Markus Oberlin is the chief executive of Farnek, a facilities and energy management company in Dubai. A Swiss national, he qualified as a mechanical engineer at the University of Zurich and later gained an MBA from the University of Lucerne. He started work at Swissair, in a division that managed the former airline’s properties. When Swissair was sold to Lufthansa, its property management arm was bought out by private investors and renamed Prioria Facility Management. Mr Oberlin, 46, remained with the business and came to Dubai in 2006 with a view to setting up a Middle East division. It acquired Farnek and appointed Mr Oberlin to run it, initially as general manager. He has since overseen its growth from 600 employees to about 3,000 currently. He is married and has two young daughters, aged four and five.
What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?
Because I lead such a hectic and stressful life during a typical working week, I don’t get to spend as much time with my family as I would like, especially my two young daughters, who are often getting ready for bed when I arrive home from work. Therefore, weekends are normally devoted almost exclusively to my family and friends. My daughters always come top of the list. They love daddy to play games with them, go swimming and go on bicycle rides. When I get a little time for myself, I like to relax and read the newspaper, or kick back with a good book. The weekends are also a good time to meet up with friends, especially over lunch or dinner. I also like cooking – spaghetti is my speciality. Then finally at the end of the day, I can spend some quality time with my lovely wife.
What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?
It would have to be reading, fact or fiction, business management or just a good novel. I thoroughly enjoy reading.
What can’t you live without?
What do you consider the secret to your success?
I have always tried to be a positive person because I firmly believe there is no point being negative – it is so destructive. Even when making mistakes, and let’s face it nobody is perfect, there are positives that we can draw. How else would anybody learn from their mistakes otherwise? Another staple of my mantra is ensuring that action is taken. Ask any busy executive and he or she will tell you that they spend hours in meetings with investors, board members, management, staff and suppliers. Many important decisions are made in these meetings and I think it is almost criminal if no action takes place. An organisation can agree on as many goals as it likes, but if there’s no follow up, there’s no result and therefore no point. Being persistent and hard working are two other attributes that I feel strongly about. Bringing success to a company is a marathon, not a sprint. Long-term strategies rather than short-term tactics need to be put in place, and reviewed regularly.
What is your go-to gadget?
My smartphone, so I can always stay connected and I can operate my smart home applications and devices with it.
What do you have on your desk at work?
Tender documents, proposals, a laptop and a picture of my family.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
In the digital age that we live in, it can be very difficult to detach yourself from work, especially when most of us have access to our company emails via our smartphones. Personally I restrict myself, which I admit takes a lot of self discipline, to only replying to urgent work-related calls, emails and other messages. That allows me to enjoy time with family and friends as well as other hobbies such as reading and working out at the gym. I workout two to three times a week.
How do you relax after the working day?
If I manage to leave the office at a reasonable hour, I like to listen to what the children have been doing at school that day and sitting down to a family dinner at home. On the occasions that I leave the office later than normal, the children may be getting ready for bed, in which case I love reading them a bedtime story, before relaxing with my wife to watch TV.
If you could swap jobs with anyone, who would it be and why?
Richard Branson, because he started the Virgin brand from scratch and made it into one of the most iconic global brands today. He is as popular with investors as he is with consumers; he’s a businessman as well as the people’s champion (anti-establishment/monopolies) and he operates his company ethically and equitably, and he also has his own island in the Caribbean.
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