Abdullah Al Ajaji Shares The Secrets Of Dubai Real Estate

Abdullah Al Ajaji Shares The Secrets Of Dubai Real Estate


hi I’m Spencer Lodge and welcome to the
Spencer lodge podcast in partnership with Najahi yay
okay the Spencer Lodge podcast is sponsored by Najahi which is a
world-class events organizer here in the UAE they bring motivational speakers and
leaders here into this country so that people from the UAE can benefit from
this experience from around the world none less than the rock star the amazing
Tony Robbins who’s coming very soon on September the 3rd along with Alicia Keys
to talk about motivation and Prince EA this is going to be an event you won’t
want to miss if you haven’t got tickets free yet make sure you do right back to
the podcast let’s think about this for a second how does it go I talk about the
podcast I talk about why I do the podcast I explain what the podcast is
for I introduce the guests and then we crack on with it so let me cut that all
out because you know me by now today’s guest the awesome abdullah alajaji who’s a Saudi national the CEO of driven properties nobody like abdullah
he’s like anything you’ve seen in the real estate industry he just doesn’t fit
the mold but by golly by gosh is he doing something fantastic so I asked him
all about his career his life he’s upbringing hermana it’s howdy Arabia why
he came over here but anyway let let’s cut all that let’s do to the music get
on and enjoy it and let me know what you think afterwards I’ll see you soon I’m really happy that you’ve made the
time and I’m really glad that I’ve got a chance now to grab you and pick your
brain and learn all about you but Abdullah you’re the CEO of driven
properties yeah you bet you’re so much more I’m sure yeah it’s great to be here
thanks for thanks for inviting me Spencer always great to catch up with
with yourself you’ve been a you know an icon in this industry and in other
industries as well in startups as well so it’s it’s also great to to pick your
brains as well and then certain topics thanks for coming on man okay so for the
benefit of the audience who the hell are you okay one minute tell everyone who
you are all right one minute is more than enough so I I grew up in Saudi
until just after high school where I went to the u.s. to study to I went
first to Louisiana Baton Rouge then I moved to Pennsylvania where I studied I
did a double major in computer engineering and economics I was
sponsored by Saudi Aramco which is the largest company well arguably the
largest company in the world in terms of what it could be worth when it’s listed
soon but certainly the largest oil company in the world and so I worked so
when I when I graduated I worked with Saudi Aramco as part of my sponsorship
program so we worked there for about four years and the corporate planning
and asset management divisions and its Treasury I then moved to the Saudi
American bank which is the Saudi version of citi bank for about a year and a half
I then moved to Dubai where I worked with a subsidiary of UBS the Swiss bank
about four years in private equity and management’s by luck or coincidence or
whatever you may call it and it’s about 2,000 and end of 2012 or early 2013 I
got into real estate and driven properties was born so that’s in a
nutshell about me okay so did you are you one of these guys that had a
privileged upbringing do you have wealthy parents did you no no I
definitely not my my parents had very humble beginnings as well my father
worked the government in Saudi he he was a consultant to then Crown Prince of
Saudi Arabia which was Prince Abdullah then he became king he is the late King
Abdullah which was King before the existing king my mother was a teacher at
university at the King Saud University so she taught human resources at uni and
yeah I I but they my parents had values so they they they took me to the best
schools and sorry they ensured that I go to summer school and the US every summer
since I was eight years old thing right yeah so so every summer we would go to
the US on holiday I would go to summer school you know I learned C++ since I
was eight or nine years old and computer programming I got obsessed with that
that’s why I got into computer engineering but funny how the world you
know reacts to these things so you know you you like computers you like computer
science and computer engineering and then you know somehow you’re you’re you
end up and banking and real estate and that’s something that I also kind of
developed at the time when I was at university were again I was studying
computer engineering in the beginning and then one year on I got obsessed with
financial markets that was around 1999-2000 so remember the dot-com hmm
bubble at the time so there was a lot of and financial markets was a Copiah when
I learned more of that so I got into economics and then I I studied for the
CFA and then I got into and to the banking industry and financial world and
yeah so in terms of values that I think that’s what they ensured that I go to
the best schools me and my brothers I have two brothers and two sisters and all of us you know almost I think all of
us went either to the US or to the UK for four studies my younger sister just
graduated from and yu1 she’s doing her master’s of Columbia now and we’re very
proud she’s the president of the vegan Association and NYU which is Maya and
for a Saudi girl that’s that’s something you you have to an NYU and yeah okay and
she was on the Dean’s List so so yeah that my parents always invested in us in
our study it’s studying in our and and how we can accomplish that’s part of why
I actually you know when when Saudi Aramco decides to sponsor students to
study in the u.s. they pick 150 students out of you know all of Saudi Arabia all
of the applicants Ansari open there’s thousands and thousands of people so
because I you know I was invested and from from my parents I you know I got
that privilege I got sponsored I went to to study in the u.s. all that Saudi
Aramco’s expense I paid that back by working for them for four years and so
when when you think about your career in the early stages you were working for
corporates and there wasn’t you know an entrepreneurial aspect to any of those
things it was like you know working in a big conglomerate kind of I would argue
almost a safe environment by the by comparison to the the roller coaster
that goes with being an entrepreneur owning a business
what and that’s it for a lot of people that’s a very very big jump to go from
that security of corporate into setting up your own company
tell me how it started for you when you set driven properties up tell me kind of
like where the idea came from and when you made the jump how it felt
okay I’ll take a step back before driven properties I had a I had a venture as
well that that that failed in sound so when I was at Saudi Aramco I had kind of
