Photo: Salzburg Global Seminar | Ela Grieshaber
The Challenges of Building HOME
I was invited this summer to Salzburg Academy on Media and Global change as a guest scholar to speak about my experiences – and especially challenges – as a media entrepreneur. So, in addition to enjoying this exceptionally beautiful, rather bewitching city, I valued the task of putting my thoughts on paper. When I considered the challenges, they were surprisingly countless. I had expected long-working hours and sleepless nights; those come as part of the package in any entrepreneurial work and more so in publishing. But others were not really what I had signed up for when I had dreamt of HOME!
In charge of both editorial and business development, the challenges on all sides were plenty. I needed to form a dedicated team with a positive spirit, to create an organizational culture of hard work and a commitment to excellence. It would be a small team; one the operation can afford. Enthusiastic fresh graduates with limited experience needed guidance, while we were simultaneously developing systems and workflow.
At the same time, we were working to shape and create our magazine, we needed to generate income to sustain the work. I went to my first client with the equivalent of “I have a dream,”having nothing in hand, nothing to show, no previous issues of HOME Magazine, it was going to be the first!
Now, even though we have been growing significantly with faithful readers and engaged stakeholders, and we are at our fourth year, I still deal with tons of administrative and managerial difficulties, including legalities in a country with no consideration for social enterprises and impact. You pay VAT before you cash the money. You send an invoice and receive payment six months later, etc etc . In the meantime, you have to sustain your business.
In dealing with clients and agencies, you meet all types. I met some juniors who don’t have the authority to forward a message. I met people who brag about all they will do, all their revolutionary self and show no action. Then also met with senior management and CEOs on ego trips. And haven’t even begun describing those who lack honesty and business ethics – the unprofessional, the unfair negotiators, the lazy, the corrupt, the overindulged, the superficial, the spoiled, the cheap,… you name it! And there are those who would rather back any initiative just because it is coming from a specific affiliation, endorsed by a certain political figure whom they wish to please or in some cases are afraid not to. As an independent enterprise, we are not a priority on their agendas.
Fortunately, in this business circle, I have also met more and more people I have wanted to adopt as family! Throughout this struggle I have met beautiful souls, humble visionaries heading large corporations in Lebanon, the region, or globally; some would daydream with me, empowered women and men resourceful, inspiring, insightful, honest, straightforward, self-driven, analytical, opinionated, transparent, nonpartisan, self-governed,, exceptional by all means with high sensitivity for accomplishments and an eye for what they called qualitative.
I have come to peace with all – the good and the bad. Now I understand how difficult it is for all of us to flourish within the limitations of our small country, in the middle of geopolitical problems and a volatile market.
It is worth noting that I have also had personal challenges. Although I have an innate eagerness to learn and improve, I saw that I had to work a lot on myself, actively searching for information, for know-how in a field I don’t come from. I also had to cope with changing dynamics as a couple, with my daughters, finding ways of being present for them with my long hours at work. Even managing my own energy level became a daily battle..
Then came the fun.
Through the door of HOME, I have met the most amazing change agents, dreamers and doers. I thank life for giving me a microphone for sharing their ideas and experiences. When their words resonate with me, you will see them in a pullout quote. That’s where I try to capture their essence of their being and give those words permanence in print.
I am so grateful for all these people who open up to me and the team in a matter of minutes. They talk about their lives, their pride, their own challenges, about Lebanon, about HOME and their eyes would sparkle with pain and joy.
At HOME, we don’t just curate content; we meet the people we write about the old-fashion way, looking in the depth of their eyes and understanding their body language, and we shares them with our readers. They come from all walks of life, each with his or her unique character, talents, flaws, life lessons, defeats and successes.
Most of the time, our subjects become friends, if they weren’t already. They join the HOME platform and share in our discussions.
Being away from my family and friends, and from many activities, circles, conferences, committees and boards I so enjoy, simply because I don’t have time anymore, people often ask me:
-“Did you expect it to be easy?”
My answer: Is anything worth doing easy?
-“Wouldn’t you rather be in a more lucrative business? ”
My answer: If business is what I was doing, then yes.
– “Your nightmare?”
My answer: You haven’t worked until you have worked in sales.
– “What drives you?”
My Answer: Apart from my passion for Lebanon and positive social change, my fear of failure. When you have been abundantly given, you feel the urging responsibility to give back.
Patricia Bitar Cherfan
Social Entrepreneur| Founder