Success does not just come and find you, you have to go out and get it. Lynne Akkawi, Founder & CEO of Prime Owners Association Management Services believes that success is an individualistic virtue for most people and depends on a case-by-case basis, which makes it hard to quantify most of the time. However, she says that success for her is about being happy and fulfilled in life and doing what she loves. It’s also about making a positive impact on the industry where she has devoted her time, energy, and passion. “Additionally, I feel that success should never be a static target and it grows along with your ambitions and maturity,” states Lynne.
Leading a company to success isn’t an easy road to take
“Starting PAM wasn’t so much a leap of faith but a natural progression in my career,” says Lynne. While growing up she always looked up to her father who built and ran his own business. He always nurtured their entrepreneurial spirit and encouraged them to get out of their comfort zone, by pushing them to try new things. Lynne has always tried to live by these principles, so when RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Agency) in Dubai released the first guidelines which govern the jointly owned properties in Dubai, she jumped at the opportunity to become one of the first companies in the community management space. However, building PAM was easier said than done and she certainly faced many challenges getting it to the size it is today.
Big success does not come without big challenges
With PAM being one of the early debutants to come out after guideline Law No. 27 of 2007, there were many roadblocks and challenges they needed to overcome before they made their name a mainstay in the market. In the beginning, it seemed like they had to fight for every inch of progress and growth. From the outset, developers did not want to work with them and they struggled to get building contracts. When they finally signed their first contracts, they had to acclimate owners to their new rights and obligations under the regulation, which brought along with-it teething issues.
“In addition to all those challenges, being a woman in an industry dominated by men made me feel like an outsider and I felt like I had to work twice as hard as my peers,” she says. However, with the authorities’ support and guidance (specifically RERA), these challenges became smaller as the years passed and Lynne learnt that no matter how tough things can get, persistence always pays off.
PAM’s contribution in redefining OA space
Lynne strongly attributes their successful growth to its data-driven approach relation to problem-solving. She claims they recognized early on that incorporating IT technologies in their company workflow eased the burden on staff allowing them to enhance communications internally and externally and to improve work efficiency by generating data, records, and measuring performance. This has always been the ethos of prime. Although unintentional, this approach helped them cope with the covid pandemic.
Despite all businesses and industries being affected by covid, she says that they feel they mitigated the impact on prime and didn’t suffer the growing pains of rapid digitization. This is due to their tech-first approach since day one. Even with digitalization and their infrastructure, this did not ease the personal impact and morale of the staff, especially since some positions require a physical presence in the communities (such as asset managers/supervisors). “Our biggest takeaway from the pandemic was learning the necessity of flexibility while ensuring all government COVID guidelines were followed to the tee. Additionally, we tried to keep resident spirits up during these trying times by hosting online activities, events, and competitions across the communities on PAM’s website,” explains Lynne.
Recognition received as a leader
Lynne started her career in the Banking industry and was eventually drawn by the evolving real estate market in Dubai. While working in real estate she started in real estate brokerage, and she made her way to property development and then property management to finally community management. “I think that the most standout moment during my career was after months of toil I managed to sign my first contract with only three staff members in a small office,” she states.
Responsibilities as founder & CEO of PAM
Lynne, who describes herself as a ‘persistent’ person states that having crossed industries and moving from a development to a management role, she has never been comfortable staying stagnant in her career. She started her career in the banking sector working on granting syndicated loans for major projects in the region. This is when she developed her passion for real estate; of course, being in the banking and investment sector helped her build relationships and experience in the field.
Her last job before starting Prime Owners Association Management was as a business development manager working closely with lawyers at Madania, a subsidiary of Al Tamimi investment company. “I feel that the skills and experience I accrued along the way have helped me in my day-to-day operations of PAM. As the owner of PAM and for the first few years, I had to wear multiple hats; Lawyer, business developer and operations manager. These skills didn’t come naturally to me but were instead learnt across my years of experience in different industries,” Lynne says.
Maintaining Work-life Balance
Something that Lynne learnt later than she admits is the importance of work-life balance. Being a mother of two, while trying to maintain a personal life and build a career took its toll on her in the early years. Very recently she has learnt the virtues of scheduling time off to focus on herself. “I found the most effective thing to do was to split my weekend in half, this allows me to regenerate during the week and clear my mind for a busy week ahead,” she says. Lynne feels happy that the conversations about burnout and work-life balance are becoming more accepted, as she believes it’s more of a widespread issue than we give it credit for.
As for motivating the PAM team, Lynne has always tried to maintain an open-door policy in the office and encouraged any of the staff to come to her to not only talk about their problems but develop themselves and achieve their career goals. She has always considered PAM as a big family and believes that the success of any company is attributed to all members of its staff.
Plans for the future of PAM
As far as their future is concerned, Lynne feels that they have left their mark on the Owners Association market in Dubai and have more plans for internal and strategic growth in the market. Additionally, they are setting their eyes on new evolving markets to expand their expertise.
On a personal level, she is inclined to say that she has achieved everything she initially set out to accomplish and more. However, as she mentioned previously, success should never be measured as a stationary goal, instead, it is something that grows with you. “As for my current expectations of PAM, I cannot read the future, but I can say that I feel that we are on the right trajectory and have exciting projects in the pipeline,” she explains.
To those aspiring to be business leaders, Lynne recommends that you have to try hard even if you face challenges and not be afraid of failure because failure is never absolute and most times you can learn more about why something failed than why it became successful.