The Making of a Woman Leader

How Niousha Ehsan embraced her role as the Chief Energy Officer and made the journey as rewarding as the destination for her team and herself

A dreamer teenager on a mission

My journey began at the age of 15. Dreaming of being my own boss and running my own business, I had decided that I would leave school to pursue this dream. Luckily, my parents indulged this notion and supported my idea of accelerating my studies on my own, which led to me sitting for my Grade 11 exams in a summer at the British Council.

The morning after my final exam submission, I asked my father if I could tag along to his meetings and have a try at selling his products. That decision was a turning point in my life and became the start of this great journey.

That day, the CEO of the company we were meeting turned to me and said that he was so impressed with my sales skills and offered me a job on spot. I was over the moon, but a bit hesitant as this was a trading company. I had a clear vision of what I want to do and expressed that I would like to work in the creative field.

Surprisingly enough, the CEO’s brother owned an Advertising & Marketing company with the renowned Al Habtoor group. A meeting was set and the next day, merely 16, I went for my first job interview.

The only vacancy was a secretary position, but I was determined not to say no to the opportunity and accepted the offer. I started the day after.

Having no practical experience in the business world, the first few days were challenging and hilarious at the same time. However, I was lucky that my boss appreciated my confidence and noticed that I am a fast learner, allowing me to continue working there. I worked hard and learnt from my mistakes. Three months later, I was promoted as a PA to my boss and a year later I was one of the successful account executives handling high profile clients.

I chose the path of my university studies based on my passion and the future I had envisioned for myself. Applying for a Bachelor’s program in Management and Marketing in Dubai, I was happy to be able to work fulltime while studying. This helped me pay my tuition in full and gain invaluable experience in the process as well.

In 2005, at age of 19, while studying, I met my future husband. Soon after, we got married and I said goodbye to my previous company to cofound a company with my husband. Our passion for professional and personal development, led us to start LINKVIVA, an Events Management company focused on bringing international public speakers to Dubai to help the community in a larger scale.

Growing fast and slow

I constantly remind myself of our humble beginnings and how we started in a shared desk in Dubai Media City and practically worked day and night through failures and successes in the first few years.

During our operations growth, we have changed 3 offices, every time upgrading to a bigger space and hiring more talent.

13 years later, we know have a team of 40 fulltime amazing and passionate employees and work on numerous exciting projects on any given day. We have moved to our new headquarters in Dubai Production City, which at 12,000 sq. ft. provides us with all the space we need to work and deliver great work while having fun in the process.

This rapid growth, however, came with its own challenges and lessons learned. In 2014, I found the team and myself feeling burned out, faced with high staff turnover rates and working unnecessarily long hours. It was at this point when I realised a change was necessary.

This realization led to one of our best decisions since we started LINKVIVA. Listening carefully to all the opposing opinions, I made an executive decision and hired a CFO and a business and growth coach.

Many SMEs get faced with deciding where to put their money as the budget is always a pressing factor. For us, however, hiring these senior members of the team brought massive improvements in our systems, processes and budget.

Today, we set clear strategic objectives and lay out a meticulous plan to reach them. But this doesn’t stop us from being agile in fine tuning our direction based on learnings and market movements.

Staying cognizant of the leadership role

I consider myself quite fortunate working with some of the most inspiring coaches and mentors who guided me and helped me expedite my progress as an effective leader. I was able to grow from boss to leader and eventually changing my title to Chief ‘Energy’ Officer.

To me, leadership is about empowering people, to let them make decisions, and be a part of the core conversation of the business. Transparency and safety to take initiatives and learn and do in the process is an integral part of how our team work with me.

This peer-leadership approach empowers people at all levels. No one person, myself included, has to know everything. We work together collectively and can make decisions at any given time.

Succeeding with no compromise

The business world and the markets we work are in constant state of flux and it is easy to get bogged down with the “noise” or the day to day minutia. In these years, we learned, sometimes the hard way, that no matter what the circumstances are, there are certain areas we shouldn’t be willing to compromise. I can only imagine that this would be the case for fellow SME leaders as well so I share my 3 key areas of no compromise:

  • To keep an eye on the numbers; Sustainable financial growth is one of our key objectives and a part of our DNA, helping us keep our eye on the ball and double our turnover year after year.
  • To deliver excellence in every stage of every project; Every project is treated as an opportunity to make a significant impact. We have processes in place that are on par with global organizations and we diligently measure our results leading to 80% of our business coming through referrals and maintaining a 92% client satisfaction rate.
  • To energize and acknowledge the team; We are in the service industry and I strongly believe that having a happy workforce transcends to happy clients. Employee acknowledgement is a crucial part of our culture and a huge contributor to aligning the entire team to work harmoniously towards a common goal.

Learning and Giving back what is owed

Both as a personal passion and to be able give back to the community, I became a Certified Life Coach® and NLP Coach® in 2016. Growing up with the same challenges and obstacles women face in their professional and personal lives, I strongly believe that there is so much more that women can accomplish and offer in the workplace.

We, as business women, should support and inspire each other and remind ourselves that we can achieve anything we want in life, regardless of where we come from, our family background and education.

This drives me every day to play my role in inspiring my fellow women, as I know from personal experience, that it is not always easy for women to have access to moral support, or expensive educational and coaching programs. That is why I started pro bono mentoring as my way of giving back. Empowering women and creating a lasting transformation in their lives went from being a passion for me to a mission in life and I continue to work on various CSR initiatives.

Learning and development is a rewarding and ongoing process. Having been locally selected as a member of Endeavour Global –a high impact entrepreneurship movement around the world– I continue to learn from some of the top-level executives from leading multinationals on how to become an effective leader, transform communities, and inspire other young leaders to achieve more success and recognition globally.

Niousha Ehsan – short Bio

Niousha Ehsan is one of the Top 50 GCC Women Leaders and a highly effective CEO with 13+ years of experience in the Events, Activations & MICE industry. She was awarded twice as CEO of the year.

As a Certified Life Coach® and NLP Coach®, she champions women empowerment by mentoring and coaching women entrepreneurs around the world as her way of giving back to the community.

In 2005, Niousha co-founded LINKVIVA, an integrated events management agency in Dubai. Fast forward to 2017, with Niousha’s leadership LINKVIVA was recognized as:

  • Middle East Event Awards (2014, 2015)
  • One of the Top 50 Event Companies in the world by Special Events Magazine USA
  • One of the Top 100 SMEs in the UAE with Niousha among the top 13 women SME leaders who lead their organizations toward excellence
  • The Great Place to Work Award, and
  • Most Improved Company of the Year in Business Vision Awards 2016.

Today, Niousha’s amazing team serves multinational brands, such as Emaar, DP World, JAFZA, Etisalat, 3M, Canon, Nestle, and Lenovo as well as UAE government entities, such as The Executive Council.

What distinguishes Niousha from other leaders is that she treats every project as an opportunity to make a significant impact, with an energizing peer-leadership approach and ability to empower people at all levels.

 

“Niousha is a self-made entrepreneur. She knows excelling at anything takes ambition, resilience, constant learning, falling, and standing up over and over again. This make her passionate about helping other young women to become successful learning from her successes and her failures.”

— Rajesh Nagjee, founder and CEO coach, CEO Business Growth Program

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