The difficulties faced by small company owners have changed as the pandemic has done so. A study of more than 1,000 business …
An Impactful Leader | Aude Slama
Managing Director and President
Aude Slama is not just the Managing Director and President of Slama Global Search. She is a woman of principles that make a true impact on individuals she comes across every day. She has values and navigates strictly within trustworthy, quality networks. She impacts everything she does: in both her professional and personal life. For example, Aude’s brother and she created STEF-CARES (www.stef-cares.org) in memory of her 4.5 years beloved nephew Stefan was killed in a car accident caused by texting behind the wheel. They have created STEF-CARES to raise awareness, help prevent, and act against text messages and other phone use behind the wheel. Their objective is clear: 0 deaths by 2030!
Being nimble in terms of availability and mindset, Aude knows managing a small company is full of surprises. While focusing on the future, she must also consider the operational aspects of the business. She believes a business leader must be able to navigate confidently in an unstable, uncontrollable environment while maintaining an edge of resourcefulness and poise. Hence, she takes some time to reflect on her company regularly and consider elements she can improve on or introduce that can better support her clients both in the short and long term. “I do the same exercise for myself; I think about skills I need to continue to work on, new skills I need to develop and new areas/topics I want to discover. Inspiration can come from different environments!”
Aude says, “I am not where I am today by chance. I was able to continue to grow, earn an MBA, create my own company, and embark on an incredible personal and professional journey because I have the full support of my husband, who has always been rooting for me.” She adds, “I do believe that there is a significant other behind each leader who plays a major role in their lives! Safe to say that for me, a leader is like an athlete in the sense that he/she needs to take care of herself or himself (both mentally and physically) to better perform and more importantly perform on the long term.” Armed with such support, Aude has built a brilliant company. SGS started in 2014 as a global executive search firm. Today, they also propose Human Resources consulting and Executive career coaching services.
A True Support System
The first year Aude founded SGS was brutal as she was moving from one world: the corporate world, to a new one: the entrepreneur world. At the same time, she met extraordinary individuals who helped Aude along the way, took the time to provide her with advice, and encouraged her. “2014 was so challenging but so exciting! When my business was established a few years later, the first thing I did was join professional networks (women only and mixed ones) for two reasons: develop my network and “send the elevator back down” and support women.” Here is how she assists them today:
- She takes time to listen to each individual because each story is unique, and the needs are different. Based on the situation Aude usually shares her experience if it is relevant, or she puts the individual in contact with a person from her network who went through the same challenge.
- She shares her network because she knows it is priceless!
- She follows up with them and keeps in touch because she cares; Aude wants to add value and make a positive impact in their lives!
- She also helps by giving opportunities to women when she can.
Aude continuously encourages everyone, including her team member, to develop themselves. “I think that it is critical to understand people’s motivations to guide them better and engage with them. It is known that innovation is crucial to sustaining a business of any size. Discussion with her team on new ideas is a normal practice. Putting new ideas in place means also accepting failures. It is important to create a safe environment and say to people that it is OK to fail if you learn from it.
“I am a big believer in collaboration and teamwork. Why? Well, I was sent to my first leadership program before taking over my first management role. This experience has been a revelation! It is where I found out that a collective decision is better than an individual one. Since then, I make sure to infuse some “collective spirit” into every working environment I am in.”
Building A Company
According to Aude, the pandemic has affected the industry, even though specific sectors like hospitality and aerospace have been more impacted than others. It is undeniable that businesses of all sizes need to learn how to navigate a “new normal” environment as new challenges arise. Changes in customer demand and habit, disruption to the normal supply chain, decrease in revenue, and transition to the ways companies continue to provide their services included.
“How do we prepare for this “new normal”? As a small business leader, I believe that the most important move during this unprecedented time is to rely on our strong values and main strengths: agility, resilience, empathy, and innovation to co-exist with this external environment that we could control. This mindset has helped us slightly pivot our business model and ensure a short-term survival along with long term resilience and growth.”
Aude is proud of building from the ground up and sustaining (even during extraordinary times) a business in two areas that she is passionate about human resources and business development. The first 12 months have been a real challenge for her. Still, she needed to take this time to build strong foundations: develop a clear vision, establish the organization’s values, articulate her philosophy, determine a strategy, and reach out to potential clients. One year later, business started to pick up, and it kept getting better and better year after year.
In the future, Aude wants to develop her business by developing herself. In 2017, she founded a local CEO club. This club was the 1st one created in the US, and it is part of a global and most influential network (www.apm.fr) globally (8000 CEOs/400 clubs/400 experts worldwide). The club counts 25 multilingual and multicultural local CEOs from different industries. “We meet once a month, welcome a well-known expert, exchange ideas on a specific topic related to business, share our challenges, share our reality, and question ourselves in a caring and encouraging environment,” she says. “Because of the trusting and strong relationships built over the years, we have been able to help each other during the pandemic at different levels. Today our club has reached its capacity and we are considering of opening a new chapter in the near future.”
Alongside, she wants to find opportunities to offer her expertise as a Board member, guiding her two daughters on their challenging career paths (one is a young entrepreneur and the other one is a young tennis athlete- top 50 ITF Junior player). “Even though our core business is executive search, I am interested in strengthening the Human Resources services part. Indeed, after working closely with SMEs for several years, I found out that most of them do not have a Human Resources representative in house. It’s not because they don’t need one, but they often cannot afford it. I plan to come up with a customized package that will allow them to get top quality HR support at a reasonable price. Regarding the long-term future: who knows? The only thing I know is that it will be fun!”
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