15.10.2014 - CONSORT Group/IESF Russia at the International Executive Search conference in India
In mid-September 2014, India’s capital of New Delhi welcomed the 12th Annual Global Meeting (AGM) of the International Executive Search Federation (IESF) – the world's largest association of independent executive search consultants, present in 130 offices in 40 countries.
Since 2005 CONSORT Group has been the IESF’s exclusive representative in Russia and CIS. The Group’s CEO Michael Bogdanov took an active part in preparing this meeting as a member of the Leadership Council and an interim VP IESF with responsibility for Europe, Middle East and Africa. He shared his impressions of the IESF conference in New Delhi with the Russian magazine HR Management (Upravlenie Personalom)
Michael, why did the meeting take place in India?
Since founding the Federation in 2002, the following rule was instituted: all heads of partner companies should personally meet each other twice a year – at the annual global conference and at the regional meetings (with the world divided into three global regions – Americas, EMEA, and Asia-Pacific). One should add that the rule is a wise one as it allows every IESF partner to get to know each other well, which is of paramount importance when you pass your most valued local client into the hands of your partner abroad. Annual conferences are held alternately in all of the global regions. This time around it was India, representing Asia-Pacific, and our Indian partners hosted the AGM quite well.
There probably was a lot of Indian exotica?
You bet! I had a huge amount of impressions, including shocking, of that country, for years to tell. But my most significant memory is of the reception hosted in our honor by an actual billionaire, the owner of the country’s largest consulting holding which includes our Indian partners – Confiar search firm. The said billionaire lives in a palace of which our presidents or even domestic oligarchs have never dreamed of. And just imagine – he has accomplished all of that in the past 25 years due to his intelligence and an incredible go-getter attitude and supercharged actions. He began as a modest lawyer who biked to work and dreamed of a used Suzuki, and now he is way up there.
During his speech, Rohit Kochhar gave us a lot of insights into how to fight for "a place under the sun". And that was especially convincing when you saw with your own eyes from what abject poverty of the vast majority of India’s populace did he manage not only to climb out but also reach the society’s uppermost echelons.
Apart from the exotic, what was different about this conference from the previous ones?
The New Delhi summit was a very important, perhaps even historically significant, stage in the Federation’s development. We started out 12 years ago with a clean slate; no-one had experience of creating a large-scale global network; much was done intuitively, based on good intentions; a number of nuances of our relationship were not worked out in detail and committed to paper. Besides, the changing realities of the world markets and, most importantly, the needs of our customers, required the development of a radically new strategy. What should IESF-2015+ look like? Should we develop in breadth or depth? What brings more cross-border projects (and this, indeed, is the purpose of the Federation) – a good, high-quality work with clients in your own country, or the endless expansion of marketing efforts at the international level?
A major part of the conference in New Delhi was devoted to the discussions and decision-making on these issues. We’ve made significant adjustments to the Charter, developed more attractive terms and conditions for new partners to join IESF, agreed to rationalize the IESF management structure and optimize costs.
But the most important thing, in my opinion, was that in New Delhi the fundamental principle of IESF: “One country – one partner" was finally and unequivocally re-confirmed. I will not try to deny the fact that in the past year some of the partners tried to put this principle into question, and this caused some tension in our ranks. After all, if there are several partners in one country, then it will inevitably “make the whole picture blurred": who bears eventual responsibility, who to pass a client to if several partners want to get the search assignment?
A good illustration of the validity of these concerns was the following statement by newly-acquired partners from France. When asked why their company recently left another well-known international search network and decided to join the IESF, the French responded by saying that what prompted their departure was the appearance in France of as many as four companies representing this network, which inevitably led to inner competition and caused confusion among customers who did not understand who they should refer their search mandates to.
And, speaking of new members, in addition to the said French search firm, the IESF in New Delhi acquired a reliable partner from Poland – a highly professional company that was the first on the Polish market to start Executive Search operations. We in Russia were especially glad because in recent years our clients were often interested in conducting searches in that country (as well as in expats from Poland).
