Keeping busy in difficult times
Headhunter says demand for executive search remains high
Posted: January 9, 2013
Petra Grabmayer, the Czech Republic country manager at Pedersen & Partners Executive Search, says general managers today need to be dynamic, with leadership and coaching skills.
Companies in need of someone to head up their operations in the Czech Republic often turn to the likes of Petra Grabmayer to find the right candidate.
Since 2009, she has run the Czech operation of Pedersen & Partners Executive Search, a company founded in Prague that now has more than 50 offices across the world.
Seeking out executives is not the only thing that keeps Grabmayer busy, since she is also tasked with bringing up a 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son with her Austrian husband.
The Prague Post spoke to the headhunter about the challenges of executive recruitment in an economy that appears to be struggling, and how she juggles work and home life.
Name: Petra Grabmayer
Current position: Country manager, Czech Republic, Pedersen & Partners Executive Search
Previous roles: 1999-2004, management trainee, later director of Berlitz School of Languages in Prague; 2005-08, sales and marketing manager for Czech Republic and Slovakia, Business Travel Unlimited (RaffeisenLandesbank); 2008-09, business development manager, ProTrans International
Education: Executive MBA, University of Pittsburgh; Equivalent of M.Sc., Prague University of Economics
The Prague Post: How difficult is it to work in the executive search sector when the country is in a recession?
Petra Grabmayer: I read the same articles every day, about how there is a crisis in industry, and it doesn't go well. I see the opposite. I don't know why, but Pedersen & Partners is growing. We are 16 percent up compared with last year. This year, we've hired three new consultants. We're probably still looking to hire another person. The thing about this business is that if one industry is in crisis, you can focus on doing searches in the other industries. Building was in crisis, but the pharmaceutical industry was doing well, so we have done a lot of work there. It's not as though the whole market is in crisis. There are sectors that are booming, like e-commerce. The Czech Republic is now discovering what it is to buy online.
TPP: Has the economic crisis changed what companies or candidates are looking for?
PG: People now attach more value to the company they work for. They ask how important the reputation of the company, the career growth and the future possibilities to develop and learn are, and not so much about what the increase in the salary will be. That's not the prime motivation. Five years ago, if they were offered 10 percent or 20 percent more, the person would change their job. It's becoming more mature. The crisis has brought a lot of positives.
TPP: What type of executives are you typically asked to find?
PG: Possibly it's a country manager or sometimes it's called a country sales manager. I am currently looking for a plant manager. In the role of general manager, they want someone who's sales-oriented and will listen. Then there's GM (general manager) minus one. This could be an HR manager, a sales manager, a business unit manager, marketing manager, finance manager, supply chain, logistics or procurement. There are some companies where we do GM minus two, especially where we have a good relationship, where we have placed a commercial manager and he wants to work with us [to find someone for] a specific position.
TPP: How do you decide if someone is suitable for a client?
PG: You're not searching for whom you like best, but who will fit in the company you're doing the search for. You have a specific culture in each company, and it's important to find somebody who will fit into this culture. It's important to always meet with the hiring manager and if possible the other team members to feel the culture. We have a client, they start working at 10 a.m., and they have two hours for lunch, and at 4 p.m. the meeting starts and it finishes at 10 p.m., so you wouldn't place someone with small children with this company. You have to consider the work climate to make sure there's a fit.
TPP: Has the type of executive that companies are looking for changed over time?
PG: In a general manager, they want to find somebody with a modern leadership style. We often replace the general managers who may be the old type of general manager. The modern GM is someone who's trying to drive the team, acting as a coach and has modern leadership skills. It is someone who will not make a fool out of you if you don't know something, but will help ask the right questions so you will find the answer yourself.
TPP: You have two children aged under 5. How do you deal with the demands of work and home?
PG: I would not say it's easy, but it's manageable, although you have to be the second manager at home. Everything is possible. If you have time with the kids, you really do things with them. Maybe I do more with the time I have with them than someone who has the whole day. From the day they were born, they knew Mommy goes to work, and it's absolutely normal. There are women who stay at home with the kids and I respect them, and there are women at the major [companies] who are busy with clients, and once they're at home, it's a big shock. They come back to work very quickly.
TPP: What do you think of the idea of quotas for the number of women on company boards?
PG: It should not be too pushy. Women should be willing to do that. It's not good to push women to do leadership roles if they don't want to, because they will not be good leaders. If you push, there's a push-back effect. Sometimes international companies tell us they need to fill these quotas, and they need more women on the shortlist. Sometimes they try to do a mix in the board. They try to have women in half the board, or at least some women and some men. In a company where you have a mix of senior and junior people, men and women, some diversity is good.
Daniel Bardsley can be reached at