Interview with Peter Szabo, SpenglerFox President for North America
SpenglerFox has a few searches going on in the US market at present. But I feel it would be better to start with a general overview of what’s happening on the North American market. SpenglerFox generally manages its business through two channels: organically (i.e. using internal consultant resources) and through partner networks.
My role in this process has two aspects. On one hand, I have worked for several years as SpenglerFox’s Chief Partnership Officer and my focus has been to develop the company’s global presence. In that role I made it a priority to look for partner companies that match the SpenglerFox DNA, if you will. We were looking for search and consultancy partners to boost our Practice Group work in Life Science, Industry and the Consumer Space. My previous brief was thus to build local (and sometimes regional) partnerships in areas where SpenglerFox did not have offices. Today, I can honestly say that this work has paid off: SpenglerFox now has a truly global reach; and in the past few years we have continued to move into new regions: Central Asia, the Nordics, expansion in the
Middle East, etc.
I believe the networked or associated approach is working incredibly well for the company. The SpenglerFox internal consultant team has worked to develop long-term partnerships that today generate repeat cooperation on new projects. Part of our consultants’ brief is to nurture business partnerships and to follow up with regional partners on new project ideas and leads. As you may have guessed, the SpenglerFox partner network is my "baby". Having been involved from the very start, I’m most often the person you come to in SpenglerFox to find the right consultant from our network: this applies both to our internal team and to SpenglerFox affiliate partners. Today alone I’ve received a range of diverse requests, where one client needs support in Brazil, while another Belgian client sent a request for support on a project in the United States. So you can see our reach is truly global in nature. Clients come to us not just for local, but also for their global needs.
By moving to the United States, I have more or less become SpenglerFox’s brand ambassador for this market. I now help pave the route for existing SpenglerFox clients in Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East to access the US, or more broadly, the North American market. My main role is to help these partners get a foot in the door. On the flip side, my team also focuses on developing partnerships with the US-based headquarters of multinational companies.
SpenglerFox provides support to these businesses and also to (so far) more US-focused businesses that have an interest in expanding outside the North merican
market. For our European and Middle Eastern partners, we do the contrary: we help them with their entry into the US market.
One of my favourite aspects of this new position is that it truly builds on the work I have done for SpenglerFox up to now. During my tenure at SpenglerFox, I have worked in all regions of the world. I have passed through numerous countries and understand and know the specific business processes and cultures in markets all over the globe. I feel I can honestly say that I can in almost all cases refer the right consultant for a specific job. This stems from my experience with and research on individual markets and working, in the past, for the headquarters of North American businesses operating in the European Union and also for Asian businesses that have since expanded to the US market.
Local assignments are an important part of my work here. I work with a set of colleagues and partners on the ground. I must admit that it takes some time to learn about and understand a culture; and I feel that in the case of the US or North American market this will take more than 1-2 years.
That said, our growth model here will be similar to the global one: both organic and through partnerships. I think it’s important to mention here that SpenglerFox has taken a big step in launching on the US market. This is something that we have been discussing internally at SpenglerFox for almost a decade now. I think we’ve chosen the right time to take this step, given that the US market is recovering and bouncing back from the Great Recession.
I would also mention here that SpenglerFox is a very open-minded company and for some time signals had been coming from both sides (from US and European/Asian clients) that opening offices in the US was the next logical step. It was our past partnerships and specific project work, along with customer needs, that motivated us to do the US launch. Our network was sending us signs saying "we need you" and so we listened to it. It is also important to recognize the global business reality: Europe is stable but more or less flat in terms of business growth. Germany continues to be the motor for the EU economy. But we, at SpenglerFox, felt the US economy would bounce back sooner: that there would be more business opportunities in this arena. We wanted to jump in and be part of that expected growth and help customers bounce back from the crisis.
Looking at the US market, I would say that there are not so many NEW trends. Take, for example, the energy market: energy does not disappear, it transforms. So I would characterize the US market as "evolving". There are some industries where growth will remain flat, but in others will expand. I think one important hing that has happened over the past six months are changes in the USD/EUR exchange rate: you have a strong dollar, which won’t likely help growth in US exports.
Generally speaking though, we have a seen strong growth in service requests to SpenglerFox, i.e. compared to 2012 and 2013. Our 2014 was a bit quiet, but all
indicators so far this year suggest that 2015 will be a strong year for business. Even US government statistics offer reasons for optimism. Among them are drops in unemployment levels, where we are also starting to see growth in hires at the management level. As companies start to grow, they need skilled management to lead their teams and this is a positive sign for us.
