What does the future of the Executive Search industry look like?

article Interview

Interview with David-Sebastian Stein, Managing Partner Signium-Stein & Partner for Debizz Magazine

Signium – Stein & Partner is a family company in its second generation, founded in Bucharest by Werner E. Stein more than 27 years ago, which is part of a global network of Executive Search and Leadership Advisory. Over time, we have managed to maintain a leading position on the Romanian market, by being reliable, professional, and by adapting our consulting services both internationally and locally. Our goal has always been for both our clients and candidates to have a positive experience in working with us.

What is the future of the Executive Search industry and how are you preparing for it?

We are pleased to see an evolution in the consulting sector, which is moving away from the classic search for directors and heading towards leadership consulting. In other words, recruiting managers is part of Leadership Advisory. This means that we no longer consider only a specific need, such as the placement of a CEO with experience in industry x. Currently, in each project we analyse in which phase of the business lifecycle the company is, what competencies already exist in the organisation and the strategy with which the company would like to achieve its medium- and long-term objectives. Thus, we have developed services that complement the recruitment activity, leadership solutions, such as strategic alignment of all stakeholders on the necessary leadership skills, succession planning at different levels, talent evaluation and development within the company, a diagnosis at the level of the organisational culture and the commitment of existing teams. In this way, we learn to identify together with the client the real needs of the organisation from a human capital perspective and we are a discussion partner in the development of the company’s leadership strategy.

How do you see the Romanian market and the level of Romanian management after 27 years of activity in the field of executive recruitment?

We have great confidence in Eastern Europe, and we enjoy the progress we see every year throughout the region. My father and I grew up in Western Europe, so we know the pros and cons of both regions. Many good things happen here – ideas, agility, adaptability, which are essential today, both in technological development and on all other business plans. We see better and better professionals, young competitive and performance-oriented leaders, so I think the level of local management and market will increase a lot.

What criteria do you use to guide you in recruiting managers?

Our role is no longer just to identify the right candidates in the “market”. We see ourselves as advisors, supporters, and long-term partners for our clients in identifying the most appropriate leadership solutions. Therefore, it is important to understand the business models, the competitive environment, and the strategy, so that we can translate all this into the necessary skills. We are the ones who bridge the needs and requirements of companies from a human capital perspective, the stakeholders’ desires, the candidates’ expectations, and the reality of the market – unfortunately, the ideal profile for a particular company is not always available, so we must work together to find new solutions.

 How have the last two years been for Signium – Stein & Partner?

As for everyone else, it was a difficult time, but we are very happy and grateful that we have achieved very good results from a business perspective. In addition, we used this time to strengthen the team and now we have very competent people, well trained at all levels – from Researchers to Partners. We are an interesting mix of people from the human resources sector, people who worked exclusively in Executive Search and some who came from the business sector. This gives us a good knowledge of the business environment and allows us to cover a wide range of industries.

On the other hand, since 2020 we are part of Signium’s global network, one of the top partnerships in Executive Search and Leadership Consulting worldwide, with almost 70 years of experience and presence in over 30 countries. We are currently in the process of rebranding and will complete the transition from Stein & Partner to Signium by the end of the year. This partnership helps us expand our capabilities by combining the entrepreneurial style of a family business with the global exposure we have through the network. At the same time, Signium’s values blend very well with ours and we are delighted that we can contribute to the multicultural expansion of the network and to the development of the most efficient solutions for our customers, building our approach on intelligence and intuition.

On a personal level, I am also honored to have been chosen to be on Signium’s board of directors, along with four colleagues from South Africa, Poland, Portugal, and Germany. Our responsibilities in the next 3 years, the period of our mandate, are related to administrative decisions, coordination of members and business development of the entire network. It is an honour even more as “Stein & Partner” is a relatively new member, and the trust they have shown me makes more responsible.

One of the objectives announced by Signium – Stein & Partner is related to the expansion in the region. What is the status and what are your plans for 2022?

Currently, we have several offices in the CEE region, and the company that is now being established in Vienna will be the second most important after the one in Bucharest. Our strategy remains to primarily focus on these two companies and then to expand in other countries. In the recent years, we have had several projects throughout the Central and Eastern European region, such as Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Bosnia and the Czech Republic, and we intend to set up separate offices in some of these countries as well. We expect our Vienna office to grow significantly in 2022 and we will develop skills and know-how there that we will export to other Eastern European countries. In addition, Signium-Stein & Partner Romania is an important service center for the regional network and maybe in the future for the global one; this is where the first discussions on implementation take place.

Moreover, we enjoy another important help in the region: the Advisory Board, which we set up 15 years ago and which is made up of very diverse senior professionals with solid experience in Central and Eastern Europe. We meet once a year to share knowledge and perspectives about the region and the different situations we face. In addition, we get in touch with each other throughout the year when project issues arise, exchange ideas, and receive the best support. We appreciate that even during the process of joining the Signium network, the members of the Board were with us, we felt a real support from them even from a distance. This year we will meet again in Vienna in November, and we look forward to the annual get-together and exchange of experience after a year break, caused by Corona. It will be a special meeting.

After 27 years of activity, tell us what the biggest challenges in this profession are, but also what brings you the greatest satisfaction

We are lucky to work in this industry because we feel that our activity has real meaning and impact. We help businesses to grow, to make things better, some of them having great relevance in the local business environment. When our clients implement solutions proposed by us that benefit not only the investors and the management, but also the employees and the community, it is an enormous satisfaction. At the same time, we intensively support our candidates in achieving their professional goals and we have immense respect for all those we encounter.

This industry is extremely dynamic and all those who become true professionals in the field of Executive Search & Leadership Consulting are doing it with a lot of enthusiasm, but also with a lot of flexibility in the way of working and under the constant pressure of deadlines. It is not easy to “juggle” with so many sectors, positions, requirements, and expectations, so I am proud that together with our team, we manage to achieve excellent results in most of the projects we coordinate.

If you would like to access the interview in Romanian, click here.