Seven Things I've Learned From Running A Business In Dubai
Thriving in this Middle Eastern supercity demands flexibility, authenticity, and above all, a brilliant team.
A city like no other, Dubai is a dynamic business hub and a future-facing springboard catapulting businesses above and beyond their boldest aspirations. As the co-founder of design firm H2R based in both London and Dubai, it's become apparent to me that thriving in this Middle Eastern supercity demands flexibility, authenticity, and above all, a brilliant team. But those fundamentals are just the tip of the iceberg. Here are seven key things I've learned from running a business in Dubai.
1. When you find top quality people, hold onto them A young, progressive design firm, H2R prides itself on creating spaces with significance, influence, and soul– something we could not do without our talented multi-disciplined team. I'm extremely proud of the team we have created; however, finding quality people who align with your vision is not always easy. The best lesson of all? Once rare talent comes into your orbit, don't let them go. By ensuring your company is a place where they can progress, feel valued, and be part of an ever-evolving movement, you're more likely to retain the people you need to help your business reach new heights.
2. Team diversity is key Dubai is a exceedingly diverse city, giving it a unique edge on anywhere else in the world. This diversity needs to be embraced within all facets of your business –particularly your team dynamic– by crafting a way of working that everyone can relate to and collaborate on. Compared to other major cities, it's not uncommon for teams in Dubai to feature dozens of different nationalities and cultures, each bringing their own unique ways of working, approaches, and personalities. Although it's occasionally challenging to navigate, it's this diversity and collaboration that will give your business the spirit it needs to flourish.
3. Go with the current, don't fight it A quick-paced place with an eye to the future, Dubai has earned a reputation of delivering exceptional feats in exceptionally short time periods– a way of working that businesses need to adopt in order to meet expectations. The speed at which projects come our way, coupled with tight time spans and turnarounds, require concise management of expectations, for both the client and the team. At H2R, we take it upon ourselves to manage the flow of clients in line with the ability and capacity of our team. The goal is to complete the job to the highest standard, all while maintaining a pleasant and inspiring work environment.
4. Secure your safety net Another aspect to note is that cashflow versus the actual amount of work coming in doesn't always balance out here in Dubai. It's critical that you pre-emptively leave room and strategically develop a safety net to both manage the flow coming in and also be able to predict what is and what isn't in the flow of cash accordingly. This will give you plenty of wriggle room to sustain the strength and the size of the team that you have.
5. Ride the wave As with any company in any city it's important to stay malleable. However, Dubai requires you to take this flexibility up a notch. Demands and expectations vary week to week, month to month, year to year, and acknowledgement of this will allow you to confidently handle any hurdles that come your way.
6. Stay relevant and top of mind To be relevant in Dubai is everything. Being exposed and important to the clients that you have and the industries that surround you is what makes or breaks you. It's such a competitive city, and it can be very difficult to remain top of mind. We've found that focussing and digging deep into being the best at what we do for ourselves has helped us feel like we are sustaining and comfortable with the businesses that are coming in and what we are producing. If you can maintain this, you will ensure that everything you produce for clients is something to be proud of.
7. Let go of your ego Because if you hang onto it, you're setting yourself up for failure. The success of your business is tied to the collaborative core of your team– which is difficult to achieve if your ego as a leader is standing in the way. As leaders of H2R, my brother Husain and I have strived to remain approachable and establish a limited hierarchy, enabling us to maintain a strong bond and commitment within the team and company that we have. With Dubai being such a community-led city, these types of dynamics are vital.