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Neil Petch | Chairman & Co-founder | Virtuzone

Neil Petch: Transforming Businesses with Trust-Based Leadership

When entrepreneurs hit the wheel in the right place and time, they drive businesses with innovation and resilience. Starting from incorporating value-based work culture to inculcating trust within the workforce, business leaders yield fruitful results for organizations. One such visionary leader is Neil Petch, who founded Virtuzone to facilitate company setups in Dubai and UAE with a vision of transforming businesses through visionary leadership skills.

Embarking on his entrepreneurial journey, Neil faced multiple challenges turning every obstacle into a business opportunity. He launched a radio station, newspaper, and publishing company called ITP that grew up to 70 magazines and 600 people in his early career. Neil realized media’s potential in driving any business likely to be profitable. As per Neil, one may be an expert at a given skill or a phenomenal workflow, but multiple factors are at play, “including the ability to market people.”

Overcoming Challenges

Inspired by his best friend’s experience setting up an outdoor advertising company in Dubai, Neil realized a need to provide quasi-governmental services to entrepreneurs willing to establish a business in Dubai and UAE.

Neil shares, “He wanted to set up an outdoor advertising company but encountered many stumbling blocks along the way. He couldn’t get a hotdesk, and it was challenging to communicate with the free zone he wanted to set up in. That’s when he realized there’s an opportunity in this market and shared this idea with me.”

They established Virtuzone with a universal name that people could easily associate with. He says, “Back then, we were competing against Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah, names that are, to the non-Arab speaker, a little foreign. We deliberately wanted to be approachable and modern.”

While in Dubai, Neil observed that the decision-makers for most businesses were based in Europe. It was challenging to convey to people about the business opportunities through a remote mode of communication. Another challenge was building his team. He says, “You need someone in your team who says ‘Yes, we can do it!’ and believes 100% that it’s possible, but you also need someone who thinks about the implications and ramifications.”

At Virtuzone, Neil assists businesses with company setups in Dubai and UAE, taking care of all the red tapes involved in the UAE free zone and mainland company setup process.

Being 13 years in the business, Virtuzone was able to compete and maintain a strong position in the market due to its three essential pillars- brilliant processes, excellent customer service, and fantastic marketing. Talking about the company philosophy, Neil notes, “What we seek as an entrepreneur is an ambitious person with a vision. If we don’t conform to ourselves, we wouldn’t understand them. I’d like to think that Virtuzone is created in the image of our customers.

On a Mission to Nurture Entrepreneurial Spirit

Neil is committed to enabling entrepreneurs to conduct their businesses safely, efficiently, and in a conducive environment to succeed. He puts, “When you’re in outer space looking down on Earth, you don’t see borders. You don’t see a point where you have to hand in your passport, and that is what we want to achieve. Yet at the very center of that world, we believe that there’s an opportunity for the UAE to be the startup capital of the world.”

Neil understands that entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the global economy, and Virtuzone’s job is to make sure that anyone who is an entrepreneur will have an effortless experience setting up their business. With about 60 different jurisdictions that one can use in the UAE, having its pros and cons. He asserts, “It falls upon Virtuzone to hold the hand of the entrepreneur, save them time and money, and make sure that they get it right the first time because there’s nothing worse than embarking on a journey, going the wrong way, and having to do a U-turn after six months.”

Neil emphasizes solving challenges and providing a safe passage for businesses willing to set up a company in Dubai.

Envisioning Future

Neil envisions scouting for the hurdles faced by entrepreneurs and working to mitigate them. “You want to keep it as easy as possible for people to set up, to live in the country, and to have a working company. Which means they need a bank account. They need a telephone. They need a business address. It’s not just about giving them a license. It’s making sure that they can conduct their business,” expresses Neil. While businesses grow with fewer hurdles and high efficiency, Neil is making a significant impact in facilitating company setup.

Virtuzone has started investing in select startups, such as Hot Desk. It also joined BY Venture Partners’ USD 50 million venture capital fund to support early-stage technology startups in the MENA region and globally.

Speaking about the future goals for the company, Neil marks, “We want Virtuzone to be synonymous with entrepreneurship and startup success. You may have heard that the UAE is aspiring to be home to 20 unicorns in the next decade. As we have always aimed to align our goals with the government’s vision, we also seek to enable and nurture these startups and their founders and help them achieve regional and global success.”

Making an Impact

Being at the helm of transforming businesses through company setup support service, Neil works with 400 to 500 companies every month.

He mentions, “Virtuzone is just the catalyst. We are the thing that makes it easier for someone from London or Canada to run their global business from Dubai. I want us to champion that, and I’d love to go out there, to the rest of the world, and tell them why they should be here.”

Impactful Leadership

Neil is focused on trust-based leadership with an approach of a business catalyst. He mentions that one thing that makes leadership have an impact is trust. Over the years, Neil has continuously been invested in his people’s professional and personal well-being.

He mentions that, during Covid, the company had to take care of 110 people with probably 90 families. Every one of 110 staff members viewed that as a common challenge, rather than being forced to opposite ends of the room being like managers and employees. That’s when Neil learned that the investment he had made in gaining everyone’s trust had paid off.

Talking about team building, Neil suggests recruiting people with strength in areas you don’t. He adds, “One of the things about leadership is to be confident and not feel threatened. If you find a peer who does well and your first thoughts are that you’re happy for them, then I would say that’s a good sign that you can go on to bigger and better things in the future.”

Driving Businesses with a Positive Work-Culture

Neil has focused on establishing trust within his employees as a team-building effort and expects his workforce to push themselves beyond their comfort. He puts, “We have come to a point where we can say to our staff, ‘We want you to make mistakes.’ If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

Being committed to practicing innovation, Neil feels fortunate for thousands of supportive customers that enable him to start pushing at the envelope. He believes in making the process more automated to help something happen a little bit faster, driving tiny margins to do huge businesses.

Speeding Up with Technology

Automating company workflows has become an essential factor since the pandemic. Neil tries to anticipate his customers’ challenges and develop corresponding solutions accordingly. When face-to-face meetings were restricted during the pandemic, he had partnered with trusted service providers who helped him facilitate remote company setup for his clients. Neil can even help his clients start their bank account opening process online.

Talking about leveraging technological advancement to make services resourceful, Neil says, “We always review and scrutinize our internal processes, adopt the latest software and systems, and continually increase our efficiencies and the quality of our customer service. The better and the faster we can serve our customers, the more we make entrepreneurship accessible.”

A Step towards Kindness

Neil advises budding entrepreneurs, whether they be 18 or 60, it’s never too late, and it’s never too early. He says, “First thing, is the best financial decision you can make is not to jump into something underprepared. Do your research, speak to your network. Do not be afraid to ask for help from your family and friends. Ask them to tell you the truth; ask them to play devil’s advocate to your idea.”

If you do that research, then one of the things it is going to show you is the benefits of starting a company in Dubai. And when you finally take the leap, make sure that an organization like Virtuzone can guide you through it and can help you.

“If you are an entrepreneur, you’re going to be looking at your phone at 3:00 in the morning. So do something that you love. Focus on what you’re good at. And as I say, look to recruit colleagues in areas where you are weak.

“Finally, stepping outside of what we’ve been taught forever. Re-evaluate the rules. Find out which ones work for you and find out which ones you can rethink and reinvent,” Neil concludes.