Ho Ho Ho

Happy holidays and stuff.

(No snow in Estonia)

Burj Al Arab

Some countries have signature places to visit. When you go to France, you have to go to Eiffel Tower and Louvre. When in India, you should visit Taj Mahal. For Dubai this place is Burj Al Arab.

Burj Al Arab, one of the symbols of Dubai, has (very) successfully create a mystique around it. It claims to be acknowledged as the best hotel in the world. It is a symbol of luxury, reachable only for the selected few. Not everybody can go there - just to look around costs 75$. Even most of the residents in Dubai have never been there. One night in the hotel starts from around 1300$ with the sky being the limit for the royal rooms.

The hotel as 8 restaurants and bars, I had dinner in one of them. For extra cost (about 110$) you can have a white Rolls Royce pick you up from your home to take you there. Restaurants are not cheap at all, but the food and service very of the highest quality. The dinner I had (buffet) was for 100$ per person (excluding drinks, even water) and it was easily one of the best dinners I have ever had. The buffet contained food that is quite often not included in the buffet menus like lobsters, oysters, sushi.

When we entered the restaurant I received a nice surprise - a table close to us was full of Estonians. There aren't so many of us and what are the chances of meeting some in Burj? One of the persons at the table was the rally ace Markko Märtin.

The hotel had a very nice ambiance, live classical music being played in the lobby (and they played very well). The hotel area size is not very large, but it's high and hollow inside. It was luxurious and nice, only the couches in the lobby looked rather cheap to me. In the entrance there was a cool fountain (see right). Escalators were next to aquariums with corals.

Dubai has a huge amount of 5 star hotels (total 54 by the end of this year), when you live here you happen to go to those places often (for drinks, dinner, appointments). This means you get somewhat desensitized to luxury and thats why Burj Al Arab didn't seem like that super special. But it was cool and different for sure, we had a lot of fun .

Books of the year

Every time when a year comes to an end all sorts of top lists are made. Best of song of the year, best footballer of the year and best book of the year. This post is about books in the non-fiction category.

You can find editors' list from Amazon for the best business books of 2006 here. Their no.1 book was The Long Tail which I have also written about in my blog. 800 CEO Read chose these books in their 2006 select.

I am going highlight my top 3 for the year. I chose these books based on the impact they had on me. I considered how they changed my paradigm, how they have been useful (e.g. contained information that I have used constantly successfully for my benefit over period of time) or how they expanded my horizons in a notable way.

1. Now Discover Your Strengths (M. Buckingham, D. Clifton)

This has been by far the most influential book for me. It has increased my self-awareness in so many ways and my understanding of other people. It will help you to understand what are you naturally good at, it will help you to explain why people are the way they are and why they excel at some jobs while not in others. Most certainly I will comprise my future teams based on the talents as it just make so much sense. I have personally experienced in so many ways how the talent concept introduced in the book really works. It is a must read book. I blogged about this book some months ago too.

2. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (R. Fisher, W. Ury)

This is a book about negotiations. We negotiate almost every day, whether its about the idea you came up with at work, which movie to see in the cinema or convincing somebody to do something. For those who want deeper insights into the art of principal based negotiations, this is a gem. I have used the knowledge I gained consciously so many times. I often in the middle of negotiations find myself thinking of the principals I learned, and have used them very successfully. There is no need to waste time on positional bargaining, there is a better way.

3. Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership (J. Jaworski)

Synchronicity is meaningful coincidences that cannot be explained by cause and effect. This is a very inspiring book. You should read it before embarking on a journey to achieve your dream. It is about importance of finding your true self, listening to your gut and seizing opportunities. It is not one of those teacher meets pupils kind of books where the guru tells you how to live, it is much more than that. The author tells his life story and wonders about life on the way. If you read "Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho where he wrote "if you really want something, all the universe will conspire with you", now you will understand what it means.

What are your best reads of the year?

A Compliment

A few days ago I received this e-mail:

"Hey Peep

Referring to your visit to our stall at CityScape, we were very much pleased with your approach. Should you be looking for any job in our concern, please call us at any time."

