Afif Tabsh, PMP, CBAP
Consultant & Trainer at CMCS – Cofounder & President at Aie Serve
1. What is the start-up story behind your business venture?
Aie Serve, a youth-based organization, was founded on February 23rd, 2007 with the vision of spreading love, respect and acceptance.
The word “Aie” is a Japanese word pronounced as “I” and means “Love”, so the name of NGO is Love to Serve or I Serve…others.
The idea came due to the aftermath of July War on Lebanon and the sharp polarization of the Lebanese youth. A group of friends started brainstorming ways of tackling this issue and agreed that the 3 basic values that are missing in Lebanon are Respect, Acceptance and Love. Loving others for who they are, and not which political background or sect they are from, respecting others’ point of views and beliefs no matter what, and accepting differences and considering them the seeds of diversity.
Afterwards, t¬¬he group started gathering more ideas and people and tried to organize themselves little at a time while focusing on serving their surrounding and society at large.
Aie Serve evolved from a group of friends, to a group of community service minded people, to a team and an organization.
2. What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur? What is the most
difficult thing about it?
The best thing about being a social entrepreneur is the fact that you truly have nothing to inhibit you, nothing to stand in your way and tell you what works and what doesn’t…so you actually have the liberty to try things out and see for yourself.
Now the hard part about it, is getting cofounders, supporters and people to believe in what you do. Once that is done, it will be about continuously investing time and effort in managing the stakeholder’s expectations and engagement while innovating, managing, leading and implementing.
3. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself being an
I tend to be an over controlling person, I like to intervene in every single detail of everything. But that was the same thing that made me face alot of problems and taught me that I cannot grow until I learn to trust others, delegate work for them and give them ownership of their roles.
Ever since I got to that realization, everything started fitting in place better, and growth is happening while it was being hindered originally by not only limited resources, but also my own way of doing things.
4. Describe/outline your typical day?
The beautiful part of my day that it is never typical. Each day is a whole new story, a whole new set of things. More importantly, my day is much longer and busier than the typical fellow round the corner. Days can literally last 24 hrs…several days at end…with full schedule all throughout.
5. What the most important lesson you’ve learned about sales and marketing?
You got to live, breath, think about your startup and be passionate about it… the actual sales and marketing you’ll do becomes built in…becomes part of you.
Moreover, utilizing online platforms, social media, and conferences/seminars/events are crucial to spread the word out both about yourself and about your new idea or enterprise or what not.
6. Do you define success in the same way that you did when you were just starting
Success for me is a very complex concept. I can be successful in creating something, but not quite at sustaining it. I can be successful in making a sale but not at getting a returning customer. I can be successful on business level but perishing on personal level. So I can’t really say I had a definition of success and it changed….it is just being developed and deepened…year by year.
7. What has been the greatest challenge in business and life – an external challenge
or an internal struggle? How did you overcome it?
My worst enemy has always been myself, I believe the same case if almost for everybody. It’s because we are the people who put barriers, excuses, reasons and limitations to what we can or cannot do.
Once we really learn to be at peace with our own selves, know our weaknesses, our strengths, and know how to manage them and control our urges while still benefiting from our spontaneity …that’s when we really overcome our own internal struggle…our own enemy.
8. What’s the toughest feedback you’ve ever received and how did you learn from
Never got any feedback that I considered tough…it’s always good to get someone to slap you (not literally ofcourse) and bring you back to the ground. The biggest problem a young successful entrepreneur can face is his/her own ego…. so once you accept the fact that nothing and no one is perfect, and no matter what we do there can be better…and that nothing we do will please everyone… the rest becomes easy.
9. What advice would you give if you could go back 20 years ago and meet
I’d tell myself “don’t change a thing…”
10. What advice would you give to people who are looking to start their own
I’d tell them: Just do it! 🙂
As Henry Ford once said “Whether you believe you can or cannot achieve something, you are right” so it is really us who determine what we can actually do…so if there is someone planning to start up a new project, a new NGO/ Social Enterprise or business…then go for it with full throttle ahead! (Oh and don’t forget to plan plan plan!)