In today’s ever-evolving business landscape, the role of business operations consultants has become increasingly vital. These professionals help organizations optimize their processes, enhance efficiency and drive growth. The role of operations consulting, or operations management, focuses on the improvement of operating models, internal operations and value chains of organizations.
Operations consultants are responsible for initiating change and supporting clients to improve the productivity and effectiveness of their internal operations. They will usually conduct an audit of the current state of operations and then suggest ways in which the value chain can be enhanced. The importance of consultants in helping businesses identify new opportunities for growth, develop strategies for expansion and optimize operations to improve efficiency and profitability cannot be overstated.
Salma Al Zeairy, a seasoned Business Operations Consultant and Operations Manager has been at the forefront of this sector, providing invaluable insights and strategic guidance to her clients. Salma Al Zeairy is highly accomplished with profound expertise in the field. She is currently assisting various clients at different parts of the middle east region in different industries as a business Operation Consultant.
Stepping into the Consulting Sector
Salma says, “I think the challenge was the main trigger to my decision, exploring different ways of running the businesses, I wanted to expose myself to different models and different business methodologies.”
With a background in pharmacy, Salma Al Zeairy embarked on her journey in the corporate world at the quality assurance department of Marico Ltd, one of the largest Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies. During her five years in this role, she gained extensive experience in backend operation management and process design, implementation and development.
Recognizing the importance of customer-facing operations, Salma transitioned to Kaya Skin Clinic, a service business under Marico Ltd. She took on the role of clinic manager, delving into the world of service industry operations. This experience marked her first step into the service industry and ignited her passion for optimizing operational processes in diverse sectors.
Emphasizing the same she shares, “In business Operations generally and in the Dermatology market specifically, there is a lot to experience every single day. If you look at the number of players in this market, You will find plenty of players who provide unique services from a Dr Led clinic to a multinational chain, Each of them has its own target customers with their unique service providers, I wanted to invade this area and add/define a value chain at every step of their client journey.”
As she progressed in her career, Salma sought to expand her knowledge and skills in different fields. She delved into the fitness industry to further sharpen her operation management expertise, exploring cross-learning opportunities and applying her insights across industries. This diverse experience allowed her to develop a comprehensive understanding of business operations and identify areas where her expertise could make a significant impact.
Salma on stepping into the future expresses, “I feel so excited when I see the output of a small change that impact the business big time.”
Qualities of a Successful Business Consultant
Salma believes that successful business consultants possess several essential qualities. These include effective communication skills, strategic thinking, approachability, open-mindedness, flexibility, agility and a willingness to embrace new challenges.
In her words, “Communicator, Strategic thinker, Approachable, Open minded and flexible, Agile, ready to try new challenges.”
Salma Al Zeairy: Inspiring the World of Business Consulting and Operations Management
When asked about her inspiration to become a business consultant and operations manager, Salma highlights the allure of exploring different business models and methodologies. The challenge of running businesses and the dynamic nature of the market intrigued her, sparking her desire to make a difference. She sought to invade the dermatology market, enhancing value chains at every step of the client journey and witnessing the transformative impact of even small changes.
Staying Current with Research and Trends
Salma says, “There are multiple ways to keep yourself updated with all new technologies and trends in different categories.”
To provide up-to-date service to her clients, Salma Al Zeairy actively stays abreast of the latest research and trends across various industries. She attends industry-specific conferences and workshops, meets industry idols to learn best practices, and regularly reads research articles from scientific websites. Additionally, she maintains close relationships with vendors, recognizing their pivotal role in shaping market awareness and strategies.
From attending business-specific conferences and workshops, Meeting the Idols of every industry and learning the best practices of their companies and establishments, reading new research and articles on industry-specific scientific websites to meeting the vendors of every consumable/product is one of the most important aspects of staying current.
Salma also discussed the past decisions supporting steps for the future saying, “In the last 5 years, I can see manufacturers/Suppliers played an important role in shaping the market awareness both at the service provider side as well as the customer.”
