One of the world’s leading experts in executive careers’ building, award winning entrepreneur, Tony Goodwin (UK), Founder and CEO Antal International Network, executive recruiting company, operating on five continents. T. Goodwin who was one of the pioneers in developing his own business in Russia and other emerging countries shares his view on the growth in various countries and industries as it is reflected through the executives’ positions demand….
You were one of the pioneers from UK coming to Russia back in early 90th, could you tell us the story of your company and why Russia?
My name is Tony Goodwin. I am the founder, Chairman and Chief Executive of Antal International a Global Recruiter. We have 126 offices in 37 countries, and started our business actually 20 years ago this year, 20 years ago this April in 1993. The focus of my business really was to take best practice recruitment techniques from London and the West into Russia, Moscow in particular and other parts of Central Eastern Europe. Post the fall of communism and the changing market situations, I just thought that Russia was one of the most exciting countries on the planet and I thought why not get on a plane and go there, in 1993.
Despite people saying to me’ isn’t it a bit dangerous?’ or ‘isn’t it a bit difficult to do business there?’ and also ‘But Tony you don’t speak Russian how are you going to do this?’ Fortunately for me I said at the time that English was going to be the business language to begin with. Again, fortunately for me I was right partly because of America and the English language – everyone wants to speak it. I think that has changed now though in Russia. I think it is very important like my old colleague Luke Jones, that people do speak Russian. But I set it up with T. Nelson who was a Russian speaker and he ended up marrying a Russian and he has got three children who are half-Russian and so that cultural affinity with Antal International, its recruitment services, came from the people that I hired to work within the Moscow Market place. Very quickly we established ourselves in Moscow. It was a really fun and interesting time in the 1990s.
A difficult time for Russia and Russians I appreciate, lots of change. But for us it was a very profitable time until ‘98, August ‘98 when the crisis came. But what we did during that crisis was, we made a decision to stay in Moscow rather than pull out. A lot of western companies were thinking of pulling out and a lot of people didn’t invest. We managed to stay, remain, and obviously we cut our costs and cut a number of staff but we stayed there and we showed our commitment to our Russian clients, in particular to Russia and the Moscow market place. So when things recovered everybody knew that Antal International had staying power, had stamina to go through difficult times with the Russians and with our Russian staff. I think that set us apart from the competition. Then what we did which was interesting that other businesses don’t do. We got all of our other offices around Europe, Central Eastern Europe, and Europe, and China to give referrals for companies investing into Russia, so that we then dealt with companies from all around the World: Germany, France, Italy, Spain, China, the Middle East, part of Africa, America obviously Canada, and South America in parts, and got the clients that were investing in to Russia on to the Antal client base by talking to people, by networking, by using our network and our platform to get all Foreign Direct Investment, all of the FDI coming into Russia.
We networked through organizations like CERBA, the Russo British Chamber of Commerce, the European Chamber of Commerce, all the other Chambers of Commerce and using our people skills because we are a service business and that is what we do, using our people skills to generate business and business development through a networking opportunity. So that is how it grew, and we were fortunate that after the crisis we carried on growing and we hired some really good Russian staff, and I think what was quite an eye opener for me, was to see how well-educated the Russian middle classes were. In fact, from a professional recruitment company perspective, Russia was a great market because although under communism it didn’t have the capitalistic structures, what it had was a nascent middle class, very well-educated middle class. It wasn’t called that under the old regime but that is what it was, so for us as recruiters – recruiting young professionals, because we act in the middle area not at the top. So not all CEOs: it’s qualified accountants, lawyers, sales and marketing professionals, IT professionals – so we had a ready-made source of candidates through the fantastic Russian education system and the Russian University system which was second to none, it was as good as anything in the West and that was good for Antal.
What are the hottest Markets for CEO hiring among emerging countries also by industries?
The CEO hiring market globally is an interesting one because it is the developing markets of Russia, China, India, Middle East Africa and so on which are now attracting some of the best talent of the West. It used to be seen that if you went to a developing market, if you were working in Atlanta for Coca Cola or London for HSBC or New York for JP Morgan that to move to a developing market was a sideways move for your career, or even a downwards step. It used to be seen 20 years ago as a CEO or as a Senior Manager, Director, Senior Vice President whatever your title was – if you had to move to a developing market that meant that your career at the Head Office level at the HD level was being side-lined.
You were being stopped from progressing to the group CEO position or the group Managing Director roles. Now, however that whole psyche has changed, and this is where Antal really came into its own. Because I believed 20 years ago that International companies would need International Management. That means that if you are Coca Cola in Atlanta or Microsoft in Seattle or any of the big Canadian European businesses, your HQ wasn’t the place for you to be. Actually, the place for you to be was where the sales, and manufacturing and distribution and business was. Which in the last ten years in particular we have seen was in the developing markets. We have seen a big influx of talent from around the world, we are now entering in to a truly global talent marketplace. It didn’t exist 20 years ago. People were talking about it 20 years ago. Jack Walsh at GE for example was talking about it 20 years ago. But actually, prior to the internet it didn’t exist.
