Martin Persson came to the UAE in 2009 as the chief research and development officer of Jannah Hotels and Resorts in Abu Dhabi, responsible for finding potential sites to expand the group. The Swedish native became chief operating officer of Jannah three years ago. The group now manages a number of locations including Abu Dhabi’s Jannah Burj Al Sarab hotel and Jannah Place Dubai Marina. The 33-year-old takes time off during the summer, the low season for UAE hotels, to visit his family and spend time with his wife.
How do you spend your weekend?
The weekends are the best time for me to catch up on my emails, sort out my tasks for the week and spend a bit of time with my wife. Lynn and I are both food enthusiasts, so you can probably spot us in a new dining establishment in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. I love my food, which makes it hard for me to choose one cuisine in particular. If you had to make me pick, I’d say Japanese; there’s loads of really good Japanese restaurants in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Italian is a close second for me.
How did you become a chief operating officer?
Through sheer hard work, determination, a bit of luck and plenty of go-getting attitude.
What is your go-to gadget?
My mobile. I’m always on the go, and often travelling on the road between different hotels. My mobile is like an extension to my body, and keeps me in the loop despite my location. I like to listen to a lot of different music while I’m travelling too.
What was the lowest point of your career?
There have been a lot of high and low points. However, I don’t believe that a situation that is looked at as a "low point" is necessarily something negative. Experiencing something that might not be in your favour or giving you the outcome you were hoping for, those situations tend to bring with them some of the biggest opportunities. I started off my career as a food and beverage entrepreneur with a couple of establishments in Sweden and in Europe. During those years I had both great high points and some low points that gave me great lessons that I’m thankful for until today. During those years I was, you could say, a bit naive when it came to fully understanding all aspects of the operation that impacted both me and the company financially. At the time the situation felt like the worst that could have happened. However, we managed to dig ourselves out of the hole. Looking back, it was an important lesson that serves as a reminder until today.
What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?
Persevere and never lose your focus. Every day you don’t give up is a day closer to your goal.
What is your most indulgent habit?
When I think, I always put my elbows up on the desk. On stressful days, I’ve been known to wear out the fabric of my sleeves on my elbows. You can imagine that I go through a lot of shirts in a month, so I guess shopping for new shirts is my indulgent habit.
What do you have on your desk at work?
I’m Swedish, so I like a very uncluttered and clean desk. The only thing on my desk is my laptop and my phone.
What can’t you live without?
My wife, my mobile and a cup of coffee in the morning before starting the day.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I run every day for at least 45 minutes – not only to keep healthy but also as a way to clear my head and help me unwind. When I am in Abu Dhabi, I am usually at the gym in Jannah Burj Al Sarab. When I’m in Dubai, I am at the gym in Jannah Marina Bay Suites. When the weather is cooler, I’ll be running along Abu Dhabi Corniche or in the Dubai Marina area.
If you could swap jobs with anyone, who would it be?
Besides the obvious choice to swap with someone famous and successful, I would like to swap with every talent in our organisation to gain experience through their eyes and to have a better understanding of their daily challenges and how to eliminate those challenges as much as possible.