Bridgette Gasa | Architectural Designer and Founder of The Elilox Group

Bridgette Gasa is the founder and Managing Director of The Elilox Group. She holds a PhD in Construction Management with NMMU and is the Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) Past-President for the Africa Region. She serves on a number of Boards and is a recipient of prestigious awards which include a Department of Science & Technology Award for a Leading Woman Scientist in Industry and an award for being Africa’s Most Influential Woman in Business. Bridgette. She was appointed by the President of South Africa as a National Planning Commissioner in 2010.

My Definition of Success | Success to me has always meant owing no one anything except respect. It has always meant being able to sleep at night without worrying about debt. Fundamentally, success is being able to faithfully carry out that which you have promised not only yourself, but others that you will do. It begins with knowing first and foremost what you wish to offer as a contribution in this life, segmenting this into manageable tasks and outputs and diligently carrying that out.

I Am Driven By Making | both a qualitative and quantitative impact in the lives of others, is what drives me. South Africa is the most unequal society in the entire world. Moreover, in three Provinces in South Africa there are extremely high levels of unemployment and poverty: EC, KZN and Limpopo. As a company we choose to do work only in these 3 Provinces, because the nature of our work is not automated, it is labour-intensive and as such it affords us the opportunity to make the requisite impact.

My Highlights | I am proud of having been the first woman in SA to have received the DST Award for the Leading Woman Scientist in Industry in 2008. I am proud of having been the first woman President of the Chartered Institute of Building for the Africa Region in 2008. The CIOB is 179 years old. Those for me were ground-breaking achievements and I remain extremely humbled by them. Moreso, because on both accounts, I was nominated by my peers in the industry – without knowing. It speaks volume about how people regard one’s contribution to date. So I am motivated to keep doing what I have been doing.

I am most proud of having attained my PhD in Construction Management in 2012. Purely because it is a promise I had made to my late Father and notwithstanding the odds that one was confronted with – I persevered until it was done.

The Difference Between good And Great | People who are good at what they do are those that use their gifts and talents to adequately respond to any requirement presented to them at any given time. Nothing further added, nothing subtracted. People who are great at what they do are those who go beyond scope, who are not necessarily confined to their area of strength, who see an opportunity to learn a new skill/ a new capability, who apply their minds beyond the task at hand, who match in the process of delivering that which has been requested of them – both skill and initiative. That for me is the difference.

My Strengths Are | Tenacity and the never-say-die strength, is the one that stands out over the others. It may be impossible to replicate this every week (like I do), but I would encourage the readers to do this once every month: sit down either at the beginning of the month or at its end – all by yourself – with a small piece of paper (smaller than an A5) and write down: ‘why it is that you want so much to achieve in that one area?’ ‘For whose benefit would that achievement be?’ ‘What would be the great loss, if it didn’t happen?’ ‘What would be the great gain?’

And then they must proceed to answer this as honestly as they can, and they must do so succinclty. If the answer can’t fit in that small paper, it can only mean that the reader himself/herself is not clear about what their goals are? As harsh as this may sound – how can one expect a realization of their goals/ambitions when they have not been able to articulate them to themselves?

Principles and Values I Live By | Honesty, Humility (never displaying that you know more than you actually do), Hard-work & Discipline

Lessons I’ve Learnt | My late Mother taught me to: Stay the course! She taught me to see everything I do to its natural conclusion. She taught me to be a completer-finisher. She taught me to be “ok” with the outcome, even if that outcome would be adverse to that which I would have expected. I learnt by watching her do exactly that.

Resources I Use | I do not know what we used to do before iPads and You-Tube? I buy a lot of books which I hardly have time to finish. As a result, in my home study at any given point in time I have at least 2-books I read simultaneously every month and this is very time consuming. So I am grateful for the TED talk videos on YouTube which I download and listen to as I travel because I am always on the road. They have become my most useful resource.

Best Advice I’ve Received | Black Man, you are on your own. This is a Steve Biko quote which resonated enough with my Mother and she consistently said it, not knowing the effect that it would have on me. Without focusing on the racial-undertones that have over the years been attributed to it…I chose to take out of it the following meaning: “You have within you the inherent capability to achieve all that you set out to do. Do not at any given point in time adopt the ‘external-locus-of-control’ attitude which would defer your responsibilities to another for things that lie squarely on your plate and within the realm of your influence”

Motivating Others | The most surprising thing is that since establishing my company six years ago, I have not gone out looking to employ people – everyone I have on staff has come looking for me, some have been following my career for a long while, some were inspired by the work that we do and they wanted to align with that vision. So they stayed. I motivate them by honestly and consistently sharing with them what’s on my heart – what my aspirations for the company are – where we are going and I suppose there’s nothing greater than following a leader whose compass-orientation is not hidden and coded? I also motivate my people by allowing them to choose personal development programmes which have got nothing to do with the work we do at The Elilox Group. I pay for those, knowing fully well that there are very few Employers who’d do this. In return, I get loyalty to the company and the direction we have taken. Our people truly love the work they do, they also feel they matter enough for their contributions to be properly rewarded.