Johan Hajji: As an Entrepreneur, Your Business Is Your Baby and You Can Easily Get Wrapped up in It

October 24, 2022

Johan Hajji of UpperKey.

Tell us about yourself?

I have an engineering background but after working for a few years, I decided to launch my own business venture with a good friend and never turned back.

I am a business developer at heart and love the challenges that come with creating your own business.

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?

Being an entrepreneur has taught me so much about adaptability.

Things will never go as planned and you always have to be ready to adjust accordingly.

I have also learned how to be fearless and take chances. Without trying, you will never know what you are capable of.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

If I could travel back in time over ten years ago give one piece of advice to younger, starry-eyed entrepreneurial self, I would encourage that guy to dream big and focus on the big picture.

When you are just starting, it is easy to get caught up in the little details and feel overwhelmed but in the bigger scheme of things, everything will pay off.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?

As an entrepreneur, your business is your baby and you can easily get wrapped up in it, blurring the lines between your work and personal life. It took some time, but I feel like now I have struck the perfect balance between working and pursuing personal projects.

I have managed to do this through mindfulness practice, setting boundaries and starting each day with a clear to-do list.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

When our company was created over a decade ago, we were one of the first of our kind in Paris.

We saw Airbnb booming in popularity across the Atlantic and wanted to find a way to boost it in Europe while making sure homeowners were getting their fair cut.

We had to invent things as we went and paved the way for many others who followed in our footsteps.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?

What sets us apart from our competitors is the guarantee we provide to property owners.

Whether their property is occupied or vacant, they will be sure to receive their rent month after month.

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?

So far, we are pleased with our sales. We are selling a service, not a product, so it requires a different approach.

Networking has played a huge part in building our client base, so once you develop a good relationship with one person, word of mouth gets around and soon you have 10 people knocking at your door. It is all about gaining the trust of your potential clients.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?

Our business depends heavily on travel and tourism, so the start of the pandemic in 2020 was the biggest challenge our business has faced so far.

When the lockdowns started and travel came to a full stop, our business model was completely upended.

Rather than sitting at home feeling sorry for ourselves, we took advantage of that difficult period to examine all of our company processes and look for ways to improve across all parts of the business.

It ended up being a period of growth and learning for our whole team and we came out stronger because of it.

What do you find are the advantages of operating your business in London?

The biggest advantage of operating our business in London is the energy the city gives you.

When you arrive in London, you can feel everything abuzz and know that the people around you are working just as hard as you are.

That mix of ambition and willingness to work really brings out the best in people and gives a productivity boost.

Are there any issues with having a London based business? Have you experienced these?

We have not encountered any specific issues with having a London-based business. Every company can have its headaches, but ours are not a direct consequence of being located in London.

How has the higher than UK average cost of living impacted your ability to work and live in London and how has this also impacted your ability as an employer?

London is very expensive compared to other cities in the UK and in Europe, but it offers so much more than other cities which helps to justify the cost.

There are so many things you cannot learn at university but rather on the terrain and London is the perfect “school” for that. As an employer, we need to be able to offer competitive compensation for our employees so that they too can afford a good quality of life, even when outside the office.

If you had to relocate your business to another city in the UK, which one would it be and why?

If we had to relocate our business to another city in the UK, we would consider moving to Edimburgh.

It has a good track record for successful businesses and of course, the cost of living is much lower than in London. The fact that it is also well-served by the airport makes it attractive.

How has BREXIT impacted your business (if at all)?

We have not felt any severe impacts from Brexit on our business.

Of course, like many Europeans based in London, we have to to through the bureaucratic and administrative steps required to keep calling London home, but that is the extent of it.

What is your vision for your company in the next 5 years?

In the next 5 years, we will be heavily focusing on international expansion. You will see UpperKey popping up in new cities around the globe.

We hope to become the top leaders in the sector and will be able to achieve this only thanks to our amazing team!

And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?

The best way to get involved and learn more about our business is by visiting our website www.theupperkey.com.

We have a blog with a wealth of resources for property owners, business travellers, investors and more.

Whether you are looking to maximize your rental income or need a place to call home UpperKey has a solution for you.

Follow UpperKey on Twitter or Linkedin.

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