a static project where I created an FM B brand where we we created a few
restaurants and and the Eastern Province of Saudi we were servicing the
universities and you know in the young generation so we had a burger joint
called burger joints and this really so we had three branches of that we had a
coffee shop and we had a fast-food joint called graffiti and that went on for
about four years a lot of investment a lot of time as well we’ve recruited
great talent since our area which for the the right reasons I think that
didn’t work out and massive lessons from from that venture so yes I’ve been in
the corporate world but at the same time I tested the entrepreneurial spirit
prior to to starting driven and I think that’s one of the biggest motivations
that I had that you know you you fall by you case you learn a lot of things from
that how then did you raise money oh yeah a lot of money any time time for me
money is one thing but time as is is essential and in these times and that
was when we started our venture that was just before the 2008 2009 crash that has
nothing to do with why it’s failed because it’s a consumer staples kind of
business but there was a lot of opportunity during that time where that
time could have been deployed differently however nothing too
too hard from the fact that this has been an amazing experience for me
I taught me how to deal with people in terms of organizational behavior HR
lessons you know strategic lessons how you as a manager how you lead and and
also how to how you focus how you target and how you address your competition you
know we we were premium brand and as you know and another burger joints open just
next to us literally tonight next door shop they were selling burgers for half
our price and they’re just as good you know in terms of maybe not the same that
they don’t have the same source of beef but but it in terms of how it tasted the
taste is you know I used to go there from time to time I used to hide them
and take a burger from there and go home get this because it was cheaper as well
so so taught me a lot of lessons was that was that a partnership was that you
yeah no no it was a partnership we were actually over 17 or 18 shareholders so
in the beginning we were four and then we continued to raise money to expand
our business and you know and by the end of it all we were we were 17 or 18
shareholders and and the original for you still friends with oh yeah
absolutely one of my they’re all they’re all Saudi Aramco
mates of mine so we use where we were colleagues at Saudi Aramco so we we work
together and corporate planning or asset management or different departments
within the firm or we were university friends so so yeah we’re good often
often in business you go into partnership or you go to small group he
would get group of you get together to start a business and it goes wrong the
typical story is we all kind of fell out and we fell out over various reasons
because at the time of something going wrong at what we do naturally is we
start assessing and pointing fingers and holding certain people accountable for
certain things you can’t do that you can’t but it’s not it’s not how you’re
gonna you’re gonna assess your your future and how you’re going to succeed
in the future because you know pointing fingers one thing what matters is
several things went wrong and you know everyone is responsible for that it’s
not one person or two or three everyone’s responsible for it then the
same degree and so there is there’s absolutely nothing we can we can if we
start pointing fingers and you know it was your fault you did this you did that
that’s not going to change the outcome right okay so you spend a lot of money
you’ve lost money you’ve lost time but you’ve had a great
learning experience has you’ve gone through it and then okay that gave you
that the kind of bug it gave you the flavor it gave you the excitement of
that what it feels like to do stuff like that wasn’t it was it was an amazing
experience that it gave me the you know it made me think of okay this is
something that that I enjoyed I enjoyed running a business I enjoyed being part
of you know recruiting people and I’m dealing with people and leading by
example I enjoyed that and and even when I left the one when that didn’t work out
I went to a subsidiary of UBS which is you know which is kind of a partnership
as well so it was I would say a a cornerstone or a milestone towards you
know being a real entrepreneur because I spent four or five years there
and and in a private equity division where we were we’ll go out and source
deals work with companies to buy out chunks of these companies and then post
buyout we would work with with the company’s board and the executive
committee to make strategic decisions in favor of the company whether it’s
balance sheets management or operational efficiency or whatever that may be that
will enhance the profitability on the top line of the company so we would work
with with these companies you know very very closely and that gave me a lot more
exposure on on how companies work in different industries so we worked with a
telecom company a cement company a an automatic doors company an FM B company
you know we worked in various various industries of plastic pipes company
you name it you know and with all of these industries you have different
styles of management you have different you know logistics operations within
these companies you have different kind of financial backgrounds of of you know
how they operate whether they would have a CFO or just an accountant or maybe
you’re gonna join your accountant for conglomerate so you know it’s an
eye-opener for you okay this is wrong this is right and you know this company
are doing this thing right and this company is doing this right if we do you
know the right things and all of these companies all these companies will
succeed so you know we we learned from the experiences of all of the companies
and all the corporates in each of the sectors that we worked in and that that
also opened my eyes towards okay well now I know how a business should be run
you know I know how the organizational behavior should be I know what corporate
development is about I know what what you know how you can you can structure a
balance sheet so that you can you can work on on economies of scale and and in
different sectors and that opened my eyes then you know but after that
I didn’t decide to get into real estate because I thought because I’m none of
these companies that I worked with was was real estate-related
the only thing that’s really state related that we worked on is the
developments in London a small development in London but you know that
how I got into real estate was was was by chance and when I when I thought you
know it’s it’s it’s something that I like and I I enjoyed I used the the the
