New Years Day, offers the perfect opportunity to think about what the next 3 months has in store for the Kuwait British Business Centre, exactly 3 months after I started as the KBBC’s first CEO. It’s been an exciting time since my interview in the Summer and even more so since I quit my job as the Head of Trade & Investment at the British Embassy Kuwait. I can’t pretend it hasn’t been without its fair share of frustrations nor without a few moments when I thought “What have I done!” But overall it’s been exciting, challenging and fun! I’ve relished the hard work and hope to have made some progress.
KBBC is well on the way to becoming a legal entity in Kuwait, ironically it’s the British bureaucracy that’s holding us back at the moment, rather than the much talked about, but rarely understood Kuwaiti process for registering a company - which is actually quite straightforward. Any day now we will be established as a joint Kuwaiti / UK owned not for profit with limited liability company - a bit of a mouthful, but basically establishing a vehicle to allow us to support British business looking to develop in Kuwait, while keeping the lights and the AC running. The ultimate goal is eventually being in a position of not requiring UK taxpayer funding. While the establishment process has been a little frustrating, knowing what faces UK companies if they want to set up here, has already offered great experience that I can pass on.
I’ve been working very hard with UK and Kuwaiti architects to develop a brand new “Business Centre” physically located at the British Embassy Kuwait, that UK companies can use as a “home from home” while they are here trying to secure success. UK companies can use a desk for the day, a week, a month or a year. They can catch up on email over a coffee. Arrange meetings in our meeting rooms, schedule a video conference or use KBBC staff to give them the support and insight they need to make informed decisions about their next business move in Kuwait. They can even use our KBBC Land Rover with a dedicated Kuwait savvy driver to maximise their time in Kuwait, not be sat in traffic, waiting for taxis, or looking for parking. I have advertised for 2 staff already and the car is polished up and ready for action.
Even though for the first 3 months I’ve been flying solo, I’ve tried where possible to deliver services for UK customers - whether that’s formally, by delivering services on behalf of UK Trade & Investment Kuwait (a successful real estate dinner for Battersea Power Station) or informally just by responding to email from UK companies after a bit more info on Kuwait. Taking part (via the wonders of Skype) in a series of 1to1 meetings with UK companies in Stoke-on-Trent arranged by the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce was a real highlight. I met companies as diverse as stress management consultants, a boat lighting company even a British business that specialises in temporary mortuaries. The one thing I have been really energised by is the appetite of UK SMEs to take on the World, to export and see their products and services used around the globe. Kuwait, should be on your list in attempting to do just that.
Finally, it’s the time of year for New Year’s Resolutions. I’m dedicated to showing Kuwait’s potential as a market for UK companies from Healthcare to Retail, from Energy to Security. The strength of the relationship and the history of the deep friendship between the UK and Kuwait is the perfect place to start. Kuwait can be tough, it’s businessmen among the shrewdest in the Gulf and the slow pace of business decisions and the requirement to develop excellent personal relationships isn't for everyone, but come and give it a try and our promise to you is that KBBC will help as much as we can.
Happy New Year