Why ob­ses­sion is a key in­gre­di­ent for the UAE's en­tr­preneurial com­mu­nity

Alexan­dra Maia, founder and CEO of House of So­cial, of­fers a guide to the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the UAE’s en­trepreneur­ship cul­ture in 2019

Gulf Business - - FRONT PAGE -

THERE’S A GOOD CHANCE you’ve heard the phrases ‘times are chang­ing’, and ‘this year is very dif­fer­ent’ at some point in re­cent months.

With­out go­ing into an in-depth anal­y­sis on how the econ­omy is chang­ing, the fact is that yes, it is. And one of the most in­ter­est­ing as­pects of this change is that of the UAE’s free­lance and start-up econ­omy.

There is no ques­tion that free­lanc­ing and en­trepreneur­ship is grow­ing at an un­prece­dented scale, but with that growth comes chal­lenges. Is it be­com­ing eas­ier? No. Are com­pa­nies’ in­fras­truc­tures ready for it? No. Are peo­ple quit­ting the jobs they hate to pur­sue their dreams? Not re­ally – and we’ll fo­cus on this point later.

I know this partly through per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence. Around two and half years ago I called it quits on my agency job where I had be­come mis­er­able. I didn’t have a full back-up plan nor a fi­nan­cial one – I just knew two things. The first, I knew there had to be bet­ter ways for me to be hap­pier do­ing what I’m good at; I just had to keep search­ing and ex­plor­ing. Sec­ondly, I knew that I was go­ing to work in­de­pen­dently to pur­sue my call­ing – a mas­sive leap from work­ing in agency life for 11 years.

Was it brave? Yes. Was it crazy? Maybe. I hon­estly didn’t have enough money saved up to last me more than two months. But in

“Com­pa­nies need to un­der­stand how to nour­ish their em­ploy­ees and pro­vide ac­cess to high-qual­ity train­ing – op­ti­mis­ing their skill sets. They will need to bring more “hu­man­ity into the work­place”.

the end, the suc­cess or fail­ure of my leap was go­ing to come down to one thing: ob­ses­sion.

Be­come ob­sessed

When you choose to be­come ob­sessed about fig­ur­ing out your own hap­pi­ness, you are tak­ing full control of your time, en­ergy, re­sources and even your week­ends. You’re al­low­ing your­self to re­move things that are not work­ing in your fa­vor, and un­cov­er­ing your self-aware­ness and call­ing.

Com­bin­ing ob­ses­sion with ac­tion fast­tracks you to ful­fill­ment. You de­velop laser fo­cus, you ac­cel­er­ate your readi­ness to take that leap, and your hap­pi­ness be­comes the end goal. This hap­pi­ness will make all the hard­ships eas­ier to deal with. Tak­ing short­cuts will only slow you down, and I hear all the time: “I’ll take this job so it looks good on my CV”.

You need to be ob­sessed about fig­ur­ing it out – this is how you get out of the ‘I’m lost’ mode. Go and taste as much you can of life – get out of that un­com­fort­able sit­u­a­tion, be­cause the longer you stay in it, the more you’re putting your dreams and goals in the back seat.

Cre­at­ing an en­trepreneurial cul­ture in the work­place

The re­gion’s free­lance cul­ture is still try­ing to crack through an in­fra­struc­ture that is not fully ready to nour­ish the en­trepreneur­ship spirit and the prac­ti­cal­i­ties needed to sup­port it. But there are en­cour­ag­ing signs. Free­lancers, en­trepreneurs and small busi­ness owners are in­creas­ingly more vis­i­ble – work­ing at cof­fee shops, co-work­ing spa­ces, and at­tend­ing free mee­tups. And it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see how the mar­ket is piv­ot­ing from a time where agen­cies and com­pa­nies dom­i­nated, to a time where ac­cess to tal­ent, prod­ucts or ser­vices is less frag­mented.

In to­day’s cli­mate, where bud­gets are smaller, busi­nesses are turn­ing more to free­lance tal­ent not only for spe­cific jobs, but also to help de­velop a new work­place cul­ture. Com­pa­nies will need to be­come more self-sus­tain­ing by cre­at­ing their own in-house teams, mean­ing they need to

un­der­stand how to nour­ish their em­ploy­ees and pro­vide ac­cess to high-qual­ity train­ing – op­ti­mis­ing their skill sets. They will need to bring more “hu­man­ity into the work­place”, to quote Claude Sil­ver, chief heart of­fi­cer at Vayner me­dia, so that peo­ple are happy in the com­pany. They need not only to feel emo­tion­ally safe, but also feel that their work­place is one where they can have space for their own ideas and proac­tive projects.