methods that I learned towards this sector and I think that’s part of why
it’s successful mmm so you say happen by chance
it’s absolutely come on in okay how does that how does it
I’ll tell you well while I was in banking its I was I was mandated by one
of our because we had two divisions one is the private equity which I was
working on and was advisory so one of our major shareholders who was Saudi as
well told me look as a favor I’m buying a building and Dubai and JP are and I
want you to do a kind of a feasibility for me on whether I should purchase that
or not it’s been offered to me so and that was
given to that Weiser a team but he asked me since he knew me wasn’t wouldn’t the
firm so I want to advisory team and I was like okay can I look at this can I
can I have a look like okay yeah this is the this is the deal is the structure
etc as I was doing that I got you know very interested in the details of the
transaction and and how to unfold it remember this is in 2010 and almost when
we when this all started or late 2010 early 2011 and you know we assisted him
in the transaction feasibility ended up behind the property and then one year
later I was at this farm in Saudi and I’m asking him you know how how’s it
going with that building that you bought you know but I haven’t thought of what
I’m gonna do that I bought it from to buy properties
it’s hundreds of millions and it was a great time to be in that market and you
know to buy something of that magnitude so he was like why don’t you help me
find his stylist okay I don’t want to worry about it you know find me someone
that can rent the full building and and rent it out from me and they can you
know do whatever they want whether they can operate it as a hotel apartments it
was fully furnished so I was like okay I’ll try to use some contacts too so I
tried to look at a different offer us so I you know maybe six months later I
presented him with three offers that that are interested but interesting but
then when I looked dig deeper to do these on he accepted one of them which
is the best one so when I dig does up okay this looks good but then these guys
excuse my language al are taking the piss you know they’re they’re they’re
they’re you know yes it’s a good deal to the investor but in today’s markets a
year and a half after that the purchase it’s not it’s not where the market is so
I did even deeper at the time there was a company called smithing can real
estate which I asked them to also help me with with with the kind of the
rentals feasibility so they looked at the rentals and I looked at the okay
there is a big gap between what this guy’s offering and what I can you know
we can rent these apartments for individually and the gap was anywhere
between 40 and 50 percent it’s not small so so I went back to him about four
months state sort of with guts so I told him look you know
this is the best offer if you want I can match it I can even go up a little bit I
didn’t have you know 16 or 18 million and my pocket to commit to its renting a
building for for that long but but it did take a lot of guts and and my totem
will commit to this we will go ahead with with with what taking on the
building as me as so created a company which is not driven at the time which
which is just purely focusing on that particular asset so we rented this
building from him on a 10-year lease now it’s 20 so extended 10 years but you can
tell to us it was a great success for us so we agreed the 10-year lease at the
time we brought in two or three brokerage companies to turn the
apartments we had a five month grace period we almost got at eighty ninety
percent occupancy within three months so and and I enjoyed it I enjoyed every bit
of this all of these five months where we had the grace period had to run
around I had to make sure that our Indies apartment so that I had the cash
that I can service my my commitment to my client to the landlord and every bit
of it was was fun and that’s when I decided okay that’s for me that’s that’s
what I want to be that’s what I want to be doing and what the interaction with
brokers as well it it made me think that yeah this is something that that’s the
time enjoyed working with I enjoyed working with these guys they’re hustlers
and and that’s what that’s what I wanted to please me think n is Ben Ben D Smith
Ben Smith is used to work for me before he said that come yeah yeah well they
were they they did a great job I have to say at the time I don’t know why they
they shut down but but with that particular opportunity they helped out a
lot and and it was interesting that you say it was fun it was kind of like every
part of the journey was a lot of ago was that that was 2012 seven years ago so
you were in your early 30s so you say again the energy that goes with that is
it’s fun as well okay when you when you look at the real estate industry here in
the UAE okay you know that I am exposed quite a few of these companies
what do you see wrong with it well for sure one thing that I I see is it’s it’s
oversupplied and and in terms of if we look at the brokerage market it’s
certainly over supplied that needs consolidation for sure it’s not
innovative enough as well so we have there is room for either consolidation
or or innovation if you look at the the developers they’ve already started
consolidation at a massive scale if you look at even banks started consolidating
so it’s only normal or natural for for smaller mom-and-pop shops or operators
to to to consolidate and to and to bigger players that can survive a more
aggressive market because right now it’s much becoming it’s become much more
difficult to not only to attract but also to convert opportunities so what I
mean if you if you ask me and in specific what’s wrong there is nothing
wrong about it a few if you’re doing everything right if you’re a few have
the right focus if you have the right strategy you’re about to succeed if you
if you know if you’re not sure about what you’re doing or you’re not let’s
say you’re not profitable then you have to find ways in order to to either you
have two options either to die you know to close shop or you look
try to become more creative and say okay I’m going to consolidate I’m gonna I
want to save my business let me tie up with one of one of the medium-sized or
big players and and and become you know have a smaller slice of a big cake
rather than try to use my pride and and try to keep it going when it might not
do you know another city in the world where there are as many people selling
real estate as there are interval oh no I don’t I have been exposed to many
markets I have to say as well so even in my my private equity D days we did a lot
of business in the u.s. in Atlanta Georgia and that was during the the
crisis also in southern Florida where we we looked at different assets and the
