By Muhammad Riaz Usman Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Zarah Evans of "Exclusive Links" was named the Propertyfinder Group's 'Female Entrepreneur of the Year 2018'. The company is one of the UAE's leading brokerage firms.
After enjoying life in Asia, Australia, Papua New Guinea and the UK, Zarah Evans began her career at Qantas Airways in a senior management position in sales and marketing in Melbourne, a job she did for 12 years.
She believes that was the best business training and corporate beginning she could have. Even today, when she sees the aircraft with the big kangaroo on the tail, it gives her goosebumps.
She moved to Dubai in 1997 with a 4-month-old baby in her arms. She started working with a then leading real estate company 3 mornings in a week. Not long after, the owner of the company -- a seasoned female expat and real estate leader -- asked her to step in and run her business for a month as she had not been on holiday for many years.
"I was back in the driving seat and in charge again and soon realised that it was not about the airline or real estate industry, it was all about business -- the management, the people, the services and the clients," says Zarah, now managing partner and joint owner of Exclusive Links Real Estate.
"Since then, I grew that business to include 4 separate licenses and services and moved the operation to all other cities throughout the GCC. So, I didn't start my own business. I just started a new career in a new direction," she explains.
Exclusive Links, which fetched Zarah the Propertyfinder Group's 'Female Entrepreneur of the Year 2018' award, is one of the UAE's leading brokerage firms, offering a complete property experience. It provides an extensive list of properties for sale and lease and this is complemented by property management services.
"Exclusive Links is a boutique real estate brokerage firm which nurtures the requirements of clients rather than just delivers," she continues.
Zarah says her client-centric and caring business attitude is not a game changer but rather her style.
Game changer "Working alongside my business partner Louise Heatley, together we share a vision of a better marketplace. Our similar management style allows us both to fall together naturally when managing and growing our business day to day. I believe our approach is perfect to harness long-term relationships with our clients, partners and staff. The game changer is having 2 strong women at the helm -- rarely seen in the industry around the world, least of all in Dubai," she adds.
Zarah feels that Dubai and the UAE have a real entrepreneurial attitude, which is a positive influence on any business setup.
"Compared to when I moved to Dubai 20 years ago, so many red ribbons have been broken through and pavements laid.
As a central geographical business hub, Dubai has positioned itself as the smart city that it is becoming today. Advanced infrastructure, tax advantages and global accessibility are all reasons why you should consider Dubai as an ideal set-up environment. There are platforms and pathways to suit most business setup needs and a city full of experts who can help you do this," Zarah says.
"First and foremost, the strongest point has to be leadership. The foresight and vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, have created one of the most successful and modern cities in the world, which is home to a vibrant and growing economy. The can-do atmosphere supports all the government initiatives and free zone environments. One of the best transport, telecommunication, ports and airport infrastructure is available to an abundant and willing supply of human resources," she continues.
Talking about her strategies, Zarah says the future of Exclusive Links needs to keep evolving to stay ahead of the game.
"Our strategy will focus on a greater degree of specialized expertise. Our customers' demands for seamless, integrated and tailored solutions will only be met through our goals to further develop and formalize any approach to risk assessment. We need to sell our city first and foremost and show why Dubai is the place to invest," she says.
"Exclusive Links will continue to grow its retail property shop and presence in Dubai Marina and continue to offer enhancement and improvements to its customer service delivery and product, social media and SEO marketing, employee training and recognition programmes, branding and company profile," she adds.
Work hard Zarah urges young entrepreneurs in the UAE to work hard and focus on their target.
"I believe success in any business comes from having confidence and professionalism and many long hours of hard work. Work ethics and respect for your customers and workers is a must. As a startup, you need to grasp every opportunity and look outside the obvious. If you start with the right grounding, success will build itself. You need to build your business with a passion for your product and believe in your brand," she emphasizes.
Zarah says everyone needs to take responsibility for his or her own failures and credit for success. "I have to credit some of my success to my upbringing, life teachings, opportunities along the way and sometimes being in the right place at the right time. You have to create your own opportunity and success and as a person, you either have the makeup and persona to do that or not. There have to be sufficient rewards to balance out the long hours, hard work and anxieties. I've had to make sacrifices along the way both personally and professionally. Raising 2 children while dealing with the demands of the business was an everyday challenge, as you don't want either to be compromised. I hope I've taught my kids it's not about being successful -- it's about having a positive outlook and impact on life," she says.
Zarah says as a leader, she wants to teach by example, both at home and in the office. "It's all about prioritising and juggling your day and being humble and never forgetting that success of a business is all about a team and never about an individual. Management is about being approachable, so people on the floor can get the business done. Fair, firm and fun are 3 words I like to remember in the office and, of course, female!" she concludes. --