Ex­ec­u­tive vice chair­man of Dubai Duty Free

Friday - - Anniversary Special -

Colm McLough­lin was one of 10 from Aer Rianta, the Ir­ish Air­port Authority, who were con­tracted by the Dubai Gov­ern­ment in 1983 to set up and run a duty-free op­er­a­tion at Dubai air­port.

‘At that time, there were around 200,000 peo­ple liv­ing in Dubai and the air­port had around three mil­lion pas­sen­gers,’ he says.

‘Our job was to set up the op­er­a­tion in around six months and leave, but I was asked to stay on by then di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Dubai Civil Avi­a­tion Authority, Mohi-Din Bin Hendi,’ Colm tells me. The chal­lenges were enor­mous – from sourc­ing prod­ucts to set­ting up a sup­plier chain of lo­cal traders (the brief was to buy from lo­cal dis­trib­u­tors wher­ever pos­si­ble) to train­ing staff, many of whom had never worked in retail.

‘But ev­ery­one pulled to­gether and Dubai Duty Free was ready for the big day on De­cem­ber 20,’ he says. ‘To­day, it is one of the largest air­port re­tail­ers in the world with a turnover of $1.85 bil­lion last year.’

Al­though his mother’s wish was to see him be a den­tist, Colm, af­ter a few jobs, en­tered the retail sec­tor with Wool­worths in London. ‘I started at the bot­tom, mov­ing boxes and clean­ing floors and worked my way up to be­come man­ager,’ he says.

Colm, who was first fea­tured in Fri­day in 1998 and then in 2005, be­lieves that the rea­son he was able to move up the lad­der ‘was be­cause I was will­ing to work my way up and learn at each step of the way. I ap­pre­ci­ate such qual­i­ties in our em­ploy­ees.

‘We have an in­ter­nal re­cruit­ment pol­icy – ca­reer progression is en­cour­aged at Dubai Duty Free and all of our su­per­vi­sors and many man­agers started on the shop floor.’

Dubai Duty Free is a re­cip­i­ent of more than 550 awards. ‘I was also very hon­oured in 2004 when I be­came only the sec­ond per­son af­ter Dr Bren­dan O’Re­gan, founder of air­port duty-free shop­ping, to re­ceive a Life­time Achieve­ment Award. That was very spe­cial to me.’

Keen golfer Colm (hand­i­cap: 13.4), trav­els ex­ten­sively and al­though in his 70s is brim­ming with energy.

‘I and my wife Breeda en­joy meet­ing new peo­ple and hear­ing about their work and lives, I en­joy at­tend­ing events and be­ing ac­tive and cy­cling around Garhoud, where I live. Sim­i­larly I en­joy time with my friends and fam­ily in Dubai – my son Niall lives here with his wife Sherly.’ How does he bal­ance work and life? ‘The se­cret is learn­ing to en­joy your job. My job en­tails a lot of so­cial­is­ing and trav­el­ling, but that’s part of the en­joy­ment of what I do and I don’t see that as a chore.’

Learn­ing ev­ery step of the way and start­ing from the bot­tom were cru­cial to Colm’s suc­cess

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