Find out how this family units rock the business world A strong family relationship provides a building block for a home. Imagine what that can do in a business?
Names: Nawaf Droubi & Alaa Husseini
Business: UCCL (United Constructors Contracting Co.)
Nawaf and Alaa are connected by blood and business. The cousins are part of a construction empire founded by Nawaf’s father Tarek Droubi and uncle, Samer Droubi during the late ’80s in Jeddah. It’s responsible for developments such as Vox Cinemas and Rovan Tower.
Nawaf walked us through how he became the main pillar of his family’s legacy. “Growing up, watching my dad at work, and how he was his own boss, and even though it was very stressful at times, with lots of responsibilities, it felt as if he was free from the typical office job. That inspired me to be the same, which is why I decided to be a civil engineer, and then later join the family business. Today, the company is run by the founders, as well as my older brother Ziad, myself, and my cousin Alaa.”
Alaa, however, joined later. After he graduated from University in 2014, he joined the Saudi Binladin Group for a while. The switch to the family business wasn’t as easy as he had anticipated. Alaa commented, “I had imagined that working with family would be easier and more comfortable, only to later find out that it was probably one of the toughest jobs. I remember when first starting, it was extremely confusing having to be professional and formal with a family member who you’ve been extremely comfortable and informal with your whole life.”
Nawaf and Alaa agreed that one of the mutual challenges they face at UCCL is the generation gap. While it’s natural among businesses that are passed on through generations, Nawaf and Alaa shared another angle to their struggle.
Nawaf said, “While the older generation has the expertise and wisdom, the young generation is always trying to challenge practices in place, and the toughest part is conveying the mindset of each generation to come to terms between the two.” Alaa then added, “We’re young and enthusiastic and we think we’re always right, opposing opinions from the old guard sometimes seem like we are being overshadowed or unheard. Later, you come to learn that those decisions they made out of years of experience were on point, so you learn to listen more and sometimes let experience lead.”
The cousins also mentioned that another challenge they faced and had to work on is the family dynamic that occurs. It certainly takes time to disconnect their personal lives from their professional relationships, especially that the cousins live with their parents so it’s difficult to find their alone time and carefully separate relationships.
Alaa explained, “Our family is extremely close and we live together and are very much involved in each other’s lives, so the possibility of falling into groupthink is higher than average. You always need to keep an open mind and try not to fall into what could result in poor decisions.”
The secret ingredient to this family’s success is definitely communication. They’ve learned to speak their opinions and never hold anything back as a team. Nawaf commented by saying, “The reason we are successfully operational in times where many companies like us have already shut down is that we also respect hierarchy, and understand that not everything you want will happen. We must all respect the final decision, whether we agree or not, and acknowledge that we’re bound to make mistakes, as a group. No company is perfect, everyone has their own problems, and we are no different. But at the end of the day, we understand that we all have a common goal and commitment.”
“I was once told by someone that a table with two legs won’t stand, a table with four legs could wobble if its legs are uneven, but a table with three legs will always be stable no matter what. I find it a blessing that I work with my two cousins (and uncles), and I feel like we balance each other a way or another. Each one of us is good at something that completes the other, you know, checks and balances,” Alaa added.