Dubai businessman with a licence to thrill

Saif Ahmed Belhasa says the secret to success is turning up to work early and being patient. But when it comes to down time, the chairman of the Saif Belhasa Group of Companies turns to football and his favourite teams.

Saif Ahmed Belhasa’s secret to success is simple: getting up early in the morning. Sarah Dea / The National
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Saif Ahmed Belhasa is the chairman of the Saif Belhasa Group of Companies, which he launched about 13 years ago. Since then, the group has grown to comprise more than 23 establishments including the Belhasa Driving Center and Belhasa Recruitment Services as well as interests in advertising, transportation, trading, real estate, metal, steel and building materials. Here he reveals more about his lifestyle inside and outside the office.

What do you do on weekends?

[Sometimes] I go to Palm Jumeirah. I have a villa there. I go with my children and enjoy fishing and sailing.

What is the secret to your success?

Getting up early in the morning. I get to the office at the Belhasa Driving Center [in Al Jaddaf] at 6am. When it is hotter, I arrive at the office around 5:45am. Every Thursday I take a tour of the office and I make it a point to personally give the licence to the student that day. I have been doing this ever since I started the company. I can feel the blessings from God. A driver licence can change one’s life. If an office boy gets a licence, he knows that at that moment his life will change. From, say, a salary of Dh900, he can rise to Dh1,300 salary, and can start to take care of the family better. I like to see that happiness in the faces of the people. Around 20 years ago, I got mine. I remember I was excited to get a driving licence.

What advice would you offer other budding entrepreneurs?

Timing is important, from the manager to the worker. They have to come to work on time. And I, too, come early because if you work hard your staff gets motivation. I send the managers to Europe every year, not for work but for fun so that they can come back fresh. And so that when I go [on leave] in the summer, they can take care of the business. Moreover, you have to be patient. I worked in all the departments for five years at my father's company – from sales to collecting money – and only after that I became the general manager and then the director. I have to know the job myself and know how to communicate with the people to run the company. Also, for the children of the entrepreneurs, they need to work outside the company for a few years. I made it clear to my children they have to work anywhere outside the group for five years. That's because I can't be tough with my son if he comes in late.

Any advice for Emirati jobseekers in the private sector?

You have to love your work first. I appoint a lot of locals, but they are not staying with us for long because there is no policy and they can leave [a company] any time. They stay for six months or one year; if he doesn’t like it, he gets another offer and he leaves. Most of them are going to work for the Government. Some are working hard. I would love to hire more Emiratis.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

I love football. My favourite teams are Al Shabab Club and Barcelona. My two children are in Al Wasl Club. One plays for the under-12s and another for the under-14s. And they are both in the UAE national teams. I also love horses. Earlier, I used to have 60 horses but now I have 10 Arabian horses because it is difficult to breed here.

How do you relax after the working day?

I go home around 5pm. I exercise and relax with my wife and children. I love to travel. One week in March, I went to Europe. My best holiday place is France. I have a house in Evian.

What can’t you live without?

My family and my work. Kill me but don’t take me out of my job.

What is your favourite luxury item?

A yacht. I don’t have one yet, but I am looking to buy one.

If you weren’t running your business what else would you be doing?

I can’t be in another thing. I have never worked in the Government, and I’ve only had one boss, my father. And he trusted me.

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