We thought it was a blast to have the Lion Dance troupe here again for the opening of our new office at Shaw House, especially after the “accidental” session we had during Chinese New Year in Feb 2016. Back then, one of our colleagues, Jackie, as ingenious as always, went up to a troupe who hadjust finished their dance at the office next door and asked them to come over for an impromptu session. The office then was so small that only one of the Lions could come in but we had a great time anyway and totally amused by the “plucking of greens” and the racket it made.
While we are on the subject of openings and starts, a lot of people had asked me the question – how and why did you get into this business?
The short answer is it is probably more of an accident. Tricia and I had never thought we will grow it to more than the two of us. When we both decided to call it a day with our corporate sales jobs, we merely wanted to have flexibility for our kids and yet be productive mentally and somewhat financially. Somehow, when my old clients knew about my new “adventure”, many approached me to say they would like me to place for them, that I would know what would work as I understand their organisations pretty well after so many years of working with them. One thing led to the other and we started to hire because the last thing we want to do is to let our old clients down, especially when they trusted us despite having no track record whatsoever in executive search. That, to be honest, was probably the most stressful part. Neither of us had work at some large search firms to acquire knowledge before starting out on our own – we just wanted to start with a clean slate to do what seems right to us, not what was done usually elsewhere, a decision that was extremely brave (and on hind side, usually reserved for the foolish). It means we are not encumbered with any old school way of recruiting but we also don’t know any best practices, we absolutely had to learn fast and adapt because the margin of error is a client’s trust, which is more important, and satisfying, than the financial outcomes.
We hired, we made mistakes, we fell, we got up, we changed course, we held on at times by sheer determination and changed different ways of working just get things done right. The good thing is the team is light footed, tightly knitted and very open to try new things. I think this explained why we were able to move 6 times over 5 years, without batting an eyelid. We are actually quite good at packing at speed and be operational within 12 hours at the new place. Our team is spontaneous to roll with the punches, take on new stuff, learn new approaches to a myriad of things from dealing with all kinds of people to trouble shooting systems while encouraging one another forward. Most importantly, the aptitude to change and adapt and the resiliency to keep coming back. These are probably what kept us in business together with great clients who are supportive. I remembered the number of calls I have got from headhunters who knew of us to give a word of advice (or warning perhaps). In short, they said it is a business that is easy to start and even easier to end. That any Tom, Dick or Harry can make a single placement but a good recruiter needs to make placements, month after month, no matter what roles are on your plate. I think, we have not fare too badly that way, so far. And I hope we continue to do great work.
The role of an executive search consultant is probably the hardest sales role there is out there. The amount of moving parts to manage at any given point of time: the research work that goes into understand the unique selling points of our client and the tech space, the number of calls to make, people to meet, hiring managers to manage, all the prep and debriefs, staying strong to interview in depth and salary negotiations, are staggering, to say the least. But at the end of the day, if candidates reported six months later that things are great…then that is a great encouragement of why we continue to do what we do. That hopefully for the longer term, we have made a positive impact in their careers. When hiring managers called to say so-and-so is an awesome hire, it really, really makes our day.
The leader of that Lion Dance troup’s parting words then were “Miss ah, Huat ah! And hope you have a bigger office the next time we come.” I was smiling when I texted him to come again this time.
Written by: Josephine Chia