What They Don’t Tell you about Owning your Own Business — by Zarah Evans

Setting up your own company can be a daunting experience, with young entrepreneurs often making costly mistakes early on. Zarah Evans, Managing Partner of Exclusive Links, talks about the realities of running your own business.

Setting up your own company can be a daunting experience, with young entrepreneurs often making costly mistakes early on.

The realities of being a business owner – particularly in real estate in Dubai – is that market conditions continually fluctuate and the impossible can suddenly become possible.

Zarah Evans, Managing Partner of Exclusive Links

Hindsight is 20/20, so they say, and when it comes to growing and running your own business, most successful entrepreneurs will tell you if they could go back to the beginning there are plenty of things they would do differently. Learning curves are great of course; finding out things the hard way so you never repeat painful errors is character building. But it is also immensely useful to have some insider guidance before you put your money (and sanity) on the line. Here’s what they don’t tell you about running your own business.

Owning a business isn’t easier than having a nine-to-five job

You will have to work – a lot. The reality is getting your business off the ground takes time, and a lot of it, to succeed. You need to multi-task, you need 26 hours in every day, and you need to gain respect through your own hard work and ethics. These are qualities I have never compromised on. In the early days, one of the biggest demands I had to manage was that I had two young children and needed to find the right balance between my professional and personal life. Most entrepreneurs have traded a 40-hour week for a 70-plus hour week, which is why it is important that you are passionate about what you do. If you start with the right grounding, success will build itself. You need to build your business with passion and belief in your brand.

Things change quickly and you will have to adapt fast

I spent seven years travelling the world promoting the UAE as a relocation destination, opened six additional offices throughout the Middle East and developed the company I was working for into a medium business enterprise. This exposed me to the need to be culturally versatile, to embrace challenges, and more significantly, to be constantly prepared for change.

The realities of being a business owner – particularly in real estate in Dubai – is that market conditions continually fluctuate and the impossible can suddenly become possible, and so you must be prepared to adapt. I manage my business wearing my heart on my sleeve and therefore the market crash in 2008 was obviously very difficult and a lot of emotion was involved. Staff numbers and business operations had to reduce almost immediately to survive the downfall.

It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture

In 2011, Links Gulf Real Estate merged with Exclusive Real Estate and since then, as joint owner and Managing Partner, I have continued to develop the company as a market leader and innovator. This merger was brought about by the recession in the marketplace and these trends aren’t always obvious and easy to spot when you are very busy. At that time, it became clear that to be a successful business leader I needed to be aware of the “bigger picture” as well as concentrate on the details of good business practice. It’s crucial to set an example to others and collaborate with government regulators who seek to ensure that the business sector operates with the highest levels of probity.

You must evolve or die

Personally, and professionally, it is important to keep evolving and stay ahead of the game. In business from day one, you need to grasp every opportunity and look outside the obvious. Your company needs to change in order to keep up with the times. Resistance to change can lead to falling behind the competition. Commitment to constantly evolving your business strategies is essential.

Your reputation as a leader is everything

Managerial positions and company partnerships in my career have developed through the good name that I had in the industry and I’ve always considered it essential to maintain these through to today. In 2007, I went into partnership at Links Gulf Real Estate as Managing Director and for the first time, I was exposed to the responsibilities of being a company owner. Was I prepared for this next step in my career and my journey through life? Absolutely. I’ve always felt very comfortable at the head of a boardroom table and taking charge. The most important piece of advice I can provide is to always make your team feel valuable.

Your worst moments are probably defining moments

Entrepreneurship is full of ups and downs, and success is never linear. Bumps in the road can be too much for certain personality types to handle. Having a realistic view of hardship can go a long way. If you are able to see your low points as part of the process, you have a much better chance at success. Starting your own business is like a rollercoaster and mindset is everything. It is important to always learn from your mistakes, take responsibility for your own failures, and to recognise and celebrate the small wins.

You need to stay humble and stay human

Being a leader is about being humble and never forgetting that the success of a business is all about a team and never about an individual. In 2018, I was recognised by Property Finder as “Female Entrepreneur of the Year,” which was one of the greatest surprises to me and I was deeply honoured and humbled. I have never sought recognition, but to get it from my peers in the industry certainly boosted my feel-good factor. Above everything though, nothing brings me more satisfaction or reward than when I hear my kids say: “we’re so proud of you mum.”


Zarah Evans

Managing Partner and Owner of Exclusive Links Real Estate

Connect with Zarah Evans on LinkedIn

This article was first published in Prestige Vol. 39.

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