Believing the importance of foreseeing the future from an early age, Ahu Buyukkusoglu Serter, the Chairperson of the Farplas Board, “I love setting goals. What is most important is how you really want to live… First you should decide this and then set your other goals accordingly,” says.
Farplas is known with its activities in automotive, domestic appliances and tourism industries as well as investments on art and venture capital. The chairperson Serter positions herself not as a manager but as an entrepreneur and discoverer in business world. Her formula to success includes three invariables: The team, the goal and strong time-management. Ahu Buyukkusoglu Serter answered our questions…
–How would you describe yourself briefly for us?
I was born in Istanbul. My parents’ hometown is Kayseri (a city in the central Anatolia region of Turkey) and I am the other one of their two daughters. Having finished Istanbul Erkek Lisesi (Istanbul Boys High School), I went to America as an AFS student. I graduated from Bilkent University’s Business Department and made an MBA on investment management at New York Pace University. As a student, I began working at Wall Street. Then, I came back to Turkey to work in our family-owned business which was mostly active in automotive and domestic appliance industry. I took the responsibility as CFO till 2012 and became the Chairperson in this same year. I am married and have 3 daughters. Their names are Selin, Lara and Arya.
-Do you have any moment or experience of failure that transformed and evolved you as a leader or person, that made you say that ‘it is this’. Would you tell it to us?
I have so many of them but let me tell what I’ve got from them: Your venture may be reliable, yet if you are unable to convince your team to manage this venture or do not start out with the right team, it is destined to failure.
“CEO’S JOB IS HARD”
-What are false facts about being CEO and being a woman CEO?
In fact, I think this question is not applicable to my situation because I have never been a conventional CEO. Instead of behaving like a CEO, I fancy working as an entrepreneur for the projects I myself develop. Rather than managing, I feel more motivated as a person who makes and discovers. As for our family-owned company where I am the chairperson of the board, my role is not being a CEO there. But to make an assumption, I think CEOs’ job is hard because you are expected to make everybody content.
– What are your recommendations for entrepreneurs or new graduates interested in your sector?
As they decide on the companies to work and areas they will specialise in, they should prefer companies and directors with a far-reaching foresight to the future and ready to make everything for realising such vision.
-How do you set your goals? Today, 1 year later, 5 or 10 years in the future…
I love setting goals. What is most important is how you really want to live… First you should decide this and then set your other goals accordingly.
– Who will be your customer by 2030? And how will your sector change?
In my opinion, we will be working with customers with a highly changed profile as compared to our customers in today’s automotive industry. Companies interested in mobility will be our new customers. Players of the transportation sector will also change with the introduction of sharing economy into our lives and the shifts in the ways of people’s movement from one place to another. And our new customers will show up among such players.
TIME IS PRECIOUS
What is a typical day of yours? When do you generally begin the day and stop working?
My day starts quite early, like 7.00 in the morning, and I feel very energetic. I am a morning person. If I am not on travel, then I engage in factory’s work for 2 to 3 days of the week, and two days I spend by working in the city. For me, time spent on roads is not a loss, rather I turn it to good use by making phone calls or readings. I try to be back at home at 7.00 in the evening. If I am together with my family, I enjoy having dinner and then watch some TV with them. But if I am alone, I eat a light meal, read a bit and go to bed by midnight.
How much of time can you spare to your children?
I cannot give regular time to my children on daily basis but when we are together, my whole attention is on them. We have developed interest areas among ourselves, differently with each of them.
– Do you have a meal recipe that will make everybody happy?
Lentil soup, rice with chickpeas and tortilla that I learnt to make from my Spanish friends.
PARTNERS SHOULD GUIDE EACH OTHER
-Team spirit is key to success in business life. What would you recommend to those who are concerned about neglecting their partners because of busy work life?
Partners should not only be team mates to one another but also guide each other. My husband is for me the person who make me remember and feel what is important in life. This means a lot for me because it enables me to decide my priorities by trusting such notion.
– What was the turning point of your life?
Meeting my husband, when I was 16.
– What shall we do to make you crazy at work?
Be slow and make all kinds of excuses for not fulfilling a duty.
I CAN DO ANY JOBS
– upposing you are not doing your today’s job, what would you do instead?
I can do any jobs any time, and suddenly I can change what I’m doing – as long as it gives me pleasure.
– How do you respond when you feel you are trapped as working?
First I take breath and then try to distract myself away from the problem, both physically and mentally. When you allow yourself for time, you begin to approach the problem in a new way and notice that you have different perspectives to look from.
‘I AM GLAD ABOUT MY DECISIONS’
– What are your bag’s essentials?
My laptop, mobile phone, earphones, notepad, pen, glasses (both sunglasses and prescribed ones) and book.
-In the morning you prefer tea or coffee?
– And your secret hero?
Why secret? I have many heroes in my life: My mother, father, Kemal Ataturk, Arya Stark, Lara Croft… My daughters were named after them.
-If you were back to your 20 years old self, what would you do differently?
Not too much to change… I am glad what I have decided and what I have done so far.
GROUND-BREAKING WOMEN IN SISTERHOOD NETWORK
We established BinYaprak (A Thousand of Leaves) by trusting our dream “If come together, we, the women, can change the world.” This exactly explains the motivation behind our digital sisterhood network (www.binyaprak.com) that addresses to the woman who is working or ready to enter business life. This is a network that knows the woman so well… so well that it guides her with the sincerity of a sister and brings her together with opportunities by touching every area of her life.
We could not have completed the “Women at work, Women here” interview series if Milliyet had not share our belief that inspiration and knowledge could only spread by expressing ourselves. Through this series, we will introduce to you the women who have clawed their ways to the top success, women who are game changers.
Our first guest is Ahu Buyukkusoglu Serter. This series makes us feel really excited and we wished to start it with a name that gives us at least such strong excitement. Serter is one of those great women who support BinYaprak to turn from a dream into a real initiative. “Strong Women Prize”, awarded annually to honour the memory of her mother Fatos Buyukkusoglu, also gives life to BinYaprak. We wish you to meet Ahu Buyukkusoglu Serter, herself one of these very first Leaves in this journey…