“I am never afraid to work, I always set my goal high and choose the more difficult path. ”
How did you begin your career in real estate?
While I was studying business and law at the University of Economics in Prague, I was looking for a part-time job to get some practical work experience and make my study time more productive. I started working in a law firm where I was providing admin support as well as other assistance to the team. I was approached by one of our clients who was running a Real Estate Company offering me to join his team. I was always passionate about real estate and with my specialty at the university, I saw this as a good opportunity for me.
What was your first job like?
I started my career in real estate as a sales and leasing broker. At the time, the introduction to the property world was given to me by my manager, who is my dearest friend today, and who found out very shortly after I joined his company that I was capable of more and willing to work hard. I completed my first large investment transaction in 2007 to a foreign investor who then asked me to manage the property after the purchase. A few months later, I was recommended to manage more properties within the same building and by the end of the year, I was managing the whole complex. I extended my portfolio of properties and two years later, I was approached by an international US- based property management company, and asked to look after their portfolio of properties. There I provided both property and facility management services. As a result of being successful in this role, a year later I was promoted to head of property management services, where I supervised a team of managers looking after various properties across the Czech Republic.
Who was your mentor while growing up?
When growing up, my parents influenced me the most. As a child I was taught that you get only what you really need, but if you want something more or better you have to do something to get it. And when I turned 15, I started working in my dad’s grocery store. At this stage of life we don’t usually realize what is their intention to be so “difficult”, but looking back, this was what made me who I am today. I am very lucky to have such a great family who has been supporting me in every step of my life.
What triggered your interest in this industry?
When I was at the high school, I was preparing myself to go to a medical school afterwards, as I wanted to become a dentist. Last year at the high school I was attending weekend courses for pre-med students. That year helped me realize that this is not the right field for me and that I am more business oriented rather than medical or scientific. Real estate and property management itself is a very interesting industry as you’re working with people, which I really enjoy. Commercial or residential, it really doesn’t matter, it is still just a building which in our business we are making alive and that is what I like doing. Making sure that the old or new building will be here for decades and people will be enjoying working and living there.
What made you decide to move to the Middle East and specifically to Dubai?
Having acquired my experience in the Czech Republic, one day I woke up and decided to try a life abroad and gain more experience in real estate. I didn’t have any preference where to move but I knew that I don’t want to move anywhere in Europe. I wanted to go somewhere further but at the same time, I didn’t feel like moving too far, for example to the Far East, so staying in the middle (Middle East) was the right option. I always heard about Dubai – how fascinating the city is, etc., and had a chance to visit Dubai in 2010. During that visit, when I was standing by the dancing fountain next to The Dubai Mall, I told myself, ”One day I want to live here”. And a few years later I am actually managing the Mall itself. Through my life I was always saying:“Everything is possible”and yes, there are certain circumstances but if we approach them from the right side or angle, things will move the way we want. I was directly recruited by Emaar for the position of Property Manager to manage their biggest residential community – a small city, actually – with its 10,000 villas and other retail areas on 11.5 million square meters, which is called the green city – Emirates Living. While I was going through the rounds of interviews, I was finding out more information about the role and the property, which I was supposed to manage, and I wanted this role more and more. Within 2 years I was approached by the Emaar Malls Group management with the offer to manage their flagship between their malls and I have gladly accepted this new challenge.
How challenging is it to handle the Operations & FM in such a property like The Dubai Mall with operations 24/7/365?
In my role I manage the teams who look after day-to-day operations and FM services, and who make sure the mall, which is open 365 days a year, most of the time 16 hours a day, is always up to the highest standards. The total area of The Dubai Mall is 1.5 million square meters, which is a challenge itself. However, the main challenge here is the time – we have a very short time to ensure everything is maintained up to the very high quality, for which Emaar is well know of, but if you organize things properly, it is manageable. I am generally a well-organized person, which is crucial for this type of business. The other factor is human resources. You must be able to rely on people otherwise you’ll fail. I always work on the assumption that people will want to work for you and not that they have to or are forced to – that makes a difference every time. It is challenging to work in the Middle East where you deal with people from all over the world but in the end we are all humans and we need to find a way to cooperate. During holidays and events we have up to 600,000 visitors every day, which would be over half of Prague’s population coming to shop and entertain themselves, so these days are quite challenging.
What was the most challenging situation you have faced professionally?
I believe it has been the move to Dubai. Moving to an unknown place and completely different culture has been very challenging for me, but I have to say that it didn’t take me long to get used to it. Life is one big learning process we are going through, from the day 1 till the end, and that is what makes it interesting. Specifically in a professional life; I can’t say I have been in difficult or challenging situations – if everything is well planned, challenges are eliminated.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I am never afraid to work; I always set my goals high and choose the more difficult path just to make myself a stronger and better person. I consider my main success in my career that I have proved myself in less than 2 years working for Emaar and have been selected as manager for The Dubai Mall. Managing a mall with 80 million visitors a year is like managing a small country, which is something I’m very proud of being able to accomplish.
As a leader, do you ever have bad days on the job? And how do you handle them?
Of course, I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t have bad days, but it all depends on how well you can manage yourself. Even if I have the worst day, I never let anyone in my work life feel it. I usually go and look at our dancing fountain and those 5 minutes help me calm down. When I am about to say something, I count to 10 to process it one more time and this has been a very helpful tool which saved me from unpleasant situations quite a few times.
If you weren’t working in this field, where would you be?
I don’t like to say “I do not know”, so I am always learning something new as I always like to be broad-minded. This is a very difficult question since I am very happy in this field and at this point in time I can’t imagine working anywhere else. However, if I have to have an answer, I would be an entrepreneur in various businesses, just like my father.
Do you get enough “me” time?
Well, working in a 24/7 environment in the busiest mall in the world doesn’t give you much “me” time but every free time I have I enjoy as much as I can. I love travelling and exploring new places, and I like to do some sports, so for me it is the active relaxation when I actually relax the most.
Would you have any advice for beginners who are just starting their career?
Hold on to your dreams and don’t forget that life is like a boomerang: you throw it out and it will come back to you, and most of the time when you least expect it.
By Czech Leaders
Lukáš has more than 9 years of multi-disciplined managerial experience in residential and commercial real estate including asset, property and facility management, development, brokerage, acquisitions and investments. Lukáš obtained his Master’s Degree in Business and Law at the University of Economics in Prague. Since then, he has held several roles in real estate companies in Prague, successfully managing property portfolios and leading various teams. Since 2013, Lukáš has been living and working in Dubai, UAE; currently, he works as Manager of Operations and FM at The Dubai Mall.