Advice from a young entrepreneur
Emirati entrepreneur, Omar Al Busaidy, holds over 13 years’ experience in the UAE’s corporate environment. He is currently pursuing his post-graduate studies in Innovation and Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Hamdan bin Mohammed Smart University as well as lecturing on the subject. He talks to Esquire about his new book Just Read It and how he hopes it will inspire people to make their business ideas a reality.
How did you become interested in entrepreneurship?
When I was a student I wanted to be like Mark Zuckerberg. I wanted to start a business that would do really well when I graduated. So I started an advertising agency, and that didn't work. And then I set up a business selling women's dresses and wedding gowns and that didn't work. And then I had a consultancy helping overseas businesses to setup here, and that didn't work either! Word eventually went around about this Emirati guy who was always starting different things, and someone asked me to speak at a university event. I was one of four Emirati entrepreneurs and I was the only one who wasn't successful. However, I told them about my experiences and everyone was amused by my determination to continue. So from that class I got hired for more talks and wound up teaching an Emirati Entrepreneurship class in Abu Dhabi every week.
How did this lead to the book?
It began to bother me that the class was always full but none of the students were taking notes. I asked them one day: How do you remember what I tell you? And they replied: “We like listening to you but we don't like taking notes. Why don't you just write a book?” So I did just that. It's all the things I teach, which are more a series of daily reminders: being good to people, communicating well, learning new things, the importance of not burning bridges. They're things you need to succeed in life, not just in business. And when I’m asked what I expect my readers to learn, I tell them: nothing. Everything in the book is stuff you already know.
Where did your inspiration come from?
I'm someone who has always liked to get out of my comfort zone. When I was a kid I was always curious, and wanted to get involved in lots of things. I never wanted to limit myself. I love that Mark Twain quote: “There are two important days in your life: the day you are born and the day you find out why.” We're all here to live our purpose, and the day you finish is the day you are gone. It’s the circle of life.
Are there any individuals who inspired you?
My mum helped me dream but also drew lots of boundaries, because she wanted me to be safe. My uncle was the opposite. He's a very successful businessman who has always been a risk taker. He told me: “Omar, there is no such thing as failure, only trials”. That message makes me never afraid to try something.
What’s next for you?
I'm partner in W Gents Salon JLT and working on a few other things as well. I'm also writing my second book, What Are Humans For? This is very different from the first one. It’s about artificial intelligence and my belief that jobs are for robots and life is for people. We're supposed to be living.
How has life in Dubai helped inspire you?
The amazing thing is that if you sit in a coffee shop, someone on the next table will be talking about a start-up they are working on. It's like San Francisco. There's a vibe here that allows people to move out of their comfort zone.
What’s your advice to entrepreneurs?
* Research, research, research. Talk to people who have done it.
* Don't look at the size of the market, look at the trend of that market. For example, F&B is massive in Dubai, but it is also extremely competitive and over saturated.
* How quickly can you get your return on investment? Make sure you know.
* Cash-flow. When I had my ad agency I had so much work but the payments took too long.
* Assumption is the mother of all screw ups. As Will Smith said: the point of maximum danger is the point of minimum fear.
* Diversify your revenue stream. One revenue stream is not sustainable. You're betting your whole life on it continuing.
* Think about how you can disrupt your sector? And this is in any business.
* There is a book by Jim Collins Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't and he talks about how the best corporations invest in the right people. That's a valuable lesson.