Off hours: Dubai-based Performance Development boss Dawn Metcalfe

While achieveing a work-life balance is nigh on impossible for hard-working entrepreneur Dawn Metcalfe, she does have a little hideaway in Sri Lanka she can escape to for respite.
Dawn Metcalfe is the managing director of Performance Development Services. Lee Hoagland / The National
Dawn Metcalfe is the managing director of Performance Development Services. Lee Hoagland / The National

Dawn Metcalfe is the managing director of the Dubai-based Performance Development Services. Along with her team, Ms Metcalfe, 38, from Ireland, works with board directors, senior managers and top management teams across the region through a mix of individual and team coaching, mentoring programmes, leadership development programmes and retreats. The 38-year-old former teacher is also the author of Managing the Matrix, which she wrote on the terrace of her Sri Lanka hideaway.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?

I’m afraid that my weekends have recently been pretty much devoted to sleeping and trying to catch up on the myriad of things I haven’t been able to get to during the week. As the business has become more established, I’ve been trying to take more advantage of the huge number of things to do in Dubai.

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

The downside of running one’s own business is the likelihood that one becomes obsessed and so hobbies become more of a challenge. The upside is that work-life balance isn’t an issue as my work is one of my passions and doesn’t feel like “work”. Beyond the business I love to read and am clearly getting old as I prefer to do that with real books rather than an e-reader.

What can’t you live without?

The internet and Diet Coke! Seriously, my computer drowned in a flood a week ago, and I’m still recovering. Unless you work for a large corporation with a team of people who can help you, please learn from my mistakes and back up now. Then back up your backup. More broadly I wouldn’t be able to live without the people who have helped and supported me over the last few years. I have been consistently amazed at the generosity of individuals who have shared their wisdom and contacts with me and that network is probably the most important thing to me. People often say Dubai is transitory and so people don’t connect genuinely, but that hasn’t been my experience.

What do you consider the secret to your success?

Thank you very much for suggesting that I’m successful first of all. This question made me think hard and I think the best answer is what clients tell us about why they hire us – that we clearly love what we do and so are prepared to work really hard to get it right. I’m lucky enough that at the end of most (not all) days I’m amazed that I get paid for having so much fun. It’s a privilege to work with the people we do so being passionate about it isn’t hard.

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

It’s not about you – it’s about the client. Everything we do is about making our clients’ lives easier, less stressful and helping them to succeed. To do that you have to be able to subsume your own concerns and also, this is the difficult bit, walk away from work if you know you can’t make a difference. That’s particularly hard to do at the beginning when you’re worried about making ends meet but the reputation you build will stick with you so it’s important to get it right.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

Hmm, I’m not sure I do but I try. I do have a little house in Sri Lanka that I visit as often as possible. When there I still keep on top of work (for example I wrote my book, Managing the Matrix there last year) but sitting on the terrace watching the fishermen on the water and the dogs snuffling in the greenery for interesting animals to play with makes it easy.

How do you relax after the working day?

Yoga. I find that it helps me turn off my brain. I have a great teacher who puts me through my paces regularly and I try to do a little every day by myself. Netflix doesn’t hurt either.

If you weren’t running your business what else would you be doing?

Great question. I genuinely don’t know. I was 11 years old when a friend of my father guessed that I would be an entrepreneur or a teacher. With this job I get to be both. And I can’t imagine doing anything else.

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Published: December 11, 2014 04:00 AM


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