Alexander El Hayek is the business development director for Al Marakeb (www.almarakeb.net), a boat manufacturing company based in Sharjah. The Lebanese-South Korean, who was born in Sharjah and has worked and studied in the US, moved into the boat industry after a school friend asked him to develop his business.
Describe your financial journey so far.
Moving away to the US for college immediately opened my eyes to the simple financial freedoms I used to take for granted while living with my parents. Even though my parents provided well, they still encouraged me to become independent at an early age. My father gave me an allowance that covered everything I needed, but I wanted more money so it really encouraged me to start working part-time. But I never really appreciated the value of money until I graduated and started working at Amazon.com and cashing my own cheques. My financial journey is still a learning process for me and I feel it's only the beginning, with many more challenges that I need to overcome.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I'm relatively balanced with both and try my best to save more than I spend, but I don't always achieve that. Emergencies happen or there's a bit of shopping to be done - you can't always promise yourself that you'll be able to save that month.
What is your philosophy towards money?
Just like my health, I believe money requires healthy and balanced habits or decisions. There are plenty of unnecessary temptations that put your money at risk and affect your well-being. Therefore, I always try to respect the money I earn and, equally, the things I spend it on.
Why did you decide to get involved in the boat-building business?
My good schoolfriend offered me the chance to build his company up from scratch. So for me, it was a challenge and experience I couldn't pass up. I was assigned to oversee and control Al Marakeb's start-up capital, to improve the brand name, build inventory, generate sales and increase market share and presence. Al Marakeb has also become active with corporate social responsibility (CSR) events to help raise company awareness through different charity and corporate organisations and to contribute to necessary causes.
How do you manage to mix boats and charity?
Instead of simply organising a CSR event for our employees, we decided to involve our immediate circle of suppliers, customers, friends and family. This year, Al Marakeb collaborated with the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund and organised a two-day football tournament for the participants. The event helped to bring our staff, as well as the people we work with, closer while also improving our synergy with the market.
What has been your most valuable financial lesson?
Early on in my career, I read a rule of thumb poster on a procurement manager's wall. It was a triangle with one word on each side - "cheap", "fast" and "good" - and the idea was that for any project or activity you do in business, you can never have all three. For example, if it's cheap and fast, it's not good or if it's really fast and good, then it's really expensive. This strategy really helped me understand my work and, until today, the lesson still applies.
Have you experienced any financial difficulties along the way?
Many times, although one incident that sticks out in my mind was when I was completing a sensitive project that involved a government company. Constantly changing time lines and extremely long work schedules, compounded with the stresses of struggling financially to pay off some personal debts of my own really affected my motivation and output. However, after successfully completing the project, I was rewarded with a surprise bonus for all my efforts. I feel we all go through financial hardships, but the biggest challenge is to remain motivated and passionate about the goals you want to accomplish.
What do you like to invest in?
I grew up playing a lot of basketball in the UAE and, for a short while, in college. So in my spare time, I've teamed up with some childhood friends to establish a UAE high school basketball league. It's a high-risk project because it's a personal investment and we haven't secured any sponsors yet. But we have official support from the UAE Basketball Federation and the Dubai Sports Council and want to create a community for parents and athletes. We grew up playing in Dubai and Sharjah and always wished we could have something like this. So, hopefully, the league will play a crucial role in the development of young athletes growing up in the UAE.