En­abling an en­trepreneurial cul­ture in an or­gan­i­sa­tion can only cre­ate long term ful­fill­ment for peo­ple, pro­vid­ing them a place where they can stress test their ideas and projects. In a place like the UAE where it’s still not so easy to go off and be an en­tre­pre­neur, and where a lot of peo­ple are not happy with their cur­rent jobs, adopt­ing this strat­egy can help kick-start a much longer em­ployee re­ten­tion blue­print and hap­pi­ness at work that works well for both par­ties. When was the last time you asked an em­ployee: “If you could do any proac­tive pro­ject, what would it be?”

Mov­ing from a heavy struc­ture to a lighter one

Com­pa­nies need to adapt, and fast. Can they sus­tain their ex­pen­sive over­heads, or can they have a more ag­ile mind­set to bring in the tal­ent needed on a pro­ject-by-pro­ject ba­sis? They need to turn more and more to smaller shops, free­lancers or con­sul­tants not just be­cause there is more ac­cess to in­de­pen­dent tal­ent, but also to un­der­stand that we are no longer thriv­ing in a mar­ket where one shop does it all.

To take agen­cies as an ex­am­ple, they need the right tal­ent to de­liver the right work on spe­cific briefs, and those briefs are get­ting tougher. Mar­keters are not able to de­ci­pher ex­actly what they need, which com­pli­cates briefs, and ul­ti­mately the out­come never meets the ex­pec­ta­tion. So agen­cies are com­ing to re­alise that they can no longer rely so heav­ily on the same tal­ent for all the briefs.

Can agen­cies, es­pe­cially the big ones, start be­hav­ing with the same DNA of star­tups? In­stead of mov­ing moun­tains, could they be­come lighter, more ag­ile, an make change a con­stant? And can they de­liver cre­ative strate­gies based on the now?

Un­lock your su­per power

To grow, to change and to move past an un­com­fort­able job, to have courage and kick­start your start-up idea, or even in­still change within a com­pany, the bot­tom line is sim­ple: You need to ac­ti­vate the ac­tion which will lead to the change.

The break in pat­tern starts with self­be­lief. Un­der­stand your self-worth and what you are ca­pa­ble of – give voice and ac­tion to your strengths and pas­sion. For you to be­lieve in your own truths, you can’t wait for some­one else to ac­cept them. Don’t wait for per­mis­sion. Don’t wait for cap­i­tal to be able to start. Don’t al­low ex­cuses and hes­i­ta­tions to stand be­tween you and your goals. Don’t put the past on a pedestal. In­stead un­der­stand that what you have is now, and now is what mat­ters be­cause change is the only con­stant. Have the hu­mil­ity to start at your own merit.

When you un­lock your self-be­lief, your self­worth, you un­lock your su­per­power. You stop car­ing about the un­nec­es­sary noise and you put your foot on the ac­cel­er­a­tor and go all-in. And when I say this, it can be in a mul­ti­tude of ways that ul­ti­mately give voice and ac­tion to your truths and in­tent of what you want to do for the out­comes you’re look­ing for.

Stand up to a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion at work and voice it with­out fear. Ask for some­thing from a per­son you ad­mire. Give, and give 110 per cent, be­cause when you get com­fort­able with your in­tent, you can give with­out re­sent­ment. Start, sim­ply start, on that dream pro­ject. Ul­ti­mately when you un­lock your self-be­lief, you get much closer to fig­ur­ing out what you care about most in life. What are you ul­ti­mately chas­ing? What is your pur­pose? What amount of money do you want to make? What is your im­pact? When we have self-worth, we ob­ses­sively search for what makes us happy, be­cause we know that the longer-term pos­i­tive ROI is hap­pi­ness. And to get to that, we have to go af­ter all the things that ful­fill us.

When this be­comes a col­lec­tive mind­set, we all grow to­gether. En­trepreneur­ship grows and work­place cul­ture be­comes health­ier. The tight in­fras­truc­tures of the city will feel even more fric­tion as more and more of us pur­sue our dreams and goals no mat­ter the ob­sta­cles. Re­silience only hap­pens when you be­lieve in your­self and what you’re fight­ing for.

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