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Managing a Family Business Successfully – A Case Study by Rochelle Lobo at KEL Event in Dubai

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Managing a Family Business Successfully – A Case Study by Rochelle Lobo at KEL Event in Dubai

Dubai, May 9, 2015: - While managing any business today is challenging, managing a business that is family owned has its own unique challenges where you need to deal with other family members, their views and expectations, emotions and above all family politics. There are several challenges that a family entrepreneur faces such as

How do you overcome family emotions to manage your business objectively?

How do you ensure that all family members contribute to the business in a professional manner and are rewarded based on their competence and not just genetics?

How do you distinguish professional relationship from personal relationship and differentiate it at home and office?

To answer these challenges and provide the members with a clear thought process on what has taken her to be where she is today, Mrs. Rochelle Lobo (nee D’Souza) presented her case study. Rochelle is the General Manager of HAS Hospitality which runs hotel apartments under the brand name DUNES and IVORY GRAND in Dubai. She is fortunate to be born in an entrepreneur family, she is a third generation entrepreneur after her father Mr. Michael D’Souza who is a well-known Entrepreneur and Philanthropist and her grand father who started the ‘Souza’ business in Puttur. Currently she manages four properties in Dubai and one property in the United States. She has been involved in this family business since the year 2002 and has been instrumental in building these brands over the last 13 years from managing a single property when she joined.

Her efforts bore fruit when HAS Hospitality won the ‘Best Hotel Management Company’ Award at the World Luxury Hotel Awards at Phuket, Thailand. Both ‘Ivory Grand’ and ‘Dunes’ have been highly ranked by reputed travel & hospitality portals such as Trip Advisor and

A summary of her speech:

I know who I am today and where I want to be tomorrow. However, while I was growing up it was different. Growing up, I had several aspirations and dreams and one that I distinctly remember was that I wanted to own a hotel.

My father Mr. Michael D’Souza moved to Abu Dhabi to experience life in a foreign country. This was the beginning of a new phase in our lives. I was studying then and I wanted to be in the catering business. However, I never thought of pursuing catering or hospitality management. I did my business management from the University of Wollongong, Dubai. Once I completed my studies, I started working as a Sales Executive in my Dad’s real estate business. Dad was very particular that I start like anybody else so that I learn from the grass root level. After working for some time, I wanted to pursue a career outside of the family business and so I switched to a recruitment agency and worked as a recruitment consultant. After working there for around eight months I decided to get back to our family business because ultimately that is where my heart lay. I started finding places in Dubai for short stay to our overseas clients. This is where our journey into hotels began. We as a company got our first opportunity to invest into Oasis Court in early 2000. But this was also the time when we had a huge setback. My Dad went through a financial turmoil with huge losses but his steadfast ‘never say die’ attitude helped us tide over this and take us to where we are today.

Oasis Court was a challenge but the success following this challenge was the sweetest. Thereafter, we managed three Dunes properties, we built our own Ivory Grand from scratch and acquired ‘The Ramada’ property in Houston, TX.

Everyone has seen our success but what I would like to talk about is our struggles viz. challenges. What are the efforts that went into making this happen? Managing a hotel is a challenge by itself but having a family and then learning on the job was altogether a different challenge. At the end of the day, I learnt that nothing is difficult if you have the burning desire, put your heart into it and work really hard. This has come pretty naturally for me and all of us. We follow some simple business rules that we use in running our business. This was learnt through a combination of quick books, our experiences and suggestions from family members and others. A few of them that we follow and has stood us in good stead are

1. Hire Slowly – Hiring the right people is the key thing to start on the right foot. Take time to do due-diligence on the candidate, his past experience etc. and once you are convinced make the decision to hire.

2. Training & Orientation – This is equally important and I make sure it is conducted by none other than by the Head of the Department for every new employee in our organization. The reason being that the managers are well versed in their domain and best suited to groom their team members on the business, our policies and our road map and it is important that they own this and convey it appropriatelyto every new employee.

3. Retain – We do the best to retain our employees by ensuring that the work culture and challenges are effective for their career growth as well as for our business. We have been able to effectively retain our core team since inception. Most of these have grown with us from subordinates, to asst. managers to now managers. This is one of the reasons why we are able to take a property and turn it around in quick time. This was the only reason why we decided to venture into the USA and take over the Houston property and use our experience to leverage it outside of the Middle East.

