Saving for a rainy day is even more relevant today
Retail Director of Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, Muna Al Gurg, sits down to talk savings, start-ups and success with us today!
We’ve profiled a lot of amazing UAE Saves Week ambassadors and picked their brains for all things saving, budgeting and even those tales of troublesome times which we all face in life. Today, we sit down with Muna Al Gurg, a woman whose career reads like a step-by-step ‘how to make it in business’. From interning at Saatchi and Saatchi to moving up through the ranks of her family’s business, Muna’s presence in the workplace is a testament to itself. However, it is her tireless work as chairwoman of Young Arab Leaders UAE amongst various other charitable organisations that really inspires us to go further – in every facet of life! We hope you glean as many pearls of wisdom from her profile as we did…
We'd love to ask you about your work with YAL and your charity foundation Easa Saleh Al Gurg, but let's start at the beginning. How did you start out along your career path? When I first graduated I was determined to get into a listed global advertising agency. It took me 6 months to get my internship with Saatchi & Saatchi after not hearing from others! This really taught from the start that I need to work hard on my goals and that the path to success is definitely not a walk in the park.
As you say, you began at Saatchi and Saatchi - such a prestigious name so early in your career! What was it like working for such a huge company when you were just starting out? Really exciting, particularly for a fresh graduate. I got to work on market research for some incredible brands and dive into the learning experience. This later helped me learn about how to deal with an agency, as when I went onto the Al Gurg Group I was on the clients’ side working on marketing our brands.
What would your advice be for any young people trying to get into bigger companies early on in their careers? Find yourself a mentor early on; this will help in guiding you successfully and will help you set contacts in place who are at large organizations. Internships at big companies offer practical learning skills to young graduates. Do not be afraid to ask questions, learn new skills and try to find mentors that can guide you within the organization. Make sure you always focus on your end goal when things get tough.
In those early years building yourself as a businesswoman, what was the toughest challenge you faced? How did you overcome it? Many people first thought I was young and when I joined our family business had a pre-conception that I may want to be the boss from day one and so were hesitant to accept my ideas. This, of course, wasn’t the case - I started my career on the shop front and worked my way up. I always was approachable and constantly communicated to everyone, bottom-up. With time, many managers realised that I genuinely had good ideas that could positively influence our company and that my main focus is to constantly re-invent our brands.
What's the best piece of financial advice you've ever been given? Without risk there is no reward so make sure you invest enough in planning.
What were the early lessons you learnt about money growing up? The notion of saving has been a part of my life since I was a child – my parents planted the idea in my head and it stuck. When my daughter was very young I made sure she saved and spent only from her own money, so I would give her a weekly allowance. I remember my friends were shocked to see how she saved for 3 months to buy a basketball! This has really benefited her and now as young adult she is careful about her savings.
What is the best piece of financial advice you'd give to our community? Saving for a rainy day is even more relevant today when currencies fall and markets take a tumble. Smart investments and long term financial planning remain the key words.
You do so much work with young people and start-ups, entrepreneurs and so on. What is the main piece of advice you give them on how to make their business a success? Age is of no consequence when looking at becoming an entrepreneur. Dreams and the burning desire to achieve them are the main traits needed – persevere no matter what.
Why is UAE Saves Week important to you? At a time when people have become incredibly brand conscious and are living beyond their means by taking out huge loans, UAE Saves Week brings to the fore factors that impact our daily lives and the future. More importantly, it educates people on simple everyday aspects of saving related to finance, resources and the environment – this can make a big difference to our end of year budget and many times people are unaware of these simple changes.
Where do you cutback first when you need to budget yourself? One of my first cutbacks is saving on the environment – so water and electricity. I also always make sure I have a good cash savings that will make a big difference in case I go through a tough time. I achieve this by setting up an automatic bank transfer into my savings account every month.
How important do you think financial education is nowadays? Do you believe there is enough opportunity for people to educate themselves about business, business ownership and finance? Basic financial education is a not a choice but a requirement in today’s economic environment. There are a lot of seminars and workshops through good business schools for people to educate themselves about all aspects of a business and finance. Organizations such as Young Arab Leaders are always open to providing guidance and mentoring for those interested in creating their own path in the business/finance world.
You are such an inspiration to so many. Who is YOUR biggest inspiration? I really look up to Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the IMF – a strong woman who is focused on her goals (which are incredibly challenging) and yet always has a smile on her face. She is the person I would like to be!
Why not join Muna and take a photo of your goals – what will you be putting YOUR energy towards? Make a list of goals, snap a pic and upload it to the gallery!