PETER GOSS (Pty) Ltd – Crisis Management, Corporate Governance, Forensics was founded to help others with corporate reputation, a business targeted at serving in a role like that of senior legal counsel and taking on niche top-end, complex, boardroom level assignments in corporate governance and crisis management (including governance forensics such as matters involving corporate collapse and public sector illicit conduct).
The African Professional Magazine spoke to Founder and Director at PETER GOSS (Pty) Ltd about his personal, professional and entrepreneurial journey thus far.
Tell us about your early life, professional development, how was your training?
My upbringing and primary schooling was in a rural area called New Farm, near Mt Edgecombe in the old Natal. The Group Areas Act forced a separation of our multi-cultural community in 1977 to 1979 with Africans going to Kwa Mashu and other areas, Indians to Phoenix etc. and my community (coloureds) going to Newlands East and other townships. I started high school in Newlands East, Natal and finished Matric 5 years later in 1984, fortunately top of class.
My parents’ terms of reference were: “Once you pass Matric, you’re ready for life”. My dad got to Junior Certificate – Standard 8, and my mother hardly finished a year or two of schooling. I’ve never quite gotten a clear answer when I ask. She does not read or write.
I went straight to work in 1985 as a Kardex Clerk with Lever Bros (now Unilever) where my dad was a clerk for 30 years. In 1986 I studied (or should I say I tried) Analytical Chemistry at Natal Technikon and dropped out in the second semester. I joined the SAPS in 1987 and from there I reckon I found my feet after “Passing Out” (Graduating) from Police College at the end of the year.
By 1989 I found my way into the Detective Branch and served until 1995, leaving as a Detective Warrant Officer (Fraud Unit, Commercial Branch) and securing a correspondence (distance education) qualification from Technikon SA, a 3-year National Diploma in Police Administration: with Investigation of Crime I, II, III and Law of Evidence I, II, III; Criminal Law; and Criminal Procedure being ‘major’ subjects for all three years. I reckon I’d ascribe a major part of my early career growth (the first 12-odd years) to lessons learned as a police detective, and to lessons learned in the role of KZN Chairman of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPRCU), struggling with an Apartheid-era police force. I recall we succeeded in reversing the manipulated dismissal of some 50 black “Kits Konstabels” (Special Constables) for allegedly being HIV positive. The old police force manipulated blood test results to show HIV positive and unscrupulously fired them.
I was recruited by Eskom in 1995 as a Senior Advisor in Corporate Investigations and this is where my Forensic Investigator (or some prefer Forensic Auditor) career began taking on a corporate consultant trajectory. From Eskom I left 4 years later in the role of Acting Chief Investigator (Chief Advisor), being recruited by a Big 4 Auditing Firm in 1999 – the largest in the world at the time.
I stayed for 14 years at the international Firm – serving 11 years as a director/partner between 2003 and 2014. Some more senior colleagues have told me I may have been the only person in memory with a National Diploma to reach such a level. I worked my literal butt off to prove my skills, knowledge and competency. All I can ascribe my academic lack of progress to, back then, all the way until 2012 was a lack of commitment to studies. Notwithstanding that weakness though, I had no lack of focus on building my personal brand and positioning as an authority in the Forensics profession. Notable was my appointment in the role of expert forensic auditor to the national high profile four-man expert panel assessing the prosecution case against Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi in 2007. I’ve led several forensic audits and investigations into other matters of national interest such as the award of the R10 billion third cellular network service provider contract alleged corruption case, and a USD 1 billion fraudulent misstatement case in the energy sector.
In 2012, I felt I’d exhausted my growth trajectory in the international Big 4 Advisory Services environment and decided to roll up my sleeves and balance my study/academic credential deficit so that I could be more marketable.