We also continue to hear confirmation of this trend throughout our partner network as well as from competitors: everyone is overstretched at the moment and they are hiring consultants to manage the increased workflow. Today, the USA is a candidate-driven market. Openings for managerial roles are on the rise; hence, good candidates are able to be selective in their job search process; without the need to jump at the first opportunity. This creates pressure for quicker decision-making on the employer side; especially when companies are fighting for top talent.
At present, I see the oil or energy markets pushing a domestic boom. There has been a lot of talk and concern about US energy independence in recent years and this has pushed US businesses to maximize efforts to exploit domestic resources. Beyond that, I would name the Life Sciences sector as one of particular nterest. US healthcare reforms are driving growth, and new technologies needed for home care are pushing innovation and new business expansion. We also see significant growth in some new or upcoming parts of the healthcare sector (i.e. the bio science and bio similars pharma). Additionally, even in the US, people realize that a focus on prevention could noticeably improve their health; hence, there is higher demand for healthier food (organic products). This is impacting the consumer industry in a variety of ways; namely, we see significant job growth in organic food-related industries.
On the other hand, some pharma businesses are struggling due to their limited product pipelines, while in the FMCG sector fast food companies grapple with the need to reinvent themselves. It’s worth noting that we encountered these trends much earlier in Europe. However, here in the US, they have come up more rapidly. This is because access to investment capital and greater openness to risk-taking helps new ideas develop much faster on the US market.
However, again, we see here signs of evolution and disruption: it is smaller, newer players that are filling gaps for product and/or service demand. For example, then I recently spoke to one of our partners in California they reported a boom in their business. When we first met 2-3 years ago, they said the market was "stabile but stagnating." Now they are considering a move to new offices as they will soon run out of space (due to extra hires that are directly related to increasing customer demand). This particular San Diego partner told us that their current overwhelming workload is literally driving them to look for more space. They noted that they have more demand now than they did before the crisis. So we hail this as a positive sign for growth: they are a very niche company but can’t keep up with demand. If they have strong demand, this means more business for other, more established companies will follow.
I would also add on a brief mention of the manufacturing industry here. There is a visible trend of growth in domestic manufacturing. You can see that US manufacturers are growing, despite the trend toward extinction over the past 20-30 years. This is a positive sign for the market: going forward it will create more jobs. For example, you see this trend to a degree in the automotive industry, where we have noticed a recovery from the earlier crisis. And the good news is that support industries are growing from this upward trend as well.
We currently see a trend where European companies’ sister offices are being brought over and/or their existing business expanded in the US in order to make the most of the local economic rebound. This applies to a wide range of industries: from finance, pharma, industrial, energy, etc. to firms producing consumer goods. The key factor here is that they are importing knowledge from their home countries or from other regions. That said though, we find it important to help our clients understand and face the fact that the US market is, in many ways, different from the European one. You immediately notice upon arrival that processes are different than what you had perceived from the outside. One must adapt to the way it is done here. It's not easy and one needs local experts, talent, managers to facilitate that understanding. Many have struggled due to wrong strategy selection. European companies coming to the US often feel that they can copy processes and strategies from their home country or other traditional markets, but they soon realize that when doing so, success is not guaranteed. You have to make assessments and employ the right Americans to get the job done.
European management transplants do not always work out. The "cut/copy/paste" is not a winning model for the US market. You have to learn about and understand the market and adapt to local trends and needs. You need local management to help with the "translation" and transition of their HQ’s goals.
One thing I find particularly interesting (and very surprising) is how Europe has surpassed the US in the fluidness of administrative systems. EU processing times are much more transparent and fluid. I see US administrative and bureaucratic procedures continue to run into bottlenecks. The things you take for granted in Europe are now causing procedural headaches in the US – this was definitely a surprise for me. Similarly, the structure of the healthcare system also creates difficulties in processing and meeting worker needs. And educational costs (at the university level) have begun to throw a wrench into employment processes: these costs make US nationals more expensive to employ – even at entry level.
In the US market, just like anywhere else, it is the understanding of the market, local culture (this often differs from one US region to another), people's behaviour, decision-making processes and the speed and complexity of business that company executives and managers need to comprehend before making tough decisions. This applies to new investments and M&A plans; as well as expansion of existing businesses. I believe companies like SpenglerFox can provide vital support as companies travel the route to market. At SpenglerFox, a balance of local understanding, coupled with our local consultants’/partners’ long-term experience, is further supplemented by strong organisational understanding based on our team’s presence both here in the USA and in our clients’ home markets.
