Our series looking at the winners of the Cirencester Chamber of Commerce Best for Business awards continues with Business Person of the Year, Benita Cegarra. She tackled teamwork, million pound savings and line outs with Charlotte Shepherd.
“IF I see a challenge I can’t resist going for it,” said Benita Cegarra, who has built up a global consultancy business in Cirencester called BJC Europe with clients such as Vodaphone and BP.
The challenge she refers to could so easily be the opportunity to transform a client’s business, something that she does on a regular basis and was one of the reasons she won Business Person of the Year at the Cirencester Chamber of Commerce Awards.
However, 46-year old Benita, who lives in Cirencester with her photographer husband and two children, is in fact talking about the remarkable decision she made five years ago to become a qualified rugby referee and coach.
“I was watching my seven year old son play rugby and the game was not being played within the regulations because no one was qualified to referee the game. I vowed after that match that it would never happen again and said if I had to qualify as a ref I would.”
The rest is history and Benita, who had never played rugby, has been a constant presence at Cirencester RFC, as a coach, referee and youth chairman. She even set up a women’s rugby team this year and is a regular on the pitch.
A passion for sport filters down into Benita’s illustrious business career and sporting metaphors are often used to inspire the businesses that she works with. “Business can learn a lot from sport,” she explained. “Good business is similar to rugby in that it is all about good teamwork. Everyone has an individual role to play but unless the team works together there is no way they can win.”
Benita began working for herself in 1994 after being made redundant by the marketing and communications agency she worked for in France. “Working for myself was one of the best things I have ever done. I haven’t stopped working since,” she said.
BJC Europe was set up in its current format in 1994 and has enjoyed enormous international success.
As well as offering motivational workshops to team members in companies Benita may also spend several months within a company sorting out a particular issue.
It is her ability to cast a fresh eye over a business that has proved to be so pivotal.
“I am not just called into to help sort out a failing business. I have worked with teams when they realise that they want change even when they are profitable,” she explained.
Her incredible successes include saving Burmah Castrol £16.8m in material costs in the 1990’s across the European supply chain, and further cost savings of $50m when the new working practice was rolled out worldwide. “I suggested one negotiation with suppliers which brought benefits. Each country had a different way of working. A large part of what I do is getting teams in different countries to think the same way. Not the English, French or Chinese way but as a team.”
It helps that Benita is fluent in English, French and German with a touch of Spanish.
Although she may often be called in by some of the largest global names in businesses, she believes that her approach can equally apply to small companies.
Which is even more crucial in today’s challenging economic climate.
“In a recession, look at what you are good at and concentrate on that,” she said. “With small companies if you are smart and plan ahead you can save money.”
Benita has used her expertise closer to home and was chairman of the Gloucestershire Institute of Directors for three years. She is now a member of the Cirencester Chamber of Commerce. “There are a huge amount of skills and talent in Cirencester,” she said.
As a working mother Benita accepts that the biggest challenge in her life is striking the right balance between work and home. “You have to accept that you cannot do it all and accept that you need help. My husband works primarily at home and I couldn’t do what I do without him.”
Benita’s current marketing campaign, ‘Going for Gold’, again draws heavily on sport for inspiration. “It’s okay coming second if you have done the best you can. ‘Going for Gold’ is about seeing where a business is doing well and looking at what it needs to do to attack opportunities. It is about building on your strengths and making the business better,” she said.
However, second is not a position that Cirencester’s Business Person of the Year Benita Cegarra finds herself in too often.