Actually Antal was a little bit ahead of the curb, we almost were too early. Because I envisaged back in the late 80s that we would have a global marketplace for talent by the mid ‘90s and actually we didn’t. It didn’t really start to happen until the end of the last decade 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Then of course we had the crisis. But now what we have seen post the credit crunch is a return to truly global employment marketplaces, where you can see that the heads of big corporations, the CEOs and managing directors and senior vice presidents of big divisions of an American company, a French company, German company or a British or Italian company can be South American, can be Chinese, can be Russian, can be any of the major developing market economies because let’s face it – if the majority of that company’s sales are being made in that market, then why shouldn’t – and the majority of its manufacturing or the majority of its market growth coming from that market – why shouldn’t a Chinese or a Russian or a South African or a South American run those businesses? Because they are the ones who are on the ground, they are the ones who understand what is going on in that market place.
OK back in HQ they might understand the company, product and culture better but actually it is where the sales are being made which is critical in where you deploy your talent. And that is what we have seen, that sea change, that shift particularly in the last five years. It was always going to happen in my view but we have seen it particularly in the last five years. So I would say that for CEOs and senior management the developing markets, instead of being seen as a career graveyard, are actually career enhancing and career developing and if one wants to progress in an organization it is absolutely essential to have experience outside of your own country of origin. And what I would call a true Internationalist like our very own Luke Jones in Russia who speaks 3 or 4 languages, he is British although half Canadian and he works in Russia. That to me typifies and exemplifies exactly what a true Internationalist is.
I don’t like using the word ex-pat because ex-pat assumes in my view, it is an old-fashioned word associated with an old-fashioned mentality of ‘you are going abroad because you can’t progress at home’ whereas an Internationalist – multilingual, multitalented, great education, great view of the local markets – Internationalists and Internationalism is the future of the global recruitment marketplace and the global talent marketplace.
If you are hiring for banking sector in UK and other countries – what is the situation in these markets now – are they growing or not? What particular professions are in greater demand?
The banking market globally is an interesting one because banking has been hit by the credit crisis in 2008, and the areas that are now being highly sought after in banking are being private wealth management. We have hired in China, in Russia, in India and in parts of Middle Eastern Africa on the private wealth management side – also in commodities trading and natural resources finances and infrastructural projects but main stream banking, corporate finance and corporate advisory finance has been shrinking considerably.
We are not experts in that field, we do some recruitment in to banking but we noticed that in London for example, one of the World’s top financial centers, that the amount of banking recruitment has gone down significantly in the last three years. If that is happening in London, then it must be happening around the rest of the world too. Antal isn’t a specialist in that area but we do see the fact that the market is contracting in most areas apart from private wealth management.
If you are hiring for any fashion and food industries – what is the situation in these markets now? Are they growing or not? Are there any particularly demanded professions within these markets?
What is happening in the food and fashion market as far as we are concerned at Antal International is that there is two markets, there is a polarization of the markets. So you have very top end, the super brands like Hermes, Prada, Louis Vuitton , LVMH the company and at the bottom end the Zara, Inditex, Primark, very fast moving consumer fashions. In the middle ground that is where companies are struggling like Marks & Spencer, BHS, and the mid-tier retailers are really being squeezed by the high end and the low end. So if you are not in super luxury goods, high priced, high premium, and you are not in quick sale fashion Zara, Inditex kind of Massimo Dutti then you are struggling with the internet.
The internet is destroying the mid-market for the fashion marketplace there is no doubt about that. Some of our best clients come from the developing markets and China has been a big buyer of super luxury brands, but also is a great consumer of Zara and Inditex Massimo Dutti brand and labels.
Similarly in food, what we have noticed in our Spanish office for example is that ALDI, the German supermarket low cost low price retailer in food is doing extremely well, is one of our biggest clients. The lower margin shops in retail like Poundland and the cut price discounters are having a very strong period of sales. So what we have aligned ourselves to quite interestingly, is the high end and the low end in Antal across the world. I think that applies in all markets – Russia, China, UK, America, everywhere. The economy is squeezing the middle ground, the internet is squeezing the middle ground. You have either got to be at the low or at the high end of the market.
Current expansion of your services can speak by itself about the economic situation (I mean crisis or not) what is your feeling which countries based on your company’s experience have overcome the crisis and growing and which are still slow?
Antal operates two business models. One is wholly owned which is like Michael Page, [Hayes, Robert Half, Robert Waters] and we also offer a franchise offering. That enables us to take on people who are very experienced and to run their own Antal business as an Antal franchise. So in China and Russia we are wholly owned, but in India we are franchised and we now have 36 offices in India and we feel that India is a Franchisable market. And also, we are thinking of doing this in China. Because in India and China people want to be their own boss, they really embrace capitalism and they really embrace the idea of being an entrepreneur.
By being a Franchisor with Franchisees, we can specialize in any of the areas which are growing and we don’t have to be stuck in the old industries if those industries are losing people. So we can get our Franchisees to specialise in any area. India is working particularly well at the moment for Antal in terms of Franchisees. In other sectors that are doing well for us – in China it is auto motives, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and retail at the bottom end and top end as we discussed earlier. Likewise in Africa those areas of the market. But what we hope to offer at Antal is a franchise network which we see growing from about 120 today to more than 400 offices in the next 5-8 years and that is all based on getting specialists to come in and run their own Antal business as an Antal Franchise.