By Muhammad Riaz Usman
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Barbara Van Pay is the founder and CEO of “Smart HR.” “Smart HR” is an HR outsourcing company, HR consultancy and a recruitment/headhunting firm.
Barbara Van Pay has always harboured the idea of running her HR consultancy firm. But it started taking concrete shape eight years ago when she, as the regional HR and administration director of Jabbar Internet Group (Souq, Cobone, Sukar, IKOO, Joob, CashU), was busy decentralising the corporate human resources (HR) function of the group.
“In a matter of weeks, I was able to set up Smart HR to be the HR consultant for companies within the group. In an extraordinary turn of events and within a couple of months of starting out, the business was rapidly growing and being shaped into something beyond a simple invoicing facility and more towards a corporate enterprise providing HR consultancy and recruitment,” recalls Barbara, founder and CEO of Smart HR.
Smart HR is an HR outsourcing company, HR consultancy and a recruitment/headhunting firm. Overwhelming response from clients enabled her to expand the firm’s services and establish Smart HR as a brand.
“Smart HR believes in reputation, professional integrity, respect and above all a desire. Because of our virtual model, our overheads are very low, meaning we can provide cost-effective HR and recruitment solutions to clients of all sizes. Smart HR is more than just any other SME. We are tech startup gurus working with the leading tech entrepreneurs in the region [Saygin Yalcin, Ronaldo Mouchawar, Muhammad Chbib, Paul Kenny, Idriss Al Rafai, Omar Chihane, Omar Soudodi and Thaer M. Suleiman, just to name a few],” she observes.
Barbara believes in minimizing overheads, delivering quality and exceptional service and going the extra mile whenever needed for client support.
“Our brand stands for core values and we really are about the people. There are a lot of clichés going around and thanks to digital media, we see these pop-up pearls of wisdom each day on the latest app we are browsing. At Smart HR, we are less cliché and more fact. We look after our employees, our candidates and our clients and that is pretty rare in our sector. We aim to break down the perceptions and prove our worth in the region with our specialist knowledge and expertise,” she says.
Originally a Wisconsin native, born and raised in the US, Barbara has been living in Europe, the Middle East and Asia for the last 22 years, expanding her horizons, learning how to apply her HR and recruitment practices in different cultural environments and taking in everything the world has to offer.
“I was committed to the constant pursuit of exciting, thoughtful and fun HR. I understand HR’s potential is of little value if that potential fails to be realised by the key stakeholders, so I began by educating the CEOs I work with of the value of an efficient and productive HR department,” she says.
“I wanted to shatter the status quo, challenge norms, break conventions and encourage diversity of thought in the HR space. The goal was to create, improve on and innovate around HR best practices in order to create and discover new practices. I was in touch with a greater purpose to bring the ‘heart’ back into HR — I understand the value of serving something beyond myself and wanted to give back to employees and employers in the UAE,” she adds.
Barbara says that she has seen big changes since having started solo. “We have grown organically, so we take care to manage resources to a high standard and in a cost-effective way,” she says.
“We started Smart HR to make a difference in the market and that’s something we will continue to work at. Leadership and mentoring are two areas we are currently focusing on. We are also looking at developing our own HR software,” she adds.
Barbara says the UAE market is remarkably friendly and open to new businesses. As far as mentors, all you have to do is ask and people in the UAE love to share knowledge and help.
“Some of my clients are my mentors — Saygin Yalcin, CEO of SellAnyCar, and Paul Kenny, MD of AYM — they have taught me that failure is okay as long as you pick yourself up and keep going forward. They are two of the most resilient and inspirational people I have ever met, and I admire them both greatly,” she says.
Barbara says that it’s easy to start a business in the UAE but it is also challenging and comes at a cost. “The free zones offer options, but these require investment so unless new businesses are backed by strong investors with local knowledge and a strong support mechanism, it’s a tough environment,” she says.
Advising young entrepreneurs, Barbara says: “If it’s not meaningful, if it doesn’t serve a greater purpose, don’t do it. Stick to your core business and your core skills to make your business a success but don’t forget the important services, HR is one of those. Process and policy are key when your business is growing and at any time when you are hiring staff because the dynamic of your business changes, this is your dream so take care of it.”
Barbara believes her success is based on the hard work and efficiency of her whole team to maintain the highest standards.
“We chose to be flexible and agile. We work with trusted partners and clients who have the same moral values and ethics as us. We don’t overcommit but we always over-deliver mainly because we take pride in what we do, and we enjoy what we do because done properly, it makes a difference. We offer support services to our clients and candidates, but we don’t have a clinical approach. There is a personal touch to what we do,” she concludes. —