Explaining through an example Salma adds, “For example, in the Dermatology industry, Manufacturers/Suppliers started promoting directly to the end user which has become a breakthrough in marketing strategies.”
The business-to-consumer strategy has become a big pillar in their strategies, rather than educating a medical professional or a service provider. Hence expanding the market and pulling more of the finicky consumers into the industry.
The Business Operations Consultant Organization
Driven by a desire to help small and struggling businesses grow, Salma Al Zeairy founded her own business operations consulting firm. Her organization specializes in guiding clients through their business journeys, identifying pain areas and working collaboratively to develop unique value propositions. By leveraging her expertise, Salma aims to empower her clients and facilitate their success in a market yet to mature in the Middle East.
Engaging Clients in an Unpredictable Market Situation
Salma says, “Let me tell you, Communication is key!”
In today’s unpredictable market situation, Salma emphasizes the importance of communication and aligning expectations.
Salma remarks detailing the same, “Think from a client perspective, I always think through a business owner mindset, Initially, I make sure to align the expectations and the vision very well, Define the scope of work and keep a continuous follow-up mechanism where the clients feel and appreciate the improvements that their businesses are going through.”
By clearly defining the scope of work and establishing measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with realistic timelines, she ensures clients can assess and appreciate the improvements in their businesses. She informs her practices as “Defining some clear measurable KPIs with realistic timelines make it easy for me and for the client to assess and measure the progress of the completed work. “
Agility, flexibility and a willingness to revise goals and processes are also crucial in engaging clients and achieving mutual success.
She also adds, “Linking the actions to the initially set goals is one of the best tools to engage customers. Agility to change and being flexible to revise goals and processes will help both consultant and client to achieve their mutual goals.”
Differentiating Instruction for Diverse Clients
To meet the unique needs of each client, Salma Al Zeairy emphasizes pre-alignment and mutual agreement based on client objectives. By tailoring and customizing the content, processes and responsibilities, she ensures a client-centric approach. Continuous evaluation, feedback and improvement enable her to deliver outputs that not only satisfy but also delight her clients. “I always look at the client’s needs. Pre-alignment is the key – myself and the client should set a very clear mutual agreement based on the client’s objectives. Hence we create the content of the client’s requirements, Define the right process and it should be as tailored and customized as possible.” as Salma expresses.
Both Salma Al Zeairy and the client must be prepared to modify or adjust objectives based on the current accomplishments. The output should be carefully examined and valued for its learning process, with a focus on continual development and enhancement to deliver an outcome that not only meets but exceeds the client’s expectations.
In many instances, clients approach Salma without a clear understanding of the actions they should take, resulting in an open conversation where she takes the lead in crafting the entire project journey and delegating responsibilities to key individuals. Having key personnel to collaborate with makes follow-up procedures more streamlined and efficient.
One of the common challenges Salma encounters is clients’ limited understanding of the scope of her work. Educating business owners about the comprehensive nature of business operations professionals can be challenging but necessary. She emphasizes the long-term qualitative improvements resulting from her work, such as saving process time, avoiding reworks and enhancing the customer journey. Salma also acknowledges the limited capabilities in the industries she serves and aims to bridge the gap through her expertise.
In her words, “The most common challenge I face with clients understanding my work, and it might sound funny but the reality is very few people understand the framework of business operation professionals, I get lots of requests for business turnarounds in terms of turnover and profit without understanding the real scope of work and hence it becomes a tough one as your work will impact both qualitative and quantitative perspective of the business and owners will need to understand before any commitment.”
Usually, qualitative improvement has an indirect long-term profit to the company. Saving process time, avoiding reworks and facilitating customer journeys will definitely improve the business in the longer term.
She shares, “Capabilities in the market are still limited in the industries I’m associated with currently.”
Incorporating Technology into Training
As a proponent of technological advancements, Salma actively integrates applications and software into her work to streamline processes and reduce human interference.
