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Thursday, 18 February 2021

My WFH Routine: Catesby Langer-Paget, head of Savills Egypt

Catesby Langer-Paget, head of Savills Egypt: My Morning / WFH Routine looks each week 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 Catesby Langer-Paget (LinkedIn). Edited excerpts from our conversation:

I’m Catesby Langer-Paget and I head up the Egypt office of Savills. I first started working for the company in 2007. I started in the UK, and then moved to the UAE in October 2008 — just in time to watch the recession taking hold and see property prices in Dubai nosedive by 30-40% in the space of a few weeks. After the UAE, I followed my previous boss to Bahrain, where I met my wife — who is half Bahraini, half American — and spent the better part of seven years there before moving back to the UK.

My wife and I missed the Middle East, so we moved back to Bahrain, which is when the chance came up for me to start up the Egypt office of Savills. So, Egypt is now the fourth country I’ve lived in while working for the company, and since moving here, we have never looked back.

That was two years ago. There was one employee here when I started, and now we’re just past the 50 mark, and should be up to about 70 by mid-year. We started with a small office in Maadi and now we’ve moved into a new office in Sheikh Zayed and are planning to open another office in New Cairo this year.

Savills is one of the five largest real estate consultancies in the world, with 600 offices globally. As head of the Egypt office, I oversee all of our service lines, including property and facilities management, strategic consultancy, marketing, sales, and leasing. That's on both commercial and residential, and also project management, which is overseeing construction work.

I've got three young kids aged between one and six and, and they're early risers. So I'm lucky if I'm not up before 6am, to be honest. My wife's quite a keen runner, so she generally leaves me in the morning and goes for a long run, while I'm in charge of getting the kids ready and making breakfast.

Then it’s a quick check at emails, which obviously includes reading Enterprise to see what’s going on in Egypt. Then we put the kids on the bus at around 7:40am and I head straight to the office. If I’m working from Maadi — which is usually twice a week — I’ll be in the office by 8am since it’s a five-minute walk from my house. The drive to Sheikh Zayed is longer, so I’ll usually be in by 8:45.

My days at the office don’t follow a set schedule, but there are a lot of meetings — online and in-person — with clients, prospective clients and typically an interview or two since we are on a hiring spree at the moment. I normally finish work around 5pm and can usually catch my kids before they go to bed if I’m in the Maadi office, but probably not if I’ve been working from Sheikh Zayed.

Our job is generally difficult to do from home, so we’ve been working from the office but we’re lucky to have moved to a new office and a lot of us are often on site, so our staff is dotted around in a few different locations. We obviously have precautions in place and we make concessions for employees who are, or live with, high-risk individuals. That being said, I have a lot more online meetings with clients, which has really cut down on the amount of time I’ve wasted travelling to in-person meetings. Before covid, I typically had three meetings outside the office every single day.

We have big ambitions to grow the business but when covid struck we just paused for a little bit before really going for it again after last summer. The team actually did amazingly well. We have a great leadership team in place with lots of people stepping up. All the Savills offices globally are also a lot more joined up now and we are all learning from each other’s experiences.

The most difficult part of WFH is employing and onboarding people, and imparting the company culture on them. It was a little bit challenging bringing on new employees, teaching them what they need to know, and getting the teams to properly cross-sell and collaborate if they’ve never even met in person.

I don’t know how people manage to wake up at the crack of dawn and fit in all that exercise before they go about their day. I’ll blame it on my kids being really young, because if I worked all day and ran all morning, I think my wife would kill me. The morning run is her chance to spend a little bit of time on the road by herself. Check in with me in 10 years’ time — I’ll let you know then if my kids getting older allowed me to become a triathlete.

My evenings aren’t hugely exciting: It’s usually dinner with my wife, followed by more emails, a book, or TV. At the moment, I’m reading Crisis by Frank Gardner, a BBC correspondent who lived in the Middle East, including Cairo, for a long time. I just finished Game of Thrones season eight. The ending was a big disappointment.

When things go back to normal, I’m most looking forward to traveling with ease. My wife’s family is spread between the US and Bahrain and most of my family is in the UK. My youngest son, who was born here in Cairo, is just over a year old — and nobody from my wife’s family has even met him.

But I’m still pretty happy to be where I am at the moment. I’m thankful that we have plenty of domestic travel options, and we’ve been able to visit Sharm El Sheikh, El Gouna, Somabay, and the North Coast. I wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else.

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