14 Lessons That I Have Learnt During My 14 Years Of Leading A Business As founder and CEO of Z7 Communications, Zeina El Dana gives an insight to what it takes to leading an enterprise in the luxury public relations sector of the Middle East.
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As the founder and CEO of Z7 Communications, I have built my communications agency from the ground up since its launch in 2007, winning some of the most notable names in fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and hospitality as clients along the way. Given that this year marks the 14th anniversary of my business, here are 14 things I have learned from 14 years of leading an enterprise in the luxury public relations (PR) sector of the Middle East:
1. Understand your region The importance of brand positioning in the market is something that never fails to inspire me. Understanding the nuances of a specific region is key when it comes to success, especially in PR and communications, because it has a direct impact on a brand's positioning and perception in the market. It is so important to be able to advise brands on the best ways to adapt to different markets, and it's our job as communications professionals to know how to make each brand stand out, and make the best impact in the GCC.
Fast-paced and guided by a bold vision for the future, the GCC is a fascinating region that never settles for anything less than first place. A melting pot of cultures, it's ambitious and dynamic, and it requires a unique approach when it comes to brand positioning and communications. Being able to work with my team to create a brand's PR and communications strategy that is specific to our region, and then seeing how that impact its place in the market, is something that I will always be excited about in this industry.
2. Build relationships (and don't forget to network) It is essential to invest time in building and maintaining strong connections and relationships. Networking can be such a challenging task for most people, but it is important to be open to it, and building meaningful and genuine connections with people you meet. Not only can it help and support others, but it can also drive new business relationships and strategic alliances, while also generating interesting collaborations and initiatives.
3. Build a strong team Building a strong team is key to a company's success. At Z7, we work to hire the best people for each role and aim to diversify our hiring processes to create a well-rounded team. It is not just about hiring though- it's also important to retain and nurture the best and strongest talent, as well as to create an empowering and supportive culture that encourages the team to strive and grow together.
Source: Z7 Communications
4. Build a positive working environment A positive, supportive, and empowering company culture is an essential component for employee happiness and wellbeing as well as team motivation, and it's been my priority to build a company culture that brings the team together, while also allowing us to work collectively towards our overarching goals. We have a beautifully designed creative office space in Dubai Design District, and we have also encouraged a more flexible working environment by implementing a mix of office and remote working, allowing the team to work in environments where they can flourish. It is so important to move with the times and create a forward-thinking and flexible workplace so as to ensure that the office is a positive environment for everyone.
5. Empower and mentor young talent Supporting, empowering, and mentoring young talent has always been important to me, and I am very proud to lead a team of fantastic young and talented individuals. We implemented an internship program several years ago, and this has paid off as an amazing way to give opportunities to those starting out in their careers.
6. Also, nurture talent when you see it Part of creating and maintaining the best team is recognizing and nurturing young, super-star talent. Talented people come and go all the time at companies, but at Z7, we are lucky enough to have people want to come back to work for us. It is important to recognize strong talent, and be ready to rehire those individuals if they choose to come back.
7. Learn from every mistake After 14 years of leading the team at Z7, I have learnt the importance of seeing every failure or mistake as an opportunity for growth. Our mistakes, however painful they may be at the time, can be our best teachers, and it is so important to learn from every wrong turn to improve and strive to be better.
8. Be open to continuous learning and self-improvement I am constantly working towards self-improvement through expanding my knowledge and focusing on continuous learning. Education and knowledge help me feel fulfilled, and they push me to work for continuous growth and personal evolution. Indeed, it's my passion for self-growth that led me to enrol in the owners/president management program at Harvard Business School- I will be completing the third unit of the course soon, and graduating in June this year.
9. Be ready to adapt to an ever-changing environment If we have learnt anything from the last few years, it is the importance of being agile, and having the ability to adapt in an environment that is constantly changing and evolving.
10. Don't discount the importance of mental health Starting my inner journey a few years ago was life-changing- gaining clarity about my past was liberating, and it helped me go through a wonderful rebirth. Discovering the power of mental health and its ability to transform a person's journey has helped me realize the importance of prioritizing our mental health and taking time to look after ourselves. Taking time for self-care is so important, and it should include creating a healthy work/life balance. And working to have the best work/life balance possible is something that I am passionate about encouraging my team to do.
Source: Z7 Communications
11. Build a supportive circle around you They say it gets lonely at the top, and it's so true. Being the sole owner of a business can be very challenging, and so, it is incredibly important to surround yourself with the right people. During my 14 years of running Z7, I have learnt the importance of surrounding myself with a strong leadership team who provide invaluable support in all aspects of running the business.
12. Trust your intuition No matter what happens, always trust your intuition, and know that it will take you where you need to be.
13. Take emotions out of business situations It's not always easy, but I have learnt that it's best to take emotions out of business situations, and make sure that you always remain professional– it makes it easier for everyone involved.
14. Don't forget to share your own story I have devoted my career to sharing the stories of countless amazing and inspirational brands, but with a strong team around me, in more recent years, I have also realized the importance of taking time to step back to also share my own story. Sharing our stories invites others to connect with us, and it is one of the most powerful ways to influence, teach, and inspire.