genuine.  He has been overly kind to me.

Throughout this blog, you should get a reasonable picture of Noor.  Foremost, he is an incredible learner and listener.  Second, Noor does not accept defeat.  His leadership growth has been extremely fun to watch.  And I believe leadership is the key to achieving the Take-off Stage.

UPCOMING EVENTS
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