The Commercial Courier interviews Maria Bartolo Zahra

What inspired you to start your own consultancy company?

My father is my inspiration. We both had the desire to start a boutique advisory firm which focuses on forging supportive, fiduciary and long-term relationships with a small clientele base.

There were other factors that allowed me to take this leap. I needed a change from the routine schedule. I’m passionate about business advisory, particularly in relation to human resources and in no way, did I want to let go of that. SurgeAdvisory has given me the opportunity to focus on doing what I love yet also giving me the freedom and flexibility to make my own decisions with the aim of finding the right balance between our business and other things that matter to me in life.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I’m up by around 5:30am to get the routine home chores done. I’m a morning person so I aim to be at the office by 07:30 hrs. I would have checked my e-mails before leaving for the office. That gives me the opportunity to get cracking as soon as I arrive.

My coffee is a must. I list down my priorities for the day and make sure that priority actions related to business development are included in this list. I would usually then start off client meetings. There are occasions where I spend days at our clients.  This depends on the project we would be working on. We tend to prefer to set meetings at the client’s premises as this helps us get a better understanding of the organisation’s culture and modus operandi, which is of course very important to understand prior to giving advice to business.

I make sure that most of my evenings are spent with my husband. I’m a true believer in work-life balance and I very much do anything to live up to it. I try to get my 7-8 hours of sleep.  A good night’s sleep helps me recharge and be ready for the next day.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

The smallest actions give me the most satisfaction: a client who calls to ask for my opinion on a decision that the company is about to take and then seeing the results of advice given to businesses. These actions give me the reassurance and confidence that our belief in partnering with business is being achieved to the benefit of both parts. Naturally it also reassures us that our relationship is based on trust.

As a female businesswoman, do you think women who are entrepreneurs face more obstacles than male entrepreneurs? What, if anything, can be done to amend this?

It is a challenge mainly due to tradition, culture or simply societal discrimination. I do, however, believe that there is an ongoing evolution in this regard.

And it also really depends on the environment the female has around her. Balancing work and family, both of which are important commitments, is indeed a challenge. Having a supportive family and the skill to manage time and delegate (even at home!) is crucial for a woman entrepreneur. A business woman needs to find her own way in mastering work, family, life and at times, parenthood.

In my opinion, society can create a lot of measures to reduce these obstacles. But the driving force needs to come from the woman herself. The biggest obstacle a woman needs to overcome is the thought that she can’t make it; that she will fail. Being yourself throughout, combined with having the necessary confidence (not overconfidence) in whatever you’re doing are the departing point to accomplish what you want and believe in.

Having said this, I also believe that both men and women entrepreneurs face obstacles, sometimes in different ways and at times, in very similar ways too.

About this article

This interview featured in The Commercial Courier – June/July 2017 edition.