Sourcing Talent in in an Evolving Africa. A white paper on executive recruitment in African regions. Executive Summary The following document is the first in a series of white paper documents prepared by consultants at SpenglerFox Executive Search to provide our clients and business partners with insight into new developments on African markets. We focus primarily on changes taking place in four key regions on the continent: Northern and Maghreb Africa East Africa Southern Africa West Africa This issue of the comprehensive white paper looks in particular at the market in Southern Africa and addresses a number of key issues: growth markets in the region and how businesses plan the location of hubs and headquarters; the HR outlook and how talent sourcing occurs in the region; regional specificities related to finding talent that might not be obvious at first glance, and standard salary packages for executives and upper-level managers. Picking up on the regional specificities point mentioned above, we feel it is important to point out particular regulatory measures on hiring implemented in various countries in the region: namely, in South Africa. These countries have strict quota systems to equalize the hiring of both white and black citizens as well as men and women. Such quota systems, with their noble aim of trying to integrate historically-discriminated populations and afford new opportunities to disadvantaged groups, do have an impact on how businesses hire in the region and how they plan incentive and career advancement programs. To make the document more timely and relevant for readers, we have also included an interview with a business partner who has first-hand experience managing operations in the Southern Africa region. This testimony highlights what areas are most difficult for sourcing talent; what successes have been achieved with programmes for finding talent (best practice); what mistakes have been made and learnt from in recent years and what advice the interviewee has to offer on succession-planning. The interview provides added value and real-life examples of how a business has addressed issues that impact a number of organisations in the given region: sourcing expat vs. local talent; promoting worker mobility; setting up attractive remuneration packages and talent retention programmes; and managing long-term talent development programmes. We hope this text proves both informative and useful. Africa_Southern_Africa_2018.pdf Size: 3.35 MB
Sourcing Talent in an Evolving Africa. A white paper on executive recruitment in African regions. Executive Summary The following document is the first in a series of white paper documents prepared by consultants at SpenglerFox Executive Search to provide our clients and business partners with insight into new developments on African markets. We focus primarily on changes taking place in four key regions on the continent: Northern and Maghreb Africa East Africa Southern Africa West Africa This issue of the comprehensive white paper looks in particular at the market in Northern and Maghreb Africa and addresses a number of key issues: growth markets in the region; the HR outlook and how talent sourcing occurs in the region; regional specificities related to finding talent that might not be obvious at first glance, and standard salary packages for executives and upper-level managers. To make the document more timely and relevant for readers, we have also included interviews with business partners who have first-hand experience managing HR operations in all the Northern and Maghreb Africa region. Their testimonies highlight what areas are most difficult for sourcing talent; what successes they have had with programmes for finding talent (best practice); what mistakes they have made and learnt from in recent years and what advice they have to offer on succession-planning. The interviews provide added value and real-life examples of how businesses have addressed issues that impact a number of organisations in the given region: sourcing expat vs. local talent; promoting worker mobility; setting up attractive remuneration packages and talent retentionprogrammes; and managing long-term talent development programmes. We hope this text proves both informative and useful. Africa_NorthernAndMaghreb_2018.pdf Size: 3.65 MB
Mis Güleryüz, Regional Practice Group Leader of SpenglerFox, talks to Talentpolitan magazine about her career that brings new talents to the business world. In a few sentences, tell us about yourself and your business. I was born and raised in Istanbul where I studied to become an electrical and communications engineer. I ended up working in the executive search sector; most recently in the Industrial and Manufacturing Practice Group at SpenglerFox. When and how did you begin working in this field? How did you choose this profession? I worked in sales and business development for 25 years. I was eventually approached by the SpenglerFox executive search company to come work for them. Their contacting me happened at just the right time, for I was considering a career change and a role with less travel. It took two years and five rounds of intense meetings, but I ended up here. Is there a difference between headhunting and executive search? Generally, the processes are the same. In both roles, you are looking to find the right person for a specific role. “Headhunting” is more of marketing term that had been previously used to reflect the challenge of finding highly-skilled people for critical professional roles. That term tended to reflect the perceived aggressiveness of the process. In executive search, we tend to deal with C-suite level positions that focus on company strategy and leadership. How is the executive search process evolving? What are the critical points in the process for finding talent? And what methods do you use: from beginning to end? The process has evolved mainly based on how clients perceive the market. The market for placing new talent is now more global. So, we address all projects from a global perspective working with