Robb Interview: Daniel Hakim, CUB CEO
How COVID-19 sparked even greater connectivity for this business leader – and forged an even stronger bond amongst this network of achievers.
When Daniel Hakim, 28, started The Club of United Business (CUB) in 2015, his primary goal was to create a business family – a community of entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders where people wanted to be involved in the success of their peers by sharing their skills, services and knowledge.
Since then, the Potts Point based club has expanded to Melbourne, and, despite the advent of Covid-19, shows no signs of slowing down.
We caught up with the CUB boss to talk through the difficulties of running a clubhouse reliant on human connection and community in an age of enforced social distancing.
Robb Report: What was your first reaction to the news re COVID?
Daniel Hakim: I initially thought they weren’t going to shut anything down. I didn’t think businesses were going to stop and I thought that business owners were going to care more about what they’ve built than potentially getting a ‘flu’. Of course, the government actually shut them down, and shut down the clubhouse. It meant we had to find a way to serve our members digitally, something we didn’t have at the time.
RR: How did you do that?
DH: We had about a week of planning, brainstorming and scrambling to create a digital product. We also knew our members, who are generally business owners, were about to go through a hard time and were going to need the community and connectivity more than ever. So, we put out a few measures to increase communications and increased our member engagement and connectivity.
RR: Can you talk us through those measures.
DH: We hosted four times the number of events, digital conversations, something like eight to 10 digital boardroom conversations where members were sharing knowledge with each other. I increased my newsletter to the entire community every single Monday. It’s the first time I’ve had that much connectivity with the community as a whole. That’s carried through to now and is something we’ll keep doing going forward.
RR: How important was that external support amongst members – what was has been their response?
DH: Well, people actually know that there’s someone there that cares about them. Especially business owners, because they have the most to lose. I mean, who reaches out to you to check on you? Almost nobody. Just your family and your close friends. But that’s true to us. And our concept is to be a business family. And I think because we did that, we were able to serve them better. A lot of them said, ‘I’m having issues with my landlord or my tenant. Is there someone in the club that can help me through that?’ ‘Yeah, look, speak to this person.’ We helped guide people through the difficulties they were facing.
RR: What do you think CUB as a business has learnt as a result of the pandemic?
DH: I think we learned the value of increasing our communication. What we did was we brought them [members] value in a time when other companies were perhaps hiding. We were in their face, on the phone calling them, hitting our Linkedins. We were everywhere. As a result, our operations really got much better. We started running Sydney and Melbourne, two companies as one, we were communicating with each other much more, and now on the other side if it, my team is a lot stronger. They went to war together and they won. So, they’ve now got a battle story to share, and you can’t buy that.
RR: What do you think other businesses have learnt from the shutdowns?
DH: That business must survive. What this [Covid-19 restrictions] has done is ready them for an imperfect world, a new world where your model changes slightly, cost structure changes, pricing structure changes. Businesses that stay still die – you need to look at your goal, think ‘I know that’s what I do’ and be creative enough to figure out how to do that. If that’s digitally, then do it digitally, but be flexible as a business with how you offer what you offer.
RR: And so now, with Sydney clubhouse reopened, what protocols are in place to make members both safe and comfortable?
DH: We put measures in place – for example, the seating arrangements and distancing and just the hand sanitiser and limiting the number of members, all that stuff. But I can tell you members are dying to get back together. They want to meet each other. They want to get back to seeing each other in person. Digital networking’s great. But nothing replaces human connection, nothing.
RR: What do you think makes the clubhouses you’ve created so valuable?
DH: The reason we have the club is because we’re a business family and every family needs a home. So, the clubhouse is our home, the home of our culture. It’s where they understand each other, and they understand they can find each other. It’s where we host everything, our club rituals and events and things like that, all happen there.
RR: On clubhouses, are there still plans to extend the CUB brand?
DH: We have two new clubs coming, hopefully in the next 12 months, if we don’t get shutdown again, for Sydney CBD and Brisbane.
RR: And away from CUB, what have been your personal learnings during this period?
DH: I spent some time in the country, I wasn’t able to see my family which was a bad thing, but I was able to get healthy, my days slowed, but honestly my whole life is work. I think the number one thing is, for the first time ever, I’ve been proud of what we’ve accomplished. I just always want more, but this time, I honestly don’t think we could have done more.
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