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HomeCAREERSA Different Interview with Augustin Hagiu, President of F.O.R.T. From Journalism to...

A Different Interview with Augustin Hagiu, President of F.O.R.T. From Journalism to Business Consulting

Augustin Hagiu has been the President of the Romanian Operators Federation of Transport (F.O.R.T.) since 2005, a role that has brought him recognition in the field of representing employers’ interests. Throughout his career, he has actively encouraged and supported the formation of over 24 local and regional employers’ associations composed of freight and passenger road transport companies. He has also developed and promoted a series of operational sectoral legislative initiatives that are still present in the national legislation. Additionally, he is the founder and Vice President of IPRU (International Passenger Road Union). However, a lesser-known fact about him is his role as a business management consultant, a role he has undertaken since 2012.

C&B: Describe your work activity!

Augustin Hagiu: Consultancy is actually my second professional activity, which I carry out in parallel with my role as F.O.R.T. president. However, it brings me the greatest professional satisfaction due to the concrete results and the evolution of clients. I work exclusively based on recommendations, and my approach is entirely different from the classical one in this professional domain. The first step is getting to know the client, which is the most important stage for those in the small and medium-sized enterprise category. In this initial stage, I focus on two essential components: one related to shareholders/administrators and one related to employees. These are two “radiography” analyses that I conduct through different means and then overlay to draw conclusions and accurately outline strategies to achieve the company’s objectives. In the case of shareholders/administrators, I even try to determine the positioning of family/close friends regarding how they act within the company and in relation to collaborators. Often, through discussions with those close to them, you realize things that you wouldn’t have found out even if you were constantly beside the company’s administrator for 7 days. However, this approach is specific to those clients with whom there is a very close relationship, and I admit I don’t have many examples of this kind. The second analysis reflects the positioning of employees in relation to management and their own activities within the company. It’s a meticulous process, interspersed with “traps” that need to be delicately approached and avoided. Here, there are grievances, accumulated frustrations, negative energies generated by personal problems, and deviations attributed to each individual’s subjectivity. An innovative method I adopted some years ago, and still use today because it creates “ripples,” is to start the analysis with the simple question: “How does toilet paper reach the company’s toilets?” obviously referring to the supply chain. Initially, everyone gets stuck, but then they understand with patience, as we discover issues together, why it’s important to approach things this way. The usual main targets I pursue are related to optimizing flows, reducing costs, maximizing profits, real-time remote control of one’s own business, eliminating risk factors, business development in market trends, and innovation. I also have clients who request my services for specific issues when they don’t have solutions, and multinational companies usually want me to intervene for actions like increasing market share or entering the market for services offered, especially in the transport market, and contracts with them are long-term.

He was the youngest marketing and advertising director in the world.

C&B: What is the story of your evolution?

Augustin Hagiu: I started actual work at the age of 16, during winter/summer breaks. It was quite physically demanding work, especially in construction, but very satisfying at that time. I worked for a month during summer vacation, and the next month, I was at the beach without asking my parents for money. I began my professional career at the age of 18, in my first year of college, as a commercial agent in a printing house. This step was extraordinary because it was also the most important and determinant in my subsequent career. The first clients from back then are still my friends today, after 29 years during which they have been both my suppliers and, in the meantime, sponsors of F.O.R.T. activities. At that time, 29 years ago, I realized how important determination and seriousness are, not saying “I can’t,” and how much perseverance matters in the eyes of those who trusted me to represent, in various positions, a small part of their business. I was quickly noticed and promoted, and around the age of 20, I transitioned from being a sales representative to working in television. Probably, at the age of 20, I was the youngest marketing and advertising director in the world, combining this with a weekly cultural show that I presented, recorded, and edited, also being the host. What followed was just evolution. I moved successively from the role of entrepreneur to commercial director, executive, president of an employers’ association, and later to federation president. The major advantage is that I went through all the professional stages, perhaps much faster than an ordinary person, but certainly covering all the steps.

Grandparents played a defining role in the evolution of who Augustin Hagiu is today.

C&B: What were you like in childhood and who influenced your development?

Augustin Hagiu: In childhood, I enjoyed playing alone because due to the lack of toys, I had to visualize a lot and improvise. I preferred socializing with other children rather than necessarily playing with them, and playmates were carefully selected, usually older than me. I grew up in a normal family with modest financial means at that time, but I didn’t feel it much. My grandparents had a huge influence on my character and personal development. I was fortunate to be under their care, my grandfather born in 1901, and my grandmother in 1918. History, geography, and the perception of the world shaped in an old-fashioned style, thanks to my grandparents’ experience, had a defining impact on my future socio-professional relationships. In adolescence, I continued developing my communication skills with anyone, anytime, on any subject known or somewhat mastered. My “gang” at the age of 16 consisted of people over 20, and that mattered enormously later on. I didn’t have visions, but I imagined a lot of things, situations, circumstances. I always adapted quickly to the moment and developed a very strong analytical capacity, which helped me make quick decisions and evolve much faster than usual. I was never desperate for financial gain, but rather for the recognition of things done and validation. At the age of 27, I was already the president of an employers’ association, representing the interests of 3600 companies.

