"I wanted to help. I wanted to use what I knew to change lives – not a whole town or city or global population perhaps, but I wanted to make a difference with what I knew, what I had learned over the years in my work life. Think of it as payback."
Cyba Audi, a serial storyteller, is, by her own admission, on her ‘third life’ having had two different careers before founding her successful communications agency, Saba Consultants. But each step she has taken has informed or inspired the next, just like the acts of any great story.
“I started off as a banker,” says Cyba. “I worked in London for eight years before I moved to Dubai to work in television as a business news anchor, which I greatly enjoyed and in which i found a lot of success and celebrity. Six years on, I was the Arab world’s premiere business news anchor, and the big markets boom came to a halt. The rising tide that lifted all boats ebbed with the global financial crisis taking hold and planting fear and skepticism in people’s hearts. I considered how i could combine my knowledge of finance with my newly discovered skills and talents in media to help, to affect permanent change. So I quit television and started my consultancy in communication and reputation building. In the studio, I was the recipient of the story, as a consultant I help companies tell their stories.”
The knowledge economy
Cyba’s knowledge of multiple industries and her tenacity as a journalist have both been invaluable tools in helping her to set up her business. During the financial crisis of 2008 and beyond, many people with little or no media training found themselves thrust into the spotlight and facing difficult questions. Saba Communications had the skills to help. “Journalists made up their stories about Dubai,” she remembers, “their own versions of the truth, because official statements from Dubai’s government were just not coming. I wanted to help the city I had lived in (happily) for almost 7 years. The only way I knew how was to offer my expertise. If I know something you can benefit from, is it not better to share it and communicate it, so that you benefit too?”
The Challenges are Personal
Despite her powerful reputation and respect amongst Dubai’s business community and beyond, Cyba still faced difficulties in setting up her own business, just like any entrepreneur. “The challenges were both personal and practical,” says Cyba, “practical in the sense that I had no previous experience running a business. Nor did I know much about being a consultant, or the ways of the industry I had selected to be my new pasture. I learned on the job. I was adamant I was going to do something well, and I was going to do it ten times better – at least – than how it’s done now. I read and read and I learned.”
Cyba’s self-belief has also helped her overcome the personal doubts she encountered when building her consultancy. “The challenges were – and continue to be – also personal. It is the conversation you have in your head, telling yourself you will never see another piece of business after the one you are about to deliver, and then proceeding to convince yourself that is all nonsense and finding a hundred reasons why the truth of the matter is the exact opposite and how you should get up and make the truth happen again today. I may have been told off as a child for being stubborn, as a grown up I found tenacity a great ally.”
Encouragement, support and energy
As a mother of two grown daughters who now have their own careers, Cyba is passionate about supporting other women in the work place, helping them grow professionally and personally. Saba Consultants currently employs 10 women, many of who are mothers.
“Women rock!” says Cyba, when talking about her team. “Some [of the team] are smart fresh graduates who are open and absorb like sponges and flourish in a nurturing environment of amazing role models. Others are jugglers – we call them the mum-brigade. Some mums work from home and come to the office twice a week or as needed, others come into work at about 10:30 after dropping off at school, going back home, cooking the meal for when the kids come home from school, settling the baby, then zip over to the office for a solid 4-hour chunk of work. They can do that! The work gets done. Sometimes it gets done at 10 at night (because little one had the flu), and sometimes kids come to the office after school. But it all gets done! These women feel empowered because they are taking care of both parts of who they are. Where is a woman’s place? Anywhere she wants to be. Because when a woman feels fulfilled, she is a bottomless well of energy and giving.”