Money & Me: Anna Zickerman-Quinn, founder of the Upandrunning Integrated Sports Medical Center in Dubai, says her school days in the UAE inspired her to set up her business.
Keeping finances up and running
Anna Zickerman-Quinn first came to Dubai in 1976 as a child. Originally from Sweden, the sports medicine specialist returned to the Emirates in 2006 and set up Upandrunning Integrated Sports Medical Center in Dubai two years ago. As winner of the Most Innovative Women Entrepreneur prize at the Women In Leadership Middle East and Africa Forum in November, she says her school days in the UAE inspired her to set up her business.
How would you describe your financial journey so far?
I returned to Dubai in 2006, divorced with two children. Soon after, I met my current husband. I started working at a clinic in Dubai Health Care City and with my personal assistant, Tricia Caithness, I started working on opening a sports medicine clinic.
We tried 23 times in different locations and this 24th attempt worked. It is a case of never giving up. When we started, there was no local template as sports medicine was still new to the region.
People, including insurance companies, did not recognise sports medicine. In 2010, we had a target of being 60 per cent full within six months knowing it would take time to take off. But now we are way above capacity and clinicians are working extra hours. We have a waiting list of a few days to two weeks for some treatments.
We try to prioritise our return patients, but believe no one should have to wait and also because we might lose them to somebody else. I invested Dh2.5 million and it was entirely self-funded.
Now I have a sponsor and some interested investors. I employ 34 people and 7,000 people have come through the clinic. It is only me at the centre as the sports medicine specialist. But we are in the process of hiring another specialist.
What was the inspiration for your business?
I saw Dubai being built from scratch and though I am not a local, I feel I belong here. I grew up here and in 1987, when I was at Dubai College, a PE teacher told me: "You are good in sciences and you are good in sports, why don't you do sports medicine?" It was one of those life-changing moments. It has been a complicated journey, but after 13 years it came true.
What plans do you have for your business?
We do have a plan for expansion, another branch, but we are still looking for the right location. It needs to have parking facilities, accessibility to public transport and we also have to see what services can be carried out at the centre, among others.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I am a spender for quality products and anything that will enhance the image of the business, as well as new equipment. But I will not buy anything that is not a part of the budget and I will try to save where I can. Personally, I do not spend on anything that is not useful. I do not spend if I do not need it. I do not go to the malls and spend lavishly.
What is your philosophy regarding money?
It is a necessity. For those who have it, I see it as an opportunity to enjoy themselves and experience life by making the most of the money they have.
Did you make any financial mistakes along the way?
When we started, our gym space was small. We bought two pieces of equipment for lower limbs rehabilitation for Dh25,000 in total. But because the space is so little, we are not using them enough and have to get rid of them. It is a waste.
Is it important to plan for the future?
Absolutely. If you are going to sustain your business, you have to make sure you have the planning for budget, cash flow and business opportunities.
How important is money to you?
Money is important, but so is quality of life. It is important for children and family to enjoy life and appreciate where the money is coming from. The children do not get whatever they ask for, but when they do, they appreciate it and are grateful for it. This is to make sure they are not spoilt.
What is your idea of financial freedom?
It is the feeling that I can get what I want, but not necessarily do so. It is more important to support the family, make sure the children get good university degrees and schools, and make them sensible and mature persons.
What do you enjoy spending money on?
Good family holidays where we can learn and gain from different cultures and wisdom, and spend some quality time. Last year we went to Verbier in Switzerland. During summer, we go to Gotland, Sweden, for a month. We have a house near the beach in the forest. We go for long walks and like picking flowers.