SME profile: Kiwi who packed up his troubles

New Zealand national, Rick McIntyre, 44, is the owner and founder of Mac Pack Removals in Dubai. A teacher, turned entrepreneur, he has had to learn the ins and outs of business in the UAE incredibly quickly.

He wrapped up his job as a teacher in Dubai on June 28, 2013 and started his first paid removal on July 18, 2013.

“I was in a borrowed van, which I was driving, I had hired three guys to help me and I had my father-in-law, who was 70 at the time, and a belief that with direction and diligence making a successful business was possible,” he says.


Today, Macpack employs 12 people, running two vans and the business will be growing again very soon with the hiring of 6 more employees plus another van.

However, in the first year of operations, it was tough going with Mr McIntyre regularly working 80 hours a week.

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“I thank God for my wife because she believed in me,” says Mr McIntyre. “With all the supplementary benefits of my teaching position I probably took home Dh40,000 a month – I gave that up for Dh5,000 a month in the first year. It was incredibly hard, I have two kids, and we were regularly down to Dh20 for the rest of the week and not sure where the next money was coming from. My wife’s salary covered the basics but holidays, trips out, my golf, movies – everything was stopped.”

Like a lot of expatriates, his life has not been lived in a straight line. Mr McIntyre arrived in Dubai with his British wife, Clare, in 2003, from teaching in the East End of London – they both had secured posts at the same school and had four glorious years, and two children, here. The desire for a life with their extended family and being far from home gave them the impetus to move to New Zealand – however they found that they had seen more of their Kiwi family when they were living in the UAE, so decided to move back.

After a false start with a school in Abu Dhabi, Mr McIntyre was offered his last teaching job in 2010, and enjoyed three of the happiest years of his life. But eventually, he needed to make a change to meet his growing expenses.

“While I didn’t set out to be a teacher, I had aspirations to be a professional cricketer, I loved teaching but it just doesn’t pay the salary you need out here,” says Mr McIntyre. “I have a kid with special needs and the salary just didn’t seem to make the month out.”

A friend suggested he start his own company but with few skills other than teaching and cricket it wasn’t obvious what that business could be at first. That was until he heard that lots of people were moving houses in and out of the Arabian Ranches area of Dubai – an idea took shape in his mind. Mr McIntyre believed that with hard work, great service, a hands-on attitude that meant he met all the clients personally, made all the quotes, and became part of the workforce, he could build a successful removals business.

Luckily, his wife had some experience of the entrepreneur’s life and warned of the potential difficulties.

“I grew up on a farm in New Zealand but Clare’s father was an entrepreneur,” says Mr McIntyre. “She knew that it would be tough, I just didn’t realise how tough. I hired 9 guys in the first 18 months and last summer I had to turn down 65 jobs – we were at capacity – I had to buy another truck and hire more staff. I treat the staff as shareholders bringing them into the decisions and pay better than most, which gives us a great working relationship that comes across on the moves.”

Three years into his start-up, Mr McIntyre is still not making his teacher’s salary but he is seeing real promise and a growing business. The licences and fees associated with starting a business in the UAE had an effect on profitability.

Before Mr McIntyre had packed one box he paid Dh55,000 for mandatory office space, a Dh25,000 arrangement fee to set up with a local partner and Dh70,000 for a trade licence. The visa fees and visa renewal fees coupled with the compulsory medical insurance that is now law for all companies big and small were an added cost.

Despite the level of initial investment needed to get his business on track. Mr McIntyre is still excited about the company’s prospects.

“Yes its very expensive to run your own business but I love setting the tone for the business environment I work in,” he says. “I think I need four or five vans to make it a profitable concern, more than that and the Mac Pack flavour will be lost.”

He says one of the key strengths of his model is that it is predominantly a cash operation.

“I don’t have to wait for people to pay me, which I’m sure could cripple some businesses. I make sure whatever cash we have goes into the business and in the long run it will be a success.”

ascott@thenational.ae

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