2023 has the makings of a difficult year for startups if the global economy takes on recessionary headwinds. But business owners can still operate based on some sound principles. Image Credit: Supplied

Business owners have enjoyed a renewed sense of positivity in the UAE this year, with benefits felt across sectors. In August, Central Bank predicted the fastest annual expansion since 2011, buoyed by inbound tourism, increased construction, higher oil prices, and an influx of new residents.

After many SMEs were forced to shut down during the pandemic, those who survived emerged stronger, while a growing number of first-time entrepreneurs seized the opportunity to strike out on their own. Currently ranked first in the Global Entrepreneurship Index, the UAE is actively seeking to develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Several programs make it easier for startups to find the right support, including The Entrepreneurial Nation 2.0 initiative, which plans to develop more than 8,000 SMEs and start-ups by 2030.

That said, being an entrepreneur is never easy. While UAE businesses may be somewhat insulated from the more severe impact of a global recession, entrepreneurs need to strengthen their position and take a realistic view for the future. Looking back at what we’ve learnt over the last year, here are six ways entrepreneurs can improve their chances of the long term.


Every entrepreneur needs to understand the importance of accountability. As a business owner, you should stay accountable to your clients, staff, and yourself, honouring your commitments. That also means taking responsibility when something goes wrong. Mistakes and failures are inevitable, but the only way to learn is by recognising, then taking responsibility for them. As a result, you can move forward with a clearer perspective.

Speed and adaptability

The ability to make decisions fast is crucial. Once you get more comfortable with taking ownership, you will become a more confident decision-maker. And remember, it’s OK if not every decision is right. The biggest risk, especially in the face of a problem, is not deciding at all.

Inertia leaves you vulnerable to external conditions rather than managing things within your control. You always have the chance to change course, as long as you’re prepared to be flexible and adapt your approach, you will find a way through.

Staying calm under pressure

As the American novelist, Ellen Glasgow said, “All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” The natural economic cycle necessitates both expansion and contraction; therefore, you must be ready for both.

Locally the picture might be positive but, we can’t ignore what’s happening elsewhere - according to the IMF Economic Outlook Report global growth is forecast to slow from 6 per cent in 2021 to 3.2 per cent in 2022 and 2.7 per cent in 2023.

It is possible to prepare your business for a downturn; the more you invest in developing strategies to mitigate any risks the better. Knowing you have contingency plans for when the market dips, will help you remain calmer, reason, and lead better during a crisis.


There’s a tendency to do it all as an entrepreneur and the hustle culture implies the more hours we put in the more we will achieve. However, this type of thinking can quickly lead to overwhelm, followed by burnout, jeopardising everything you’ve worked for.

You must choose where you spend precious time and energy. Otherwise, you will become less productive. Focus your efforts on the areas of the business that will drive growth. For anything else, don’t be afraid to outsource or delegate.

Commit to your vision

The life of an entrepreneur is filled with curveballs that can throw you off track when you don’t focus on your vision. A vision acts as your guiding light, pointing you in the direction you want to go and helping you carve the right path to get there. It also gives you a barometer to evaluate new ideas and let’s you establish a strong culture that will attract the right talent along the way.

Serve more

In a statistic from the book ‘Marketing Metrics’, your chances of selling to a new customer are just between 5-20 per cent, whereas that chance rises to 60-70 per cent for existing customers. Clearly, loyalty is one of the most valuable assets you have; in times of recession your customers are more important than ever.

The secret is putting their experience first, ahead of revenue, even when you’re thriving. By nurturing a loyal and satisfied customer base, your profits will grow.