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)
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Updated 26 November 2019

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.”


Arab News panel of experts see Trump-Biden debate as partisan tie

Updated 42 min 33 sec ago

Arab News panel of experts see Trump-Biden debate as partisan tie

  • Conservative and liberal commentators praise calmer, more substantive debate
  • Biden hit by accusations over son while Trump suffered on COVID-19 handling, panelists say

CHICAGO: A panel of political pundits and consultants were split along party lines in deciding who won Thursday’s debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Guests on Arab News’s special post debate analysis program, which streamed live on the newspaper’s Facebook page, included conservative and liberal commentators.

Republican media advisor and congressional campaign consultant Jeff Davis said Trump won the debate by handling himself better than he did in the first debate.

“It’s the tale of two debates,” Davis, who is president of Victory Media in Illinois, said. “In the first debate I believe Biden was much stronger, mostly because of Trump’s interrupting and his criticism that was well heeled.”

“But I think tonight he was substantive, on point and well mannered. And when it mattered most, he scored points for himself … whereas three weeks ago he was not on point, well-mannered or substantive. He did those three things tonight and for that reason Trump was the winner.”

Democrat Ed Gabriel, a spokesman with Arabs for Biden, argued Biden hit Trump hard on several key issues from his mishandling of immigration to the coronavirus pandemic.

“America won tonight because it was a civil conversation,” Gabriel, who previously served as the US ambassador to Morocco, said. “Neither party, neither candidate can walk away saying they won.

“I think it was pretty much playing to their base and they protected their base. In that sense I think it was better for Biden because Trump needed a knock-out.”

Dalia Al-Aqidi, a conservative writer and former congressional candidate in Minnesota, said Trump hit Biden hard on several key issues including on his son Hunter’s involvement in controversies tied to the Ukraine and Russia. Al-Aqidi said for that reason Trump and the American people won.

“I think we all won this evening. We had a great debate. We got to hear more from both candidates,” Al-Aqidi said.

Trump was “cool, calm and collected” and did what the media failed to do, she added.

“President Trump today did what all of the majority of mainstream media didn’t do, to question Joe Biden on Hunter’s emails and his involvement with the Ukraine and China, which was very important.

“Sadly, Biden did not answer it and he went to the (Trump) tax return. This was a great point and I truly believe Trump won tonight and we all won tonight.”

Gabriel responded that Biden strongly denied accusations about favoritism for his son Hunter while he was vice president. He argued Trump was vulnerable over the issue that surfaced this past week about hundreds of immigrant children being left alone in cages at the nation’s border when their parents were turned away by immigration and border control officers.

“It was a good debate in the sense that the American people got to hear both candidates present their policies,” Gabriel said.

“I really believe that Trump has probably solidified his base. He has never been much above 46 percent. I don’t know if you are going to see that rise after this debate. What had to happen tonight, in my opinion, was a knock-out for Trump. For me, I saw it as a draw.”

Davis said voters will compare the calmer, more issue focused second debate to the turbulent first debate, which will score more points for the president’s re-election.

“As far as overall, two weeks ago everyone complained about the interrupting and the fighting,” Davis said. “I think everyone was looking toward the president to turn up the heat tonight, but I can say tonight he was presidential. He was calm for the most part. He listened. He let Joe speak.

“I think there were some very key spots in this debate. While the hot topic was Hunter Biden this week, I actually think there were two messages that will definitely be race changing in this race and both of them are going to hurt Joe Biden. One, he never answered who built the cages. You are going to see all the pictures of the cages. It was a simple question. He didn’t answer it. He avoided it.”

Davis referred to the issue of Biden’s son Hunter, which came up towards the end of the 90 minute debate that was held at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Hunter Biden was accused of taking contracts in Ukraine and China while his father served as vice president in President Barack Obama’s administration.

But Davis said Trump hit an issue with Biden that could influence voters in Pennsylvania, one of the key Battleground states which could be in contention.

“At the very end, Joe Biden basically said he was going to shut down the oil industry and he was going to move away from subsidies and away from the oil industry and that will hurt badly in Pennsylvania,” Davis said 

“In the end it is going to come down to the targeted (battleground) states and that will play a role in the Pennsylvania race in the last two weeks. Given that scenario I believe the president won tonight.”

Gabriel said the American people also benefited from a debate that focused more on the issues rather than on personalities or contention between the two candidates that dominated the first debate.

“On the oil industry, depending how they play this in the coming weeks, it will be taken out of context as you remember Biden said it would be a transition … he’s clear on fracking and that’s most important to the people of Pennsylvania,” he said.

Gabriel said Biden did answer the Hunter Biden charge. “He did. He called it malarkey.”

The debate focused on several key issues beginning with the handling of the coronavirus, which Al-Aqidi admitted could hurt Trump.

“I think COVID will hurt Trump over and over and over again. He stated exactly what he has done,” Al-Aqidi acknowledged.

But she defended the president’s handling of the economy, which has been hampered by the pandemic. 

The panel discussion was co-moderated by Arab News UN Correspondent Ephrem Kossaify and Special Correspondent Ray Hanania, host of “The Ray Hanania Show” which is sponsored by Arab News and broadcast on WNZK am 690 radio and the US Arab Radio Network every Wednesday morning.

The panel debate can be viewed on the Arab News Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheArabNews.