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How I got here.. House of Pizza restaurant owner Hisham Ibrahim

How I got here.. House of Pizza restaurant owner Hisham Ibrahim

Hisham Ibrahim details his journey to owning and managing his own restaurant

Education

I studied medical laboratory technology at Lebanese University – a choice based on the direction my family thought my career should take. My love for travel and engaging with different cultures, however, propelled me to enter the world of hospitality and I went on to earn a diploma in travel and tourism in Canada. I broadened the spectrum of my knowledge and experience in the field by undertaking a variety of workshops and courses in business development, leadership and customer service.

My start

At the age of 25, I immigrated to Canada in search of a better life. I worked many jobs in gas stations, restaurants, travel agencies and hospitality in order to make a living and pay my tuition fees. These around-the-clock shifts finally paid off when my boss offered me a managerial position in one of Canada’s largest petroleum companies, Petro-Canada. That was a turning point in my life and there was no looking back. Soon I owned a petrol station, which kick started my entrepreneurial career. The biggest advantage of being self-employed was having flexibility and freedom of time. The biggest challenge was working with employees from a variety of cultural backgrounds, although gaining an understanding of their cultures broadened my horizons and was another learning curve.

Approach

Being sincere, passionate, and living among people from all over the world gave me a new perspective on life. It built my character and strengthened my values. A sure way to succeed with your business is to really listen to your employees and give them a chance to freely voice their opinion. Their insights can be important to your business and you can learn a lot from even the newest employee. I also try to be humble and hands-on. When we were putting together the House of Pizza team in Dubai, I personally interviewed each and every person with no assistance from a recruitment agency. I took them shopping for restaurant tools, utensils, glassware and uniforms. My staff choose most of the items they work with.

Highs and lows

My career did not have the greatest start. I struggled in the early years to find a footing and make ends meet. So a high point was my breakthrough with Petro-Canada, which opened up many opportunities and led to me becoming an entrepreneur. During my time at the company I won two president’s awards for achieving business excellence and great team leadership. Another high point was when I acquired House of Pizza from a retiring chef. The place needed a complete overhaul and aggressive marketing, which came at a great cost. I took a big loan from the bank that took two years of hard work to pay back completely. The result – another high – was that my business became a great success.

Dos and don’ts

If a good friend or a member of the family is a business partner, do not let personal biases, rivalries or emotions cloud your professional decision-making. People close to us can be the best choice when it comes to starting a business but there is a thin line between the personal and the professional which should be clearly defined at all times. Do be adventurous, be brave and test new waters. Bringing House of Pizza to Dubai was one the best decisions I ever made because I am a strong proponent of diversification and change. As such, one ‘don’t’ is do not fall into a routine – it eats into the potential a business may have and acts as a silent killer. Do adapt to your surroundings with agility. Dubai is a role model for fast-paced growth and is the world’s new hub. To be a successful entrepreneur here it is essential to keep yourself updated about the latest in your industry. I do so by attending all important events including food shows, festivals, business conferences, and related workshops.

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