To be a leader means being someone’s guiding light in their path to success. To be a leader means sowing seeds of excellence, commitment, and persistence, and watering them with trust, compassion, and acknowledgment. To be a leader means sharing the fruits of labor with all those who have plowed through thick and thin.
Leadership is not just a title anymore. From the top to the bottom of an organization’s hierarchy, every individual is expected to possess leadership skills irrespective of whether their job description mentions it or not. Pertaining to the same, The Influential Business Leaders to Watch, brings you a list of individuals who have exhibited their profound leadership skills and have driven their respective companies towards exponential success.
One such significant leader, featuring on the cover of this edition, is Jenny Hunt, the Founding Partner and CEO of Gateway Group of Companies. Jenny has experience of working with the British Business Group in Abu Dhabi for several years, initially as the Events Secretary and later as Deputy Chairman. The aim of this organization is to help British companies to conduct business in Abu Dhabi and to provide appropriate networking opportunities.
Jenny is a bestselling author for her eBook, Gateway To Abu Dhabi; How to expand your business into the capital of the UAE, published on Amazon Kindle – which she wrote to help companies wanting to expand into Abu Dhabi. She has also been in Forbes’ Top 100 Most Influential Women In The Middle East. This year, Jenny was credited as one of the Top 20 CEOs in the GCC and features in the book: Learn From The Top 20.
When asked about her definition of leadership, Jenny says, “Leadership is having a vision to innovate and the courage to make changes. A determination to be out in front and driven by results. Constantly developing and improving in every way possible, from providing better customer service, to a leader developing their own knowledge and skills; and, from empowering and nurturing employees to creating faster and better products and services.”
When it comes to possessing the ideal characteristics of a leader, Jenny believes that an individual must be authentic and guided by their personal values and integrity. He/she should not be afraid to take calculated risks, can make decisions, and delivers on their promises, no matter what obstacles obstruct their route
She adds that a leader’s passion, enthusiasm, and determination must rally those around them to find solutions, implement, and deliver. Ultimately, a leader must possess the charisma and power to engage and influence whilst improving the lives of others and their own.
With a strapline that says, ‘Reassuringly Honest’, the Gateway Group of Companies help individuals and companies to get licensed to do business in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. They provide a diverse range of services around company formations, including mainland, free zone, mid-shore, and offshore companies.
“Our approach is very different. We don’t have a team of salespeople driven by commission. Instead, we have a consultative approach. We start with a discovery session to understand what the organization is wanting to do and what its long term plans are,” states Jenny.
The information that the company gains from the discovery enables it to propose the best route forward for that organization’s specific circumstances. It always suggests what is in the client’s best interest based upon what they are trying to achieve.
UAE mainland companies are currently required to have a local sponsor. Gateway Group addresses this requirement by providing a corporate nominee local sponsor service. In addition to its corporate nominee local sponsor service, the company has an exclusive Platinum service where the structure is British-owned rather than being Emirati-owned, but still meets the requirements for being such a sponsor.
This Platinum service is particularly popular with companies that have British or Commonwealth ties because there is a sense of familiarity, no language barriers, understanding of colloquialisms, etc. Gateway Group understands that when companies expand internationally, they are searching for familiarity and tend to congregate and do business with others from their nationality for ease. Hence this Platinum corporate nominee local sponsor service ticks those boxes.
In addition to company formation services, Gateway Group also helps with on-going corporate services related to government transactions, such as visas and Emirates ID cards, approvals, permits, registrations. Locally these are known as PRO services.
“Our ethos is all about speed of implementation and clear communications. We use our on-the-ground knowledge and experience to expedite our services and interactions with government departments. Our clients are informed about the document requirements, timescales, and the processes at the outset so that they know what to expect and can plan accordingly,” Jenny adds.
Talking about the challenges that she came across throughout her career, Jenny says, “As a business leader I face challenges all the time – finding solutions to overcome them is part of everyday life. Part of doing that successfully is being able to make decisions quickly too.”