In the 6 years between 2012 and 2017, I finalized a Post-Graduate (hons levels) bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Investigations, a master’s Degree in Criminal Justice (specialising in governance and anti-corruption) and wrote three books, each of which is well received in the RSA market. I lecture each of my books in programmes at University of Johannesburg (UJ) and University of Pretoria (UP Enterprises). I’ve been lecturing part time for 19 years at UJ. My most recent book published in 2017 is titled: Corporate Governance and Illicit Conduct. While writing it I did the first 100 pages towards a PhD thesis (also started in 2017) focusing primarily on corporate governance.
Career-wise, I grew in the last 15 years from the level of Director (heading Fraud Risk Management) to industry Managing Director for Forensics when I left my international employers in 2014 to join a top 6 professional services Firm, the largest indigenous black African firm, where I became the national Managing Director for Forensics and then the Managing Director (Advisory and Consulting), and EXCO leader, for the 200-person, 20 partner practice.
What does the role of Founder mean to you at PETER GOSS (Pty) Ltd?
I’ve always paid a great deal of attention to my personal branding and positioning in the Southern African market, with a spattering of travels by invitation as an expert outside of Africa. This includes over 150 lectures, over 150 conference presentations (locally and abroad) and about 100 written, talk show and televised media commentaries. My writing, including my 3 books have been a deliberate effort at personal ‘expert’ positioning.
For example, I launched my second book, Fraud and Corruption Risk Governance in 2016 in Las Vegas, USA at the Global Conference of the Association for Certified Fraud Examiners and in 2017 my Corporate Governance and Illicit Conduct book launched at the iconic CFO Indaba hosted by the CFO Forum.
Having exhausted my capacity on the corporatised consulting and advisory treadmill, I recently decided to start my own company, PETER GOSS (Pty) Ltd – Crisis Management, Corporate Governance, Forensics and am having a ball being away from corporate politics, peer-to-peer competition and related mischief. My goal crystallised over time to what I saw as the ultimate consulting context, a role targeted at serving like senior legal counsel and taking on niche top end, complex, boardroom level assignments in corporate governance and crisis management (including governance forensics matters involving corporate crisis and public sector illicit conduct). I also have an interest as Executive Chair of a data analytics company, Kettle Consulting, that has been around for over 11 years. This completes the loop of my solutions set. No advisory company can exist without a digital and data management capacity. My niche, complete high-end business approach is what we call “grey-haired” consulting modelled along the lines of similar international boutique Firms.
Starting a company and leading it as MD has unleashed my entrepreneurial strengths and expanded my interest in serving in Board and Governing Body roles. I serve in an executive and non-executive member role in several corporations, including serving as Chairman of the Nominations Committee in the largest medical scheme in Africa. I run a publications company, Goss Forensic Publications; have an interest in Glasshouse Communications and Public Relations, which fits squarely and serves as the channel for my crisis management service offerings where we assist with corporate reputation and media relations in partnership with one of South Africa’s top (also “grey haired” but he shaves it) well-networked journalists; and, finally, I have an interest in Agency for Corporate Governance, a company focusing on AGM and board appointments, elections and company secretarial solutions in which my son (23) and daughter (21) are Directors.
What would you like to have achieved by the end of your career?
My goal has always been to be an authority in my profession and this effort keeps evolving. The latter has transformed over time into what many now call a corporate governance expert, considering that my recent book on the subject, my service in the role of past-chairperson of the Institute of Directors (IoD) Corporate Governance group (public services); having developed a corporate governance hub in my last major consulting firm where I was MD (Advisory); being a regular board advisor and executive and non-executive member; being a regular lecturer at academic institutions and business schools; and providing radio, televised and written media analysis on current affairs involving corporate governance, crisis, anti-corruption and illicit conduct.
How would you describe your management and leadership styles?
I enjoy helping people develop but I suspect I lead a little too much from the front. My motto is “Don’t wait for the stars to be properly aligned…line them up yourself”. It seems to be working, albeit I work hard on more patience and working alongside colleagues as opposed to mostly from the front.
What makes you tick or keeps you awake at night with respect to your position as Founder?
