‘We introduced competency-based executive assessments and took into consideration skills rather than just experience’
STARTING THEIR EXECUTIVE search firm in 1996 was a daunting task for Sandra Burmeister and her partner Sipho Twala. “The industry was generally old school. “Companies doubted if we would actually deliver,” says Burmeister, CEO of Landelahni Recruitment Group. “Traditionally, you had to have been part of the leadership cadre if you were going to be able to identify leadership. Of course, that’s actually nonsense.”
Burmeister, a recruiter by profession, and Sipho Twala, with vast experience in corporate leadership (including stints at Shell and Nestlé), founded Landelahni Business Leaders in 1996. They envisaged a black executive firm with a goal to find the many capable black managers and executives who had been hidden from view or were returning from exile who wanted to make a difference and place them into roles in Government, public corporations and the private sector. The company was also to become a preferred search destination for women leaders as transformation called.
The two entrepreneurs sought to capitalise on the transforming SA. Not only Government and State-owned enterprises were searching for capable black managers to take up executive positions, but the private sector was also following suit. Even more interesting, multinationals who had left SA during the years when it was considered a pariah state were re-establishing themselves in the country, increasing the demand to provide competent black and women executives.
At the time, employment and gender equity were in their infancy and there were no broad-based black economic empowerment codes or charters to help facilitate the process.
“We marketed the business as a solution rather than just a search firm in terms of development of new-age leadership,” says Burmeister. “We were interested in providing innovative tools that would allow younger aspirant leaders and women to move into leadership roles. For example, we introduced competency-based executive assessments – which weren’t common at the time – and took into consideration
Age: 43. Marital status: Married.
Children: One. Born: Johannesburg. Now living: Johannesburg. Education: Qualified as a teacher, then studied psychology and human resources at Unisa.