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13 lessons from 13+ years in the executive search business

Hard to believe that just 13 years ago, our executive search and leadership consulting firm, Signium Africa was a small, work from home start-up called Talent Africa. From the beginning, our company was rooted in excellence and a desire to bring the best in executive search and placement to South Africa.

Rebranded as Signium Africa, our roots have held fast to what has kept us grounded, trusted and adaptable. In our quest to constantly add value while reaching for exceptional “hire quality”, we look back on valuable lessons learned across 13 years.

  1. Be grateful

Gratitude and self-pity are like oil and water – they’ll never mix. When we are grateful for each success and each lesson learned, clients and colleagues notice, and we attract more of the same.

  1. Plan the plan and then work the plan. Stick to your decisions

Good Leadership requires speedy and sometimes tough decisions, and second-guessing a decision often leads to wasted time and effort. A professional who backs their decisions, is one client’s can trust for guidance in their choice of candidate.

  1. ’n Boer maak ’n plan

This South-Africanism speaks to the agility required when seeking and placing the right person at the C-suite level. Adapting to a client’s requirements in the event of a change in brief is an important part of finding the right fit within the time-frame allocated.

  1. Never miss a deadline

Time is money. It’s also reputation. Missing a deadline can cost a business both. See point number 3!

  1. Pay attention to detail

This is an industry in which fine detail impacts a client or candidate’s future and making sure that every “t” is crossed and “i” dotted is the key to success for all parties involved.

  1. Never take things at face value

Always scratch below the surface to find the real issue, the real personality and the real answers. Too often we miss the ideal placement by judging a book by its cover.

  1. Iron fist in a velvet glove

Balanced communication is vital to every situation or discussion in a business where we are working for the best outcome for both the client and the candidate. A hard approach to facts and a soft approach to people leads to a thriving environment.

  1. Bottom line focus

Keeping your eyes on the prize – a satisfied client, a happy candidate and the company’s bottom line – gives us a positive platform from which to build further success through true partnership.

  1. Good mental health is a must

Teams must be supported on all levels, and an open door policy enables staff to discuss issues before they take a toll on wellbeing. By building a culture of care and consideration where employees can share their thoughts is vital to productivity.

  • Significant stress requires remarkable resilience

We operate in a “bend, don’t break” world where everything turns out for the best in the end, provided we keep trusting our instincts. At the very peak of stress, industry professionals will always find the strength to go the extra mile.

  • Don’t give up – get up, dress up, start again

Tenacity is courage dressed up for work. Those who succeed try again and again, until they get it right. Winners use small failures to build big successes.

  • Put on your big girl/boy pants

While we should never lose a playful and light-hearted nature, most situations call for maturity. Owning up, being accountable, putting your hand up for extra work all requires emotional and corporate maturity – and all make a difference.

  • Humour and playfulness get the hard tasks done

A sense of humour and playfulness reduce stress and it is possible to include both in the serious process of executive search.

These lessons all serve to encourage transparency, growth and productivity while applying ongoing learnings to daily tasks. They are reminders that the “little things” really are vital to maintaining a robust and sustainable business and reputation.

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