foreclosed space a lot of foreclosures where you literally buy houses for forty
thousand forty five thousand dollars and their replacement cost us 150 160
thousand dollars it was you know no-brainer but at the same time nobody
would put money these days everybody was afraid and and and that’s what markets
are all about and that’s why they’re they become exuberant from time to time
and so so I got exposed to that market and and when we were looking we
partnered with a company called point one Holdings based in Atlanta and we’ve
deployed funds with them they did a fantastic job then we sold the portfolio
to Blackstone one of the biggest private equity firms in the world which which
got exposed to the single family homes markets as well so during that time the
US is the biggest giant you know and in the world and the terms of its economy
or its science or you know whatever you might think I looked at not only
statewide but also countrywide at and I worked with different brokers I have not
seen a city quite like to buy with the number of brokerage companies and an
actual brokers the city doesn’t totally million people you don’t have enough
supply and market to to feed everyone that’s why
many many are are shutting down it’s not it’s it’s a there is no secret formula
about it it’s just pure whether it’s physics or chemistry or biology or
whatever it is it just can’t work I think that the most people that set a
business up fail because a few things number one they don’t know what they’re
getting into yeah their ego is it’s bigger than the
cash the checks they’re trying to cash in many cases but they not having the
the skills that they need to be able to run any business that alone a real
estate business I think is real not of them go wrong they they kind of have
some success as a salesperson in a brokerage and then you know what I’m not
going to give away forty fifty percent of my comms I’m gonna set up on my own
when they set those businesses that they realized very quickly that not only that
forty fifty percent was being used wisely by their previous employer but
now they have to use that 50 percent wisely themselves so I find it
fascinating when I look at your industry and see the ones that are getting it
right and you you’re doing something rather similar okay your backgrounds
different to most people but you’re all doing something similar and the ones
that are doing it wrong are all doing exactly the same thing wrong like
literally exactly the same thing wrong and I find it fascinating that people
are paying the large amounts of money that they do for leads and companies no
it’s a lot of money they spend on leads yet they don’t spend the time and
teaching the staff how to convert those leads so that for me is fascinating now
when we talk about the business we have to include social media yeah my audience
has grown over the last few years since I’ve been doing what I do so yeah I have
– yeah yeah and you know whereas when I first started doing either podcasts or
interviews or trying to get people on my show I mean literally have to drag them
convince them and they know in some times like twist their arm to get them
on the show nowadays everybody says yes because of the exposure that he gives
them as well as there’s benefit they get being associated with it and a good
example was you’re Abdullah would you come on the show yes
and tell me what role it plays in in in real estate today in terms of you and
your brand okay I think social media is an essential part of any company’s
growth and it’s it’s an undisputed a player and any digital strategy that any
company may have and that for sure could could take companies from one place to
place making it you know a whole new to taking it to a whole new level what I
struggle with and I fear that that you know I could fall in a trap and social
media is where you know you can portray yourself as you know as your brand where
you can then become conflicted so when you say okay well I am Abdullah I am 38
I love music and I love watching movies and I love swimming with my kids but
then driven properties is the best company in the world you know this is
where you become conflicted you know you you’re either you in social media either
your own personal brand and you know this is me and my personal life or okay
this is my business then this becomes a different stories it’s my company
account okay this is driven properties and I promote driven properties from
that from that account similar to build you you you never see Bill Gates or
promoting Microsoft he talks about entrepreneurship he talks about his
foundation and as a philanthropy as well so so but never about Microsoft or what
you know why Microsoft is the biggest giant in the world and how it grew its
market level hamid Alerian and financial markets as well so you know it’s again
you look at what leaders are doing and you realize okay these guys are doing it
right so and the reason for example I don’t do social media is is it’s very
very very easy to fall into that trap where you know you you would you
it’s tempting to talk about your business you know or some success that
you’ve had in your business to your even through your personal social media
account but you know the the practice has shown that this is not how it should
be done and I think the way social media should be used as wisely and through the
the official norms where basically have your company account and that wants your
business for the right reasons so that you know the audience understands that
okay this is the business you’re promoting it this is a promotion but if
I am Abdullah and I’m an influencer and people listen to me and I promote my
company this becomes you know okay but I understand me you coming from and I
don’t necessarily disagree with that what I notice my observations are that
most companies with their corporate social media strategy it’s built out
around trying to sell stuff yeah you know if you go to most companies
Instagram LinkedIn Facebook pages they’re just trying to sell product and
I think that’s wrong yeah I think the the the companies or corporate social
media accounts should be telling the story should be telling who you are as a
brand and what your brand is all about what your core values are and obviously
selling stuff is not as not necessarily wrong but you don’t do it all the time
you do you know you you do it as part of you know because your again you as a
company you have values you are a brand you have to do philanthropy you have to
do a charity you have to do a CSR you also have to tell us who you are what’s
your story what you know what your your your values are you know what’s your
your core strategy looks like and also you know mix that with with your product
I don’t think that’s that’s necessarily wrong but it shouldn’t be just that
that’s for sure and your I think I think that’s where
