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INTERVIEW with "Dow Jones Newswires" (Germany)

http://www.dowjones.com

Full Interview by Chris Reiter with ART's Managing Director. Topic: The European High Tech Job Market

 

Question 1: How do you see the European labor market for the technology industry at the moment?

Answer: "Clearly the effects of the lower earnings reports and the recent layoffs at big wireless and networking equipment companies are having a ripple effect across many sectors of the European high tech economy. Many smaller, single product, firms in the wireless, IT and software sectors that supply those large firms in the telecom and networking fields are particularly vulnerable, because they are seeing a delay in orders. If they cannot retool their products for other large enterprise customer bases, such as banking, government, automotive, foods, chemicals, or pharmaceuticals, or if their current sales directors and marketing managers do not have contacts in these potentially more promising sectors, then these firms might see harder times. There are slowdowns or layoffs in electronics manufacturing, semiconductors and in the capital equipment firms that supply these industries. This is what has already happened in the United States. In Asia and Latin America layoffs are also beginning. The main difference between the European and US high tech sectors for the past few years is that European firms have been much more oriented to telecomms, telecomms and more telecomms, while a lot of the US high tech boom was oriented to the internet companies. But a person could buy just so many mobile phones or visit just so many nearly identical websites before stock markets and consumers would bring reality to high tech stock prices and cause layoffs or closures. The layoffs are just starting, and they will go on for some months, but actually, there are so many opportunities for technological growth and expansion in Europe that things should not get all that horrible. I think that what we're mostly dealing with is overcapacity. In some cases, it's a matter of technological gaps between product innovation and very costly infrastructural inabilities to rapidly to deploy them. And then there's a general disenchantment with tech stocks, which sadly was the result of a few problem companies spoiling it for the many good and promising companies."
 

Question 2: Has there been a significant change since a year ago? Are companies doing less hiring?

Answer: "Last year, we were seeing endless optimism and rapidly inflating salary expectations, as good managers could find plenty of high paying jobs at startups, at telecommunications equipment firms, at telecommunications carriers, at software companies, computer companies, network equipment companies, IT service companies and internet companies. And they felt very positive about their stock options. Everyone was hiring. A lot of people were talking about IPO's and making a lot of money. But too many companies were relying on the same five or ten big customers. This was an unsustainable and risky focus. Now, a lot of European managers are going back to the idea that stock options mean little and they are seeking financially stable companies. Unfortunately, just when Europe was developing cadres of high tech managers for startup companies, the recent failures and downturns are causing many to lose faith and to seek refuge back in the larger companies that usually provide fewer opportunities and are much more frustrating environments for people who do best in entrepreneurial, unbureaucratic companies."
 

Question 3: With the many job cuts by tech companies and the decline in value of stock-option packages, are there more people available? Are there more people looking for jobs? Is it easier to lure people away?

Answer: "There are a lot more people looking for jobs. We are seeing nearly a 100% increase in applications to our firm from European candidates. It is not just people seeking better opportunities, but people who have been laid off or who are about to be laid off, either at large corporations or at smaller firms that are losing their financing or customers. We just heard from one outstanding candidate today who said that his company is going to lay off 65% of their staff and they will be closing sales offices in several western European countries. It is easier to interest candidates in exciting career opportunities because they are so scarce, but sometimes in a bad economy people are afraid to leave mediocre jobs because they are concerned about giving up a 'known' for an 'unknown.' By its nature, every new job entails a certain degree of risk, so people tend to be very cautious. That is fine with us, because regardless of the economy or the candidate's status, we always encourage our candidates to carefully scrutinize our client-companies. In our contracts with our client-companies we actually oblige them to state all known negatives or possible negatives to our candidates before they take their job. And we always encourage our candidates to "interview the company" as carefully as companies interview candidates."
 
 

Question 4: As a recruitment company have you seen a drop off in requests from employers? Has it changed your business?

Answer: "Actually, we have seen a significant increase in requests from employers in Europe, or from companies in other regions seeking executives and managers for their operations in Europe. This is largely the cumulative result of years of recruiting dynamic managers in Europe and from getting repeat business from our clients, particularly those that need to readjust their management team for slow markets. Because our practice areas stretch across many different sectors, job disciplines and regions, we are able to offer our clients candidates with skills, contacts and knowledge that they will need to reposition themselves or to become more efficient. And when the European economy is slowing, we are able to provide candidates to firms wishing to move into other world markets, such as North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa, or the Middle East. Even Eastern European countries -- particularly the countries that are in NATO or that are candidates to join NATO or the European Union -- are potentially fertile grounds for European companies to move into. There is plenty of business in Europe and overseas for high tech companies, but without the right aggressive managers to point to other options, a company can only sit around waiting for their competitors to move ahead."

