– Words by lauren Kramer Photography by Lia Crowe
As sales and marketing manager for Brian Jessel BMW, Abdel Karim Awwad is at the forefront of the customer experience and in charge of brand marketing, events and public relations. That’s no small job at a BMW dealership that’s been number one in the country for the past 19 years. Last year alone, 42-year-old Abdel put on 64 events. His specialty is creating a customer experience defined by luxury, powerful messaging and exceptional details.
Born in Kuwait, he completed high school in Jordan and studied hospitality management at Jordan’s Jerusalem College. His father was CEO of a large company, and Abdel knew from an early age that he would work in customer experience.
“I come from a very sophisticated family that places a lot of emphasis on etiquette and how it is reflected in your life, from dining skills to dress code, meeting and greeting guests to presenting yourself in public,” he reflects. “It was important that we excelled at this because of my father’s work and his association with others in important positions. That required us children to have certain skills, and those skills shaped my personality.”
Fascinated with etiquette and international protocols, Abdel began his career working at an array of prestigious Middle Eastern hotels. He achieved several diplomas in etiquette and international protocols and opened a consulting firm and training academy called Protocol Lab. In that role he educated CEOs, dignitaries, government officials and corporate executives about the protocols in using private jets, yachts, technology, hotel selection, restaurant venues, events and international business relations.
“That is what differentiates you from the crowd,” he explains. “Protocol is the principle of any person’s lifestyle when it comes to presenting themselves in public in a proper way, and when you’re a public figure in the community, any mistake will be used against you, so you have to be especially careful.”
Part of his consulting work involved projects with royal family members across the Middle East, for whom Abdel helped organize weddings and international conferences attended by presidents and dignitaries worldwide. His consulting work also took him to India, China and the United Kingdom.
Abdel wanted his three daughters to receive a Western education, a decision that propelled him to relocate to Vancouver in 2020. As someone who had traveled to 62 countries around the world, he was humbled by the beauty of Vancouver when he first visited in 2004. With brothers already living in the city, the decision to join them in BC was an easy one.
Abdel had worked with BMW in Doha, Qatar from 2003, rising through the ranks to general manager and dealer principal. So, when he was offered the position of heading up sales and marketing at Brian Jessel BMW, he jumped at the opportunity.
“It wasn’t hard to adapt to the Canadian market after having worked in larger scale, metropolitan cities,” he says.
The family settled in Surrey’s Fleetwood neighbourhood and Abdel loves his daily commute to and from Vancouver in his BMW X7, a far cry from his first car ever, a 1972 Land Rover Defender.
“The BMW X7 meets my personality because at 6’4,” I’m a big guy. The vehicle is a six-seater, which accommodates my family needs, and I feel like it presents power, elegance and luxury.”
His favourite event last year was the wedding he arranged for the CEO and managing partner at Brian Jessel BMW in October.
“I brought my experience from the larger-scale weddings I’d arranged for royal families in the Middle East,” he recalls. “That keeps you thinking of how to create something unique and different.”
Abdel also helped engineer the largest worldwide launch event for the BMW 7 Series last year. “The car is made with a lot of crystals, in partnership with the Swarovski brand, so I designed the entire event around crystal shapes,” he explains.
He knew he’d done good work when other dealers from the Middle East started calling, asking if they could use the same concept for their events.
Etiquette and protocols remain a top priority for Abdel, particularly when it comes to elevating the customer experience at Brian Jessel BMW, and to ensuring his daughters know how to present themselves. In the latter respect, he confesses, “things are getting very challenging with technology.”
“The younger generation is building virtual friendships but is very isolated in real life. So, it requires parents to spend a lot of time trying to educate their kids on behaviour and etiquette,” he reflects.
“Customer experience is crucial wherever you go in the world, and the way to distinguish yourself as a brand or as a company is by setting standards. For me, it’s about setting the benchmark on customer experience—and that is my number one focus.”