To Angelo Agrizzi, transformation has an address: Mogale Business Park. It also has a driver: CEO, Gavin Watson. Angelo Agrizzi talks of his personal experience in the trajectory that became his life within the Bosasa ethos, inspired by Gavin Watson.
“My life did a couple of 180o turns when I met Gavin Watson. His Company was my nemesis. Every opportunity and at every turn, there was Dyambu, Gavin and his team. I couldn’t seem to get on top of them. His Company had something different than mine. His was making inroads and I was putting out fires. On the 4th of May 1998, it dawned on me: “...that is who I need to see, I needed something different. Of course that ‘something’ is that which my ‘nemesis’ had.
Tom Muller Road Randfontein
When I approached Gavin Watson in a dusty little office on the pot hole ridden road known as Tom Muller Street Randfontein, it was known as Dyambu. Gavin, without reading my somewhat impressive resume, agreed to accept me into the fold. I quote those words I remember so vividly: “One condition – pack up our bags - you start next week – and another thing...”he bellowed in the normal Gavin way“... I am paying you not one cent more than you are getting this moment.” True to his word which has always remained his bond, he honoured that commitment for three long years. Gavin Watson steadily changed the drive in me. It was less about bottom line profit. It was and has remained about service excellence.
Learning the Ropes
Having come from a large conglomerate, when Gavin Watson allowed me to join Bosasa, I entered his business environment with confidence. I knew that I had skills, experience and knowledge to contribute. But exposure to Gavin Watson in following months made me realise that my knowledge was tacit unless it could be applied to new and challenging situations daily, that my experience was something that existed in the past and I would have to demonstrate it in the future and my skills pathway was an ongoing journey not a destination. I could not rest on my laurels. I also discovered that Gavin Watson would give us as the leadership of Bosasa all the freedom of the business world we needed to exercise as we explored our creativity, as long as we raised the bar and took the Bosasa Group measurably to another level. This was not negotiable.” This became an entrenched trait, one that I Angelo Agrizzi have learned to embrace.
“I come from a traditional Catholic Italian family who understood the meaning of hard work so I am grateful for the good grounding they provided as well as their indifferent outbursts. I chose the hospitality industry as a career because it covered so many growth dimensions: people, customer relationships, project management, and creativity, growth of the economy as major sector of our GDP, tourism and to some extent, facilities management. But nothing prepared me for the challenge of working with Gavin Watson. Change could not be a gradient it had to be exponential but with substance. Full Facilities management became my portfolio.”
“An avid Tom Peters fan, I thought I had learnt and read it all. Sitting one Saturday afternoon, waiting excitedly to present to a group of mineworkers at the Youth Centre, I suddenly realised that ‘Servant Leadership’ was in fact what life was all about. Gavin, in his own way, slowly but surely coaxed me through the most menial of tasks for learning the lessons of life: such as the testing of pens, spelling checks, ensuring that we took care of people or braaing meat at a function - all for people one would normally look down on. This it was all about - serving others, just as the Lord had washed his disciples’ feet - so we to have all been called to serve for the greater good.
Spirituality and Leadership
”Whatever my leadership mandate, I learned that if I could not put people first, change the lives of the community we lived in at the same time, think out of the box and live the spirituality that is at the heart of Bosasa I would not succeed here. I learned that leadership was the service to humanity. At the same time I had to think global and contribute to producing products that would place us at the forefront of the industry. Gavin Watson’s final message to me was that If I ‘...could not contribute to the growth of the country’ I ‘needn’t bother’. I knew I had found a home at MBP. He gave me an opportunity to expand my convictions, but he stretched me beyond my capabilities - and all of this in a day. Every day! Thanks to Gavin Watson I transformed the way I interacted with the world.
The Learning Curve
Gavin Watson slowly moved me into every single department in the Group, testing my patience, but coaching my drive. I slowly understood how transformation was taking place, here in the far West Rand was something unique that mirrored something of which Corporates could only dream.
As I look back on my experience with the master guru, we have always had the good, the bad and quite a bit of ugly, but the values have always remained: integrity, loyalty, excellence, team work and most importantly servanthood.
You see it didn’t matter what you achieved academically or who you worked for previously, Gavin would treat us all the same, I have learnt there are no heroes in Gavin’s book¸ it’s all a team thing. It’s not about me or I, it’s about US. It has never been how much training costs, it about how many lives have we changed. Neither has it ever been about a ‘what if’- it’s always ‘what’s next’. This has been the same ideology that has crafted most Bosasa leaders, engendering a tangible passion for caring and getting the best out of others.
Looking Back and Forward
Sitting and reminiscing on my many years under Gavin Watson’s mentorship, I have to laugh. I remember the escapades in his Audi A8 on a weekend at 05:00 with the stalwarts Danie and Frans. We went from site to site to ensure that mineworkers got only the best. I remember all the late nights, fervent debates, his endless caucusing in Xhosa, his ability to laugh at himself and his driving force. His contagious love for the Lord, he has thankfully impressed on all of us. This ensured that we have an ingrained enthusiasm as we rise every morning - looking forward to what the day has in store - knowing that with the Lord on our side we can overcome it all. I have learned to play my part as a change agent in a team environment because of Gavin. Gavin Watson has been and remains my change agent.