It was the death of a colleague in Germany that led Dr Gerrit Pelzer to review his career and life goals, which ultimately took him on an entrepreneurial expedition as an executive coach in Thailand.
Pelzer was formerly the site manager of the Chon Buri factory of Cognis, a German additive maker that was later taken over by global chemical firm BASF. Now 44, he said the unfortunate loss more than two years ago of one of his valued colleagues launched him on his “soul-searching” journey.
Pelzer got into a coaching session with Jean-Francois Cousin, a leading executive coach in Thailand, who helped him realise that coaching might be the new career he had always looked for. He eventually quit Cognis in August 2010 and took on an International Coach Academy course to become a certified coach and set up his Vivo Consulting.
“It was not an easy decision,” Pelzer said during an exclusive interview with The Nation. “As an expat, I had nice salaries, car, drivers. Leaving this to start my own business from nothing is not easy. You need to overcome your fear.
“But so far, I don’t regret [it]. I love coaching. It’s rewarding – even though now I don’t make as much money as I had been.”
Although language is a barrier here, Pelzer said he foresaw a huge opportunity in the executive-coaching industry in Thailand, where there are currently fewer than 100 executive coaches, or roughly one to 1 million population, compared with 1:30,000 in Singapore.
He also finds his executive coach career most rewarding for giving him the ability to help people transform their lives and contribute to changes and improvements of their organisations.
“One big advantage I have as a coach [is that] in the corporate world, people wear masks. They pretend to be somebody they are not. As a coach, once you have developed trust with your client, they feel they can open up and be [their] true selves.
“It’s amazing. I feel very privileged because people share with me concerns they have at work ... their personal lives. They share very intimate details,” he said.
Recently elected vice president of the newly formed Bangkok chapter of the International Coach Federation, Pelzer is currently one of the only six ICF-certified coaches in Thailand.
There are three levels of ICF credentials: associated certified coach (“practised coach” with at least 100 hours of client coaching experience), professional certified coach (“proven coach” with at least 750 hours of client coaching experience), and master certified coach (“expert coach” with at least 2,500 hours).
According to the ICF website, there are five coaches who have the ACC credential in Thailand: Pelzer, Ruth Grace Corlett, Matthias Holighaus, Anne-Marie Machet, and Chinrinee Weerawutiwong. There is only one PCC-level coach, Jean-Francois Cousin. There is currently no ICF master coach in Thailand.
The ICF’s Bangkok chapter, which has a mission to educate the general public to gain a better understanding about the coaching profession, plans to hold its official launch on September 19. Dr Terdtoon Thaisriwichai is president of the Bangkok chapter. Pelzer said the most effective way to explain about coaching is to allow people to experience it. Therefore, he has offered a one-month money-back guarantee for his clients, who don’t have to pay if they are not satisfied with the results within the first month.
“It’s easier for clients to make their decision. And so far there is nobody asking for a refund,” he said.
In making his career shift, Pelzer was inspired by the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, who wrote: “To be alive is the biggest fear humans have. Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive – the risk to be alive and express who we really are.”
Many people are just too scared to make their ideas come true, Pelzer said.
“If in the future I’m diagnosed with cancer, I will look back on my life, what I would need to do to avoid regrets. I’m not too scared to try this idea [of being an executive coach] ... at least I try,” he said.