Sherif Ahmed Artisan is the Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer of Connectors and also one of the faces behind Mori Co. Holding’s success, but these are just two of the many hats he wears. With extensive experience leading commercial organisations, media, manufacturing, and food & beverage entities such as his newest venture Green Habits, Mr. Sherif has achieved an international public figure status as a serial entrepreneur. He talks to Law Today about how entrepreneurs can seize opportunities and overcome obstacles in a constantly-moving market.

You are notable for your involvement in a wide variety of ventures, many of which focus on food & beverage and lifestyle. How do you think this breadth of experience has helped you in terms of market penetration and understanding the needs of consumers/clients?

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to live in many countries around the world, and to have had experiences that have given me a well-rounded appreciation and understanding of different cultures and local business practices. In today’s world, only firms that understand and can function in the global marketplace will flourish. Innovation is the new currency of business.

With over sixteen years of experience in marketing and commercial management, I have worked in a diverse range of industries, including major manufacturing, telecom, property management, real estate development and media organizations – and most recently food & beverage entities. I’ve channelled all of my experiences in these different fields to assess market needs and how to serve our clients.

I always use the basic idea of putting myself in another’s shoes to be able to find the best or most likely outcome to any of my business queries. If you constantly put yourself at the other end of the table, rather than focusing on personal gain, being able to identify market penetration strategies becomes a much easier task. Always remember “good tactics don’t serve a bad strategy”.

You are not only known for being an entrepreneur yourself, but also for the role you play in supporting entrepreneurs through Connectors. What are the main legal and commercial challenges facing the entrepreneurs you support?

There are certain challenges common to all entrepreneurs, regardless of their area of business, their target market or their country of operation.

Invariably starting a new venture involves walking away from a steady, often promising, job into something unpredictable. This is risky and there is no escaping that. We advise the entrepreneurs we work with to think carefully about their choices but also to trust their instincts.

Many first-time entrepreneurs lack capital or revenue to fund their business’s cash flow. As entrepreneurs are often venturing into unchartered territory, they may not have the connections that can help them generate new funding opportunities easily. Networking becomes very important and so does thinking broadly and creatively about possible ways of generating cash flow.

Along with these very practical considerations, the entrepreneurs we work with often face a number of more interpersonal challenges. Choosing team members who not only have the knowledge and skills you seek, but also the right mentality to be part of the team, can be difficult – especially given how quickly the start-up world moves.
With all the exhilaration of being an entrepreneur, having flexibility and being your own boss, there are also numerous stresses. Entrepreneurs have to problem solve, troubleshoot and make decisions both large and small on a daily basis. It is not unusual to feel lonely and unsupported; working long hours means they have less time to spend with their families and being ultimately accountable for the success of the business means they have to take difficult decisions and often keep their employees at a bit of a distance.

When it comes to legal challenges, one of the most daunting issues facing entrepreneurs is how to be well informed about the processes that apply directly to your business. In addition to thinking through business financing, marketing, product development, company structure and expansion, taking time to research the legal requirements can feel like another huge task on a long list.

Yet thinking early about legal issues will make the entire start-up process easier in the long run. Some of the most important legal issues for entrepreneurs include business entity choices, licences, service contracts and clauses related to employees.

It is very important, particularly in a marketplace such as Egypt, to back up any verbal deal made with a potential vendor or client with written documentation. Agreeing on clear terms and conditions is also crucial, particularly in the case of start-ups with several co-Founders; ownership and terms must be properly and accurately defined.

A good lawyer can offer valuable support in these areas, but I think new entrepreneurs often make the mistake of hiring a lawyer too soon or choosing a lawyer who is not necessarily specialised in their area or industry. Entrepreneurs need lawyers who practice law as it relates to business if they are to get the support they need in their start-up phase.

Franchising has proven a successful business model for food and beverage entities wishing to grow in Egypt. Can you outline the legal processes people wishing to franchise their business need to undertake?

Franchising establishes a long-term business relationship so the foundation must be built on a clear understanding of the franchise program and a good relationship between the franchisor and franchisee. Both parties should consult and be guided by an experienced lawyer to offer them information about the franchisor-franchisee relationship, help them understand the legal issues and be protected from making costly mistakes.

The two main franchising legal documents used internationally are the FDD (Disclosure Agreement) and the Franchise Agreement.

The FDD provides prospective franchisees with key information they would need to enable them to make an informed decision. This includes information about the franchisor, the company’s key staff, experience in franchise management, initial and ongoing fees incurred in opening and running the franchise, the franchisor’s bankruptcy and litigation history, required investment and purchases, territory rights, responsibilities of the franchisor and franchisee, and other franchisees in the system. Following receipt of the FDD, a 14 day period must be given for prospective franchisees to think about their decision before signing the Franchise Agreement.

The Franchise Agreement is the legal document that governs the relationship between the franchisor and franchisee in detail. It includes information about the franchise system, especially use of trademarks and produce, territory, the rights and obligations of both parties, the duration of the franchise, the payments made by the franchisee to the franchisor, termination or transfer of the franchise, training, assistance and advertising.

You have achieved a remarkable amount while still at a relatively early stage in your career. Where do you see your business interests taking you next?

This is a very good question. My life has become so spontaneous when it comes to planning ahead for my next venture. Currently I’m focused on taking our F&B and media brands regional. We have already had many inquiries for franchising all over the Middle East and we are now assessing each of the candidates to see who will be the perfect fit.