Head hunter

‘We in­tro­duced com­pe­tency-based ex­ec­u­tive as­sess­ments and took into con­sid­er­a­tion skills rather than just ex­pe­ri­ence’

Finweek English Edition - - Money Clinic - SAN­DRA BURMEIS­TER

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.

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