Rakibe Altuntas: Happily married with my business partner
By Mirela Sula
Rakibe Altuntas was born in the city of Trabzon, Turkey in 1972. After graduating from Karadeniz Technical University’s Psychological Counselling Department, she started her professional life at Deulcom International as the Customer Service Representative. Rakibe is now the CEO of Deulcom International, the biggest language and vocational training school chain in Turkey. She holds an MBA in Management and Organisation from Cukurova University. Rakibe is married to Baybars, a well renowned entrepreneur, Angel investor, Turkish TV Dragon, and now hosts The Weakest Link, a TV quiz show, in Turkey. They have two daughters.
For Rakibe, being married to a successful businessman like Baybars Altuntas is something to be proud of, but she also sees it a responsibility. This, for the reason because she had to prepare herself to have less in her own life and her family life, while his business was developing. It is like a see-saw, she says. “When one part goes up, the other part goes down. Your life is normal so long as you are able to fill the part on the down side. Once you re-define your expectations, every member of the family is able to live without complaining about anything. The balance point here is the woman”.
At the beginning she was attracted by Baybars’s sense of humour, this was the first thing that impressed her. Like many women, she thinks that men who make them laugh are special. “It is very important to have fun together” says Rakibe. “And when you spend time with someone you enjoy being with, you develop similar interests”. She also noticed early on that he has a mind-set that is different from most people’s, and that he has a unique critical observation ability. Therefore she has always admired his insights, even on ordinary issues.
How do you remember the beginning of your relationship with Baybars?
We were working at the same place. I was working as the customer service representative at Deulcom International, his company. He was my boss, so naturally I tried to maintain a professional distance. After all, I didn’t want to be viewed by other staff as someone who had a personal interest in her boss. But now I understand that this sensitivity was not really necessary, because he was just two years older than me. Eventually, he convinced me to go out with him.
What has changed in this relationship through the years?
Both of us have a leadership spirit. That used to create a bit of friction between us at times. We both like making decisions and then acting immediately on them, without consulting others. Of course, it took some time to work this out. Either we had to work separately or we had to find a way to deal with it. Because we enjoyed working together and spending time together, the solution emerged naturally, on its own. Over time, I learnt how to step back when he made a decision, and he learnt how to step back when I decided on something. We learned to respect each other more and we started paying attention to asking for each other’s opinions.
We learned to respect each other more and we started paying attention to asking for each other’s opinions.
We got married very young. He was 24, and I was only 22. We were so busy at Deulcom International that I really don’t even remember the details of my wedding ceremony. As you may know if you have read his biography, he was very successful in the business world at a very young age. He is a real workaholic, like me. We were both working seven days a week. Our wedding was something that just happened as part of the weekly flow of business, and we were back at the office the next day. We didn’t go on a honeymoon until a few months later, when there was an official week long holiday for the whole country. I wasn’t one of those brides who spend months planning all the details of her wedding, but I have never felt sorry about this.
How much are you involved in the business?
I am now the CEO of Deulcom International, which was founded by Baybars in 1992. I became a member of the team in 1994 and we got married in the same year. My professional dedication to Deulcom International has continued through the years without any break. We expanded the business together. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to think about the developments over the last twenty years. Our business was our first child. We invested all our energies to make it successful, and we are now very proud to have come so far and to have achieved so much.
Our business was our first child…
Baybars needs to travel a lot for his various business interests, how do you deal with his frequent absence?
I started working as soon as I graduated from university, and it was in my husband’s business that I was working. We owned schools in various cities throughout Turkey, and Baybars used to travel a lot between these cities. After we got married, we started travelling together. Travel was a natural part of our daily life, and I never had any problem with it because it was part of the picture from the very beginning. The children also grew up with travelling, but after they were born, I started travelling less. Baybars loves his business and travelling. I don’t ever remember him resisting a call to travel. I feel happy when I see him doing what he enjoys. When I feel happy, everybody feels happy.
Do you ever get jealous?
No, I have never been jealous. I have always believed that jealousy stems from a lack of trust. Jealousy is having doubts. When you start to doubt, this means you have lost your trust, either in yourself or in your partner.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from Baybars in life or business?
I have always learned from Baybars on how to deal with things that happen at work, but these lessons have also been life lessons for me. The most important thing I learnt from him is not to give up and always to be passionate about what I do. When he decides to do something, he may try a hundred different ways to do it, but in the end he succeeds. He never gives up. I have witnessed many times how well this aspect of his character works for him. I try to implement the same in my own daily life.
What is the best lesson you have given to Baybars?
I am a person of love. I enjoy showing my love, I enjoy saying it. It took Baybars a long time to be able to do this. The concepts of love and family have been re-shaped in him. I think I provide him the love and environment of trust that he needs.
If spouses show respect for each other, the children learn it from them…
What is the biggest thing you value in life and why?
I value respect more than anything else. If spouses show respect for each other, the children learn it from them. I find any kind of disrespectful behaviour or speech hurtful.
How is your relationship with your daughters?
Baybars travels a lot and when he is at home he is very busy, so I had to become both mother and father to the children. Most of the time we are alone at home. In that context, I am the ruler. If I were to choose the friendship option with them, who would be the ruler? Yet my daughters share everything with me. I am an adviser to them, someone they receive ideas from, not a friend with whom they gossip. I support them in their becoming self-sufficient. I try to do everything to enable them to develop high self-esteem and to grow up to be self-reliant individuals who can solve problems on their own, not people who complain and expect others to sort things out for them.
What is the biggest gift that Baybars has given you?
I have never been a materialistic person. Baybars doesn’t express his appreciation or feelings very openly. In fact, it is rare for him to do so. But it is from his behaviour that you can understand that he gives importance to you. I remember once when we had just moved into a new house, I came home at the end of an exhausting day at work to find he had prepared a lovely candle-lit dinner for the two of us. This was the best gift I ever received from him because it was something he had done just for me. That moment was more valuable than any gift he has ever given me.
It is often said: Behind a successful man is always a successful woman. How much truth is on this in your relationship?
I totally agree with this statement. I am not saying this to praise myself, but I believe that peace at home affects a person’s whole life. And I believe that the only individual who can regulate the peace at home is a woman. A strong woman who can make decisions doesn’t waste her husband’s time (or anyone else’s, for that matter). In order for a woman to regulate her environment, she should first regulate herself. Happiness comes from the inside, not from the outside. So you can find happiness more easily if you look for it in what you have. When your husband comes home, he should feel he is in a peaceful environment. It is enough to feed him with your love.
What is a dream you have that hasn’t come true yet?
I think my dream is one that everybody living in a big city dreams about — a calm place where I can just deal with flowers, and nothing else…
What important piece of wisdom do you share with your daughters?
Whatever they do in this life should be valuable not just for them, but also for other people. This is the basic value and wisdom I try to impress on them.