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Success Story: Auguste (Gusti) Coetzer

Our Executive Search Director, Auguste (Gusti) Coetzer, was interviewed by Biz Buzz as part of their Success Stories. 

1. What business do you run?
Signium Africa's core business is Executive Search on a retainer basis. We also do assessments of human capital, leadership development and coaching, as well as board strategy facilitation. Our main business therefore is headhunting.It is a very competitive business and you need to be a step ahead. We run the company on a consensus basis. All shareholders have an equal vote and say. We discuss, we decide and agree on who is the implementer. That Director then reports back at a work in progress meeting every Monday morning.

2. Why did you start your own business?
We were faced with an unethical dilemma in the previous headhunting firm. All founding members decided to stay true to our own values. Facing adversity can be a motivator for future business. We had the knowledge, the client base. All we needed was the guts to start from scratch and we never looked back!

3. What are the hours that you work?
If you are a clock watcher you will never succeed nor get promoted, you deliver as required. If you need to meet a deadline you work until the deadline is met. The golden rule however, is to keep one day a week for yourself. This day is to regroup, chill and partaking in what you enjoy most.

4. How many people work in your business?
Building empires and hierarchical structures is becoming outdated. Our core staff are highly qualified, well trained and on top of their jobs. What can be outsourced and subcontracted is done. Make sure you stay loyal to these entities as in this manner overheads are kept minimal.

5. What are the goals for your business?
If you deliver to clients, repeat business will follow. Happy clients pay your bills and the end result will be a sustainable business and earning a decent living.

6. How do you handle pressure?
I attend to the root cause of the stress and believe in the saying "do not stress about the small things”. Know what is outside your sphere of control and let that go.

7. How would a man run your business differently?
Whether you a man or a woman. A successful business is run according to fundamental business principles. If the fundamentals are not in place, you have no business.

8. Would you ever go and work for a boss again?
Controlling your own destiny fulfils one's entrepreneurial spirit. I sometimes jokingly say, “I am unemployable”.

9. Do you ever take work home with you?
Under no circumstances do I ever take work home.

I however, entertain clients at home and would then hire a catering and bar assistance. One cannot do everything in life perfectly, do not shy away from delegating to those that do it better than you.

10. What do you do to relax?
A good relaxed walk is still king. Second to this is a 90 minutes massage followed by visiting my hairdresser. Do not feel guilty taking some “me time”.

11. What would you like to know more about to run your business better?
It is crucial to keep up to date with social media business opportunities for your own business. This is an objective that we all currently striving towards in our business. We are however aware of keeping a professional image on all platforms even your own Facebook page.

12. If you had to start again what would you do better knowing what you know now?
We started our business in a recessionary period. I would certainly avoid starting a business in such a difficult trading environment, however, if you can survive in a down turn economy, you can only flourish in an upturn.

13. Did you have to borrow money and if yes what route did you follow?
We were in the fortunate position that all five founding members could contribute to start-up capital. It is for this reason that we were very frugal, we worked for two and a half years from a private home, even the outside garage and one bedroom became an office. We certainly celebrated moving to our current beautiful premises. We spoiled ourselves with buying very nice paintings for the office. Most of it at auctions. Even in splash mode we were still frugal.

14. What satisfaction do you get from running your own business?
Most of our satisfaction is derived from positive client feedback.

Running your own business comes with responsibilities that you need to accept and face i.e. staff gets paid before you are paid.

15. What makes your business successful?
Being in the minds of your clients should be a major priority. There is nothing better than satisfying your clients' requirements. Repeat business is one of the most important ingredients for business success.

16. What form of marketing do you use?
Most important is to write thought leadership articles to be released to print and digital platforms. Approaching possible clients directly (cold calling) is very hard. When it needs to be done, brace yourself and make the call.

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