With over 15 years of international leadership experience, including formerly serving as the
CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce office in Dubai, Bilal Sabouni has represented business communities and their interests across the Middle East and Africa.
Bilal is currently Managing Director – Middle East & North Africa at Guidepoint, a world-leading expert network as well as the founding CEO of Gov-Corp Intl., a specialized advisory firm catering to international governments and multinational corporations. Guidepoint has just opened a regional hub in Dubai, marking the firm’s first on-the-ground presence in the Middle East and its 11th office globally.
Bilal’s track record includes success in a variety of Board and Steering Committee roles focused on corporate governance, financial oversight, and strategic government relations in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. He has had the responsibility of leading the establishment, operation, and expansion of several regional offices for multi-national corporations in the region.
Marketing Volunteer Anum Kahn recently spoke with Bilal while he was in Dubai.
How did you come across Muppies?
Ridah Sabouni, my awesome and super-involved-with-everything brother first introduced me to Muppies while I was on a business trip to Washington, D.C. I joined him for a Muppies charity dinner and was immediately struck by how interesting and like-minded everyone was. People may have come from different backgrounds, nationalities, and ethnicities, but all were professionals of a particular caliber and all were a pleasure to meet and speak to.
What also struck me that night was the obvious lack of a Muppies presence in Dubai, which is where I was (and still am). I took it upon myself to track down and gather Muppies members in the region and organize our very first Ramadan Iftar which turned out to be a huge success and the precursor to the formal City Committee!
How has Muppies enabled or empowered you to achieve your goals?
The Muppies as a community is one of the most helpful and close-knit that I’ve ever encountered. They are like-minded professionals with extensive networks and the disposition to serve and support a fellow member as well as their respective communities.
Whenever stuck on a problem or in need of advice or guidance on a specific subject, Muppies have always stepped up – and gone the extra mile – to ensure the right assistance was extended.
What have been the most impactful ways you have used Muppies?
I’m pleased to note that I’ve used Muppies both to reap and to sow impact.
Muppies provides an excellent talent pool of professionals who are dependable and trustworthy. It’s been great using the Muppies pool to recommend talent for open vacancies. I’m pleased to note that I have been successful placing two members with recommendations – both have remained at their workplaces for 2+ years now!
Muppies are also great for advice, referrals, and other professional support. One quick question on the WhatsApp group typically generates several quick responses to help answer pressing questions. I recently shifted my career from the US Chamber to a senior-level corporate role with Guidepoint, and Muppies were extremely helpful in providing insight and intel on the industry and general landscape.
How can the Muppies network support you in furthering your objective? Do you have a key call to action for the community?
If we want to grow, we must grow together. If we want to strengthen our individual positions, we must do so by supporting one another. We can all expedite the achievement of our individual goals by working together as a single, cohesive, professional unit.
What have been your main drivers professionally?
The main driver in my career has been the challenge! I thrive on challenges and in areas where I am needed to either: a) start something up or b) turn something around.
My entire career and the various roles I’ve had were to address either one of the two above situations.
Is there an industry or field you haven’t worked in that you’re looking into?
At some stage in the future, I may strongly consider a run for public office in the United States. In terms of diversity, the US is still very far from where it should be. Even with recent elections providing the Muslim community some additional representation, we are still woefully lacking, and I would like to be a part of the solution someday.
What areas of government/advocacy are you most interested in?
This is a great question and a sneak peak into what I’d like to be the focus of my future PhD or DBA. I am extremely passionate about commercial diplomacy and the huge impact commercial and economic ties have on a diplomatic relationship and vice versa.
What is something about you people wouldn’t know? Hobbies, etc.?
Well, I’m a family man now. In fact, I just recently witnessed the birth of my second child, a son, who was born on August 1.
For hobbies, between my work and social commitments, I don’t get much time to maintain my own interests. However, my first-born, who is a sharp and bubbly 3-year old girl has many hobbies which I’ve been roped into. I have a weakness in my heart for her, so my (new) hobbies have become anything she is interested in. This includes coloring unicorns, collecting shells on the beach, and arts and crafts like the paper airplane that is flying around in our living room right now.
Bilal maintains strong relationships in international government circles and with regulatory leaders across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia and is regularly called upon to advise senior policymakers and corporate leaders on areas of short, medium, and long-term interest. Fluent in English and Arabic, Bilal offers strong applied skills in cross-cultural team building and management, market development, communications, sales and marketing, negotiation, “intrapreneurship,” public relations, strategic planning, and program implementation.