Off hours: Weekends are a family affair for Dubai construction company chief

Homework with the kids and laughter helps construction boss Bishoy Azmy balance out his work and home life.

Bishoy Azmy, a voracious reader, likes to keep up with industry trends in the construction sector. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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Bishoy Azmy, 34, is the chief executive of Al Shafar General Contracting (ASGC) – a group of building and construction companies cofounded by his father, Emad Azmy, in Dubai 25 years ago. The company’s projects have included the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Palm Jumeirah, City Walk in Jumeirah, Business Central Towers on Sheikh Zayed Road and Dubai Police’s general headquarters.

What are your favourite things to do at the weekend?

As a business, we have a permanent workforce of 10,000 employees with multiple construction projects running simultaneously across the UAE, so I am lucky to have a very talented team around me at every level, who play a key role in running our family business. This support network helps to free up as much time as possible on the weekends to spend with my family. I have young boys aged five and three, so I often take them swimming. This quality time with my children is so important and I really enjoy getting involved in all of the different types of adventurous activities they are interested in, as well as helping them with their homework when possible.

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

My main hobby is reading on a wide variety of topics, but I do read a lot about developments in the Middle East’s construction industry to keep up to speed with what is happening across the region and in other parts of the world, in terms of industry trends.

What can’t you live without?

Having a sense of humour and the ability to laugh is something I could definitely not live without. Laughter provides a release and is truly food for the soul. My kids make me a laugh a lot, especially when I watch them try to master a new game.

What do you consider the secret to your success?

For me, as part of a family business it has, and will always be, about team work. We have great management, at all levels, who have been with us for many years as well as a companywide group of dedicated employees. It is this team effort and shared knowledge base across our organisation that has underpinned ASGC’s growth over the last 25 years.

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

In my experience, to be successful you must be focused, persevere and truly believe in yourself and what you are doing. I think that here in the UAE, we benefit from a ‘can do’ culture, and this is supported by the government and its support for entrepreneurialism. We can see the fruits of this support with so many successful self-made family businesses and entrepreneurs. These are great role models for our young and up-and-coming people and shows that if you have the will, anything is possible.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

This is only really possible with the support of the entire ASGC team. I try to spend whatever free time I have at the weekends with my wife and children. Often when I return home during the week I try to minimise my time on the phone, but will often wake early to deal with work issues. This helps a lot to ensure work flows are managed so that when I am at home I can relax with my family.

How do you relax after the working day?

After work, I like to catch up with my wife and kids on what they did during the day, after which I usually review my personal emails and catch up on news online. I also have a group of close friends here in Dubai so during the week, when it is possible, we like to meet up for a coffee to discuss work, family, news, and generally unwind.

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

This is a good question. I think that I would run another business within the real estate development and asset management space, which I have a strong interest in. I believe this industry has significant commercial potential both here in the UAE but also across the wider region and internationally with skills more easily transferable between markets as compared to construction, which requires a company to be fully embedded in each market to be both successful and fully aware of local intricacies.