1. What was your first job?
I was a restaurant waiter. This job taught me how to deal with difficult people without becoming emotional.
2. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
None that prevent me from sleeping. Usually I wake after five hours of deep sleep and have a period of clear thinking about strategic issues that are affecting the business. If I am presenting or speaking later, I rehearse the opening and closing remarks. I might even try to recall an appropriate story or anecdote.
3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career?
Unwittingly it is probably Mikhail Gorbachev who was mostly held responsible for the break-up of the Soviet Union, allowing young real estate professionals to ply their trade in emerging markets.
4. The best professional advice you’ve ever received?
No worthwhile business is ever done after 10:00 in the evening. Double check the recipient list before sending emails. When a difficult decision has to be made, pause, consider carefully what your boss would do in the same situation, pause again, and then act decisively.
5. The top reasons why you have been successful in business?
Being someone with whom people, well most of them at any rate, want to do business. Being open and direct. I know this can get you into trouble sometimes but most people appreciate it in the end.
Having a wife Amanda who shares a love for adventure and has the amazing ability to deal positively with getting dumped in a new city, be it Hanoi, Moscow, Accra or Nairobi; just getting on with adapting to a new life and creating new friends.
And then, taking opportunities when they present themselves.
6. Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?
I have never been to business school.
7. How do you relax?
Cycling and listening to music.
8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?
By 08:00; although at Rendeavour there is no start and finish time to your working day.
9. Your favourite job interview question?
What do you want to be doing in five years time?
10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs?
Be resilient, patient, humble, open, straightforward and inclusive. If someone tells you the time by which a particular task will be done or decision will be made, double it before telling your boss.
Rendeavour is an urban developer responsible for integrated live-work-play environments spanning more than 30,000 acres of land in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The company is developing Tatu City, a 5,000 acre project comprising of mixed income residential houses, commercial centers, office park, industrial park, recreation centers and schools, 18km from Kenya’s capital Nairobi.