Miguel El Khouri is the general manager of the IT solutions provider Gulf Business Machines (GBM) in Abu Dhabi and Yemen, a position he has held since 2011. Born in Brazil, he moved with his family to Lebanon, where he received his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Balamand. Before joining GBM in 2005, the 41-year-old started his career in networking and infrastructure business management with Saudi Business Machines in 1997. He is married and lives in Dubai.
How do you spend your weekend?
I’m an early-morning person, even at weekends. I start the day at about 6.30am with my coffee, read the news and some business articles. I also catch up on social media as I don’t have much time for that during the working week. I spend most of the weekend with my wife and some close friends to relax after the pressures of the week. I like going to a good restaurant, catching a good action movie at the cinema and also going to the beach when the weather’s nice.
How did you become general manager?
It’s been 20 years since I started working in the Gulf, the past 11 years with GBM. I’ve progressed up the ladder step by step, starting as an engineer and ending up five years ago being offered the role of general manager for Abu Dhabi and Yemen – a lovely responsibility.
What is your go-to gadget?
Like so many people, I love Apple products. On top of that I really love watches – I follow lots of brands on social media. I have to be careful when I walk past a watch shop in the mall because I can easily spend an hour inside checking out what’s new. Rolex, IWC and Ulysse Nardin are my favourite watch brands, but anything unique I find really attractive. I haven’t splashed out for an Apple Watch yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
What was the lowest point of your career?
There have definitely been low points, but nothing I haven’t been able to learn from. I don’t believe you should focus too much on the low points but really focus instead on the lessons you learn. Every job I’ve had has contributed in some way to my business career and my personality and has provided a stepping stone for my next role. I’m quite positive by nature and I really appreciate all the lows I’ve been through. They’ve made me what I am today, professionally and personally.
What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?
First up, have good communication skills. It’s so crucial to find the right time to communicate properly with stakeholders before making key decisions. If you can manage to find a good communications balance among your team members, you’ll always be able to achieve more. Secondly, always try to come to the table with a positive approach, it always helps get the best out of your colleagues in a business environment. Third, teamwork is very important for everyone’s success. Using “we or us” instead of “me or I” has a much better effect in the working environment. Finally, try to be as honest and open as possible in your dealings with people and say what you really think and what you believe to be right. I always urge people to be honest and straightforward and say what they really believe.
What is your most indulgent habit?
In addition to gadgets and watches I drink a lot of coffee and smoke quite a lot, although I plan to cut down.
What do you have on your desk at work?
I’ve got into the habit of writing, planning and drawing strategies on A4 paper, to get my thoughts down on paper. It works well as a way of capturing ideas. I collect the papers and transform them into business strategy and plans, so I wouldn’t change it for a notebook or other capturing device. So in addition to the Macbook, screen and phone, I always have stacks of my paper on my desk. I can’t see myself getting rid of them any time soon.
What can’t you live without?
I love my coffee and my watches but can definitely live without them. But day to day I’d find it hard to live without my iPhone.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I spend long hours working during the week and also a few hours at the weekend. But I always make sure that I spend quality time with my family and close friends away from the work environment. The demands of business these days mean I can never switch off fully, but I think I’ve achieved a pretty healthy balance.
If you could swap jobs with anyone, who would it be and why?
If I hadn’t chosen this path I would have liked to go into law. I’ve seen a lot of human injustice and wish that I could be in a position to help people to achieve their rights.