chapter  6
12 Pages

The Meaning and Centrality of Work

In the fi rst half of the twentieth century, life and the establishment of businesses were diffi cult for pioneer Arabian businessmen. This point was clearly made by one of the most infl uential businesspersons in the Kingdom, Sulaiman Al-Olayan. In an interview with Al-iktisad (Economy) in 1989, Al-Olayan, who lost his father at the age of four, described his life from his childhood spent in poverty to his present status as a billionaire with a huge investment portfolio spanning continents and a range of growing businesses. Al-Olayan attributed his business success to his intrinsic love of work that he characterized as his life; for Al-Olayan, without work there is no life. Other forerunners in the Arab world of business-achievement-oriented businesspeople who came from modest beginnings such as Hussein Gazzaz, Saleh Abdullah Kamel, and Abdulraman Al-Khurayefalso credited the making of their fortune and fame to hard work and persistence. These pioneers, in considering their rising infl uence and exceptional success in the marketplace within a short period of time, stressed the depth and scope of the struggle they had to go through to ultimately prove themselves and gain the trust of customers and the ruling family. For example, the founder of Al-Khurayef Brothers Co. started by selling dates in an open market. Within a few years, his business diversifi ed and, under his sons, the company has become one of the leading corporations in the Kingdom. The senior manager of the company, Abdulraman Al-Khurayef, attributes their success to determination, persistence, and optimism, which he summarized as “transparency, efforts and faith.” However, he acknowledges that the assistance and support provided by Prince Suleiman Ben Abdulaziz to his father was critical for sustaining their growth. Likewise, Hussein Gazzaz (1989), the Kingdom’s most famous perfume merchant, stressed that commitment to work, reputation, and responsible and moral behavior were the most important aspects that led to his outstanding success.