Francois Baird is the Chairman of Edelman Africa, previously founded Baird’s Renaissance, an award-winning firm, before being acquired by the global group. Edelman is the world’s largest public relations firm, with 67 offices and more than 4,800 employees worldwide, as well as affiliates in more than 30 cities. Edelman was named Advertising Age’s top-ranked PR firm of the decade in 2009 and one of its “A-List Agencies” in both 2010 and 2011; Adweek’s “2011 PR Agency of the Year;” PRWeek’s “2011 Large PR Agency of the Year;” and The Holmes Report’s “2011 Global Agency of the Year” and its 2012 “Digital Agency of the Year.”
My Definition Of Success | Is the value we add to our families, our clients and the world around us. The idea that success is more about the value one adds, than the value we extract from life, is a lesson I learned from my grandfather.
I Am Driven By | My mission to add value – to be a person of worth, rather than to focus merely on net worth. My attitude is active curiosity – Livingston and Stanley did not explore Africa from the stoep of the Cape Town Club, they packed up their courage and went where they knew not what they would find. My method is relationships of trust – I prefer working with people with whom I have developed a relationship of trust, rather than transactional people and organisations.
My Highlights | Whenever mission, attitude and method aligned.
In my work life; my 22 year-old relationship of trust with all my clients and of course with Richard Edelman and his company, being able to contribute to democracy in Africa with election work across the continent, adding value to life through the work we have done so far, like the Census campaigns in post-apartheid South Africa, our work for Rugby World Cup ’95 and most recently helping to win the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) for Africa and SA, helping the Presidential Precinct with its Young Africa Leaders Initiative (YALI programme) and supporting the formation of the not-for-profit Ocean Security International.
In my personal life; I am proudest of my excellent judgement; of which my choice of wife, mother, family and friends speak clearly.
The Difference Between good And Great | Kitch Christie, arguably South Africa’s greatest Springbok rugby coach once explained the difference between a good and a great player as “divine discontent”. What he meant was that a good player was happy about the try he scored but a great player was unhappy about the extra try he could have scored. All the great people I know are more focused on how to get better, rather than how good they are at what they do.
A Key Talent | Talent is in my view less important than attitude, method and mission. If I have achieved anything it was the result of working effectively with other people to add value. When we develop strong relationships with people we can all be successful if that relationship is focused on how to add value, with a shared attitude of curious exploration. Life is an adventure, people make the journey worthwhile and value its most important outcome.
The Characteristics Of Success | The most important characteristic is giving and getting trust, which requires respect and humility. We are human and we mess up, but trust is the foundation of all relationships. Thoughtful action is worth more than mere reaction. I spend a part of each day in prayer (if you are not religious try meditation), reading and thinking. Busy-ness is the enemy. Every time I became so busy that I could not live thoughtfully I messed up or failed.
Principles I Live By | Add value to life, respect people and don’t be arrogant.
Critical Skills I Develop | The basic skills we should all have, improve and use daily; reading writing and arithmetic. But the skill to be a good partner and to develop long-standing and deep relationships is by far the most difficult and important.
Wisdom Is Knowing | I am not smart enough to find the answers all by myself; ask for help, ask questions and listen closely.
Lessons I’ve Learnt | It could be anything from very simple small lessons, too much larger bigger lessons. The power of failure: whenever I have had failure the lesson was immediate and under my skin. Also, avoid factitious arguments – too many people employ dubious facts to support fatuous logic.
Dealing With Doubt | When I realized self-doubt, fear and negativity are normal human emotions life became easier. The moment I recognize these emotions for what they are, it is possible for me to overcome them.
Performing At My Peak | I have never managed this feat and leave it to Superman.
Resources I Use | All of the these people; books, environments, movies, music. Life is full of interesting stuff. Just look and listen and explore.
Wisdom On Growth | Every day I simply try to add a little value to life, so that the compound interest of trying can work its magic.
The Meaning Of Life | To have faith.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | Never envy other people, you would not be able to bear their burdens, just be happy with your own problems and victories.
Advice On Building Wealth | Compound interest. And as my wife taught me; you are never as rich as your income, only as poor as your expenses.
On Inspiring Others | I mostly try to stay out of the way of great people, they don’t need my help. I simply applaud and cheer their success.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | Legacy is a big word and I am simply trying to add value to life every day. So the short answer is that my legacy is not up to me to define. Other people will decide if I have a legacy.