Two things make me tick. Passion, love for and an obsession with never stopping with personal development; and the desire to be relevant and consulted for prac-ademic (practical and academic) wisdom way into my 70’s. I’ve a busy mind and am a bit of a perfectionist, so I reckon I beat myself up a little too much when faced with negative feedback. Of course, that leads to a sleepless night or two and the need for a sleeping pill occasionally. But, I bounce back like a literal demon and confront adversity with a “passion to fix” and energy second to few. Never, ever be defensive…always admit to errors…apologise unreservedly and confront and fix your mistakes. This makes you grow wiser with every slip you make along the way. One thing is assured, you WILL see failure – many times in a career – but winners ride the rough times and offset them with good deeds.
How do you take part in mentoring others?
Lectures, public speaking, and my business engagements also involve professional mentoring. Alongside this research, writing and speaking are opportunities to share my evolving thoughts and wisdom with my peers and aspiring professionals.
If you had to relate a couple of experiences, what would be the highs and what would be the lows of your working career?
The late Commissioner Jackie Selebi expert review panel, added to becoming a director/partner in the world’s largest international big 4 Firm (at 33 yrs old), then serving as the Managing Director (Advisory and Consulting) and lead expert in corporate governance in our largest professional services Firm of an indigenous nature. The lows have always been my difficulty in managing internal corporate politicians in the workplace – people who play games and play the man. They can’t keep up with the pace, they can’t show their true value, so they spend negative energy trying to poke holes in the work of the real high flyers. The converse is what I absolutely LOVE and wakes me every morning saying, “What a rewarding career”. I love my new path of entrepreneur, business leader, game changer and expert in my game; my career and trajectory going forward belongs entirely with me giving value to my clients, business partners while learning from and developing with my fellow professionals, locally and internationally.
What accolades have you received recently?
I received a unique extraordinary award at the 2018 Professional Services Awards from South African Professional Services Awards. This was for growth in my career to MD, academic efforts and writing; in sum – literally a reward for most of the self-development and skilling, prac-acdemic professional habits I’ve tried to develop throughout my career. Really rewarding and encouraging and I can’t thank SAPSA and their judges enough for the recognition. It was most unexpected and not something I ever targeted. I don’t celebrate accomplishments well; but for others to see one’s hard work is great reward.
How will the firm make sure it achieves its business growth objectives?
I’m conflicted between working on staying the senior counsel-type expert advisor and scaling up into a corporate complex business. I’ve decided not to look too far ahead for the very short term. Come early 2019 though, I suspect things will move up a couple of aggressive growth gears. I bite my tongue and work on patience – letting things happen a little, with gentle touches to direct the path of course – FOR NOW.
Through what means will the organisation ensure that the firm maintains elevated levels of ethics and integrity?
Our business is founded on helping others with corporate reputation. Our very existence makes professional and institutional integrity a non-negotiable imperative for our own sustainability.
Is transformation considered a key objective at the firm, and if so, how will it be attended to?
We are entirely black as a team compliment, but we have diverse expert associates from all backgrounds. I prefer to transform minds, to transform the mind from entitlement to a mindset of graft for success, to empower but be self-empowered.
Kindly highlight some recent contributions by you to the community and to the relevant professions your professionals are a part of.
A professional body has recently asked me, and we completed, the development of digital training for their thousands of members. Added, contact training of professionals (young and mature) will always be central to my approach to business and prac-ademic nature.
How will the firm ensure that professionalism and good customer service are upheld?
By delivering top end expert quality services and being as hands-on as possible in the short to medium term and then scaling that with high-end skilled specialists.
When you not at work, what do you get up to and where can people follow you online?
I’m extremely active on social media, particularly LinkedIn. I really enjoy shopping for clothing, a good movie and keeping in decent shape by swimming and eating well. I still have to find a real hobby though. I tell my wife its writing and reading technical material that are my ‘hobby’, but I agree when she says: “…THAT’S NOT A HOBBY …YOU NEED TO FIND A HOBBY TO RELAX”. I promise I will!!!