You recently took over the chief executive position at Duserve. What is foremost on your agenda in terms of sustaining or growing the company’s momentum? Is there anything you are looking to change?
To deliver on Duserve’s potential to become a benchmark in the facilities management industry. This is not only in terms of service innovation but, importantly enough, in the way value creation is extended across the board. That is from the customer all the way to our employees, the supply chain and the society at large. My job is to make that happen, against all odds – it is as simple as that.
I strongly believe that companies should have a soul and that need is further accentuated by the fact that we operate within a customer service industry whereby our people are who we are. Since my appointment this has been one of the top priorities in the ‘transformation’ of Duserve towards becoming a service provider of choice. Setting up a mission that drives the behavioural attitude of every single employee was a critical catalyst for achieving this vision; we did so based on their own design by engaging all 2,000 employees to be part of the process. It is shaping our culture and slowly becoming the glue that unifies them towards driving the business and their own future forward, continuously. We are engaging the hearts and minds of our people and customers, aiming for mutual value creation across the board.
Pioneering innovation in our business and service model is another key priority. An important part of our vision is to drive the industry into the future, so we are engaging world – leading technology companies to be part of our team and are open to incubating emerging innovative solutions of entrepreneurs. We aim to become the knowledge hub of the industry, an educational driving force.
What is the biggest challenge in the FM industry right now, particularly in the space that you operate out of?
Cost consciousness of customers in an overly saturated, highly competitive market is a challenge for most service providers. In such an environment, unless you have a sustainable competitive advantage, focus on niche segments and continue evolving in the right direction, you can become yesterday’s news in no time. Patience, difficult choices and a lot of hard work and persistence are key to enduring success, along with continuous education of customers on the long term benefits of the usage of technology in service delivery.
You have significant operations in Dubai South in particular. What plans do you have in terms of expansion?
Duserve operates throughout the UAE, with an extensive portfolio across the sectors. Nakheel, Damac, MAG Properties, Emirates Financial Towers, Al Tayer, Sobha, Dubai Duty Free, Fitness First, Hamdan Sports Complex, Auris & First Central Hotels are some of our key customers.
We are a government owned entity, set up by the decreed Dubai Aviation City Corporation (DACC) under the inspirational leadership of HE Khalifa Al Zaffin, DACC Executive Chairman. Dubai South is one of our biggest customers and where a vast amount of our learning is done. Here we get the unique opportunity to further build on our logistics, industrial, commercial, residential, infrastructure, and aviation expertise rapidly and to learn from the best. That’s why our best customers include multinational conglomerates that have set up bases here, such as IKEA, Nestle, Zodiac Aerospace, Hellman and Expeditors, to name but a few.
Taking over the CEO mantle is a great recognition of prior efforts. What would you say are lessons that have helped you get here?
It can basically be summed up in one key lesson that has reverberated throughout the years: Success, of any type, comes after tons of hard work, persistence and a lot of patience along the way. You cannot possibly ignore the factor that is luck, but what you finally come to realise is that your luck is what you make it – in most cases you create your own favourable conditions for success to flourish through. The other critical lesson I’d say is the quality of your relationships, personal and professional. Having a strong, supportive environment at home makes all the difference when things get tough. Being seen by your professional network as someone who will be fair, diligent and will go the extra mile to make things happen, opens all the right doors along the way.
What are some leadership goals you have? Also, what kind of culture will your try to bring to the organisation?
I would say that the role is one of pure responsibility. With responsibility comes the obligation to generate honest value across the network – the people you serve, your customers, the society at large, for generations to come. Our culture speaks this very language: that our employees are value generators while realising their potential and that of their colleagues.
Being a woman, would you say it is crucial to be a role model in that regard, or is it something that you don’t like to draw attention to?
All leaders ought to be role models regardless of gender, but the importance of inspiration to less empowered clusters of the society is undoubted. An invaluable lesson throughout my life and career, is that the one thing nobody can ever take from you is the power of knowledge. Knowledge is the ultimate differentiator and eliminates all obstacles along the way, sooner or later.
What words of advice would you give to others who are just stepping in to leadership roles?
Don’t forget what helped you get where you are now, your qualities that helped you shine through and that were rewarded along the way. Remember that with power comes great responsibility towards the people your serve and the broader society, and always use it wisely. Listening is different to hearing; give a voice to your people and value their feedback. Stick to your principles and ethics no matter what, everyone is watching and learning from you. Never, ever give up and become the role model of dedication, resilience and persistence for your team. Inspire and empower your people to become the best they can be and soon enough you see everything fall nicely into place. Have fun along the way! If nothing else it will make you a better leader.
Who would you consider a mentor, or someone you are inspired by, and why?
My husband, whom I have known since I was 17, keeps me in check with my internal compass and makes sure I always stick to my core principles. Nobody knows me better and can bring me back to the ground in no time – I have quite a solid correction mechanism there! He is always there for me, no matter what; patient, wise and eternally supportive. I have always been inspired by people who never give up. Facing challenges head on and coming out on the other side, either victorious or ‘defeated’ but nevertheless have given their absolute everything trying. Nothing beats the confidence and learning that come out of this process.
What is the most important quality you look for in someone you are considering doing business with?
As long as your vision is clearly communicated out there, the right business partners flood in. The vision of a company releases a wealth of information. About the way it is run, the quality of its customer and third party relationships, the openness to join hands and do business with similar-minded companies. So far we have been pleasantly surprised by the alignment of the industry parties to what we are trying to achieve strategically. Our vision is to ‘become a memorable service provider of choice, the benchmark of service excellence, the trend setter and pioneer of innovation in the industry’.
Do you have any daily rituals that help prepare you for the day?
Time has never been this short, and with so many things going on at the same time, being organised and disciplined is critical. I prepare my to-do list of urgent things for the day, before going to bed the night before. A ritual that keeps me sane. At the same time, it is my risk management mechanism, as it helps me be ready for absolutely anything in the morning. Exercise is another one. I wake up at 5am and either go jogging or swimming, at least 3 times a week. I was a competitive swimmer growing up and it all comes naturally in terms of the motivation part of it. The challenge is sometimes the time trade-off, during extremely busy periods. Still, I make a point of following my ancient Greek ancestors’ guidance in achieving ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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