December Spotlight Suki Van Den Berg MD Club Exec UAE

1.Tell us about you, your experience and time in the Middle East.

I started out my career in the UAE working as cabin crew for Emirates Airline, where I was the Treasurer for the F.A.C.E Card. After  years 8 with Emirates, I made the brave move of establishing Club Exec with the aim of offering similar benefits to cabin crew outside of the Emirates group. Using my experience and pulling on aspects of my Bachelors degree in Finance, I found myself running the business single handed for the first few years. Our team has grown over time and I am proud to say that Club Exec turns 10 this coming year! It has not all been smooth sailing and there are many challenges facing the smaller SMEs in the Middle East, but Club Exec has offered me the flexibility to work around spending time with family and achieving a work-life balance.

2. How would you describe the culture of your business?

Involved is probably the best way to describe us. Any small business like ours relies heavily on communication and team work, so whilst each of us has a defined role, it’s not uncommon for us to step into each others’ shoes from time to time. We’re a health and lifestyle company so we like to keep our team healthy and have the occasional office challenge going on our Fit Bits! Does it get a bit chaotic at times? Of course it does! But that’s the way it is in most small businesses, and that’s generally a sign that things are going well.

3. How easy is it for you to get direct access to the decision makers in your company?

Myself and my business partner make any major business decisions, so I’d have to say it’s pretty easy. Reaching out to decision makers in other companies can be a challenge though – sometimes it’s a case of if you don’t have an international brand behind your name, people don’t want to know, even if you’re offering something amazing. Perseverance is the key, and when dealing with other companies often it’s the team members lower down the food chain that don’t pass on the message to decision makers to let them make a decision in the first place, it can be quite frustrating at times.

4. What are your biggest challenges in the next 5 years?

We’re just about to publish our mobile application, so I’d have to say that growing the business ‘online’ and tracking member behaviour to make the programme better is definitely top of our priorities and without a doubt there will be a series of challenges along the way! We’ve recently launched Club Exec in Al Ain and opened up to a wider Arabic speaking demographic, so offering our product bilingually and adapting to meet the needs of our membership base in different regions. We also never take what we offer for granted, member preferences change and expectations change over time. We’re tuning in to these expectations so that we can grow and change with them.

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