Hanane Benkhallouk

No one will simply give you what you want in the professional world; you need to put in the effort to seize it for yourself.”


With over eighteen years of professional experience across a wide swath of industries, Hanane Benkhallouk is well-equipped for her current role as a multi-industry business consultant. In the course of her career, Hanane has held senior managerial roles with Fortune 500 companies, governments, and non-profit organizations alike, and further thrived in a multitude of fields including but not limited to: retail and franchise development, financial services, and real estate. Hanane’s work has taken her from Europe, the U.S., and the MENA region. Currently, Hanane works as the executive director of Sustain Leadership, a boutique leadership and innovation consulting firm that she co-founded in 2013. Beyond of her Sustain Leadership responsibilities, Benkhallouk also serves as a mentor for the UAE-based entrepreneurial incubator Impact Hub Dubai.

Hanane Benkhallouk’s passion for business stretches back to her earliest college years. As an undergraduate, Hanane attended the Institut Supérieur de Commerce et d’Administration des Entreprises (ISCAE), the top-ranked business school in her home of Morocco. Upon her graduation in 1997, Benkhallouk moved on to study marketing and finance at the New York Institution of Technology at Old Westbury and began Concept 2 Creation, her first business consulting firm. She graduated from her MBA program with distinction in 1999.

In 2005, Hanane Benkhallouk relocated her professional interest to Dubai. While based in the United Arab Emirates, Hanane has worked for a number of significant political and corporate players across the Arabian Peninsula. In 2008, she was tapped by Dubai’s Executive Office to become a core member of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation team. In her role with the Foundation, Hanane headed entrepreneurship- and innovation-based programs across the Arab world. Benkhallouk further supervised significant consultancy outreach projects in the region, including the Arab Human Capital Challenge report (PWC) and the Arab Knowledge report (UNDP).

Hanane’s work with Sustain Leadership began in 2014. As mentioned previously, Benkhallouk’s boutique firm specializes in innovation, change management, and strategic management. Hanane’s considerable and varied work experience allows her a diverse portfolio; she consults with major multinational corporations, small- and medium enterprises, and local individuals alike. Hanane Benkhallouk’s business goal as a consultant is to aid her clients in a mindset shift: ultimately, they should be able to analyze their circumstances in such a way that allows them to improve professional performance, maximize profits, and enhance the positive they make on their larger communities.

Outside of her private consulting work, Hanane Benkhallouk speaks often at entrepreneurship conferences and writes as a columnists. She also sits on the advisory boards of a number of various SMEs and NGOs, and is well-known as an advocate for transformational leadership, entrepreneurial development, female advancement, and community engagement.

Where did the idea for Sustain Leadership come from?

The first seeds of Sustain Leadership began to root early on in my career, though I didn’t quite know it at the time. Over the course of my professional journey, I’ve worked in a number of management positions in industries spanning diverse fields such as retail and franchise development, real estate and Islamic finance, and government. But even as I shifted fields and titles, I began to notice a pattern emerge: I would be at my highest level of person satisfaction when a team member, a colleague or even a customer told me that I contributed somehow to their development or that impacted their lives in a positive way. I enjoy working with individuals, and even built a side business to help entrepreneurs, professionals, and young graduates solves problems and gain business acumen.

