Off hours: Mohammed bin Odah, chief executive of Dubai's Tanmiyat Global
Mohammed bin Odah is the chief executive of Tanmiyat Global, an investment and real estate development firm in Dubai whose projects include the Living Legends Community in Dubailand and the Exchange Tower in Business Bay. Mr bin Odah, 58, also started his own construction film Delta Emirates in 1996. He has lived in the UAE with his wife and children for 22 years.
How do you spend your weekend?
At the weekend the whole family congregates at our house and I cook for everyone on the grill in the backyard. I enjoy cooking and people say I am quite good. I also do some sort of physical activity every morning, usually between 6am-7am, either at the gym or I jog around Mushrif Park. Finally, I watch sports, especially football – Chelsea is my team.
How did you become a chief executive?
In 1997 I bought the engineering and construction company Delta Emirates and took on the role of chief executive for many years. Delta has a strategic partnership with Tanmiyat and three years ago I was appointed by the board to take over. I still have a non-executive role at Delta but my son has taken over as CEO, which I could not be happier about. We firmly believe in family businesses in this part of the world as you build the business on trust and you work for generations of sustainability.
What is your go-to gadget?
I do like technology and believe you have to be tech-focused in this day and age – so much business depends on it. I like Apple Mac and think I have every product going, from the Macbook Pro to the iPhone. In fact, I remember using the first Apple Mac computer back in 1981.
What was the lowest point of your career?
When I took over Tanmiyat I took it at the lowest point possible. No one believed Living Legends would be delivered, it was complete desert and I had to start it from scratch. When I wasn’t working on it I did extra study in my spare time to make sure I was 100 per cent confident in what we were delivering. I made it a personal challenge to finish it and although since the crash of 2008 we have had to restructure and reschedule to fulfil completion, I feel very proud that we have been able to deliver Phase 1 to homeowners with Phase 2 ready by the end of 2016.
What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?
I always tell my staff that the most important trait in business is honesty. Even if the truth is ugly you have to be honest with your customers, with your stakeholders, and be the one to deliver the news rather than passing the responsibility on to someone else. If you are completely transparent with people it will help to build relationships and trust. And of course be hard-working – hard work goes a long way and will always get you noticed. Work weekends if you have to.
What is your most indulgent habit?
I love to travel, especially around Europe and my favourite place is Merano in northern Italy on the border of Switzerland. The climate is mild and the countryside is stunning, surrounded by mountains and lakes everywhere. It is a great escape from the dry heat of the UAE. I also like cars, particularly German makes such as Porsche and Mercedes. I have quite the collection going.
What do you have on your desk at work?
There is always dates, chocolates and sweets on my desk. I have an open-door policy and often people come in to talk over matters with a snack; or sometimes they just come in for a snack. It’s representative of our thinking at Tanmiyat. We don’t have a customer service team and believe that everyone at the company is a customer service agent.
What can’t you live without?
Faith. Faith in everything, from religion to work to life. I also couldn’t live without my family.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I enjoy what I do so I don’t necessarily see it as work. Work is what we do as part of life, so I don’t see them as separate entities that can be balanced. It all correlates, but family always comes before work. My usual habits are to start work early so I can finish early and have the evenings at home.
If you could swap jobs with anyone, who would it be and why?
I love my job and I enjoy it very much. From the age of nine I always wanted to be a construction engineer, so going to work feels like a hobby. When I drive around Dubai I admire the buildings and I feel lucky to be a part of the construction evolution. I feel buildings are personal to everyone, they are called home; they show history; they show style and they have the longest product lifestyle of anything made. Therefore, I don’t think I would swap jobs with anyone. Although I was close to starting my own franchise of shawarma restaurant once … I still may do it one day.
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter