“People know Hong Kong as this incredibly densely populated, bustling, cosmopolitan city, but we actually grew up 100 yards from the beach in a small fishing village—Stanley [now well known as a tourist destination and overcrowded market with designer knockoffs]. But when I was growing up, it was all noodle and vegetable stands and pigs running around loose.” SVP Partner Dominique Litmaath reminisces, “I had an incredible upbringing. At the time I thought it was the most normal thing in the world.”
Dominique’s worldview expanded exponentially throughout her childhood. Her father worked for a Dutch trading company, and, every summer, her family would be flown back to the Netherlands as part of her father’s expatriate status. In a time before direct flights, her family made the most of all the cities on their flight itineraries. “We would make all of these little stops—to Thailand, Malaysia, Dubai, and all of Europe—before Amsterdam.” But Amsterdam was not even the final destination; her family summered in Spain, where her parents had a small beach house, offering Dominique an opportunity to learn yet another language and culture.
As an adult, her global upbringing has served Dominique well. One benefit Dominique points to is her international versatility: “I feel very comfortable both personally and doing business in Asia because of my Hong Kong background, America because of my undergraduate and graduate-school education, and Europe because of the time I’ve spent there….I feel that my multilingual background and exposure to different cultures allows me to break the ice and connect with people very, very quickly.”
And connecting with people is crucial in Dominique’s approach to her work as an Executive Search and Management Consultant. Her consulting method relies heavily on collaborative question-asking and problem-solving. “I never consider myself more knowledgeable about anyone’s business, but I do feel that I’ve developed skills of facilitating a group through a process of uncovering the important elements or criteria necessary to make a sound decision,” she shares. Her aptitude for facilitation extends to many settings and groups including “a board of volunteers for a nonprofit organization, a senior management team deciding how to roll out a new sales initiative throughout their global organization, or a group of employees that are key to getting things done.”
Dominique values a team approach to decision-making and believes in incorporating input from “different minds and different perspectives.” This extends to her work with SVP. She thinks that a diverse cohort of SVP Partners “coming together with open minds and open hearts” to listen to an Investee’s issue or opportunity, and then “asking all of the questions [the Investee] might not have been able to think of” is very much a consultative approach. Because of this, Dominique proposed implementing Advisory Teams of SVP Partners for each Investee—both to get a broader set of minds solving problems and to connect more Partners with Investees.
Moreover, Dominique emphasizes the importance of asking the right questions. “The idea of asking the right questions…will only allow us to be smarter about the situation at hand, because whatever someone shares with you upfront is usually not the question they are looking for the answer to at the tail end….Asking questions actually reveals what the true issue is.”
SVP has tremendously benefited from Dominique’s skill at asking the right questions and convening the right people since she became a Partner in 2009. Since then, she has served as Board President and as Lead Partner to emeritus Investee Open Doors Academy (ODA); worked on Advisory Teams and Investment Teams; participated in SVP Cocktails & Collaborations and educational sessions; and so much more! You can read more about the work she and ODA Founder and CEO, Annemarie Grassi, accomplished during ODA’s SVP engagement here.
As busy as Dominique is with her business, SVP, and other community commitments, giving her two daughters the kind of unique upbringing that she herself had is her number one priority. “I look back now and think, ‘Wow, every success I have had in life past age 30, I can attribute back to the foundation that was laid in my first 20 years because of the solid support I got from my parents, the amazing things we did as a family on a shoestring budget, and the people I met along the way.”
Dominique’s family lives in the Shaker Square area and belongs to the Shaker School District—both of which she hopes contribute positively to her daughters’ worldviews. She says, “I don’t get to raise my kids in Hong Kong, but I feel the fact that they were raised in Shaker Heights, with all the things that our community is striving for, is a gift that I do believe they’re going to look back on one day and say, ‘Growing up in Ohio isn’t quite like growing up in Hong Kong or San Francisco, but let me tell you about Shaker Heights. It’s a really special place.’”