As chairman of the S.S. Lootah Group, a leading business house founded and chaired by his father Haj Saeed Ahmed Al-Lootah in 1956, Yahya Bin Saeed Al-Lootah has witnessed first-hand the impact family business has had on establishing Dubai as a centre of innovation and prosperity.
He began his career at the tender age of 15 as an assistant to site engineers with the S. S. Lootah Contracting Company and was guided by his father’s values and hunger for learning into a engineering vocation.
With a degree in civil architectural engineering and a Master of Science in Engineering from the University of Bridgeport under his belt, he parlayed his profession and principles into growing his family firm’s successful business ventures across construction, real estate, energy, financial services, applied research, information and communications technology, education, hospitality, media and healthcare.
Now in its sixth decade and under Yahya’s leadership, the S.S. Lootah Group has voluntarily adopted many business excellence models and has been honoured with many prestigious local and international awards, including the Mohamed Bin Rashid Business Award and Dubai Award for Sustainable Transport.
A member of the newly established Family Business Advisory Committee of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, Yahya’s vision of serving the people of the United Arab Emirates through innovation, leadership and partnership is articulated through his avid promotion and support of Public-Private Partnerships, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and sustainable development.
Ahead of chairing The Campden Global Owners & Family Office Congress, co-hosted by Campden Wealth and Dubai Chambers from October 9-13, Yahya Bin Saeed Al Lootah talks exclusively to Campden FB about opportunity, evolution and giving back…
As chairman of the Campden Global Owners & Family Office Congress, which is co-hosted by Dubai Chambers, what are you expecting from the event?
This is more than just a networking event; of course, it creates great opportunities for networking and growth, but it is also a perfect opportunity to learn. There are countless unique experiences within family businesses worldwide, and these experiences have relevance regardless of what country or business environment the business and families are present in.
While many of the challenges of family businesses are the same as any business, they also have unique aspects in many areas including family dynamics; continuity and methodology of operations; attention to innovation through investments in research and development; and, of course, leadership and succession. By sharing experiences and ideas in these and many other areas, we can learn from the successes, the challenges, and even the failures we have all faced within our family businesses.
Such a unique conference will surely result in increased successful business cooperation, but also an immeasurable value of wisdom and experiences shared that will result in further efficiencies, growth, and sustainable success for the family businesses and business members who attend.
Why is Dubai the ideal location for the inaugural Campden Global Owners & Family Office Congress?
Family businesses constitute the majority of private companies in Dubai at levels reaching as high as 90%, which far exceeds global averages. As a consequence, the local economy is greatly influenced, and, in fact, driven by the successes and challenges of family businesses.
Campden’s Global Owners & Family Office Congress is ideally located in Dubai for at least two very important reasons. Firstly, with such a high concentration of family businesses within Dubai and the wider region, their tremendous contribution in terms of numbers and experience cannot be denied. There is such an abundance of opportunities in terms of learning, networking, and business cooperation with family companies in Dubai. Secondly, we cannot overstate the importance of family businesses to the success of Dubai. Through the open generosity of sharing ideas and experiences that will be brought to Dubai through the Family Office Congress, family businesses will be given an opportunity to apply the lessons others have learned to build stronger and more resilient businesses, ultimately resulting in greater contributions and stability for the economy.
Family businesses are an essential part of an ethical, innovative, and stable economy.
The Congress offers a unique opportunity to bring global families closer together through shared knowledge and experiences. To your mind, how important is Family Business to Dubai and the world economy as a whole?
Family businesses are unique in their high levels of enthusiasm and commitment not only in relation to the success of the business itself, but also the wellbeing of their employees and the economy as a whole. The connection and attention to the success of the business is more direct and very serious. Family businesses, therefore, have the opportunity to remain relatively stable due to their flexibility and a level of drive that can only come from a sense of direct ownership, resulting in greater resilience and ensuring they will continue through difficult times.
What really sets family business apart is their sense of values, interest in innovation, and close connection with the communities, cities, countries, and regions in which they exist and operate. As a result, a longer-term view is taken. This creates a stability in terms of the family office’s contributions, whether at a regional or global level. Family businesses are an essential part of an ethical, innovative, and stable economy.