there is there you know you can with social media particularly for
– a lot of traps and it’s very difficult to erase you got you with another thing
that you’ve got two issues because not only are you trying to promote a brand
to that essentially the end user the buyer of your product or service but
you’re also trying to promote your brand to people that you can attract that are
the right people for your industry and your your company and so you’ve got to
kind of play both of those those objectives out haven’t you and when when
we think about who we’re going to work for I mean I hear lots of lots of
business owners say the amount of candidates that come for an interview
the interview us but yeah you’re absolutely right it’s that’s that’s
where the market is is heading you know good talent they want to make sure there
were the right leaders and there were they’re there in the rock do you know
what most leaders in business and will still stick with real estate aren’t
demonstrating in a way that they can consume ie the potential candidate
consume consume they aren’t demonstrating with their social media
content but they are the person so the interesting thing for me is you’ve got
your business your brand okay am I going to work you know okay Microsoft’s a
massive organization and driven is one of the bigger real estate companies in
but we’re not talking about thousands of employees you are still the head of your
business and if I’m gonna go and work for a company with the size of yours I
want to know about you I want to know about I want to know about you as a
human being and the value that you bring well when am I gonna go and get you know
if I don’t know you and I’m gonna get dinner with you and I’m gonna clunked
with you and I’m gonna get a chance to you know hang out with you and go smoke
a shoe with you I’m not so what do I do I do which I do most of the time is a
people phone up on a stair at content and I’ll find out from the content I
consume where they’re Abdullah is the kind of guy that I that I know will
inspire me and be the guy I want to be like does that make sense to you yes I
also think that that you know when your brand tells a story it doesn’t become
just about the leader it becomes about the environment it becomes about the the
culture I I think people like to work at Google or Apple because of the culture
you know and leadership is one part of it of course an essential
part of it but the culture is what people what drives people to do they did
they when Google was a hundred people strong absolutely right yes well it
wasn’t but then this is what you tried to build as a business and this is what
you try to portray as a story so your story is you know your your you you you
you know you the company built its own culture based on these ethics these
values these core strategies or core values and and and with that in mind
this this was built and this is our culture and this is how it looks like
and if you know this is the environment you’re gonna be in British culture was
you know was built you know as a result of partly as a result of what leadership
has has created and if you’re happy with that environment this is where you
belong it shouldn’t always be because leadership changes also you know you
could have a company today and then and then you know you you move on and to and
to other things and to other industries you give a leadership to to to new
leaders to fresh blood yeah so leadership changes but the culture stays
that’s that’s what what you got a staying in city you gotta consider
growth as the people that are under you yeah okay in your role but also
sometimes it’s when you are a leader in your company it’s sometimes important to
realize what your own limits are yeah and I don’t necessarily mean family they
may limit your own skills and and and and you might be able to take the
company this far but it might be somebody they could hit the company that
and that happened to me you know I got to a certain point with one of my
businesses was it was like there’s someone better yeah and and can’t do
more you know for you I I don’t have the skill to do more there’s you know I need
to get into you know a new you know a business line or a new vertical within
my business and you know nothing about this vertical so let me bring someone
that can you know set up this vertical and then if they set it up and they know
everything else better than me that’s that’s the person who’s gonna lead the
business going forward so yeah you’re absolutely right and that’s why it’s I
think it’s it should be always be more about culture than leadership but
leadership builds that culture you know as long as that is there that’s
what you should be proud of of establishing having as many
multinationals that work within your business how difficult is it really
because I observe this from the outside with yours and many other companies had
the challenge that business owners face having those different cultures together
how difficult is it to bring them together and make them essentially a
unit I mean if you compare yourself to another company which we won’t mention
that only employs English people there all seem to be the age of twenty to
thirty that you can understand how that culture easily works or is each it
easily formed but you have a different set up I think I’ve touched on this when
I met you in your office actually and it really does fascinate me how do you get
that to work well first of all this is this is one of the things that actually
fascinates me as learning new cultures and understanding cultures as well one
of the things that we got into in the last three years as the Chinese market
was a huge success for us and you know through that I interacted with you know
hundreds or hundreds or maybe even thousands of Chinese people within
whether it’s within the organization or partners and then you get to to
understand this culture you’ll get to understand their values how they work
the Africans as well the Indians the English people the Australians the Latin
Americans they all have different upbringing
let’s say you know sometimes the values and the cultures are are the same but
the upbringing and the thought process is different integrating all of that is
and understanding it and making it work in an organization is not an easy task
I’ll tell you that much and getting everybody to work together because in
the beginning you will see the French people you know having lunch together
the the the Indians having you dinner together the Chinese having their
own kind of group activity and but then I think with with again building
building and building them up and to the culture and and getting them into
integrated to in the same environment they will start to appreciate everyone’s
a skill set and what they bring to the table just because they have a different