By the way, you were an interim VP IESF. Were you approved as a permanent VP?
No, and for the simple reason that within the optimization framework of the Federation’s governing body, it was decided to eliminate all of the VP posts. Due to my own initiative, incidentally, and unanimously supported by partners.
Please tell us more about the professional – search industry – content of the conference.
With pleasure, as it is most interesting from a professional point of view. In particular, we discussed the results of the Metrics project that was launched a few years ago. It involved collecting statistical data on the partner companies’ key performance indicators (KPI) which included: 1) timeliness of the candidates "short-list" presentation; 2) hiring the candidates from the initial short-list; 3) the percentage of: a) candidates still employed by the client 3 years or more after the hiring date, b) repeat business, and c) successfully completed searches. A very useful thing that allows objective benchmarking of our own efficiency against our colleagues! Countries’ data is then summarized and can be successfully used as a marketing tool when dealing with prospective clients. I cannot refrain from boasting a bit: IESF Russia’s KPIs have been in general higher than the Federation’s averages, and we hold a record for presenting candidates on time, with a figure of 97%.
The New Delhi conference participants attended with much enthusiasm a master-class delivered by our American colleague on the specifics of Board Services – searches for members of boards of directors (including independent directors), of supervisory boards and boards of trustees. In America a huge amount of expertise had been accumulated in this area, and most of the IESF partners would benefit from adopting it.
We have also heard a report on the regional project, in the framework of the Federation, under an ambitious title of Hansa. Do you remember the Hanseatic League which dominated the economy of the Baltic countries in the Middle Ages? Our partners from Germany, Nordic countries, Poland and our St Petersburg office, exploring their markets, have come to the conclusion that "special Hanseatic" business ties still exist and begun to actively develop them. It is interesting to note that when they started to define the boundaries of "modern Hansa", St Petersburg was the center of a thousand-kilometer radius!
Any consultant would be always interested in the issue of developing client relations. Our partner from the "hockey-centered" Canada told us that once a year he would invite top management (CEOs) of their client companies to a hockey game, and then arrange a meeting with the head coach of a famous club (after all, a head coach is much the same as a CEO). And the invited top managers would even queue up for such events! This topic was picked up by our partner from China. In his country, heads of businesses are nowadays most interested in how to open an office abroad. And that is exactly the subject to which our Chinese colleague dedicates his annual seminars for China’s CEOs. And once again, everyone invited would come to the event!
So what results can you expect from this AGM in New Delhi?
There’s already been a considerable intensification of partner contacts. For example, I’ve been spending almost half of my working time in negotiations and discussions of dozens of cross-border projects. I become more and more convinced that whatever the overall economic situation, the executive search, recruitment and other HR consulting services are still in demand, including across borders.
Surprisingly, this is largely true for the Russian market as well. Despite any economic sanctions and looming recession, we are observing quite a strong influx of search requests of an unusual nature, clearly associated with the re-focusing of domestic business towards new regions – China, India, Latin America ... Some company urgently needs buyers in Asia-Pacific or highly professional expats from that region (to replace the North Americans and Europeans who recently left Russia). A western company that had prudently set up an office in China now wants to start business in our country. We even came across quite an unexpected development in the opposite direction: some of our customers intend to transfer a part of their production abroad or to sell their products there.
CONSORT Group’s membership in IESF can be a great advantage in assisting our customers in meeting their needs!
A beautiful crystal trophy with the inscription of “IESF President's Special Achievement Award 2014” is proudly displayed in your office. For what services, if we may inquire?
It is for my personal contribution to the development of the updated Charter, the Federation’s strategy and preparation of the global conference in New Delhi. I'm very proud of this award – I find it an adequate compensation for hundreds of hours of intensive brainwork, heated debates with dozens of colleagues around the world and – since there’s nothing to hide – lots of stressful situations. But the desired result has been eventually achieved, and this is what is important.
And more to the point, it is the second highest award received by CONSORT from IESF: we got the first one in 2008 for the high-quality delivery of cross-border search assignments.