x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Listen, plan, then pick your own path, Just Falafel chief advises budding entrepreneurs

Fadi Malas, chief executive of Just Falafel, says he has so much fun at work it doesn’t really feel like he is working.

Fadi Malas, the chief executive of Just Falafel, says weekends can easily merge into the working week when one runs a business. Lee Hoagland / The National
Fadi Malas, the chief executive of Just Falafel, says weekends can easily merge into the working week when one runs a business. Lee Hoagland / The National

Fadi Malas is the chief executive of Just Falafel, the UAE-based fast food chain. Mr Malas, who is British Lebanese, has lived in Dubai for almost nine years and is an MBA graduate from Imperial College of Science & Technology London. He is an experienced business leader and strategist and holds shareholder positions in a diverse range of companies. The 45-year-old is also a regular keynote speaker at industry events and winner of the 2012 and 2013 Arab Entrepreneur of the year and Business of the Year 2013 awards from SMEinfo.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?

Friday is a very special time for me. It is family time and a chance to reflect on the week and what my priorities are both on a personal and work level. To be honest, when you run a business the weekends can easily merge into the working week, as there is always so much to do. But taking time out to enjoy the amazing country we live in is important, although being in the food business you are always looking for new ideas even at the weekend.

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

I would really like to be that person that has a deep-rooted passion for a particular hobby like sailing or theatre, but life offers me so many interesting things on a daily basis that I enjoy the voyage of discovery. So if I had to pick I would say I have an appreciation of art but more from a sense of fun and possible investment rather than a serious hobby.

What can’t you live without?

The support of my family, and my mobile phone of course.

What do you consider the secret to your success?

Not to be afraid to try something new and innovate. We have a culture at Just Falafel where we recognise that good ideas can bubble up from any part of the organisation and we encourage people to try – we respect effort above all else. Then ideas are shared and built upon through our very flat management structure and large tables that we sit at, which allows us to maximise speed and efficiency in our decision making process.

What advice would you offer other budding entrepreneurs (people starting out in your business)?

Just get started. Obviously a certain amount of preparation is needed, but do not be paralysed by details. Mohamad Bitar who founded the company did just that. Then ensure you have the correct networks set up around you to seek advice, but have conviction. Listen and absorb advice, then pick your own path.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

You know I find it more stressful to try and separate the two. Rather than suppose work intrudes on life, I feel it’s part of life. Like everything you do there has to be a balance, but the two are merged rather than separate. To be honest I have so much fun at work it doesn’t really feel like I am working at all, especially when I go out and feel first hand how warm and appreciative people are towards our brand. It inspires me.

How do you relax after the working day?

I am very fortunate to have a large family that I treasure, so it is very easy for me to relax when I return home. There is always something going on … I could be learning the latest trends in social media from my eldest daughters or playing football or watching a film with my son and youngest daughter so life is always pleasantly full.

If you weren’t chief executive of this company what else would you be doing?

That’s a very good question and luckily not one I have much time to think about at the moment. My family has very entrepreneurial roots so I guess I would always find it hard not to be involved in something, but with Just Falafel being both a food company with a prominent digital media component I have my hands pretty full at the moment, which is just the way I like it.


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