all the experts in our team to provide input. The most critical aspect of search is communications. There has to be chemistry between ourselves and the client. A successful search process always starts with a very good brief: we sit down and talk to the client about what they want and what they need. The client has to trust us: they need to see that we understand their business, how leadership interacts with employees, and that we can deliver the right talent to execute the given role. The process is not just about one-off assignments: businesses grow and change and, for us, this means we need to monitor our clients' evolution and develop relationships and care programs that are responsive to their changing needs. Does successful recruitment require specific skills? Communication is critical. To be a good executive search consultant you need a strong level of social and emotional intelligence. You have to view assignments from a global perspective, sometimes taking a deeper look at what clients need just as much as what they want. Success in our industry involves having a superb network of contacts and knowing our clients’ businesses from back-to-front. What are your favorite questions used when interviewing candidates? Do you feel that any specific questions are either loved or hated? Do you have a favorite trick question? My favorite question to ask is “What makes you happy?" I ask this both generally (about life) and specifically (about career). Other questions I like to put to candidates include “Can you define an ideal leader?” and “What does success mean to you?” These questions usually give me good insight into the candidate and help me get an idea of their work process, what metrics they use to evaluate other employees’ success, as well as their ability to manage and delegate work. Have you ever experienced failure in life? When and how? For me, failure is a relative term. I think we all have different measures for where we think we “should” be at any given moment in our careers and this defines how we feel about success or failure. I can remember a time at a former company when I really wanted to move to a role at the company's offices in Switzerland. I had delivered on my work, executed well but, in the end, I didn't push hard enough. I later realized that perhaps I didn’t want the move as much as I thought. If I had, I would have pushed myself much harder. What defines your ability to succeed in your business? I think I’ve been successful because of my openness and my honesty. Plus, I am very eager to learn. I think my approach to our business as a positive, but analytical, thinker has helped a lot. So much of what we do is about how we speak, how we approach people and how we deliver on client requests. I think my biggest success has been learning how to engage with clients and deliver specific messages. This has helped develop trust and personal bonds over the years. Do you follow up with people after you’ve placed them in a job? How do you feel watching their personal development? The key thing here is that we’re not selling a product. We are changing peoples’ lives. That’s why we integrate follow-up tools into our placement support processes. We have a multi-phases review scheme to monitor how candidates are doing and to discuss their satisfaction. As a rule, I also make calls to candidates right on the first day. I want them to know that we care how they do in their new role and are willing to pass relevant information back to their bosses so that management can work to improve onboarding processes. Finally, follow-up with candidates is definitely an investment that pays off, because many times over we’ve received very good referrals from people we’ve successfully placed. They trust us and know their colleagues will be in good hands with us. Let’s talk about your customers? Why do, or should they, choose to work with SpenglerFox? I’d say because of our commitment to candidates and our thoroughness in managing the placement process. We do client feedback reviews and most often they compliment us on our communications process, our support programs, speed of response and our integration of coaching services into our search process. There are many other businesses out there that do what we do. However, we invest a lot in relationship-building. We place emphasis on our trusted advisor role. We also focus on a borderless approach to doing business, where we leverage the contacts and know-how of experts in our global practice groups to find clients the best talent available on the market. How does someone follow in your career path? How do they begin and how do they advance? Essentially, there are two routes. Either you join the business as an intern and then gradually move to a consultant role. Or, in other cases, people move to this business after having worked for several years in a specific industry segment. I think that, afterwards, to thrive in our business you have to have a strong interest in people: in building long-term relationships. People in our business advance and succeed because of a willingness to learn and take on new skills. Our business is constantly evolving and we increasingly see impact from sector overlap (i.e. integrating disciplines like tech and psychology) and the need to learn continually. How would you define a talented candidate? I think your best talent comes from people who are willing to engage. You want someone with people skills as well as emotional and social intelligence. It truly depends on the situation though. Some businesses may feel that the top talent is the executive that performs best; the one who meets quarterly targets. Others may define success as the manager who finds the best solutions to problems. At SpenglerFox, we do our best not to pigeon-hole talent or insist on working within the paradigm of traditional roles. In some cases, we help clients define and place candidates in jobs that hadn't existed in the past. Top talent is able to work across disciplines and inspire and motivate colleagues and teams with their problem-solving skills.