Off hours: Family ties offer relaxation and inspiration to Dubai developer
Mahmood Shaikhani is the managing director of Dubai-based Shaikhani Group, a family business with trading units involved in property, contracting and building materials. The group was founded by his father, Abu Baker Shaikhani in 1978, and Mr Shaikhani took over the reins of the company in 2004. Originally from Pakistan, the 38-year-old has lived in the UAE for 15 years and is married with three children, a daughter, 13, and two sons, eight and three.
How do you spend your weekend?
I spend most of my time with my kids and visit my mother, who lives in Ajman. I spend Thursday evening and Friday with my mother, brothers and the entire extended family, and on Friday evening I take my children out.
How did you become a managing director?
I came to Dubai in 2001 after completing my studies at London’s Metropolitan University. When I got to the air-conditioned office on my first day at work, well-attired in a business suit and tie, my father politely asked me to change into the overalls worn by shop floor personnel. He then directed me to the Rubber World Industries factory, which manufactures the Gulf-O-Flex rubber insulation system in the Gulf and South East Asia.
There I went through the paces working under the operations manager. I toiled alongside my colleagues in the plant’s premises braving stifling heat, grime, long and hard hours of manual labour and the strong odour of chemicals. This prepared me for the major responsibilities and challenges that I would undertake in the future as a managing director. I am carrying my father’s legacy as far as I can, and so far we are doing very well.
What was the lowest point of your career?
When my father passed away, it was the most defining moment in my life. He taught me everything I know and his untimely death created a huge void that can never be filled. My father had vast experience and was a treasure trove of wisdom. He imparted invaluable lessons of life that continue to guide me and are an integral part of my success.
What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?
Always believe in yourself and accomplish what you set out to achieve. I will share a piece of advice that was given to me by my father. I used to be an aggressive decision maker but my father told me not to take decisions in a hurry. Although sometimes one needs to take “immediate” decisions, it is imperative to analyse the future impact before taking a call.
What is your go-to gadget?
My iPhone. It’s a complete ecosystem, I manage all my communications from it and the apps are wonderful. My favourites are TripAdvisor and Booking.com.
What is your most indulgent habit?
I have to finish what I start. Until I finish something, I am on it – be it work, a project or some personal goal. For instance, I use a Fitbit to monitor the steps I have taken and I make sure I have walked 10,000 steps a day.
What do you have on your desk at work?
Magazines, employee papers and a calculator.
What can’t you live without?
My kids, my family and my friends. I love to spend quality time with my children. I also make it a point to speak with my mother on a daily basis, no matter which part of the world I am in. It takes me back in time to when I was a child and all I needed to hear was my mother’s voice to make all my troubles go away. It feels the same even today. It puts me at ease, I feel secure and at peace with the world.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I use my mobile phone to manage all my important appointments. After work, I spend my time listening to my kids – their stories from the day such as their activities at school, their friends. I love listening to them. On weekends, I take my family out, meet my friends and just enjoy socialising.
If you could swap jobs with anyone, who would it be and why?
I love my work too much and there is no need for me to swap, but if I did, I would be the prime minister of Pakistan. I would love to serve my country and make a difference to people’s lives, change the mindset of the people and make it a better place.
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