Dinner Dialogue with Xavier Augustin, Founder & CEO, Y-Axis Overseas Careers

This Saturday (21st April) evening after our Cohort (2) meeting, our host Suresh Reddy, Chairman, LYCOS invited Mr. Xavier Augustin, Chairman of YAxis, one of the largest immigration consulting company in the world, employing close to 1000 people across the globe, for an interactive session over dinner.

All of us were really impressed with Xavier’s outlook and business and life lessons he shared. His thoughts and learning are so interesting and compelled me to recollect and write an article for the wider distribution among our CMs. I did not make any notes during the meeting and whatever i am writing is based on my memory of the discussion. I am able to recollect most of them because they made me to think about them.

As a person you must be big even at the beginning of entrepreneurship journey with limited resources. The entrepreneur does not become bigger with the enterprise. It is not difficult to attract talented people to work for you if you are big with what you are capable of achieving.

Constantly learning to stay relevant is a must. Learning from the best in the world keeps your vision and purpose clear. You must spend time regularly to learn from the best professors in the world, particularly from your industry or field. Xavier attends courses conducted by world class professors from the Ivy League institutions such as Harvard where he recently graduated from the Owner/President Program (OPM). Among the most important lessons it taught was:  how a business must make a decent profit, decently. How ordinary people (like us) can do extraordinary work (through collaboration and continuous improvement).

Top two percent of the staff are critical for the success of the organisation. It is very important to invest in their development and continuously monitor their learning. Xavier got Professor Ram Charan, globally renowned consultant to conduct workshops for his top leadership team. Professor Ram Charan is known to charge upwards of USD 20000 per day.
As the business starts making money, investing in brand, people and organisation building gives far superior results than investing in land and buildings. Xavier spent huge amounts of money to build his brand, train people and use latest technology and never got tempted to invest in tangibles.

Not taking the money from the outside gives lot of freedom to take decisions which sometimes do not look rational for anyone other than the entrepreneur himself.
But at a certain stage, it is also important to go public for the benefit of all the employees. It looks very selfish to keep all the wealth created with the promoter himself and probably pass it on to his children. Need to share the wealth with the people who helped creating the wealth. Xavier is thinking of going public even though the company does not need external money to support its growth plans.

Work life balance is important. Coming home early to spend quality time with family and friends, reading and learning, and taking time out for holidaying are important activities needed for enjoying the life. For an entrepreneur the work, family and self easily blends into one.

When you travel around the world, experience the nature and don’t restrict yourself to city structures, shopping destinations and entertainment avenues. Do the adventure tourism and experience the nature as it is. It can teach lot of lessons. Xavier travels with National Geographic Expeditions with NatGeo photographers and authors. He has completed 10 Trip and a 100 days with Nat Geo. He loves to travel because travels teaches you so many lessons.

Xavier climbed Mt.Kilimanjaro where he learnt lessons from acclimatisation – that to climb to the top, you can do it only one slow step at a time.  You cannot run the hills and reaching the peak is not an instinctive act. It is an arduous task and you need to maintain the pace of journey. You need lot of planning, understand the risks involved, plan the breaks, equip yourself and carry just enough food and other trekking gear. If you carry more, it will strain you. Same is the case with entrepreneurship. You cannot do it in a hurry and reaching the top requires lot of determination and perseverance. You should know how to manage with frugal resources and maintain the pace.

Horse riding in in the grasslands of Mongolia taught him that the horses want their masters to have the confidence and command them. This is why your teams want their leaders to have the confidence, take decisions and command them. Xavier explains that his close friend who is a famous hero always wants his director to tell him what to do. He does not like his directors keep asking for his opinion on how this scene should be enacted.

He realised that the real heroes look ordinary when he went on a Dog Sledding trip in Sweden’s Artic Circle. Handsome huskies provide only brute force but the real thinking and leading is done by the ordinary looking dogs. In the real life also, real thinkers and strategists are introverts, quite unassuming and look very ordinary.

Cycling across the Europe taught him a new way of travel – to be transported by your own power – that is the most intimate form of travel. Similarly, walking from one coast to the other in England showed a new form of travel. To know England one must walk it – live in its inns along the way and walk through its well-tended countryside. He does a long trek of 10-12 days every day with this wife which is a wonderful way to bond.

Staying the course, sticking to the knitting – not getting distracted by the unrelated opportunities, building a loyal team of apostles, setting targets and empowering staff the freedom to operate are some of his success factors for being able to build a great organisation.

Written by:

Kali Prasad G
President TiE Hyderabad
Office Managing Partner, EY Hyderabad

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