My WFH Routine: Basil Ramzy, CEO of Marakez
Basil Ramzy, CEO of Marakez: Each week, my Morning / WFH Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Basil Ramzy (Linkedin). Edited excerpts from our conversation:
Professionally, I'm the CEO of Marakez, a mixed-use real estate developer. We focus on retail and commercial developments but also have a growing residential business. I’m responsible for making sure we have a strong team that is aligned and working in the same direction to achieve Marakez’s goals.
Bigger picture: I’m a husband and father to a 16-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy. I wake up at about 6:30 everyday and get the kids up and ready for school. I then settle down to drink a lot of coffee while reading Enterprise and a few other news outlets. Next are my morning phone calls, which are determined based on my priorities that week, and then jump into a daily huddle call with the full Marakez team.
Except for the first two and a half months, I’ve mainly been working from the office since the beginning of the pandemic. We implemented a WFH protocol for departments where it makes sense and for individual cases where health conditions or personal circumstances make it important, but some of us still trek to our desks in the morning.
When covid-19 first hit, we had a lot of big decisions to make on how to move ahead, after talking and listening to our partners and stakeholders. Construction has remained on track in all our projects. We decided to continue operating our business with caution: At Mall of Arabia, we canceled all events and implemented hygiene and safety protocols, but decided to stay open and keep operating to provide essential services to the community. We kept our business obligations to our customers and continued building.
Like the rest of the world, our team became proficient in online communication. We started having daily huddle calls from before the pandemic, and that habit helped carry us through that transitional period. We invested more time and funding into technology by adding infrastructure such as digital sign-offs, internal cloud file sharing, reporting CRM software, and other project management tools.
One of the results of increasing our connectedness is that the “clean break” at the end of the workday isn’t that clean anymore. Right now, it’s not something that’s bothering me but it’s something I’m keeping an eye on to make sure it doesn’t become too intrusive.
This year was unique to everybody, with its unique challenges — but it’s not the first challenging period we’ve had to get through. My team is excellent at managing turbulence and uncertainty. Marakez as a company is set up this way; we have a culture of taking on challenges and working hard for each other. Many of us have been working together for a very long time so we’ve built a lot of trust and belief in each other and our collective capability.
We’re also long-term investors in the Egyptian economy and strong believers in the growth story here. The population is young, dynamic, entrepreneurial, optimistic, resilient, and all the things that make it a great place for us to be doing business.
Second-city parity is important to us — to create developments in secondary cities like Tanta and Mansoura that are of the same standard that the residents of these cities see us creating in Cairo and for them not to feel that, just because we’re going to a secondary city then that must mean we’re going to give them something lesser-than.
The lesson we’ve learned from the past year is that offices are essential, and we’re still investing heavily in our office space line of business. For us, teams need to be together in the same physical space, but not necessarily 9-5 every day. There’s a healthy shift towards measurable outcomes, rather than hours spent in the office and this is making us more aware of our ability to measure all aspects of our performance.
On the weekends, I like to unwind by going mountain biking in Wadi Degla, which is really refreshing and makes me feel like I’ve completely left the city.
I got really excited when I saw that there’s another Dune movie coming out, so I re-read the Dune series, which I haven’t read in a while. It’s not necessarily a recommendation, just something that I enjoy. I’ve also been watching the Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.
When things go back to normal, I want to travel. I haven’t even thought of where I want to go yet — I just want to get to that point first.