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Gavin Watson – Master Team Builder
Gavin Watson, CEO of BOSASA Group named 2015 Trailblazer of the Year
By: The BOSASA Group
“It’s not who I am. It’s how to build teams around you ... I’m part of a team that’s been together for more than 20 years,” Watson said in accepting the award. He has been blazing a trail of innovation and transformation since the 1970s. Building a thriving high-growth business around long-term relationships while valuing people above profit may be his greatest innovation.
Watson builds teams from scratch. When he acquired Meritum Hostels in 1996, it was an apartheid-era all-white business with only 10 people. Naming it Dyambu, meaning “rising sun”, he began transforming it by implementing the principles of what later became the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment policy of government.
Watson was determined to empower previously disadvantaged individuals but faced a dearth of qualified people. So he mentored employees and leaders himself. He offered proper training, inspiration and hope. From the start a fundamental value was working together in diverse but tightly-knit teams. Many women and young people seized the opportunity and rose to become leaders.
Dyambu’s successor, BOSASA (“the future”) now has a 95% black workforce of more than 4 400 employees. Watson continues to inspire his teams to greater heights in his Watsonline blog. Executive Director Jackie Leyds explains, “Every week he shares his dreams, his vision, where we should be going as an organisation.”
Watson the businessman won the Trailblazer of the Year 2015 award for many reasons, not least his teambuilding mastery. Martin Sweet, MD of PrimeStarts Marketing which awarded the prize, encapsulated it in one sentence: “Here is a leader that you can imitate and follow.”
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