A career built on honesty, rigor, and sacrifice

C&B: What do you appreciate and what do you not tolerate?

Augustin Hagiu: I greatly value accountability and transparency. I admire courage and determination. I apply sincerity and pragmatism. I also enjoy using manipulation constructively and in the interest of those for whom I do it. I have quite a few things and attitudes that I don’t tolerate in people, but I never start with negative assumptions about a person. Often, it only takes 2 minutes or a simple handshake and a glance “up in the sky” for me to know not to waste time in an unsuitable situation for my way of being. I don’t tolerate arrogance, laziness, and egocentrism, even though I’m often characterized as “arrogant” myself. It’s a way of keeping the baggage aside. At 47, I believe I no longer need, nor is it justified, to experience “experiments” with people, which is why I’ve become very selective. Everything that needed to be experienced, including in personal life, has concluded. I’m at a stage where I need to enjoy life and everything that has been, as well as what lies ahead. I need to share my experience with those who deserve it, primarily my children.

C&B: Has the economic climate in recent times influenced your activities?

Augustin Hagiu: I’m “umbilically” tied to any changes in the economic climate and business environment in my activities. However, the strong information community I’ve built over time with the domestic business environment and external partners helps me immensely. We have rapid access to information, I would say in real-time. Similarly, we access solutions already experienced among us in certain situations. “To share” is the fundamental expression when we talk about the challenges of the economic climate, and that’s the key to my professional activity.

C&B: Can you tell us about extreme situations in your activity?

Augustin Hagiu: As a consultant, I rarely encounter extreme situations because I manage what happens on my own and already have expertise in crisis management to avoid such situations. However, as an employers’ association leader, I frequently faced extreme situations, especially when facing the institutional apparatus while representing those behind me. One such situation occurred in Victory Square during the 2016 protest related to the explosion of RCA insurance rates. At that time, I made a risky decision, which later proved to be the only possible and victorious one at the same time, but I wouldn’t want to go into details. Strategy is the component that can make the difference, and my analytical capacity has always helped me in such situations, provided that the pressure from the support factor (those I represent) is not exaggerated or absurd. Often, it’s best to step back to make a decision, but it’s essential to take ownership of it afterward, regardless of the consequences.

C&B: You have a potential partner or employer in front of you. What’s the phrase with which you convince them that it’s worth using your services?

Augustin Hagiu: In my case, there’s no question of an employer. My clients are partners, but I don’t operate in a typical manner. Practically, I don’t seek to expand my client portfolio. They come to me through referrals, and I know exactly why they come to me. I choose whether or not to work for them, and unfortunately, this prevents me from giving an answer regarding the key phrase to convince them. All my clients have remained friends even after the completion of projects, and that’s the most important thing.

C&B: What advice do you have for those at the beginning of their professional journey or undecided?

Augustin Hagiu: Money is second. At the beginning of a career, we should focus on gaining experience and managing as many difficult situations as possible to achieve results. Choosing the right career path depends on each person’s flair and life experience, as well as their approach to opportunities. What happens in childhood and adolescence is extremely important because subsequent transformations are very difficult. I would rather give advice to parents or mentors, teachers. The emphasis in education should be on free will, not on “must.” The same goes for the professional field. Stay away from bosses who say “this is how it must be done.” At the beginning of your journey, it’s essential to meet and get close to people with strong character who are hierarchically superior in the company where you work. You must stay close to them even after you move on, and that’s crucial. That’s what I did, and over time, even though they stayed in the same place, they followed my career, were proud to have supported my development, and recommended me. Any sane mentor wants their disciple to surpass them.

Excessive digitization = a rapidly transforming society that loses its value

C&B: What does society mean to you and how do you interpret its trends?

Augustin Hagiu: The term “society,” in today’s everyday reality, is exaggerated, and this is a primary aspect I wish to address. Society entails the totality of economic, cultural, etc., factors that shape and sustain a communion of values among people sharing a certain delimited geographic area and/or common socio-professional interests. This approach to the term “society” no longer corresponds to what members of communities experience nowadays. We still obviously share the same geographic space, but the social, cultural, and economic approach is extremely individualistic. The transformation of society is so rapid and brutal in line with excessive digitization of social synapses. From my perspective, the trend of human factor robotization is manifesting extremely aggressively, annihilating the essential component of free will, crucial for maintaining societies based on creative, free interaction, and common interests of individuals. In fact, we are witnessing the complete destruction of personality, individuality, and the flattening of their manifestations in society, either through veiled impositions or direct ones.

My personal conclusion can be succinctly expressed as follows: When the communion among the people of a society takes a back seat to individual interests and expressions, we witness an involution presented as evolution with a dramatic end, the only possible one spoken of by all the great books of history.

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