Best of British

09 Jan 2014
POSTED BY Y Magazine

Maggie Jeans, Owner and Director of Al Manahil International LLC and Coordinator at the British Business Forum

Could you tell us briefly about your career to date?

I arrived at Sultan Qaboos University from Bristol, UK in January 1990 where I had worked as an education officer in the College of Medicine. I was there for six very enjoyable years before becoming owner and Director of Al Manahil. We specialise in the wholesale import of books for the government and private sector. We also represent both Oxford and Cambridge University Press and many other publishers throughout the Sultanate. I’ve also been a coordinator at the British Business Forum (BBF) for 10 years now.

What does your role at the BBF entail?

I am part of a small team that works very closely with UK Trade and Investment, which is part of the British Embassy. It’s good to be part of something that’s a particularly useful networking forum for newcomers to Oman.  We often entertain visiting trade missions from the UK and also find sponsors and venues for each monthly meeting, although most of our events are now held in the Grand Hyatt Muscat hotel.  We’re also a point of contact for British business people visiting Oman.

What are the highlights and lowlights of being a BBF coordinator? 

Like most event organisers, I heave a sigh of relief when a meeting has gone well. It’s sometimes a struggle to find sponsors, particularly during the long hot months of summer when meetings are probably most appreciated by our members.

What has been significant for the BBF this past year and what do you think will be big this year? 

We were delighted that our website won the Oman Web Awards earlier in 2013 and our most exciting meeting was in November when we hosted the Red Arrows Display Team from the UK. During 2014 we need to capitalise more on the connections that arise from the BBF being part of a network of similar groups throughout the Gulf Region. This year, we’re also working on a series of recommendations, based on suggestions from members, to explore ways of making business in Oman easier, particularly for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

You’re also involved in other projects at the moment. Can you tell us a bit more about these?

Normally I’m involved each January with the annual European Business Persons Dinner. This year it’ll be a bit different as the dinner will provide the opportunity to network with members of the European, Australian, American and British business groups, as well as our Omani partners. The guest of honour will be HE Khalil Abdullah al Khonji, chairman of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Apart from the projects you’ve already mentioned, what are your hopes and aspirations for the New Year?

The BBF is gathering momentum and I hope it will continue to flourish. Networking is very important for a successful business.

When you’re not working, what do you like to do to unwind?

Music is very relaxing and I really enjoy going to the Royal Opera House Muscat.  I’m also interested in the environment, so I’m a Member of the Environment Society of Oman (ESO). I also enjoy reading, films, gardening, entertaining and seeing friends, walking with our Saluki dog, boating and swimming in the sea.

I also serve as Chargé de Mission for the Muscat Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the worldwide gastronomic association. The purpose of bringing this particular association to Oman is to spread fine cuisine and encourage young professionals working in the hospitality sector.

You’ve lived in Oman for a significant period. What do you enjoy most about the country?

We arrived in Oman exactly 24 years ago. The Sultanate was a very different place in 1990.  It’s been fascinating to witness the steady development of the country but the people remain the same, always gentle and friendly.  Like many people who have ‘stayed on’ in Oman, we also appreciate its natural beauty, particularly the coastline.

Describe your personality briefly.

Eternally optimistic, persistent and outgoing.

Maggie’s top tips for people trying to make it in business in Oman

  • Oman is a challenging place to do business because it’s a relatively young country and you have to be very determined to succeed
  • There’s sometimes a great deal of bureaucracy to contend with and patience is necessary for success.  The good news is that Oman is putting a great deal of emphasis on the development of SME’s
  • Young people entering the market need to do their homework and learn from the experience of others. It’s a good idea to find an experienced mentor to look at your business plan and act as a sounding board

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