culture I mean we have people that you know a German client calls and then an
Egyptian guy answers the phone and and he needs he needs help from you know
from someone who understand Germany he takes the phone goes to his German
colleague please help me with that client you know we were trying to ask
about this and that created and in the beginning we we used to do that
intentionally where we give different nationalities leads to different people
so they can interact also different cultures as well and use their friends
and their colleagues to to help them out you know with their yeah with their
customers Hey and I think I think that that that’s also helped with with you
know what colleagues gelling together today you know the the best friends is
as an English guy a German lick girl and Egyptian guy a Pakistani guy these guys
you know hang out together all the time Anna Anna Rakhi guys or so you know and
they’re they’re like this is this is one group and then you have a group of a
Chinese guy an American guy and a Colombian girl you know they so you have
you have a different groups that are and that’s fascinating have you mastered
that by accident yes yeah absolutely it wasn’t it’s not it’s not I can’t say
that had a cunning plan yeah thing but yeah that was all purely by accident
we’ve heard the term before same same but different
you know I said around many things okay I want to ask you the question about
Saudis and Emiratis okay culturally how are they different
because you’re same same but different you know
very same same but different well the in England for example we think we’re
better than the Scottish yeah alright and the joke is on the Irish so we have
the English theories and discuss it so it’s that we have that and I’m sure in
lots of countries that’s the same this kind of Maivia do it yeah okay do you
have that I think I think the the authorities in the the locals they’re
there the scale is different first of all I
mean it’s how early where there’s 21 or 22 million Saudis and I I think there is
about 3 or 4 million Emiratis so it’s the scale is vastly different so you
have and so do you have different you know if you go to two people from the
South sometimes we can’t even communicate with them you know me as
someone who comes from the center it’s very difficult for me to communicate
with the people from the South because they have a different accent difference
really even though you’re speaking it’s all Arabic but you know their arabic is
very fast very different select you know like algerian for example arabic it’s
very difficult to understand and it’s gonna be more difficult communicate in
arabic with an algerian person you know i might as well talk French or English –
it’s ok to speak with them but but and in Saudi itself you have various
different cultures people from the West from Jamaica their accent is closer to
the Egyptian you know so it’s it’s but it’s understandable for me for example
because again Jeddah as a major city and there was a lot of interaction between
Riyadh and Jeddah and the the eastern province is the closest to the UAE again
because of the geographic location my wife’s family for example they’re from
the Eastern Province they communicate and they talk very similar to their to
the Emiratis in terms of the accent and the dialect but if you meet someone from
the South close to Yemen I have you know I have a hard time communicating with
or the zoo well apart from dialects how are you different
the the culturally I think it’s very much the same and in many ways and and
and that I think the the the again there is there is a medium to upper-class that
is rising and the you and in South the and in the UAE and within that kind of
demographic I think the values are very similar you had I would say and you know
ten years ago or more than 10 years ago on sound II it was normal to marry for a
woman right and similarly it was normal to marry for woman here in the UAE you
know fast for 10 or 15 years now it’s okay it’s it’s it’s legal and it’s it’s
okay but it’s not practice in practice it’s not normal it’s it’s difficult so
also that progressed in the very same way and in Saudi and and do EE were okay
the norm is to have one family and and you know one set and and that that
evolved over time kind of in the same way so I can’t think of cultural
differences there are a lot of I would say demographic differences and but in
terms of of cultural or kind of if you look at the overall landscape it’s it’s
very very similar I go for example every Monday to we have a little farm we call
it a sarah hyland arabic which is which is a rest area which is a kind of a
little farm and it’s a group of you know 20 people whoever is available they just
go there chitchat and have coffee and and all of that and it’s you know I
would say there is about four or five Saudis and 15 Emiratis and this is where
I can I can say okay is there differences and when how we think is
it’s very similar you know the culture the value is what we talk about
and it’s very very similar it’s it’s shockingly similar sake graphics
behavior is the same yeah it’s very much so very much so I mean and by the way
just so that you know everyone from the West thinks you like mad for having more
than one wife we couldn’t cope with that and about a week ago and just before I
came back I was sitting in the lobby of my hotel and a Russian guy with his
sister who were sitting down so I came back I came down from my room from the
elevator on and my wife tells me you know I’m sitting this table there is a
ginger ale and there is my salad in there so you know the table I’m sitting
at so you can sit and she was going upstairs to get something so we so so I
start there and then this the brother and sister look at music you know there
is a lady sitting here I’m a cure that’s my wife and then we start chit-chatting
with okay man we thought there’s there similarities and we thought maybe you’re
you’re her brother TJ behind or another ancestor no no and we’re I don’t outside
of 10 people day yeah yeah I see that but but so then we started chanting and
then she’s like when I told him it’s my wife she’s like which wife the first the
second the third you know I can’t go how can you cope with this one is a headache
you know if you all have one one one difficulty or one one blessing at the
same time it becomes it becomes how can you have four of those difficulties not
having just one one wife can’t imagine having four mother-in-law’s yeah
yeah imagine that so it’s not it’s not as as simple and you know we had a very
nice chat you know and and you know with my wife and she came in later and we had
a chat and you know we talked about you know the the difficulty and and and just
managing one wife or the wife managing one husband you know and and and then we
said okay we exchanged numbers and and I told him okay I will I will call you
