Opec chief helps Dubai forum to strike it rich

Focus: Sean Evers, business journalist turned media entrepreneur, pulled off a coup this week by attracting Opec secretary general Abdalla El Badrito a conference in the emirate.

The Opec secretary general AbdallaEl Badri, left, with Sean Evers at the Gulf Intelligence Forum in Dubai. Photo by Gulf Intdelligence
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Sean Evers, business journalist turned media entrepreneur, pulled off a coup this week by attracting Opec secretary general Abdalla El Badrito a conference in the emirate.

How did you manage to persuade the Opec secretary general to speak at your recent forum in Dubai?

There is no such thing as an overnight success. In the same way, it wasn't one conversation or one letter that persuaded the Opec secretary general AbdallaEl Badri to travel from Vienna to Dubai to appear as the feature guest of a Gulf Intelligence (GI) Forum. Ten years of eroding shoe leather covering Opec as a print and broadcast journalist all over the world from Cape Town to Caracas to Tehran established a series of relationships across the energy industry built on credibility earned as a responsible reporter that today allows me the opportunity to have my phone calls returned. That said, it still took a persistence over 18 months to make this happen from the time [he] accepted the invitation as there were still many stars that had to be lined up to get many schedules around the right timing.

Was this GI's most successful event yet?

To call upon another old proverb - you are only as good as your last story - the reality is, like in the theatre, you are only as good as your last show or performance or event, and in that regard the Gulf Intelligence Energy Markets Forum held on September 19 in Dubai was our most successful event because it was our most recent production, and all the stakeholders came away from the event expressing great satisfaction with the knowledge exchange and the networking. If I was to break out of my proverbial straightjacket, then I would acknowledge that it was probably the most successful in terms of media coverage as we attracted a wide representation from the global media who were keen to hear what the Opec leader had to say after three months of silence, and that probably trumped Bob Geldof, who was our feature guest at the Gulf Intelligence Food Security Forum in April (but please don't tell Sir Bob though.)

How did you become a successful media entrepreneur?

To be honest, being described as a "successful media entrepreneur" is probably a bit over egging the pudding a bit, but hey, that's what we hacks do. But really, I think if I was to use the word "success" in the same sentence as Gulf Intelligence at this early stage in our journey it would be to describe that there is life after frontline journalism that doesn't have to be in the dormant corner of the public relations tent. It was the belief before I leapt from nearly 20 years in the media and now the successful realisation that possessing "news judgement" is a unique skill that is more rare than it should be and has real value when applied in other formats than the classical space of journalism. It is the realisation that the collection of skills that are needed to be a good journalist have great value when applied to business - the persistence, determination and commitment it takes to wait patiently for hours in freezing European winters to break news are qualities that I look for in hiring new staff.

How easy is it to start up a business like GI in Dubai? What are the main challenges?

I think it is fair to say that in terms of paperwork and capital, that starting a business in Dubai is fairly straightforward, especially in the free zone business parks. That's the easy part, sign a few forms, buy a desk and a laptop and off you go. Nike has cornered the phrase Just do it! and in that vein I would say that Dubai is like the physical manifestation of the Just Go For It! Perhaps that is the easy part. I have started two businesses in Dubai and I have run the regional operation of an international business, and they all have one thing in common - warning, another proverb about to land - there is no substitute for hard work. It takes a massive amount of hard work to put a smile on a customer's face. I mean to actually harvest satisfaction from a client after they have consumed your product or service is a massive achievement when done once, and that is usually the really hard part when selling a physical product, e.g. iPad - done! They're hooked! Go to the beach. But when you are providing a service that is as intangible as choreographing a rewarding knowledge exchange experience and a fruitful networking moment, then you have to deliver every moment of every engagement over and over again - there is no eureka moment that we have arrived to the top of the hill. I think the greatest challenge for Gulf Intelligence is I would suggest the greatest challenge for any business and that is maintaining the standard of excellence in every engagement with your stakeholders.

Most young Emiratis seem to want to be business entrepreneurs. Can they all make it?

No is the short answer, but that is no different from anywhere else and that is no reason for trying. Emiratis have the tremendous privilege to try to swing high from the rafters knowing that there is a solid safety net to catch them and ease the fall or in many cases bolster success. As I have said above, if you are willing to work very, very hard you are 90 per cent there to building a successful business.