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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Money & Me: 'I haven't taken a salary for almost two years'

Dubai entrepreneur Roy Koyess says he altered his spending habits after launching his own business

 Roy Koyess gave up a corporate career two years ago to set up healthy snack bar firm Freakin' Healthy. Pawan Singh / The National
 Roy Koyess gave up a corporate career two years ago to set up healthy snack bar firm Freakin' Healthy. Pawan Singh / The National

Roy Koyess took the brave leap from 15 years in a very comfortable corporate job in a multinational company to go it alone. Setting up his own business was something Mr Koyess, 42, from Canada, had long thought about, but establishing his healthy snack bar company Freakin’ Healthy two years ago only took shape after a push from his wife, Rosalia. She told him not following his dreams would set a bad example to the couple’s two children, aged six and three. The switch has not been easy for the Dubai resident, who has lived in the UAE since 2003, but he says it gives him more flexibility, satisfaction and drive.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I don’t recall discussing ‘money’ per-se, but I do recall the freedom it bought or the good it can do for others. I think we were taught by our parents to drive for success rather than for money and to appreciate what we have. I remember our mother would say to ‘take pride in what you do’, and somehow that still rings true in the decisions I make.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

From the age of 11 I always had a job. I was paid Canadian $3 (Dh8.1) an hour in Canada with my first job, delivering newspapers. In the winters it was minus 35 degrees C to minus 40C, so it was tough. In the summer I also did grass cutting with my older brother. My brother was really entrepreneurial, so he was very influential to me from a very young age. I had so many jobs from dropping flyers to waiting tables and delivering pizzas.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I used to be a spender and I do love spending. You earn your money to spend it, whether on yourself or others. And I love spending on others. As I get older, the material desires diminish. I do save for the security of the family. Before Freakin’ Healthy, I used to save more; roughly 15-20 per cent of the salary each month. Now it’s a bit different until things settle.

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Do you pay yourself a salary?

I haven't taken a salary for almost two years. It's all from savings and selling off some stocks I owned. It's been a case of re-prioritising what I need to spend on.

What is your most cherished purchase?

It would have to be some of the books I have. They formed the new me, developing me into a different mindset and starting me on the journey to running my own business. I wasn’t a voracious reader but now, I really look forward to reading. The Billionaire That Wasn’t by Conor O' Clery is one of my favourites. My object with Freakin’ Healthy is really to give a lot back to society in that same kind of ethos.

What is your biggest financial milestone?

For me it keeps moving, and seems to always get bigger. It’s about knowing my family are secure financially, that they have housing, clothing, education. It’s always a moving target. I prefer not to focus on financial goals because you lose focus of what it is you’re trying to achieve.

What has been your best investment?

As my wife is Spanish, we bought property in Spain - it was at the right time, when things had dropped after the crash. For me though, I feel that investing in myself is the best investment. Instead of being materialistic things, I buy books, I meditate, I try to look after myself. It’s a time investment.

Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay the bills?

Many; while I was a student in Montreal, it was very tough. Here, I haven’t faced that yet, but it’s something you certainly think about, especially when you have your own company and for sure it’s at the back of my mind.

For financial advice, Mr Koyess turns to friends and family rather than relying on advisers. Pawan Singh / The National 
For financial advice, Mr Koyess turns to friends and family rather than relying on advisers. Pawan Singh / The National 

Do you use a financial adviser?

No, I have a strong network of family and friends who advise me so we do things together rather than going to advisers.

Do you have any financial regrets?

I don’t have regrets but of course I’ve made some mistakes. I learnt a lot from those mistakes. I invested in the wrong things, the wrong companies which lost money, so it taught me a lot about what’s important to make a business succeed. I’ve failed a few times but it’s important otherwise you don’t know how to improve things. If you keep succeeding you miss out on how to improve on why you’re succeeding.

Do you plan for the future?

Definitely; more so because I’ve got kids. With kids, everything we do is for them. It’s not for us anymore and we are investing behind them.

What luxuries are important to you?

Time and freedom to manage it; for me time is a luxury and free time is precious. Working for myself, I don’t feel I have much time, but I do have a more flexible schedule. It hasn’t been a relief from corporate life, it’s been really intense, but the opportunity for the future is bigger.

How much do you have in your wallet right now?

Right now nothing, but I’m not a card person. I like to see what I’m spending but what I do put on cards is repetitive expenses like phone bills. I prefer to pay with cash or debit card.

What car do you drive?

Right now I have an Audi A5. It’s a long-term lease from my brother. I had my last car for 11 years and drove it to death; now’s not the time for luxury purchases, subsequently cars are not a financial priority right now.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

I wouldn’t. I’m very happy where I am today and whatever has happened to get me here has taught me a lot. It’s been it’s been crucial to where I am today. Maybe I would have saved more, but no other major changes.

What would you raid your savings account for?

A family trip; one where we can just go away and disconnect [from the world] for a week. When we travel, we are somehow always connected to work. When we are with the kids we like the time to be quality time without any distractions such as the phone or work. We like to fully dedicate this time to the kids.

Updated: January 10, 2019 12:09 PM

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