Day in the life: Advance planning colours Miral Asset Management chief executive's work

Mohammed Al Zaabi is the chief executive of Miral Asset Management, the Abu Dhabi-government-backed company that is mandated to promote and develop Yas Island. Miral manages assets on Yas Island such as Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Waterworld. It is developing the island’s first outdoor amusement park, the US$1 billion Warner Bros Theme Park, scheduled to open in 2018. Before joining Miral in February last year, Mr Al Zaabi, 39, was director of strategic investments at Aldar Properties. During his eight years with the company, he completed a masters in strategic project planning and an Executive MBA.


I love my early mornings. Sometimes I just sit in the garden to read and listen to the birds. I then spend 40 minutes exercising. New technology lets me work out from home, without using weights. I use a 30-minute programme called Insane Fat Burner on my iPad, which really gets you sweating.


My wife gets the children ready for school. I have two boys and two girls – 12, 10, eight and four. Every morning I eat the whites of five eggs and some cereal with milk and drink a mix of cocoa powder, coconut water and ghea seeds. Alhamdulillah, I am very healthy.


I leave our villa in Al Mushrif and arrive at work by 8.30am. My office is at the Aldar headquarters, the big circular building. Every time I reach it, I feel inspired – how engineering can achieve such a feat. My office is not as curved, as you might think. At 50,000 square metres, the building is huge inside.


On Sundays, I spend my first hour planning the week; I have a one-page plan with different coloured circles. Each colour represents a certain department. I manage my time by giving every day a theme. Sunday is the back-office support function team day, so I grapple with finance and HR subjects. Monday is marketing day; Tuesdays, I spend half the day focusing on operations and the other half on strategy; Wednesdays I focus on delivery – more on the construction side – then Thursdays I recap on the week.


I have the first staff meeting. I like to throw out an idea and let the staff digest it and come back to me with how they would implement that idea. It’s not easy for people to accept change, so you need to encourage them.


I order lunch through my PA – usually grilled meats, but Thursday is burger day and Tuesday salad day. I eat in the lounge with the staff – we have about 45 in Miral. We spend time being sociable, talking about non-business subjects. I was in Aldar for almost eight years working with the chief executive, Mohammed Al Mubarak. After completing my MBA I wanted bigger challenges, so Mohammed offered me the position as Miral’s chief executive, as he is its chairman. Of course my education helped my promotion. It was a big shift, from director level to chief executive.


Back in the office I either have meetings or I’m following up emails. Recently I had a meeting with Mark Gsellman, the general manager of the Warner Bros Park. When it opens in 2018, it will create more than 1,000 jobs in Abu Dhabi and will increase visitor numbers to Yas Island from 25 million last year to 30 million in 2018. We’re also building a Warner Brothers-themed hotel linked to the theme park. The meeting was on another project, which we haven’t yet announced.


I visit Ferrari World to check customers are happy and randomly ask the staff whether they are happy. I visit our destinations on Yas Island almost every week, especially Ferrari World. I also come here with my children when I’m not working. My eldest daughter loves Ferrari World but my boys prefer Yas Waterworld. My 12-year-old son has been on Ferrari World’s Formula Rossa, but my other children are not tall enough. They measure their height every day.


I meet my team to discuss improving our customer experience. That’s the most critical item. In meetings, I like to push my team beyond their boundaries. People like to work within their comfort zones but I like them to go beyond that. It’s nice to see them taking greater responsibility. We organised an innovation lab on Yas Island last year. We invited 18 experts from around the world to brainstorm with our staff about what we can add to the island, and came up with more than 84 ideas.


I leave work and go horse riding or play football, then go home to my family. I need to spend more time with my kids but it’s hard because by 8pm they’re asleep and I’m still having my dinner. That’s a challenge I need to work on. I eat a very light dinner, either salad or just yogurt.


I read before I go to sleep. I read three books at a time and try to read at least 20 pages a day. The last book I finished was Eat That Frog!, on how to stop procrastinating.

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