Ramez Helou started The Academy for Sales Excellence Management Consultancy in Dubai three years ago to train business people on how to sell. He started his career as a door-to-door salesman in the United States before launching his own business in Puerto Rico and Costa Rica. Although having plenty of cash to splash is certainly not his only motivation in life, he compares money to oxygen: "you need it and can't live without it".
Describe your financial journey so far
I'm one of six children and my father is an accountant, so you would think he taught us wisely. But the idea of financial independence was not something I grew up knowing about during my childhood in Lebanon. I had to learn about it as I was not totally savvy from a financial point of view. My first investment was at age 24 when I set up an individual retirement account to put some money away. My dad advised me to take the highest risk option and in three years my money doubled, which was really cool. It was invested in the S&P 500.
Are you a spender or a saver?
Do I spend my money on things I don't need? No. But when I want to buy something I try to buy quality, as I've learnt that when you don't, you can lose your money. I buy based on goals so when I achieve a goal I reward myself by buying something like a new suit or something else. I try to be a wise spender and a wise saver. But I do spend money. Recently I paid to bring my parents over here for a holiday from Lebanon.
What's your philosophy about money?
Money provides me with an opportunity to help myself so I can help others. I would say I don't do things for money and it's certainly not the only factor that motivates me. I see money like oxygen, you need it and can't live without it.
What's the aim of The Academy for Sales Excellence Management Consultancy?
The aim of the business is to make people make more sales and ultimately more money. I have been in Dubai for some time and during the global financial crisis it became obvious that some companies know how to sell and some don't. Before the crisis, customers bought products regardless but when it hit customers became choosier and it became difficult for some companies to sell. Generally, in this region there's a lack of experience in selling and my vision was to change that.
What are the challenges of starting a business here?
The biggest challenge is getting the right advice from people about setting up a business. When I do things I like to do them by the book so I got a trade licence. I set up a professional services business with the Dubai Department of Economic Development. That was almost three years ago.
Did you make any financial mistakes along the way?
I made mistakes, but I try to follow the philosophy of learn to live and live to learn. When I started my business the only resources I had were my savings and time and I should have duplicated what I was doing sooner by bringing other people in. A year ago in March my business was just me and it was not sustainable.
Do you believe in planning for the future?
I have my wheel of life, including personal, professional and spiritual and set my goals for each on a daily, weekly and yearly basis. Sometimes you do have to adjust your plans to fit the circumstances, but the important thing is to not lose sight of your goals.
What is your idea of financial freedom?
When you're free from financial burden and have enough wealth to sustain yourself and keep the same standard of living for you and your children. That's what everyone should aspire to achieve.
What do you enjoy spending money on?
I like good clothes and I like to spend money on personal development and education. If everyone spent 10 per cent of their income on educating themselves, the world would be a different place.