The business environment in the Middle East is changing at a pace, I feel, faster than most business professionals realize - or want to realize

The population of the GCC countries is pretty unique in the sense that there are very few nationals compared to the number of expatriates working here (in Qatar, 85 % of the population is non-Qataris) 

The vast majority of people holding senior management positions in the region are expatriates that's been here for a long time, more often than not decades, significantly contributing to the successful growth in the region

Business is being and has been done here with more emphasis on personal relations than on financial figures and performance indicators; of course, a deal has to be viable and sensible to go through, but a large part of getting to the deal and he signature is and has been the 'who you know' game

And this remains ever important, of course

However, I see a change in the business environment as senior managers are starting to retire, being replaced by a new breed of managers with a strong focus on deliverables from each and every business deal

This shift is partly due to the shift in management style and partly due to the increasing globalization, even in the GCC countries - it's getting easier for international companies to establish themselves and they see a clear and present opportunity in entering the markets with a competitive advantage:

These international companies are used to operating in a very different - more competitive, if you will - business environment and their experience with - and focus on - performance management, ROI calculations and operations gives them an edge when competing

This is Next for the GCC countries

Existing, long-established companies in the GCC have to find a way of combining the traditional and successful way of doing relationship-based business with the increasing focus on and demand for business performance metrics

However, I fear that this will be a more difficult transition as it might seem, as the typical very bureaucratic way of organizing businesses in the GCC risks making this change hard to implement wholeheartedly

And with international competition at the doorstep, already being accustomed to this way of doing business, this might pose a future problem for the existing local (or near-local) companies

As for all changes to happen, there has to be a clear perception of the need for the change, and I could fear that this realization comes when - and only when - the new international competition has proved their model is working by taking significant shares of the business away from the established companies

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