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2020, The Year That Was: Haleema Al Owais, CEO, Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Real Estate As businesses felt the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, Al Owais and her enterprise made a move that earned her several plaudits at the time, with her actions being heralded as an example for other business leaders in the UAE to follow.

By Aby Sam Thomas

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Real Estate
Haleema Al Owais, CEO, Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Real Estate

In March this year, just as the UAE was beginning to realize the repercussions of the global coronavirus pandemic, several businesses in the country were already feeling the crunch on their revenues, and that in turn led to many people either seeing a drastic cut in their salaries, or, worse, lose their jobs entirely. It was, for sure, an unsettling period for everyone involved, and that's when Sharjah-based property management firm Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Real Estate came out with an announcement of a 45-day rent waiver for all of its tenants. In a statement, CEO Haleema Al Owais said, "Tenants that have been with us for decades are practically family for us… We want to make sure that our tenants have one less thing to worry about during these difficult times."

This move earned Al Owais and her enterprise several plaudits at the time, with her actions being heralded as an example for other business leaders in the UAE to follow. But for those of us who have been following Al Owais' work ethic ever since she started working in this industry at the age of 22, this was especially characteristic of the psyche of this Emirati entrepreneur, and the values with which she runs what she calls "a holistic conglomerate." And today, as Al Owais looks back on 2020, that philosophy remains the lens through which she chooses to examine the year that was.

Source: Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Real Estate

"Personally, staying at home amid COVID-19 offered me a chance to focus on myself, my home, and my family," Al Owais says. "The inability to travel in fact gave me a chance to truly observe and appreciate my immediate surroundings. True friendships were rekindled, and matters that were long put on hold were attended to. And while there was a certain sense of deprivation that used to kick in every now and then, I felt a sense of achievement on our collective ability to adapt to all situations- no matter how bizarre. Professionally, 2020 gave us the chance to consolidate and streamline our backend processes. But above all, it compelled us to revisit the fundamental question of "Why do we do what we do as a business?' and "Are we still as good as we were when we first tasted success?' Times like these make us realize the fragility of what we consider strength."

Related: The Year That Was: Mudassir Sheikha, Co-Founder And CEO, Careem

Time for introspection: Haleema Al Owais reflects on 2020

1/ Be thankful "If it is true that we don't appreciate what we have until it is taken away from us, this year should be marked as the year of gratitude. I do not recall being this thankful for the smallest things in my life as I have been this year."

2/ We are all fragile "I did mention this earlier in my response, but the importance of remembering the volatility of everything around us, and the fragility of things that we consider to be immortal, was realized by many this year."

3/ Keep testing yourself "Monotony and lack of innovation in any form is the recipe for "going soft,' and when businesses are hit by curve balls like 2020, it is their agility and ability to adapt to change that could mean the difference between sustaining or perishing.

Related: The Road To Recovery: Accor MEA CEO Mark Willis On Taking A People-Focused Approach, Immediate Wins, And Bouncing Back

Aby Sam Thomas

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor in Chief, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.

Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.  

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