when I’m in either Monaco or he lives in Zurich so so Zac but if I tell you I’m
Abdullah from you know we met in Monaco you know me he said tell me Abdullah
from Saudi one wife so yeah it’s it’s he was shocked that I only had one wife you
know that’s annoying you don’t have any friend that I know that has more than
one wife you know I have a big circle of they said maybe it may be something that
happened more so in the past in a previous generation that rule there yeah
okay this leads me on to another question I have for you and it’s around
and it funnily enough it’s around depression so for me having four or five
wives it made me make me very depressed anyway but haven’t you ever had a time
because you seem like a really upbeat character all right and and I don’t
think you portray any different I’m sure that there are moments that you have but
do you have times in your life or if you had times that have been dark I would
say yes they you can’t you can’t get away from from that sometimes you know
you you you get these moments whether you like it or not you know we had a I
had a moment where you know someone was was you know in Saudi talking and the
social media about you know my company or or not even my company me personally
and how you know she was a social-media influencer and and she had a holiday
homes experience with us where she wanted to stay in one of our apartments
and and you know she canceled last minute anyway long story short she
didn’t have the best experience and her eyes
and she decided to you know to span all her followers or you know two or three
million followers about their experience with with the driven holiday homes which
is one of our sister companies and you know and and that was that reached to a
lot of people and even my own very close client said you know this person is
talking about your company you know and that was a very dark period of my life
where we had to to take how long there was that that was the body you know how
year-and-a-half ago and how did it make you feel it was it was very bad it was
taking personally I took it personally because it was you know it was very
personal and and and how it was portrayed and and I don’t know I’ve
never met the person I don’t know the person you know talking about my
company’s one thing but also talking about me or my personality when so many
he knows as another so that I took very personally obviously we had to involve
Public Prosecution in Saudi and we took we took action on that you know and but
that took a very long time but during that period it was it was kind of a dark
period of my life I had to travel for ten days just to kind of relax and you
know come and and not not you know react negatively to that but you had those
moments where okay it’s an your actions of people shouldn’t take you because you
know you shouldn’t care but you know psychologically or emotionally humans
work the same way even though you can pretend that you don’t care sometimes
it’s you know there is a human element of you and honest I you know a psyche
that works in that way and you know it it affects you so yeah you have these
moments and they make you stronger they make you much much stronger I was there
every time the business was under threat in terms of from the beginning there any
times you were like oh I don’t know if we’re gonna make it through this month
so absolutely actually the the only thing is
you know if a person has a lot of and that’s why you know sometimes social
media so as used in the wrong ways if you are an influencer or a few of you
think you’re an influencer on and your words are heard you know it’s difficult
to to to send the the different message all you have to do is as involve you
know take take legal action and let’s let the the courts take its course and
and then obviously the the the audience will know about that and padania you
know that time I was sitting in a coffee shop with friends and then you know a
very close friend and very you know one of our our major clients calls me like
you know but you know what one of this person is writing this stuff as we speak
and our snapchat so it was just he started sending me some so I was like
okay I was with my wife and a couple of friends and okay I don’t know this
person who is this person why are they saying this and and then I spoke to my
the director of our holiday homes team who’s this person do you have an
experience with this and then she explained to me what happened and okay I
understand but why is she talking about Abdulla you know and so so that was that
was a negative experience but it was also another eye-opener that that opened
a lot of doors for you and in terms of how to react to this it it makes you
stronger and that you know I made you know the first reaction to this was like
okay I’m gonna take legal action how do we do that then I’m like okay do we
involve a PR company to try to erase that and and
get this person to apologize you know before we take legal action and then you
know through that journey there are a lot of lessons learned and there are a
lot of you know things that we saw okay we thought we should have done this
differently but that was done this would this were what we did four months after
was the right thing to do what we did in the beginning was not necessarily the
right thing so through that one when you have a similar experience now we know
exactly what to do so with that with that in mind again you know everything
happens for the right reasons I think we’re now much more well equipped to to
to deal with what circumstances like that I have two stories of stuff that
happen to me but I believe that it works as following out of a hundred people
there’s going to be 30 people that hate your guts yeah there’s gonna be 30
people that think you’re great and there’s gonna be 40 people that don’t
give a shit yeah and so I leaned into the the 30 people
that really do like what I do I filmed a video on the balcony here one day and I
got post after the video was filmed and went online and there were some guys
here and I bet you don’t even live on the effing parm and this and that you
must be a be this and I see that really nasty and and I just looked it up how do
I respond to that and and back when I first got negative stuff online I was
like you it completely destroyed me now it doesn’t bother me but I go for a walk
once a week with a friend of mine on the palm we just take a stroll at sunset a
sunset and we went for a stroll and there was a guy walking towards us if we
were on e it was on Efron and this guy walked towards us we weren’t paying any
attention and as he walked past this he stops he went are you Spencer Lodge yeah
and I’m like yeah I am nice to meet you of thinking obviously you see me online
nice to meet you how are you he said and the other night I was drunk and I wrote
something really nasty he said it and it was about the fact they didn’t think you