4. Delegation – Initially I thought I needed to do all the jobs myself to get them done properly. But once I started assigning them to others, I have seen that my staff are much better suited to do it better and more importantly it relieves me of the pressure andfrees my bandwidth to devote this to more important tasks that are required to run our business.

5. Letting Go - In spite of all the checks and balances, you will end up with a few people that you are not happy with or they are not happy with their current job or have a better prospect elsewhere. It is important to let go such staff to ensure your business moves smoothly and also the staff stays happy.

Advantages of working in a family business?

When I became a mother, I was happy that I was working in a family business as it helped me take time off when required and these are privileges that you normally do not enjoy when working in other companies. I make it a point to attend all the assemblies, the PTA meetings and attend to my children when they are not well. This is a great privilege that I am blessed with. But when there is an emergency or a job to be one, I am there be it at weekends or at midnight any day.

I have grown from being a Property Executive, Sales Manager, Department Manager and now as General Manager. How did I manage this?

While working for the recruitment company I would switch off once I was home. But now, I cannot do it as we are all involved and theadded thought that I have 500 staff who look up to me for their livelihood. But do we have disagreements, yes we have. And how do we resolve them?

Let me tell you a few things that keep us together. We respect each other and everybody has a right to their opinions. At the end of the day, if nothing else works we agree to disagree. Whenever a major decision needs to be taken, emotions run high with thoughts of whether it will succeed and who will be responsible if it fails crosses our minds, but at the end of the day we know that Dad with his experience is there to guide us – he knows what is good for us and our business. Currently four of us are involved from our family – my Dad who is the overall Head, my husband Pradeep who is the Commercial Director and Project Manager, who takes care of all our new properties and my sisterNisha, who handles the Equity business and me heading the Hospitality business. We all have our tasks clearly cut out. Before taking any major decision, we as a family discuss it privately and then take it forward. At the end of the day we take responsibility for our decisions and we stand by them whether right or wrong. There have been numerous occasions where decisions taken by us have not worked out as planned. At that time, Dad comes in and says – just move on, forget what has happened and attend to the next task. We are blessed to have such understanding and guidance all the time.

What is my family to me being in this family business?

My family is and always will be first.Families as you all know are taken for granted but they are the ones who remain with you during thick and thin times. I learnt this the hard way and I am happy I realized it at a young age.

Exercise has been our morning mantra for me and my husband for the last 10 years. In addition to providing the necessary fitness and energy it also provides us ‘our time’.

While this has been an amazing journey so far, it has been made possible through the efforts of several people. My staff that stood by me at all times, no matter what. My extended familyand my well-wishers whose support and constructive criticism is always welcome. My constant pillar of strength – my Dad for his unstinted support, vision and of course the finances, my mother for being there no matter what, my sister and her extended family for their sincere solidarity and advice, my brother who taught me that life is simple and to enjoy every moment of it, my beautiful children who make sure that I want to get back home, my strength, sanity and my support – my husband Pradeep and above all Almighty God without whom I would not be here today.

I would like to end by echoing a quote that I had read online “I believe there are three keys to success”. For me it is my priorities - my faith, my family and then business and in that order.

The event was conducted by Mr. Aloysius Fernandes who recently took over as President KE Dubai from Mr. Alfred Vaz. During this event, a new Lead member – Mr. William D’Souza took his oath administered to him by Mr. Mark Denis D’Souza, Director of Membership. Mr. Robert D’Sa,our lead member, proposed the vote of thanks.

About KE Global:

KE Global is a global, non-profit, mutual-benefit corporation founded by successful entrepreneurs to encourage, support and nurture entrepreneurship in individuals originating from the Kanara region. While fostering entrepreneurship amongst the expatriates from the Kanara region with chapters in the UAE and Bangalore, KE Global aims to expand its activities overseas through affiliations with individuals or associations with similar objectives. KE Global has signed memorandum of understandings with organisations such as Rachana in Mangalore, Christian Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Dimensions in Mumbai to achieve these objectives with mutual co-operation.