As one of Dubai’s most prominent family-owned business leaders, you sit on Dubai Chambers’ Family Business Advisory Committee. What are the aims of the Family Business Advisory Committee and how do you think they will shape the future?
The Family Business Advisory Committee will oversee the work of the Dubai Centre for Family Businesses. The committee aims to support the growth, success, and continuity of family businesses and to secure and increase their contribution to Dubai’s economy. To do this, we must encourage, foster, and participate in creating the right business and support environments.
As an Advisory Committee, our role is to reconcile the needs of family businesses with the objectives of the Dubai Centre for Family Businesses. Such a role has the potential to shape the future in a positive way for the businesses themselves, as well as the Dubai business landscape and economy. All of the family businesses have the desire to learn, upgrade, innovate, succeed and, of course, to persist. We want to help create platforms and opportunities to share ideas and knowledge. In addition, we seek to facilitate this exchange by setting up and managing suitable venues, meetings, and conferences.
Beyond this, we want there to be access to resources and services to ensure smooth transitions and business continuity through succession. The result we strive for is to build a more sustainable, innovative, efficient, and prosperous future through business success, growth and continuity.
The Dubai Centre For Family Businesses is a clear indicator of the Emirate’s emphasis on attracting ultra-high-net-worth family offices and businesses. What was the evolution of that focus?
The evolution began with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to secure the sustainability and growth of family businesses, in recognition of their essential contribution to the success of the Dubai economy.
Of course, the Dubai Centre for Family Businesses does not concentrate only on ultra-high-net-worth family offices and businesses; the support, services and interest extend to family business of all sizes and origins. That being said, we cannot deny the tremendous contribution of ultra-high-net-worth family offices and businesses, both for the businesses themselves and the economy as a whole. Beyond the direct economic benefits, there is also much that can be learned through the presence of such businesses, which helps all family businesses understand and leverage their experiences. This can shape successful decision making and business practices, as well as the development of how to effectively overcome challenges.
[My father’s] legacy and spirit lives on through all of his sons and daughters, and his values persist throughout all of the SS Lootah Group businesses.
You personally have played a large part in the development of Dubai during the past few decades, supporting iconic projects like Palm Island, the Burj Khalifa, Yas Island and many more. How does it feel having played a hand in your home’s exponential growth?
The SS Lootah Group, and the vision of its founder and chairman, my late father, Haj Saeed bin Ahmed Al Lootah, has always been that businesses exist fundamentally to serve people. The companies he founded, the projects he participated in and his charitable focus touched most aspects in one way or another during the evolution of Dubai. His legacy and spirit lives on through all of his sons and daughters, and his values persist throughout all of the SS Lootah Group businesses. This support for the development of Dubai and all the people who benefit from such a tremendous level of developmental success is very much alive in our hearts.
Personally, whether it is through the SS Lootah Group legacy businesses, my own businesses, or through direct and indirect support for other businesses, I will always support the development of Dubai and all of the emirate’s iconic projects. I strongly believe in and support the great visions of our leaders and the business environment in Dubai that makes such great achievements possible.
How does it feel? It feels great to be part of Dubai’s success. It feels great for all of us.
What advice would you give to global family businesses that are looking to establish themselves in Dubai but don’t know where to start?
The best advice I can give is to find a good local family business partner and become part of the success of Dubai.
I have personally been involved in countless successful partnerships during the past 25 years, contributing to outstanding results and creating invaluable lifelong friendships. The businesses that have come have shared great experience, both technical and practical, and, in turn, we have offered access, local experience, and stability in Dubai.
Through the chambers, and alongside a local family business partner, Dubai offers great hospitality, knowledge, and support for global family businesses looking to establish a presence in the emirate. They are all very welcome.
Co-hosted by Campden Wealth and Dubai Chambers, The Campden Global Owners & Family Office Congress is an exciting new week-long experiential platform in response to demand from our regional and global client communities. It will take place in Dubai, UAE, from October 9-13. For more information, click here.