lived on the POW he said and I just want to say I’m sorry clearly you do because
you’re walking around here and there was no but there was another guy that said
to me one day he wrote something nasty and I said look if my content doesn’t
work for you no problem tell me how I can improve it
he then responds okay I’ve been sat on the toilet for the last hour trying to
delete this message I’ve never told anyone in my life and this is the first
time I’ll never do it again please can you delete it for me so you get people
out there that become keyboard warriors and yeah and they feel that they feel
that this and there’s no recourse they feel that they have every right to do so
and obviously there is tell me about your your daily rituals okay you’re a
successful guy and and you’ve come from a structured learning environment with
mum being a teacher and stuff it do you have some things that are non-negotiable
with your life everyday do you have thing you know I get up at 4:00 or 4:30
and I’m in the gym at 5:00 and that’s non-negotiable is it stuff that you do
well time with my kids is essential so it’s either taking them to school in the
morning or coming coming from work earlier just before they sleep I have a
seven year old and a six year old both of them are of two boys and I love
spending time with them whether it’s swimming with them you know playing
games with them video games and and you know activities so yeah if I don’t take
them to school in the morning I come back from work early so that I spend
time with them so that’s that’s uh negotiable one of the things that that
that I have differences sometimes with my wife on is you know one where one
word just before we sleep I like the TV on that’s what gets me to sleep I really
so the TV helps you fall asleep and what anything or anything so I have to put
Netflix on I watched something and then I you know I fall asleep watching so
while watching something and my wife is a complete opposite so so what you have
to go I have to wait for her to fall asleep and I put the volume down starts
watching and then that so get me to sleep you go to the movies do you fall
asleep no no I know that’s because it’s at night that just helps me fall asleep
but it doesn’t surely just makes me sleep but and if I
don’t have a TV in my room it has to be like a loud AC or something you know I
have to have some noise oh wow I like no I know I get that because when I grew up
in Africa and in Nigeria we used to have like the a/c used to vibrate a lot the
ones in the hole in the wall and and that for me was great yeah isn’t that
funny how that works out there and but whenever the TV’s on for me or I’m at
the movies I fall asleep yeah doesn’t matter it’s almost like I get narcolepsy
vomits that’s really interesting okay who else
tell me about some business related so I mean every everyday I I have to in the
morning I have to visit every single director and follow up on business
Monday we have a management meeting every every morning
these things are non-negotiable Sunday meeting with the team is non-negotiable
we you know my assistant does my schedule every day and I try to to have
as little work and operations as possible and as many meetings as
possible because I realized that that you get more done through meeting people
and that’s what my role has has kind of evolved to rather than managing
operations I do that for maybe one hour in the morning just just you know making
sure that the leaders are are doing what they’re doing or the drivers we call
them internally so you are the viewer the leasing driver you are the sales
driver you’re the you know so a marketing driver so we are passed by all
the drivers and make sure that they’re doing what they’re doing and
everything’s under control everything that we you know that the meetings that
I’ve had whether it’s with them ant clients over the past week are yielding
results and new mandates and and all of that and and I try to tell him it’s my
you know that that work for about one hour and the early morning and then
after that I dedicate my time to meetings throughout the day meeting new
clients opportunities so just did your client work clients I mean as in when we
as a company what makes us different I think as than others is that we’re very
much project driven so we what we do is we source projects to our staff where
ours are our agents to to sell so rather than the agents going out and on trying
to procure listings which is part of what they do we actually go and take on
exclusive projects to to to get them to to sell so that’s that’s my duty with
the team to go out and source this part is put in the weight of the brand and
the team to actually source these projects get these projects and move on
with them okay got it understood I really appreciate you
taking time to talk to me have you enjoyed it it was amazing yes okay get
excellent stuff if people want to get hold of you and reach out to you I
noticed on your business card your mobile phone numbers not there okay well
is there a reason your numbers no no I’m very easily reachable I mean how do you
prefer them to reach it email is my favorite
as my favorite mean to to being reached and it’s the quickest I respond to
really more than more than but in many cases my mobile is with my assistant so
chances are I want to answer and she’ll never fail this video sister in many
cases yes one when I’m when I’m in a meeting I give it to my assistant
because I don’t like not answering people so if it’s a family meeting
she answers she and tells about a meeting and okay and I fall back within
this time he communicate by email my favorite is emailed what’s up I can
guarantee you if I open my what’s up now there’s 20 or 25 messages so you know by
the time I answer all of them that’s gonna be 6 p.m. today yeah I also
running through my meetings so but emails as my priority to answer even
though they’re even if there is something what’s up that’s more
important than an email I just you know it’s just a habit that because I’m maybe
I’m more traditional I guess yeah I use yes that’s the last thing I open yeah ok
so people can get hold of you by email ok what’s your email
Abdulla nice and easy Abdulla driven properties we’ll put the
link on there yeah thanks very much to join us on the show I hope you’ve
enjoyed this live episode of the Spencer lodge podcast that’s been brought to you
in conjunction with our partners from the Jahi and if you don’t know who the
Jahi are but you don’t know who Tony Robbins is get your tickets and make
sure your attend Tony Robbins event on September the 3rd are you gonna see Tony
Robbins excellent stuff ok thanks me about your time guys thank staying live
with this Abdulla thank you so much coming on the show you thanks so much
for your time

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