During the Cityscape real estate exhibition I was doing B2B selling and approaching many property companies, they were one of them. I take it as a compliment.

Corruption, reputation and wasta

Quite often in my business meetings I am asked "Who is the owner of the company?", sometimes also "How old is this company?" or "Where is your office?"

These questions are about reputation. It matters a lot who is the owner, if it's a local guy and if so, from which family? Or if its international, is it a part of a major corporation that has been around for like 100 years? It matters in which part of the town (or on which street) your office is. Quite shallow and ridiculous, I think. Where I am from, this kind of questions are almost never asked. It matters who you are and what you do, but here this is not enough.

I think this is characteristic to Middle East (and perhaps other parts of the world as well) and its roots come from Wasta. Wasta is who do you know, what is your background (family), how connected you are. It can be considered as a specific type of corruption (translation: a mean, mechanism, medium). Wasta is about having someone in a power position do something (legal or illegal) for you (a favor) that couldn’t be done without a wasta. What is different from other kind of corruption is that people don’t usually hide their acts when they use Wasta, they even brag about it, and offer providing the same wasta to people around us to help them out (to get a better social standing). With enough wasta, anything can be done: any lawful punishment can be escaped, any employment can be attained, any problem can be brushed aside.

People use wasta for business. Hence the question - who is the owner of the company. If you have big enough wasta, you can get your startup business launched in no time. Doors will open if the right names are involved.

From my personal experience I know people who have been teaching here for years in government schools. They told me that wasta is even used in the local schools (for emiratis). For example a student is in the school on a scholarship, but is lazy as hell and doesn't study, fails all exams and doesn't even show up sometimes. Teachers tell the administration to stop the scholarship, but get the answer "He is a nice kid, comes from a good family". Wasta.

I haven't personally had much contact with Wasta. It is much more common among the locals, which are the minority in the country (and 95% of them work in the public sector).

Fortunately the business sector (at least to my knowledge) is not very corrupt, although I have heard of bribery cases.

Dubai real estate developments

Last week there was a real estate exhibition in Dubai called Cityscape - claiming to be the largest in the world. To get a glimpse of the scale of the real estate developments here, see these pictures. Real estate is booming here like nothing else and the number of remarkable developments is huge. This is just a selection of new developments, not nearly everything.

This building is an exact copy of an.. iPod! Most technologically advanced building in the world. Everything is voice programmed. If the phone rings, your whole apartments is blinking. You can choose the colour of the walls depending on your mood. You can have have pre-programmed romance theme in your bedroom if you want.

How to Succeed in 2007

CNN Money just published something cool: How to succeed in 2007. It comprises of short pieces of advice given by some of the world's most successful people (impressive list).

Some of the advice is about build the next Google, some tell you how to stay ahead, how to be a great leader, or - how to do well by doing good - my personal favorite.

Worth checking out: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/howtosucceed/index.html

Being a Samurai warrior

Large part of what I do for living is helping my Clients to get more clients. So I am meeting a lot of people to figure out together whether they could benefit from what I do.

I am sure most people can recognize an intelligent and smart person when they talk to one. There is one thing that especially strikes out in my line of work. Some people listen with the intent to understand and think along with you, they participate in the conversation. It doesn't necessarily mean they will do business with me. That's the smart kind of people.

Some listen with the intent to respond and jump to conclusions in the first second. They judge you from the moment you open your mouth and don't even try to understand. Some say "yes, lets do it" without even understand how it work or what it means to them. Some come up with weird counter arguments that have no significance to the issue discussed. They don't make an effort to understand. That's the stupid kind.

I believe this behavior reflects their overall personality. They don't listen and jump to conclusions in internal meetings, at home, in casual conversations. I personally try to avoid that kind of people whenever I can. It is likely they have missed some really good opportunities because they didn't make an effort to understand.

I think that as we cruise through life we have to be like Samurai warriors. Always on the look for that little piece of opportunity that comes our way, ready to seize it. Next time somebody tells you of an idea, make sure you listen. Have the attitude that this could be one the brightest things you'll ever hear.