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
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.
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.