Money & Me: My business is my future

Zaid Al Mashari is the chief executive and co-founder of Proven Saudi Arabia, an eight-year-old business that helps companies enter the Saudi market. The Saudi national, 34, moved to Dubai two years ago when Proven opened its UAE office; it also has offices in Dallas and London.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

My family weren’t poor, but certainly not rich. I am one of nine children, so we grew up on a tight budget, no luxuries. We just lived on what we needed and were comfortable and happy with that. My upbringing taught me to try to live within my means.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

A modest 2,500 Saudi riyals [a month] (Dh2,448). It was out of university, in an office helping with administrative tasks. It was my first real taste of corporate life. Today I am grateful that it gave me an understanding of working your way up.

Are you a spender or saver?

I don’t have a saving mindset. When I lived in Saudi Arabia, I didn’t spend too much; there is a real spending culture here in Dubai. Having said that, I spend far more on my family. I go back to Riyadh a couple of times a month and take pleasure in spoiling my mother, nieces and nephews. There isn’t much of a saving culture in Saudi Arabia. We have a state pension system in the kingdom – each employee pays nine per cent of their salary, matched by their employer. Saudis often rely on this for retirement.

What is your most cherished purchase?

Holidays: memories and experiences are gifts you can treasure, more than material things. I have travelled to Vietnam, the Seychelles, Hong Kong, London and Singapore in the past two years. These trips are about enjoying life – there is no price on that.

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

Yes, it was a struggle when I was just starting out. I had to sell my car to pay the bills at one point. When I set up Proven Saudi Arabia in 2009, I didn’t have enough capital. I was working full time as well as launching my company. It was a struggle.

Where do you save?

I don’t have a savings account but I certainly invest in my companies. I pay myself a modest monthly salary and all profit is fed back into the company.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

Credit card. I don’t like to see cash leave my hand. Paying by card helps me keep an eye on my outgoings, as well as gaining perks such as Skywards miles. I have credit cards in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which I pay off in full each month.

What has been your best investment?

Proven SA. It has benefited my financial and personal life, allowing me independence. And opening in the UAE was a great move, as it meant we had more visibility, and our clients had on-the-ground support in both countries.

What do you most regret spending money on?

I booked a Maldives holiday – one of the most expensive ones I have made. It was a four-day trip in a supposedly five-star, luxury hotel and, sadly, it was a terrible experience. The hotel was terrible, service lazy and the food almost inedible.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

Only spend on what you need, not what you want. If you do that, the returns will be greater in the future.

Do you have a plan for the future?

For my business, yes: I want to grow globally, diversify the services we currently offer and become the business services market leader for Saudi Arabia. For personal finances, no. The business is my investment. I haven’t started planning my savings yet.

If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?

I would give it to my mother – she would enjoy that.

What would you raid your savings account for?

I don’t have much in the way of traditional savings so I would perhaps launch a new business venture.

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