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Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters: Debbie Goodman

Former dancer uses creativity to build a successful executive headhunting outfit

Juliet Pitman



Debbie Goodman of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters

“I don’t like conforming to predetermined structures that have been defined by others – I want to determine things on my own through a creative process,” says Debbie Goodman, founder and director of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters. Creativity is something that comes naturally to this woman who had an unconventional start in the business world.

Goodman worked as a professional contemporary dancer and choreographer for 10 years and qualified with a law degree, although she never pursued a legal career. Dancing was always her passion, but it didn’t pay the rent and she eventually decided to leave the arts and look for a corporate job. A recruitment agency took her on as a headhunting consultant, a role that suited her well.

After two years of learning the ropes, she decided to go it alone – first setting up a headhunting business with a partner, then in a joint venture – before eventually forming Jack Hammer, which has managed to capture a portion of the highly competitive headhunting market, in spite of being a newcomer. “At the top levels of executive headhunting, the industry is dominated by old and established players, and international and local groups with strong credentials,” says Goodman, commenting on the early challenges she faced.

“I have had to work my way into that top space as a younger woman without any ‘old boy’ connections or networks. These were challenges, but they were exciting ones; I never saw any of them as stumbling blocks.” And while it might not seem immediately obvious, Goodman’s long history of creativity stood her in good stead in overcoming these challenges. “In whatever I have done in my life – choreography, dancing, theatre management, entrepreneurship – I have always subscribed to the power of creativity. In many ways I’m doing the same thing in business as I did in dancing – creating something out of nothing.”

Creativity is central to the way Jack Hammer does business; this has allowed the company to differentiate itself in important ways. “I don’t like to say we offer something completely different because the end result is the same: we find people to fill roles. And while I can’t claim to know how every other headhunter in the market operates, I believe our process and methodology of finding the right candidate is different.” Jack Hammer doesn’t rely only on its existing contact base and network to source candidates: “We go further than just looking at people who we already know are out there.

An incredibly labour-intensive process allows us to drill down to reach the candidates who aren’t necessarily widely known and might be slightly below the radar, but who are up-and-coming gems.” Jack Hammer’s team-based approach to sourcing candidates also sets it apart in an industry where most consultants work alone to individual targets. “Consultants engage with clients and bring in the brief, and then work with a cohesive project team of researchers and headhunters to find appropriate people. These candidates are further screened by the consultants before a shortlist is compiled. So we go through a four-phase screening process before candidates are presented to the client,” explains Goodman. Finding good headhunters for her team in an industry where it’s common practice to enforce restraints of trade is not easy.

But Goodman knows exactly what she’s looking for. The overriding factor for her is a track record of success – and that can be in anything. “A passionate person who threw themselves into something and had to work really hard at it to achieve success has the right attributes for future triumph in almost any arena and certainly in this industry. Passion, talent, discipline and hard work equal success. Aptitude is not enough if you don’t have the self-discipline and tenacity to do what is essentially a repetitive job,” she says.

Unlike its competitors, Jack Hammer doesn’t require consultants to sign restraints. Instead, it relies on positive reinforcement to keep good staff. The normal commission-based structure is once again complemented by an imaginative approach to incentives. Apart from individual vouchers, prizes and five-star local and international getaways, a notable example is an incentive where the entire team worked to a target so that all could take turns to enjoy a reward. In another, the team aimed to make its target so that it could make a financial donation to a particular charity.

When asked what the most promising careers in South Africa are currently, Goodman replies: “It’s an impossible question to answer, although there are obviously some industries that are more lucrative than others. But what I can say to people making a choice about their career is don’t base your decision on what other people tell you or how much money you will earn. Find something that you really love and that you’re excited about, work hard at it and you will be successful.”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Marwaan Sasman

    Jul 27, 2012 at 12:39

    I LOVE this! – “In many ways I’m doing the same thing in business as I did in dancing – creating something out of nothing.”

    I totally agree with this approach to business thinking. We have the potential to meticulously create, develop and craft our vision as entrepreneurs. It’s an advantage we have over the “larger players” in the industry, and it’s an advantage that definitely ads to the success of a business!

    Entrepreneurship is truly where creativity and strategic thinking intersect.

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27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton



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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton



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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton



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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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