Nabil Al Yafie oversees more than 140 employees in a firm that services up to 300 cars on its busiest days. The manager of Al Wataniya Workshop, which is based in Dubai and is expanding to Abu Dhabi and Oman, discusses how a worker evaluation programme has helped manage his growing team.
Tell me about the employee evaluations you use.
You don't have time to go to each desk and check what employees are doing. You want your final results. Each quarter we do a general evaluation. What is the problem they're facing? What was their productivity last month? If two months was better, and one month was bad - why? Maybe because we were using bad spare parts, or the mechanic was sick or tired. We do a graphical [analysis] and find out from there. It is a huge sea; you can see a lot of fish - a lot of excuses and reasons.
What happens then?
Once you finish your evaluation, the manager will communicate with his staff. Closed-door management does not exist. I love to work with my staff in an office without walls. They see me; I see them.
You personally got involved in finding a new car parts supplier recently. How did worker evaluations lead you down that road?
I used to have people who were not very well educated in purchasing. They did not find out what's new in the market. [I lost] a lot of money and made company growth get lost somewhere. I do a lot of evaluations. They are good people and don't mean it, but their education is limited.
So what happens to them?
We ship them to other responsibilities, with training, and give them another job. This job [finding new suppliers] I handle myself with my assistant. Now it's very successful.
You already have a presence in Dubai and are in the process of opening new workshops in Abu Dhabi and Oman. Who do you plan to target with your maintenance services?
To be more honest, after Ramadan, we will start by concentrating on big fleet owners first. I'm talking about companies with up to 6,000 vehicles. Our sister companies are Dollar Rent-A-Car and Thrifty. We will start by servicing these car rental companies then open to the public in Abu Dhabi and Oman. In Dubai, our workshop is already opened to the public. Now, we are dealing with ENOC (Emirates National Oil Company), hoping to make deals with RTA (Roads & Transport Authority) and trying for Dubai Police.
What are the biggest challenges to expanding to new markets?
[Finding out] who will be the customer, the volume and what will be the profit. [The good news is] in the past, companies would use the car for one year. Today, they are preferring to use it for three or four years. People are looking for workshops.