Starting an SME business can be a bit of a minefield, with crucial decisions to be made every step of the way. There is always a possibility of making mistakes, however most common mistakes that SME entrepreneurs make, can definitely be avoided.

SME entrepreneurs in the UAE share personal experiences on their startup journey, the mistakes they made and the lessons they learnt along the way.

“Spend time finding the right people”

Arash Jalali, Founder at Acopio, a social platform for professionals to expand their network, shares his two cents as an SME owner:

“My biggest mistake when starting up was ‘going with the flow’. Some people think this is the best option, but it leads to an unorganized startup and difficulties down the track. Part of this included starting with an ineffective team, which in the end, hindered my success. If I were to start over, I would spend time on the organization and infrastructure of my business. I would spend time finding the right people with the right skills and the unique talents that I need in order to grow. While this process may be more lengthy, it eliminates the need to back track and ultimately waste valuable time. After all “behind every iconic company is an iconic team.”

Tarig El Sheikh, Founder & CEO at Beneple, an online HR management portal, recounts his mistake in the course of running his business and what it taught him:

“Not being scared to hire fast based on peoples’ strengths but letting people go fast when they’re not a good fit, is an important lesson I had to learn.”

[Related: My top three hiring mistakes]

“Avoid perfection, aim for optimal”

Mehrad Yaghami, Founder at, a digital printing company in the UAE, talks about the lessons he learnt:

“One of the biggest mistakes, many new SMEs/startups tend to make (including myself in the past), is the idea of wanting your idea to be perfect from the moment people first lay their eyes on it! You want all the perfect features that have been brewing in your mind and to you, your product/service seems incomplete without all of it. You won’t be satisfied with launching or showing your product to the masses until it’s perfect.

But perfection is not a final destination, it’s a journey and you always have to keep optimizing for it. You’ll never be done with perfecting your baby, so start now, start small. Is your service useful now? Can people use your product in some functional form now? Then get it out there to the people, let their feedback guide your path on the journey of perfection. Focus on improving on a daily basis rather than some imagined, distant goal.”

These days, I aim to execute ideas faster and validate them early on in their life cycle, then improve on them gradually with the target audience’s response by creating a feedback loop that continually optimizes the product.”

“Choose your business partners carefully”

According to Wadih Haddad, Founder & CEO at The Box, a personal storage and moving services provider, choosing the wrong partners is one of the biggest mistakes that SME entrepreneurs can make. He shares his learning:

“People can be your biggest asset or your biggest liability. Sharing your vision and dream with partners can be the best or worst decision you will ever make. You want to choose partners that will boost you, give you confidence and expand your horizons, and not drain your energy, resources and cash. Always have clear terms, expectations and options to exercise your rights, so when things go above expectation or if things go sour, you have clear triggers to push and execute. This will help keep the founder’s focus on growth and creating opportunities for employment, investment and meeting customers’ on-going demands.”

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“Value your own time and prioritize what needs to be done first”

Rehaab Daud & Roha Daud, Founders at Muse Dubai, a PR & talent management agency based in Dubai, discuss how time management and prioritizing tasks has been one of the biggest learnings on their entrepreneurial journey:

“One of the major things we learnt as entrepreneurs is how valuable time is. Without time management we cannot achieve more than half the things we set out to do everyday. How to prioritize tasks, cut meetings short by keeping them to the point and how to stop other people who talk a lot in meetings from wasting our time – this required assertiveness, experience and communication skills acquired over the period we have worked.

We particularly feel that people in Dubai have a habit of wasting time during meetings. Small talk during business appointments is common here and not at all necessary. Moreover, those who talk a lot, we felt that they usually lacked substance and those types of meetings mostly are the unproductive ones.

As an advice to other young entrepreneurs, I would say be confident enough to tell your clients that you have other commitments if you feel they are wasting time. Value your own time and prioritize what work needs to be done first.”

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