Off hours: Dubai manager of furniture rental firm feels good vibrations

Australian company manager, Paul Harding, has turned his fortunes around since running up a US$300,000 debt on a greengrocer business he set up after leaving school.

Paul Harding has one piece of advise on starting up a business: concentrate on one thing and do it well. Victor Besa For The National
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Paul Harding is the general manager of Innovative Hiring Dubai (IH), an event furniture rental company. The Australian, 28, who moved to Dubai three years ago, set up his first businesses – a boutique greengrocer and a furniture importing business – straight after leaving school. He later headed to Sri Lanka to launch the first boutique hotel located directly on Hikkaduwa beach before making the move to Dubai in 2012.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?

I love being outdoors, and in Dubai that means heading to the beach with my mates. I love the ambience of Kite Beach with families, people paddle boarding and a great vibe – very much like LA. The weekend is the time I catch up with friends; we make it a point to sit and enjoy time together in a restaurant. We all love good food and like to visit the latest new restaurant receiving great reviews. Great friends and good food is what I am about.

How did you become a general manager?​​

When I first moved to Dubai I was a senior event coordinator at Dish catering, which caters to premium events. When IH started in 2013 I headed it up as business development manager, then became GM. I have been here from the day it started, so it’s my baby.

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

Travelling. I love to see new places, experience their culture and try out the varied cuisines. The variety is like a breath of fresh air and I love soaking it all in. This year I have been to Amsterdam, Paris, Sri Lanka, Barcelona, Berlin and London. Next year I might spend a month somewhere in Europe over the summer.

What can’t you live without?

Music. There’s nothing like good music to calm one’s nerves. Work, work and more work leaves me stressed out and music is the balm that soothes these rough edges. Whether it’s at home or at work, I feel that I can concentrate more when there is music around; good music has a way of filtering off negativity and increases my concentration. I am able to think better at work and find solutions to complex problems with relative ease just because my mind is clear of smog. I love all kinds of music but recently I’m into remixed house music.

What was the lowest point of your career?

When I was US$300,000 in debt and owned a boutique greengrocer in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. That was when the global financial crisis hit. I then worked day and night at a Michelin Star restaurant run by the celebrity chef Shannon Bennett. This gave me a new insight into hospitality services and after I had earned enough to start something new I moved to Sri Lanka. That’s where my boutique hotel took off and I was able to pay back my dues in Australia.

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

Concentrate on one thing and do it well, don’t try to be everything to everyone and know your market – it is the key to survival. Don’t say “yes I can do it” without first evaluating the client and their requirements. Getting a job done right takes a lot of planning and there are many more problems in its execution.

What do you have on your desk at work? ​

A laptop and phone – I always have two screens on the go for maximum productivity – and my large plastic cup of water (cold) always.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

Work hard and play harder is my motto.

What is your most indulgent habit?

Marvellous creations from Cadbury. But only from Australia as the milk from our cows makes the chocolate extra creamy.

How do you relax after the working day?

I take my fitness very strongly. I head to the gym for a 3-kilometre run straight after work no matter how late it may be or how tired I am. My run and my music is a reboot mechanism for my mind and body.

If you could swap jobs with anyone, who would it be?

I’d be the owner and general manager of my own boutique 12-bedroom hotel on the south coast of Sri Lanka. Just imagine a picturesque landscape and a hotel that runs on my ideas which caters to select clientele. That would be my dream, it would be like living your work while enjoying them both.

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