Read the case and then consider the questions below.
Talal, 38, was born in Lebanon. He is the marketing manager for Betafilms in Dubai. His job is to arrange distribution across the whole of the Middle East. He does this through a web of contacts that he and his family have built up. Whether he is in Damascus, Riyadh, Tehran or Cairo, he works with local distributors and negotiates specific deals with each of them. He travels almost constantly and only comes back to Dubai once a month for the management committee meetings. He has a strong personality and likes to do things his way. Talal has helped make Betafilms a big player in the Middle Eastern market.
Back in Dubai, Ben Matthews has been made general manager of the Middle East and Asia region. This is Ben’s first job in the film industry. He has an impressive CV and has held successful positions in marketing and sales for major international companies. Betafilms wants to build on their success in the Middle East and start to break into the fiercely competitive but very extensive film distribution business in India. Ben has taken over an existing multinational team of graduates who look after marketing, sales, communication and who handle all the back-office operations for invoicing, accounting, and so on.
Ben’s job is to build on the company’s success and spread the business to India. He believes that Talal can be the person to help him do this. However, he first needs to understand how Talal works and find out what the business model is that has really worked in the Middle East. He has already brought in a consultant, Rashid, who is advising on the Indian film distribution market.
Ben calls Talal back to the office. He introduces Rashid and they present the challenges and opportunities in the Indian market. Talal is very enthusiastic about this and says he already has contacts in Mumbai and Bangalore. He suggests going there next week to talk to them. Ben tries to get him to talk about the contracts, terms and conditions that he will agree with local distributors. Talal is very vague and basically says that these will depend on the particular case. The meeting ends with Talal taking a call from a contact in Saudi.
Ben: ‘I can’t just let Talal go off and start the business in India. We need to have a framework to build on. India is an enormous market. He can’t do it all by himself. I need to understand what he’s been doing these last five years and then we can start to train up others to support him.’
Talal: ‘Ben’s just a pen-pusher. He wants systems and numbers but he doesn’t understand that the business is all about contacts. I didn’t tell him but I’ve already had an offer from a major player in Delhi. So, if he won’t do it my way, I think I may talk to this other fellow.’
Questions to consider
- Talal is good at representing the company and its products externally. How can Ben get him to represent what he does better internally?
- If Ben cannot persuade him to be a team player and communicate with his colleagues internally, should he let him go?