Learning to do business, from London to Beirut: Charting INK Middle East rise

Learning to do business, from London to Beirut: Charting INK Middle East rise
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Simon Leslie, co-founder of INK, with his book ‘There is no F in Sales.’ The group started in Beirut in 1994, where Leslie began publishing an airline magazine for British Mediterranean Airways. (Photo/Supplied)
Learning to do business, from London to Beirut: Charting INK Middle East rise
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Learning to do business, from London to Beirut: Charting INK Middle East rise
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Updated 26 November 2019

Learning to do business, from London to Beirut: Charting INK Middle East rise

Learning to do business, from London to Beirut: Charting INK Middle East rise
  • INK works with 30 of the biggest airlines in the world, including American Airline

LONDON: The West London base of INK does not feel like a regular media company office.

The vast open space is blanketed by an abundance of sunlight shining through overhead skylights, with budding plants everywhere.

The sales room — the travel media company’s co-founder Simon Leslie’s forte — is very different, with a trampoline sitting in the corner for stress-relief reasons, a bell waiting to be rung at every sale, and pumping, up-beat music bouncing off the walls.

Pacing round are sales executives with Bluetooth headphones speaking to clients.

“It’s about making sure that everybody who works for us has got an opportunity to live out their potential and become who they want to become,” said Leslie. 

INK started in Beirut in 1994, where Leslie began publishing an airline magazine for British Mediterranean Airways, which had only one route at the time — London to Beirut.

“The whole business started in Lebanon and I spent most of the late 90s back and forth across all the countries in the region,” he said. “We now work with 30 of the biggest airlines in the world, including the biggest: American Airlines.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Starting a company in the Middle East gave Simon Leslie a unique experience in the way business is handled in the region.

• Etihad is one of INK’s main Middle Eastern clients now — with the company working on a Grand Prix magazine titled ‘Ignition’ for the Abu Dhabi race.

Starting a company in the Middle East gave Leslie a unique experience in the way business is handled in the region.

“When people owed you money, they invited you for dinner. I love that because it was all about family.”

Etihad is one of INK’s main Middle Eastern clients now — with the company working on a Grand Prix magazine titled “Ignition” for the Abu Dhabi race.

“It’s (got to do) with everything going on in Abu Dhabi that weekend — all about the drivers, all about the city, all about the culture … it’s a great piece of work we do once a year,” he said.

Leslie decided to compact all the experiences, lessons, and ups and downs that he witnessed over the past 33 years on the job to write a book, called “There is no F in Sales,” in which he offers personal advice, motivation and truths about surviving in global business in the twentieth century.

“A lot of the time people write books because they show what they learnt in business school, but it’s not real and raw,” he said. “I talked a lot about how I dealt with personal issues, how I dealt with business issues and how they affect me, and that was really the main theme that’s come out.

“If you want to accelerate your growth in business, if you want to accelerate your growth in human performance then this book is something that you need to read,” he added.

Apart from that, Leslie explained that no matter what, everyone needs a mentor in their life and someone they can look up to for inspiration and motivation in their careers.

“I always say to people ‘if you want to be successful find a successful person and hang around them,’” he said. “If you’re a startup and you’re just starting a new career, read this … I made so many mistakes over the last 33 years, hopefully if you don’t make half of the ones I did you’ll get there a lot quicker than I did.”