Dariush Soudi is the founder and managing director of Be Unique Group, a Dubai-based social media, PR and marketing consultancy aimed at small to medium enterprises (SMEs). The Iranian-born, British citizen, 48, moved to Dubai with his wife and four children in 2009.
Describe your financial journey so far.
My financial journey started the minute I realised the only way I was going to get money for the things I wanted as a kid was not from my parents in the form of pocket money; instead I was going to have to earn it. I became entrepreneurial at a very young age. I also had to pay my way as long as I lived at home, so I made a contribution to the family purse. Becoming an entrepreneur meant I steered away from academia, but it has never held me back. I have always been in charge of my own destiny. Of course, I also learnt a few lessons. Now in my mid-40s, I see the value of opportunities, even in down times. I have lived through recessions, and I pride myself that while many were leaving their cars at Dubai airport I was here trying to make a go of it.
Are you a spender or saver?
I am pretty much both. I have always liked nice things and so, yes, I do indulge. Some things in life are essential and I have learnt in business there are a lot of essentials. It’s all about balance, and when you are building a business, some things have to take a back seat. However, I try to be modest.
What is your philosophy towards money?
It really is all about balance and spending your money wisely.
Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?
Oh sure, who hasn’t? I’ve swung between living life like Rockefeller and rolling with the good times, and not paying attention to the details. Then I have also learnt by not investing enough when I really needed too. Fortunately, I have never really lost big and always bounced back. One time I invested everything on a business plan and it just fizzled out, leaving me high and dry. It wasn’t fun sitting in an airport lounge thinking “where do I go from here”. But it was literally there, in that moment, I conceived the idea for my new business. Sometimes you have to come out of your comfort zone to be able to make a change. Learning by your mistakes is not too bad a deal as long as you do learn.
If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?
Now, I would most definitely invest it in the business. But I have one true passion which is yet to be fulfilled and that is my dream to build a museum dedicated to the great Mohammed Ali. I was inspired a few years ago and got very close indeed to making the dream a reality. I got to meet my hero in Las Vegas and then it all went [wrong]. Having met the man, I feel like a museum would be a lasting legacy. If I ever find an investor willing to partner with me – that’s exactly what I would do.
What has been your best investment?
Three answers. One – the investment of time and love and energy into my family. Secondly the investment and heartache that I made to keep going in the humble days when I was selling vacuum cleaners for a living. I never quit and I attribute the personal investment I made at that stage of my life as a real turning point. Lastly, the investment in my current business is extremely rewarding. My passion is really to help other SMEs and executives to do well. If they are prepared to step out of their comfort zones I can help them to build profitability. It’s a skill I have honed my whole career.
What do you enjoy spending money on?
It’s not about things any more, it’s about experiences.