Tareq Hisham Hawasli casually lists off the various business projects he has on the horizon - real estate consultancy, advisory, and management. So far, it’s pretty standard fare. Then he mentions one of his more unexpected ventures.
“I have a landscape-hardscape business in Atlanta with some very good friends of mine – my best friends,” Hawasli says offhand.
The 39-year-old sits outside in the crisp air just a stone’s throw from London’s Regent’s Park. His appearance, here in this moment, makes him a surprising investor in a United States landscaping business based in peachy Georgia, more than 4000 miles away.
But SHM Landscape, the business he started with friends Khaldoun Malas and William “Ryan” Seaton, is clearly a project that means a lot to him. He describes Seaton as an agricultural magician and Malas as a “brilliant manager”.
It was Hawasli that connected all three men and that pushed them to pursue a common project that would mean much more than a simple paycheck.
Four years into the venture, the future looks bright. “It’s quite profitable actually, it’s growing and we’re now doing tech investments through it,” Hawasli says. He describes the venture as being Malas’ “baby,” but acknowledges that he brought the trio together professionally.
That theme of connecting people from diverse and unexpected backgrounds acts as a recurring thread that weaves its way through many of Hawasli’s personal and professional interests.
Raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Hawasli was never one for standing still. Growing up, he would travel to the Middle East and Levant - Syria, Jordan, Lebanon – for several months each year. After high school, he attended the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia where he joined the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.
“You didn’t really find guys of my ethnic background pledging in a southern fraternity in the late 90s. It’s a cultural thing more than anything,” he acknowledges. “And so I got to really learn a lot about what it is to be a true American through and through in the Bible Belt, which is a lovely place and a place I consider home.”
Hawasli values education highly. He completed the Management Acceleration Programme at INSEAD and an EMBA at London Business School (LBS). He is enrolled in the Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management programme, and expresses an interest in pursuing a tech course in the future.
During his time at Arcapita in the 2000s, Hawasli recalls requesting that his bonus go towards continuing education. “Arcapita generously sponsored me for both my INSEAD and London Business School programmes.”
It’s those types of opportunities and decisions that have helped Hawasli achieve his professional goals. However, in spite of that success, he hopes for a future motivated by more than just pursuit of profit.
“I’d like to, within a maximum 10 years, become more passive in the financial world and move more into a world that’s less materialistically driven,” he admits. “I would love to become more involved in philanthropy, and am really interested in developing ideas and theories on how to achieve Peace and Prosperity in the Middle East.”
Hawasli and his family have called London home for the last seven years.
After Arcapita, Hawasli joined private equity firm Evans Randall Limited. It was one of the company’s investors that first suggested he create his own property platform and be the link connecting three cultures – the U.S., UK and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Most of us have emotional intelligence but being able harness that gift and use it in a disciplined and focused, well-mannered manner - that’s difficult
“So that’s when it hit me,” Hawasli recalls. “He’s a good friend of mine now and he was just like, ‘you could be doing this yourself, I mean why aren’t you?’”
In 2015, Hawasli took the plunge and teamed up with his then Evans Randall colleague David Bell to found the London-based asset management company Darin Partners. The firm helps to facilitate the entry of ultra-high-net-worth Middle Eastern investors into the UK property market.
“After spending several years together at Evans Randall, we grew to realize that if we joined forces, we could really bridge the gap between the orient and occident, or UK and the GCC - Saudi Arabia mainly – in terms of providing a first class service in the UK (and) having investors in Saudi invest in the UK as first class citizens,” Hawasli says
A senior business contact used to tell him that, when discussing relationships and investments, nine tenths of reality was perception.
“While I believe there is truth to that statement, I wanted Darin Partners to focus on the other one tenth,” Hawasli says.
“I moved to create Darin Partners and David came in as the CEO and equal shareholder, and we then brought in selective shareholders that I trust and that bring a lot of value.”
The willingness to facilitate and enable others do what they do best has allowed him to gain the trust of high profile individuals such as His Royal Highness Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
A member of the Saudi royal family, Al Saud is co-owner of Sheffield United Football Club. Hawasli acted as the club’s director for two and a half years until September 2018, when he became director of UTB LLC, the holding company of HRH that owns 50% of the club amongst other investments.
Hawasli has also tapped into his Harvard Business School network to bring added expertise to Sheffield United. The club is now working with the University’s Laboratory for Innovation Science to harness the power of data and statistics to improve its game.
“I have learned much from HRH Prince Abdullah and my time as a Sheffield United Football Director. It’s just like any other business except that the emotional element is cranked up a thousand decibels compared to other businesses. I mean, football is a religion to many and I am a Blade to my core. Up The Blades!”
Understanding and managing the emotions of various stakeholders requires emotional intelligence. It is a skill Hawasli has spent years developing. While many may think of it as easy to master, he says the reality is that it takes both patience, and the ability to adapt and grow layers of thick skin.
“Most of us have emotional intelligence but being able harness that gift and use it in a disciplined and focused, well-mannered manner - that’s difficult and it takes time and failures; I’ve failed a lot and then through failures, eventually you start to succeed.”
“In my line of work, where I focus on relationships and connecting the dots, you have to convince brilliant and wealthy people to join you, and these people have many other options other than you. You have to give them a good reason to believe in you.”
“LBS helped develop who I am, what I am about, and why I do the things that I do. Basically, what drives me, what are my core competencies and strengths, and ultimately, where do I want to go with what I have gained?”
Having a strong sense of self and strong relationships at LBS with the likes of Dr. Florin Vasvari and Dr. Christopher Hennessy has certainly helped keep his mind sharp.
If his time at the School taught Hawasli about his strengths, then in Bell he has found a business partner that complements them. “There’s a saying that my dear friend Shahid Khan would often tell me, ‘One and one isn’t two, one and one is eleven,’ right? If you really have a partner, you guys are as strong as a team of eleven,” he says.
But while Hawasli describes the friendships he enjoys through his professional business dealings as “genuine,” he also emphasizes that, with some minor exceptions, they remain just that – professional.
“There have been times in the past where people, who I thought were ethical, have frankly disappointed me and disappointed, more importantly, my friends and investors who believed in them and put a lot of money with them.”
He recalls a lesson his father taught to him at a young age.
“Life is a series of problems; through the practice of discipline, delaying gratification, and dedication to truth above all else, you will have the keys to navigate through those problems and, ultimately, life as best as one can."
“I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to partner with people where I know what their moral fibre is, who their families are. Do they believe in long term? Do they really believe in adding value to humanity in some way, form, shape? Or are they strictly driven by money?”
Hawasli refers to others’ money as a “Amanah” – an Arabic word that refers to a deep, obligatory trust.
“It’s difficult capture the depth, essence, or scope of its meaning in the English language, but it’s a word that is embedded in me and others, who understand the weight it carries and the values needed to keep true to it,” he says.
“No one’s perfect, I’m certainly not, and I’ve seen a lot of really quality, good people commit greed based actions. Karma usually comes back to carry its toll on us all. Again, it is a Amanah.
“You just don’t screw with people’s money.”
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