Knight Frank partner and sport fanatic’s pilot project

Property guru James Lewis knows everything he needs to about the global real estate market. Which is why he has just completed an executive MBA and is now considering gaining a Private Pilots License to add to his skillset.

James Lewis, a partner at Knight Frank, is revisiting his private pilots’ licence. Pawan Singh / The National
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James Lewis is a partner at Knight Frank, the world’s largest privately owned and operated real estate service provider. Mr Lewis, 37, from the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom, started his career with the company in London in 2000 and has worked with teams in both the commercial and residential divisions. A chartered surveyor, he was promoted quickly and in 2008 arrived in Bahrain to help the business establish its footprint in the Arabian Gulf. In 2010, Mr Lewis moved to Abu Dhabi to establish the UAE office; he later relocated to Dubai and now coordinates Knight Frank across its three Gulf offices, managing more than 50 employees.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?

Having recently completed an executive MBA, I am in the process of rediscovering what free time and weekends are all about. I plan more regional weekend travel and exploring. I am yet to scuba in the UAE, which is a long-standing ambition of mine, and to dive some of the best worldwide sites such as the Great Barrier Reef and ultimately do my DiveMaster course.

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

I enjoy travel and sport and I like to combine them where possible. I have made many a long journey to watch some of the world’s major rugby and football games. I recently watched a major European football match in the north-west of England, but the highlight has to be when I managed to get tickets to watch the Lions win in Sydney. It really doesn’t get better than that. Football is a great passion of mine, I support Liverpool and get very enthusiastic about following them.

What can’t you live without?

I would not describe myself as IT-savvy, so my reliance on my iPad, BlackBerry and iPhone scares me. After some adjustments I might well be able to live without my mobile phone, as we all managed to live without them only a decade or so ago – I believe geologists now refer to it as the Pre-Mobilian Age – but could I really survive without one now? Doubtful. Also, just think of all the other applications they boast. Especially once you factor in the built-in camera, calculator, alarm clock, email etc. But even though I have all of this technology, I would hate not to have my Mont Blanc pen, I dislike not being able to write anything down.

What do you consider the secret to your success?

From a professional perspective I have been fortunate enough to work with a number of high-profile senior partners across our business and one characteristic they consistently exert is the ability to communicate. I aspire to these qualities. I have always been an opportunist and keen for challenge. From a personal perspective I have a great family, all of whom are in the property market and act as a sounding board for some of my unconventional ideas.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

If you are a self-starter and passionate about what you do it will put you on a good path. Enthusiasm and energy go a long way; there will be plenty of knock-backs, but these qualities will get you through.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

If I am travelling and working out of an overseas office relaxing after work involves catching up with international colleagues and friends. I am in our Nairobi office next week and our Cape Town office in mid-December. During the summer I take time out to work from the UK and will try to get home to the Isle of Wight for Cowes Week to sail with my colleagues.

How do you relax after a working day?

When I am in the UAE I try to leave the office promptly and undertake some form of fitness activity; this is an attempt to keep me trim and is a fantastic way to switch off and disengage from work. With clients and colleagues in various time zones it is never long before the phone rings. Eating out is also a good form of relaxation for me.

If you weren’t a partner at this company, what else would you be doing?

Post MBA, I am revisiting my Private Pilots’ Licence, which I initially commenced in the UK. The inclement weather at home prohibited flying frequently, so I am starting this qualification again. It might well develop into an alternative career.

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