Abdullah Azhari, Managing Director, Saudi Icon
The Gulf Entrepreneur got the opportunity to feature Abdullah Azhari as one of the most influential entrepreneurs from Saudi Arabia to watch in 2022. We want to tell his story to inspire fellow entrepreneurs in the country. This feature will focus on his business journey, value-creation through his company, and his approach to business.
Interview with Abdullah Azhari
- What was your life like before you began your entrepreneurial journey? What experience shaped you to become an entrepreneur?
I grew up in a family where entrepreneurship was the only way of life. My father often said: ‘I have never worked for anyone in my life’. This had a profound impact on our family where we are 5 sibling entrepreneurs. After graduating from university, I worked in Turner Construction Company where I learned a great deal in the US and then moved to Saudi Arabia in 2010. I worked for my father’s contracting business for one year then moved to an engineering consulting company in Riyadh. While I was in that company, I was tasked with setting up a new manufacturing business for the owners where I found myself responsible for people and involved in decision making. During that time, my entrepreneurial drive pushed me to be involved in a Food and Beverage startup for a catering company. All of these experiences and my hunger for independence, success and creating opportunities led me to where I am today.
- What were the initial challenges and setbacks that you faced and how did you overcome them?
The toughest challenges during the startup phase was cash. I quickly learned that cash is the most valuable asset for any business and especially startup companies. We began to obsess about customer acquisition and cash in order to ensure to provide the business with the best chance to survive and thrive. The other tough challenge in the Saudi market was always talent.
- Take us through the journey that led you to start Saudi Icon Company & shed some light on your company’s key services?
I started this business by chance. I was given an opportunity and I grabbed it. My sister, who is the owner of a fashion retail business with franchises from the US, had an expansion plan in 2014 where they needed to open 10 stores in on year. This was a challenge for them as their previous store count was only 2 stores and they had significant issues in finding the right contractor in terms of quality and price. The importance of having the right level of execution and quality for their expansion was very evident from the brands and where the market was going. I was tasked to do all 10 stores and successfully delivered them on time and under budget. This is how the company was born. Today we employ around 900 people and our services cover design, interior design, architecture, design and build, fit-out, project management and we have a specialization in joinery and metal works. We are a leading construction company with a vast experience in high-end and luxury fit-out projects
- How would you define true entrepreneurship? What values are most important to you as a leader?
True entrepreneurship for me is about enablement of others and creating opportunities for professional and personal growth. I love what I do the most when I can see the difference that I am able to make in people’s lives. The most important values for me as a leader are honesty, integrity and humility.
- Tell us more about your company culture. What motivates you and your employees to come to work every day?
I believe that we have an excellent culture that is based on hard work and grit. We are innovative in our approach to what we do and that is a key element of our success. We continue to improve and evolve our working model and people. We also consider ourselves as a big family.
- Where do you see yourself in the upcoming years? What’s your piece of advice for young entrepreneurs?
I would like to get to a place where I am no longer a doer but a thinker. I believe that I have excellent ideas and opportunities to empower more people and to create much more value. As for young entrepreneurs, my advice is to never stop, be held back or stop trying. I always tell my team that there are 1,000 solutions to every problem.
Founding Year: 2014