Turning Points: Simon Casson, President Of Hotel Operations For Europe, Middle East And Africa, Four Seasons Hotels And Resorts

"I loved my career and journey running hotels; it was truly a privilege."

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In 2010, a talented makeup artist launched a beauty blog out of her flat in Dubai, with the only comments to her posts coming from her sisters. Two years later, in the summer months of 2012, two McKinsey & Company colleagues decided to quit their jobs, and start a ride-hailing digital business. Another two years later, in February 2014, a passionate publishing and sales executive gathered a group of like-minded colleagues to create a media publishing house that would truly deliver and cater to the needs of the Middle East region, vowing to give a voice to the current and future generations of business leaders in the Arab world.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
Simon Casson, President of Hotel Operations for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Today, as we open a new decade, it’s good to see what the aforementioned personalities are up to today. Huda Kattan is the founder and CEO of Huda Beauty, one of the world’s fastest-growing beauty brands, which is valued at US$1 billion. Magnus Olsson and Mudassir Sheikha have already put their signature on the largest technology sector transaction in the Middle East, having agreed to sell the enterprise they founded, Careem, to Uber Technologies for $3.1 billion last year. Likewise, Wissam Younane, CEO of BNC Publishing, the media house behind Entrepreneur Middle East, is gearing up for the sixth anniversary of his enterprise’s flagship publication for the MENA region's entrepreneurs and business-minded readership in February 2020.

With these being just a couple of the turning points that have characterized business and entrepreneurship in the region over this last decade, we asked a few enterprising individuals to tell us more about instants in the last 10 years that have had a significant impact on their career trajectories. It is our hope that these will serve as insight and inspiration for a whole new generation of upstarts that will rise from this region (and beyond) over the next decade- we’re looking forward to the future!

President of Hotel Operations for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Four Seasons Hotels And Resorts

From being an operational hotelier for about 30 years, to taking on a corporate role as the President of Hotel Operations for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in 2016 was a major turning point in Simon Casson’s career trajectory. “I loved my career and journey running hotels; it was truly a privilege, and I thrived on the immediate human contact, and seeing daily outcomes delivered, however, in my then-new role, I had to learn to 'zoom out,' and lead from a different perspective and broader angle,” Casson says.

“Working from a corporate office in Dubai versus a hotel was a sudden shift to a quiet and self-driven approach, and one that saw me travelling for over 150 days a year, which can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Leading and affecting change through influence versus control was an important growth for me, and managing to stay connected, although remotely, with the many different stakeholders became a critical factor to success. All in all, it was a real shift in focus, scope and responsibility that has stretched me personally and professionally, but one that, I have to say, I have relished. I feel incredibly privileged to be helping lead Four Seasons in this current and next phase of its evolution.”

Today, Casson’s role makes him responsible for over 40 hotels in 26 countries, and leading a team of over 15,000 dedicated employees. As for how he sees his career progressing in the years ahead, he replies, “More of the same! On the work front, we will be opening new hotels, renovating many existing ones, and continuing across the region to be the best we can be and lead the market everywhere we operate. I feel fully settled in my role as President; I’m learning so much about myself, and feel well placed with the many lessons I have learned to help lead and drive Four Seasons to continued success.”

Related: Turning Points: Vishen Lakhiani, Founder, Mindvalley