Off hours: Servcorp general manager takes health seriously

Outside of her role as the general manager of Servcorp Middle East, Laudy Lahdo says reading a good book is her ultimate luxury.

Laudy Lahdo of Servcorp Middle East is also involved with Reach, the non-profit for women professionals. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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Laudy Lahdo is the general manager of Servcorp Middle East, a Sydney-listed company that sells serviced office space and IT services and has several bases in Dubai. Ms Lahdo, 46, from Australia but born in Lebanon, is married with two children. She has lived in Dubai for 14 years.

How do you spend your weekend?

My priority is to spend time with my family – my ­husband, 17-year-old daughter and my son – when he’s in Dubai; he is enrolled at Wharton in the University of Pennsylvania. Our “must do” every Friday is to visit the organic farmers’ market – we really enjoy cooking healthy, organic food so it serves as the ideal place to buy the freshest produce for the week. Personally, I love to keep fit – yoga, various workouts and a walk on the beach are my ­favourite ways to exercise. Beyond this, as the board member, I make sure to work on Reach, the first non-profit organisation in the Middle East dedicated to structured mentoring and leadership development for women professionals in the Middle East. Established in 2013, Reach has seen more than 200 women at various stages of their careers matched with mentors from all industry sectors as part of the organisation’s year-long mentoring programme.

How did you become the general manager of Servcorp?

I was fortunate to be headhunted by the company when I was living in Australia. The timing worked well as my husband had landed a new job in Dubai, and as a family we made the move from Australia to the UAE in 2003. At that time Dubai was really just taking off and Servcorp entered the region with its first office in Emirates Towers. With a bit of luck, plenty of perseverance and hard work, in my first 12 months we turned an average performing floor into one of our most profitable locations globally. My work was recognised by the senior management and that led to me being tasked with expanding Servcorp across the Middle East. Today, Servcorp has 14 locations and 30,000 square metres of office space across the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon and Turkey.

What is your go-to gadget?

Definitely my iPhone and iPad. These have such fantastic apps that are easy to use.

What was the lowest point of your career?

In the past I’ve had to make talented people redundant – it was most definitely one of the hardest challenges I’ve had to face.

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

My number one piece of advice is to ensure your company abides by the strictest compliance with government authorities – transparency is key.

What is your most indulgent habit?

I love baking and always try to make everything from scratch – there are no packaged products in my kitchen as I take health and nutrition very seriously.

What do you have on your desk at work?

Lots of things but I make sure that it remains neat – and this is a reflection of my organised nature. Key items include my family portrait, a “to do” list for the day, a calendar and lots of reports. Keeping hydrated is so important for concentration so I have a jug of water on hand.

What can’t you live without?

My family, books and my ­KitchenAid.

What car do you drive?

A BMW 520i.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

I’m truly fortunate to have a strong support network. My husband was always fully ­supportive of my career and shared the responsibility in raising our two children. He’s a hands-on father and I’m ­truly grateful. Together we have mastered the art of delegating, although one thing I have learnt is that there is never going to be a perfect balance in life. It’s about giving to whatever needs your attention at the time.

What are you reading at the moment?

Reading is a luxury time for me. I tend to read up on business on my iPad but what I really enjoy is getting stuck into a real book. I am currently reading two books: Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar and Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behaviour by Jonah Berger.

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

After 14 years I still love what I do. A key element of my job is that it is truly fulfilling to be ­hiring young people and supporting them on their career path – it is so rewarding to see them grow. I’m still heavily invested in expanding the business as Servcorp.

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