It’s a Sher thing met up with Susie Goodman, Managing Executive and Auctioneer at Strauss & co. See our full Q&A with her below and get to know both Susie and the auctioneering industry a little bit better.
What type of work do you do?
I am fully involved in the management and running of Strauss & co. I fell in love with the art auction world and never looked back.
Is your industry female or male dominated and how did you stand out? Globally the art auction market is still male dominated but at Strauss & co the situation is different. We are a female driven auction house, which strives to be the most dynamic auction house in Africa, focused on expertise, technology and a commitment to excellence.
How long have you been at this company for and what has your career progression look like here?
I have been at Strauss & co for 12 years. The joy of working at Strauss & co that it’s a small, innovative business, with the ethos of the business being to grab opportunities and making them happen. At Strauss & co we have also been blessed in the growth of the market.
What recommendations do you have for other young women looking to enter your industry?
For anyone looking to get involved in the art market, it is a place full of passion and innovation, I highly recommend get to know it and get involved. Every day is different, we never have the same day twice, the best part is the phenomenal art and the extraordinary people, it is a privilege to work here.
What is the one thing you absolutely love about your organisation? I love art – we have about 1 000 works of art in our offices at any given time – I get to share in the stories of these artworks with collectors, art lovers and artists. For me, it’s a privilege finding homes for the lots I’m auctioning off, and in this way, we get to play a part in the developing history of these artworks. I work with a team across Johannesburg and Cape Town that are incredibly passionate, knowledgeable and take a lot of pride in what they do.
Why should other women join your industry?
If they have an interest in art, working in the secondary market opens up so many opportunities to see a wide variety of incredible artworks and work in a dynamic and exciting environment with many opportunities for development and growth.
Are you currently hiring and where can other women go to, to apply for roles within your organisation?
We are always looking for fabulous, enthusiastic talent.
What motivates you?
I am a person who is motivated by a number of aspects in my life, but what motivates me in the art world is working with a fantastic team at Strauss & co that has magic, we have clear goals and targets to drive us, and we are focused on an excellent client experience.
What do you do differently to give yourself the competitive edge?
The most valuable part of our business is people, from buyers and sellers to the dedicated team that keeps the wheels rolling. At Strauss & co we are committed to providing an excellent client experience, ensuring that buyers have all the tools to make well-informed decisions when they buy an artwork. We need to work at this constantly and find new ways to do what we do better and more effectively.
Are you a mother and if so, how do you balance being a full-time mother and leader and how do you believe corporate SA can empower mothers to achieve more balance? Often by the ‘seat of my pants’! I am not the world’s best spreadsheet organiser, so I try to make my girls responsible for their needs and requirements for school and sport. To be honest, I have been the mother who accidentally left someone at school!
The art auction world is very variable, there’s no such thing as ‘normal’ at Strauss & co, every day is different! We have intense pressure leading up to a sale and straight afterwards, but my family understands and have helped me put measures in place to deal with the very busy times, long hours and occasional late nights. Spending time together as a family is very, very important, and we have a lot of laughs.
How do you manage criticism?
Criticism, especially constructive criticism, I see as an opportunity for growth and change. We need to look at the situation and ask, what can I learn from this, how can we do things differently? Only then does innovation happen. I am not scared of failure.
How do you motivate and inspire your people?
I believe in kindness, and in leading the charge. I am absolutely not above packing out chairs or grabbing a feather duster before an auction! We are stronger together, more than the sum of our parts. Communication is absolutely vital, listening especially. I am invested in employee’s personal growth as well as within the team environment, and opening opportunities to employees to take responsibility and grow professionally.
What has been your biggest failure in your career and what did you learn from it?
None of us are perfect, but I don’t see setbacks as failures. I am a very positive and optimistic person who is always looking for new ideas, new ways to connect, and trying to grow this market constantly. Challenges are opportunities to innovate and approach things differently.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently on your journey to success?
I am sure there are many things I could have done differently, but I don’t have any regrets, and I believe we need to focus on where we are going.
What did you study and does it relate to your field of work?
I obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Art History) from the University of Cape Town. After finishing my degree I furthered my studies with a Masters at Christie’s in London, concentrating on decorative arts and fine arts, from the Renaissance to modern. I was very lucky to move straight into the auction world and serving an internship at Christie’s King Street and moved into the client advisory area. In the artworld you learn every day, you never stop learning and never stop studying
Do you believe in power dressing?
When auctioneering and engaging with clients I need to look smart, and any given day we are getting our hands dirty handling artworks, so I prefer to be professional with a colourful blazer, but comfortable. I love to wear colour and I like to support local small businesses and artisans.
What advice would you give to young people entering your industry? Cultivating your passion as well as a quest for knowledge is essential for young people who are considering a career in the art auction world. Grab every opportunity, have fun, and appreciate the small things.
What is the most courageous action you’ve ever taken in your career?
Entering the world of live broadcasting our auctions at the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic, when the rest of the auction world had paused.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given regarding your career?
Learn to listen.
What is your leadership style and who taught you how to lead?
No one taught me to lead. I am passionate about people and motivated by a fabulous team
What are your three biggest assets that you bring into your role?
There is a balance of being able to view things from a macro and micro level, and I try to bring energy, enthusiasm and a positive attitude to my role.
Has load shedding affected your industry and if so, how so?
Loadshedding has affected everyone, personally and professionally. We have tried to take the good from the bad, adapting in our environment and trying to keep our sense of humor.
The budget speech took place on 22 February. Do any of those announcements impact your industry and if so, how?
There are always changes with every budget speech, art from the African continent is important in the global market. In a sense we have become more affordable in the global market which opens opportunities for international investment in the local South African economy.
We see that millennials and Gen Z’s are job hopping every 2-3 years citing mental health and toxic working environments. What advice do you have for someone who is unhappy in their organisation or struggling with their mental health due to work related pressures?
At Strauss & co we pay high importance on the mental health and wellbeing of our employees. Each team member is vital, and we do our best to support each other, especially when any one individual is struggling. It is also important to us to make sure that we communicate with each other regularly regarding wellbeing, with an importance on asking for help, and prioritise activities outside of the office that contribute to mental health. The company is also committed to our wellness programme/portfolio. We do use the services of a professional psychologist within the business and also utilise one-on-one feedback sessions throughout the whole organisation. There is also importance to be placed on owning your role and responsibility to speak up when you are struggling to let the people around you know that you need support.
How important do you believe upskilling is and what type of upskilling do you promote / advise?
Equipping staff with skills is a fantastic investment in people and can only help the business to grow stronger. I am a firm believer in promoting from within, from supporting postgraduate studies to providing platforms to develop public speaking or writing skills, we can only grow stronger when we grow together.