Enthusiastically talking about technology, Salma shares, “As I’m a big fan of technological advancements, I always use applications and software to help reduce time and human interference in any of the processes. I try to foolproof every process I work with; from client data collection to business analysis to billing, I am using most of the latest global software.”
Taking a data-based decision is much more efficient than deciding based on intuition. By leveraging data-based decision-making, she ensures informed choices complemented by intuition.
Exemplifying the same, Salma says, “While your gut might tell you the truth especially when you are in services that touch human beings, but you still need to compliment your decision with some facts.”
Sustaining in the Increased Competition
Salma acknowledges the intense competition she faces, particularly in the fields she focuses on. To stand out in the market, she offers professional and cost-effective services, distinguishing herself through a deep understanding of roles, regulations and industry contacts. Salma states, “In Fact, the competition is tough, especially in the fields that I’m focused upon. Hence, I have to offer a professional yet cost-effective service for me to be able to stand out in that market.”
Equipped with these tools, she strives to deliver exemplary service that earns her clients’ trust. In the Middle East, understanding the roles and regulations is very important and having contacts to get the right information quickly is as important. Salma says, “I keep myself equipped with all those tools to be able to deserve the clients in the best possible way.”
Major Achievements and Future Plans
Salma views each project as an achievement, focusing on the transformative impact of her work rather than solely on numerical metrics. One of Salma Al Zeairy’s most significant accomplishments, which she believes has transformed her career and provided her with an opportunity to embrace a whole new realm of challenges, was the decision to depart from the corporate world and utilize her extensive experience to support start-up ventures.
Each project holds immense value for her, as she approaches them as fresh opportunities, disregarding the emphasis on numbers and percentages. She says, “Every project for me is an achievement, I know people like to hear numbers and percentages however I treat every project as a new challenge and I make sure, me and my team is proud of what we do every day.”
Salma ensures that both she and her team take pride in their daily work. She vividly remembers a project involving Dermatology clinics that previously generated annual revenue of 50 million. Despite their untapped potential, the clinics were fixated on this figure and lacked direction on how to progress further.
She also shares, “I helped that business some means to hit 85 Mn in 6 months by optimizing all resources/processes they had in place.”
Salma’s forthcoming 2–3-year plan centers around concentrating on start-up initiatives. She firmly believes that both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) present highly favorable prospects in the realms of beauty and cosmetology, with both markets experiencing exponential growth in the medical sector.
Unique Training Methodology
Salma’s unique training methodology revolves around customization and addressing the unique needs and expectations of her clients. By tailoring project plans and training programs, she ensures a highly personalized approach. Her emphasis on open conversation, assignment of responsibilities and continuous follow-up facilitates seamless collaboration and remarkable outcomes.
She states, “The world is focusing on customization and my unique USP is customizing the project/business plan and training programs on the unique needs and expectations of my clients.”
About Salma Al Zeairy’s Journey in Her Own Words
“Since I’m a pharmacist by profession, I have started my journey in the quality assurance department at one of the biggest FMCG companies “Marico LTD”. I gained some experience in backend operation management and how to design, Implement and develop an operation process.
After spending 5 years learning processes and systems, I decided to move to the front-end and customer-facing side within the same company, I moved to KSA in 2010 and started working with Marico, building one of their clinics at Jeddah city “Kaya Skin Clinic”, the new service business for Marico at that time. This was my first experience with the consumer-facing side, I worked with Kaya as a clinic manager and it was my first step into service industry Operations. In 2021, I was chosen to handle the position of Operations Manager for the middle east business.
I worked in the field of the fitness industry to sharpen my operation management skills in a different field of consumer service and to make sure What I learned from one industry can be applied to the other, there is a lot of cross-learning across industries.
I moved from the cosmetic dermatology field to start a new chapter in my career where I can utilize all that I learned over the years, I realized this market is yet to mature in this part of the world. I decided to help small businesses to grow, struggling businesses to identify the pain areas and work on them, and existing businesses to find and work on their unique propositions. And here I am helping different clients in their journeys and enjoying every piece of it.”