"We also are very unusual - perhaps unique in the world - in that we absolutely refuse to accept retainers or exclusives for any executive search assignment, even for CEO's. We believe that retainers are a passť practice that essentially forces the client to pay in advance and passively take whatever candidates they are given -- a recipe for bad feelings and a sloppy way to make a top level hire. We are so confident of our candidates' abilities to stand on their own merits against our competitors' candidates, that we are essentially willing to risk our time, money, labor and resources 'free of charge' in the expectation that our clients will want to hire our candidates. Companies love that there is virtually no risk in talking to us or to our candidates. Our success-orientation particularly is attractive in slow economies, when a hiring manager can get in trouble for giving large retainers to a search firm that has not even produced one candidate to evaluate, that won't allow its client to see candidates from other firms, and that often takes months to, as they say 'complete a search,' which to them means to produce a handful of candidates to fulfill their obligations, and not necessarily to find the right candidate or the best candidate. In one search that we're doing right now, for example, we were able to identify seven top candidates for a European Managing Director position at a US software firm within two weeks, and our client will not have to pay our fees unless they find that our candidates are better than all others that they choose to interview. Good economy or slow economy, it's no wonder that companies would find our system attractive for their executive management hires."
 

Question 5: How are you active in the European tech market? What kind of companies does your company work for?

Answer: "Our clients are large multinationals, progressive medium sized companies and high growth startup firms. We are very active in the European technology market, but we fill a special and valuable niche for our European client companies. Our specialty is finding European upper level and middle level managers whose management style is what might be called "Silicon Valley" management style. These are people who think as Europeans on a pan-European basis. In fact, for them, business in Europe, Asia, North America or other regions, is all treated equally: as tremendous opportunities. They are not captives of their own traditional national business cultures or prejudices. They might be rare now, but we see them as what will have to be the standard for European business executives in the 21st Century. 

"These are people who are natural born independent spirits who are very self-motivating and who do not work best in huge bureaucratic organizations. They are the European entrepreneurs who could be tomorrow's billionaires. These candidates are perfectly fluent in English and usually in one or more languages, and they work well with people from different countries and they know how to build international organizations. 

"We do not want to be a search firm for candidates who really rather work for the rest of their lives at large state-owned companies or massive private companies that are so slow as to seem like state-run companies. We do not recruit candidates who spend most of their work days dreaming of their next or last vacation rather than on how they could build value into their careers by being at the right company. 

"We specialize in 'risk takers.' They are people who believe in themselves and in their abilities to motivate their team to do great things. These candidates can be relatively hard for most search firms in Europe to find, but they know where to find us and we know where to find them. So when, for example, a multi-billion dollar British electronics company needed an entrepreneurial executive who could help change their manufacturing, financial, and supply chain culture from the inside, they came to us. When a medium-sized German semiconductor equipment maker needed what they called an "American style" CFO to help lead them in mergers and acquisitions activities, they came to us. When a French semiconductor startup company needed someone with "world class" business culture to help move their corporate headquarters to America, they knew to come to us. When a top Finnish telecom company needed someone for China, they came to us. When a Korean financial software firm needed a European Sales Director with contacts in London, Zurich and Frankfurt, they came to us. When a Swiss IT Services company needed a President, they came to us. When a famous Dutch consumer electronics corporation needed an R&D Director and Operations Managers for key product lines, they came to us. When a London-based wireless carrier needed a CEO for a Latin American startup division, they came to us. When a Belgian software company was looking for an entrepreneurial Country Manager for expansion into Poland, they came to us. When a French wireless content startup company needed a European Managing Director who had contacts with the highest level executives at the major European telecommunications carriers, they came to us. And fast rising e-commerce companies in the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy and Spain, for example, knew to come to us for CEO's, COO's, CIO's, Finance, Sales or Marketing heads. 

"To make a long story short: our clients in Europe are those large companies that know that they must immediately take the steps to de-bureaucratize themselves in order to really source the potential of their employees and be competitive, and those small and medium sized European companies that need experienced executives to help them become tomorrow's large multinationals."


 


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