Tell us about you, your experience, and your time in the Middle East.
I moved to Dubai from London in 2017 as I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities and grow my accounting business in an exciting new region, especially when VAT was going to be introduced in the UAE. I moved with my whole family, and I can honestly say that I haven’t looked back. There are always cultural changes to deal with when you relocate, but once you adapt, you can really thrive in this region.
Alpha Pro Partners was initially launched as a customer-focused accounting firm supporting entrepreneurs to reach their business goals. Since then, we have recently introduced outsourced HR services to help SMEs navigate the UAE’s HR laws and ensure they have the right policies and procedures for this crucial area of their business. We are also expanding in Saudi, giving us a presence in the UAE and KSA.
How would you describe the culture of your business?
I am a big believer in experience – creating a positive and engaging experience for our customers and our employees. If our employees are not happy, there is a high chance that we will not serve our customers very well. This means building a supportive culture, encouraging work/life balance as much as possible, and providing opportunities for continuous learning.
I am a big Formula 1 fan and something that resonates with me is the “no-blame” culture implemented by the Mercedes F1 team. We follow the same ethos; essentially whenever something goes wrong, we look at the process that took place before blaming individuals. This allows staff to feel protected and means we can learn from our mistakes quickly before moving forward. We also have an open-door policy and try to ensure that decision-making is fast and inclusive.
What are your biggest challenges in the next 5 years?
The UAE is making huge strides to ensure the necessary regulations are in place to cement its position as a world-class hub for conducting business. We are seeing increasing regulations in areas such as corporation tax, anti-money laundering, HR and employee protection. Our purpose is to keep up with the complex changes and make it easier for our clients to adapt.
Another challenge we face, like many other companies, is finding the right people to join our organisation as we grow. Talent acquisition is never easy, but it’s absolutely fundamental for success.
What are the skills and competencies that you would need to train in order to meet the region’s talent requirements?
Hard skills will always depend on the specific sector and role; however, we are observing a real mindset change with more UAE businesses moving away from a hierarchal control and command approach to a more inclusive, wellbeing-focused environment. From a leader’s perspective, that calls for soft skills like empathy, communication, and self-esteem, enabling them to maximise their team’s potential. As an employee, effective communication is also key. Whatever level you are, it’s important to be open to coaching and mentoring. And recognising the gaps in your own abilities is a must for entrepreneurs in particular, whether that’s in relation to operational areas e.g. financial management, or, broader capabilities like pitching and public speaking.
Rayhan Aleem, Founder and Managing Partner, Alpha Pro Partners