In short, I’ve been interested in Sustain Leadership’s core goal of helping clients – whether they be individuals, startups or established organizations – achieve their true potential for years. I have a strong belief in the saying:“ We don’t build business, we build people and people build the business.”Today, Sustain Leadership consultancy prides itself in having established a strong name as a solution partner to clients by offering personalized services in the areas of strategic management, leadership development, change, innovation and entrepreneurship, and supporting businesses achieve commercial success by realizing the potential of their member employees.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I wouldn’t say that there’s necessarily a “typical” day in my schedule. I’m a consultant, so I’m often up and out of the house early to make meetings and facilitate group gatherings. I also speak at conferences and on panels from time to time, so a concrete timetable is difficult to pin down. But I like the vibrancy of my daily schedule; it keeps me excited and – by extension – interested. I believe that productivity stems from interest and organization, so I always make sure to outline what I want to accomplish for the day before I set out.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I like to tell those who consult with me to embrace the three “P’s:” Passion, Persistence, and Proactivity. No one will simply give you what you want in the professional world; you need to put in the effort to seize it for yourself. Without hard work, ambitions are just wishes for the future. When I take on a new idea, I step into it wholeheartedly and dedicate myself to putting in the time and effort needed to see it to fruition. To me, a half-hearted attempt at bringing an idea to life is worse than no attempt at all, given that it wastes time and energies that could have been better-spent.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I think that artificial intelligence and technology are going to be tremendously influential in the next decade or so – just look at how much of difference technology has made in the recent past! Questions that would have previously necessitated a trip to the library can now be answered with a few taps on a smartphone. Automated machines are a common sight at manufacturing plants – within a few years, there might be a 3D-printer in every house! I think the increasing commonality and versatility of technology will give us more time and space to engage in creative work, and will ultimately necessitate a change to how we go about business organization. HR departments will become increasingly more important as we begin to integrate AI team members into corporate departments, and the term “diversity” will stretch beyond race and gender to span human and machine. We’re on the brink of stepping into an innovative world, and I couldn’t be more excited for it.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I like to plan ahead. I’m a busy person, and I often have a lot on my plate during any given week – I can’t afford to scramble at the last minute. I try to think at least five steps ahead if I can; I like to break my goals down into manageable steps and ask: “What do I need to do to achieve this?” “What is my next move?” Once my path is clear, I can walk it with determination.

What advice would you give your younger self?

When I was younger, I tended to be more cautious than I am now. When we start our careers, we tend to lean towards the easier options and choose security over an exciting – but uncertain – idea. In the years since then, I’ve learned to take chances. Failure is part and parcel of learning; if we never take risks, how will we develop as professionals, or as people?

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

Technological revolution aka the fourth industrial revolution will create more opportunities in “going back to basics” than it will destroy, making us more human again.

We live in a fast-paced world; it seems as though new technologies come out every day, each one more advanced than the last. It’s something to celebrate, but I’ve heard more people than you might think express skepticism – fear, even! They believe that technology will eat up jobs, traditions, societies; the spiel sounds like something out of a science fiction novel. But I firmly believe that our technological revolution (the fourth industrial revolution) will create more opportunities than it will take away, and leave us with more time and energy to pursue creative innovation. It will allow us to go back to the basics, to work on ourselves. In the midst of so much technology, we will have the chance to become more human again.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Take time to appreciate the wins. Those in our society tend to rush to the next task without looking back on our successes – and sometimes, haste is necessary. But when we focus so much on doing better or moving beyond our past failures behind, we lose moments of joy and celebration that were left in the mix. I like to periodically look back and appreciate the wonderful moments in my personal and professional past, and value the joy they brought me.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Keeping expenses low and relying on the gig economy model, and also building an agile business model to be able to iterate and pivot when needed.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

A few years back, I built a solution of a product based on my assumptions. I was confident at the time that it would become the next big thing. However, the venture failed shortly after I built the prototype. This was stressful, as I had invested all my savings in building the prototype and business plan. To recover, I had to involve a technical mentor and pivot the whole concept into profitability.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would really love to see someone develop a social enterprise app that matches those with special needs to suitable work opportunities in their area.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently donated to support a community initiative that connects girls between the ages of nine and fifteen with volunteer and social entrepreneurship opportunities. The program is wonderful, and I personally believe that fostering a mindset of social entrepreneurship within younger generations is vital for sparking real change in the long term.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

I like using Wrike; it’s a great tool for collaboration and teamwork, and I find it especially helpful when I need to work with team members remotely.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I recently picked up Britt Andreatta’s “Wired to Resist: The Brain Science of Why Change Fails and a New Model to Drive Success,” and I couldn’t recommend it enough. It thoroughly explains why we so often face difficulties when we try to change – and provides ideas for how we can vault over obstacles when we encounter them.

What is your favorite quote?

This is more of a proverb than a quote, but I always loved the saying:
“Aspire to inspire before you expire.”


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