Wednesday, November 26, 2008

9th Interview: managing a business park in Dubai

1st order: the 9th interview was held with the general manager of a business park in Dubai.
Building and operating
When asked about the main duties of managing a business park I was introduced into two basic tasks: building and operating. The first task building comprehends the physical establishment of the park. Supervision of the construction site is thereby outsourced to another company, although decisions have to be aligned. Additionally, reporting to the board of investors has to be complied. The second task operating includes primarily marketing and sales, winning commercial, residential, and retail clients is thereby the preliminary goal. The heart of the business park is going to be a business centre, which will host offices and is there to enable businesses to function and operate smoothly.
Communication was identified as major competence for managing these tasks.
Interaction in Middle East business is rather based on verbal than on written communication. This accounts especially for presentations. It is not about showing all facts & figures, but giving rather a short overview in order to enable decision-making. I have been told that it is recommendable to bring three options out of which one should be chosen. [Which in fact is quite similar to management of large Western corporations, note JSL] Again patterns can be traced back on the focus on interpersonal relationships. According to the interviewee decisions tend to take their time. Patience is thereby an indispensable competence. Although Arabic is the official languages English is the business language, which in fact seems to lead more often than desired to misunderstandings (see also 6th interview, section: challenges for Triple-C PM in Dubai >>>).
Dealing with the Administration
When dealing with the administration one should be aware of according to the book procedures. This is a consequence out of the historic British-Indian administrational background (see also 1st interview, section: on Dubai-Indians bonds >>>). Personal experience and empathy is generally an asset when dealing with the administration. Questioning the same person a couple of times can also be helpful, and may lead to multiple sometimes controversial answers. A German background can be helpful as it is associated with reliability and quality of work, which sometimes opens even close doors, I have been told (see also 8th interview, section: findings >>>).
Some practical implications based on the culture
• Business relationships are personal. This leads to a 24/7 availability request. Irritations may occur if you are not reachable by mobile phone over a longer time span.
• Decision models tend to be rather grey than black-and-white. Nothing is impossible; a “no” is not necessarily a no (see also 7th interview, section: cultural differences in management >>>).
• Long term planning is not inherent in Islam. This accounts especially for the older generation. Insurances, forecasting’s, pensions schemes were long times not practiced. With the younger generation a culture change is underway.
• Hierarchy and titles are very important. Interestingly, these schemes are conferred to the Western expats, which according to my interview partner, even foster this perception.

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