When I was in university, I wanted to be different. I always had ambitious plans – so, I did something unexpected.
Right after graduation, in 1979, I left my home in the Philippines and moved to Dubai. Back then, it created quite a stir as my family had its own business and I was expected to take the helm. But that was not what I wanted to do.
Logic indicated that I should take the easy path; however, my heart told me to explore new horizons, aim high and achieve my goals. So I set off on a journey to an unchartered territory- Dubai which in 1979 was not what it is today.
I took the plunge and joined a Dubai-based group of companies where I was tasked to open and operate Sindbad’s Wonderland – the first family entertainment center in the UAE. Success did not come easy. I had to strive to make this profitable.
Failure was not an option as I could not turn back and go home empty-handed. I had been given the opportunity – I just needed to make things happen and succeed. And that’s exactly what I did.
Dubai was a humbling experience for me, especially in the beginning – but being on my own gave me strength. Operating the business from its inception taught me to be observant, creative and take informed risks. I took these lessons to heart and never looked back.
Fast forward a couple of years. I noticed a successful fashion brand in Hong Kong and thought about bringing it to Dubai. My persistence, peppered by a few setbacks, paid off.
Giordano opened in Dubai in 1993. Today we have grown to 250 stores across the Middle East, South East Asia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and we’re looking to expand further – using Dubai as our base.
Over the years, I’ve learned many lessons about becoming a successful entrepreneur. And it’s not magic – in fact, it is quite basic. So, if like me, you find yourself one day in unchartered territory – like opening a business, or going out on your own – I want to share a few of my own simple principles, adopted and honed over more than three decades that you too may wish to embrace:
• Keep it simple: Eliminate complications and barriers. Simplify your processes to streamline operations in order to create more value. That includes a direct line of communication – people should be able to talk to you directly and not go through a maze of people and levels.
• Empowering people: Yes, big word! We work with people not for people. I have taught my employees the same principle I applied when I set foot in Dubai – come to work not because it’s your job but because it’s your personal business. And if you are in retail, remember that people buy from the people they like.
• 3H: Head, heart and hand: Simply put, use common sense, love what you do and work hard. When used together, nothing can stop you from moving forward.
• Motivation from within, not without: Inspire and be inspired. It may sound somewhat clichéd but you do need to aim high. If you set your goals high, you succeed even when you fail to reach your target. When your goal is mediocre, you fail even if you achieve your aim.
• Don’t be scared of competition: Sometimes a competitor as big as an elephant seems daunting. So, act like a monkey – be nimble, flexible and quick!
• Knowledge is power: By this, I mean knowledge in general – from your products, industry, business, environment and social media. Encourage learning. Are you engaged? Are you engaging? Think about it.
• Create a company culture: Your competitors can copy your products or services but not your company culture, so make sure you instil a great one.
• My definition of success: Believe me, it is relative. You may be doing well and think you’re successful. Others think success is based on how you compare to your competitors. So think about your own success and continue to reinvent yourself to stay in the game.
Most importantly, and I personally discovered this to be true: Good things come to those who believe; better things come to those who are patient, and the best things happen to those who do not give up. So, never give up.
The writer is Managing Director of Giordano Middle East (FZE) and also an Executive Director of Giordano International, Hong Kong.