When Jenny initially started Gateway, she did all the work herself, including the processing of documents and applications through government departments. “In hindsight, I should have started to employ a team around me quicker than I did. At the time I thought I was saving myself money by not hiring staff and doing the work myself; however, really it was costing me money as I ended up working in the business rather than focusing on bringing more business into the company,” Jenny expresses.
There have also been times in Jenny’s journey when she has felt overwhelmed and, in some instances, not known what to do, so she has engaged business coaches to help her out. “I have worked with different coaches and learned along the way; but now I have a team of different coaches to help with different aspects of the business, e.g. a marketing guru to help with all aspects of marketing; and business gurus to help with all sorts of things, from setting up deals, sales, operations, etc. These are all people who have significant experience behind them and are well-positioned to be able to work with me.”
Jenny chooses her coaches based upon their results and has worked with the likes of George Ross, Donald Trump’s right-hand man and real estate lawyer for over 40 years; Fred Fishback, the billionaire online learning solutions guru; and JT Foxx, the World’s No.1 Wealth & Business Coach, to name just a few. “I think it is essential to constantly be learning and to surround yourself with people who know more than you and have more experience,” she adds.
Intrinsic motivation is what keeps us afloat in challenging times. For Jenny, being self-sufficient and ensuring she is protected are her key motivators. It is also what she strives to achieve for her clients too and ultimately why she started Gateway.
“It is extremely hard when someone you trust betrays you, especially after all your hard work and effort,” says Jenny. That is one of the reasons why she is motivated to help Gateway’s clients by providing a secure local sponsor service so that they know they have full control of their business and their profits through a structured, nominee relationship and they are protected.
Sharing her opinion on the current landscape of business in the UAE, taking into consideration the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jenny says, “We are in a very strange era of extremes at the moment. Some companies have been forced to close, others have been forced to adapt, but some lucky ones are absolutely thriving. It really depends on what industry your business is in, as to how you are affected.
It has been heart-warming to read how entrepreneurs and small businesses have adapted to make the most of the pandemic and stay afloat, in some instances, totally transforming their businesses. The pandemic has really pushed creativity and collaboration and that will certainly continue moving forward.
Given that Gateway helps companies to expand into both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, it will be interesting to see how the pandemic affects organizations’ decisions about where to expand to. Those who are switched on will not only be looking at the opportunities, ease of doing business, and the general business environment, but they will also be looking at how the governments in those respective countries handled and continue to handle the pandemic in terms of both keeping their people safe and keeping the economy going. I think the UAE stands to gain massively in terms of attracting FDI based upon this additional risk management box-ticking exercise.”
We asked Jenny about her way of leading the company and how she drives it towards success every day, to this she says, “My leadership style is to give the team around me the empowerment and the freedom to excel in the areas which they are good at. I am not a micro-manager – attention to detail is important to me and critical in our line of business, but we have systems and processes in place to ensure quality control.”
Jenny says that the Gateway team is the real front-liners as they are the ones coordinating all of the company’s work and usually know of changing requirements before Jenny and in such instances would put the necessary measures in place to handle any changes.
Jenny takes pride in how the Gateway team has really grown alongside the company. “I can honestly say that each staff member has flourished in their own way, learned amply, and taken on more responsibilities. I am so proud of each of them. Empowering them gives them the confidence to strive forward and the result is that both they and our clients benefit,” she adds.
Employee welfare is extremely important to Jenny. She believes that we should treat people how we would like to be treated. Pertaining to the same she has tried to create a working environment that she would love to work in as an employee.
Jenny likes to think that the Gateway Group is a very fair employer. “We have never lost a member of our Gateway Family, even when they have been approached with higher salaries. I am extremely proud of this and I think that says a lot about the environment we try to create. I want each team member to be happy and enjoy what they do. They each know that their contribution makes an impact on the company, so they can see the value that they add,” Jenny expresses.
Talking about what the future holds for her team and the Gateway Group, Jenny says, “Very generally speaking, as I can’t divulge too much until things happen, the plan is to continue to build the Gateway brand and empire. To continue to be strong support for our clients in the UAE, sticking to our values. We will also continue to diversify into new sectors and territories.”