Antal International has proven that recruitment and franchising can go hand-in-hand. And on a truly global scale
Talent is an invaluable asset to all companies, which is why many enterprises enlist external agencies to help source the best people possible. And, ideally, they’ll be looking for a recruitment partner with international pedigree. Suffice to say, this is something that has stood Antal International in good stead for the best part of 23 years.
The company was founded in 1992 by Tony Goodwin who, after a spell as an accountant, saw a gap in the global recruitment market. “He noticed that the multinationals he was working with did not have a recruitment company supporting their needs in Eastern Europe,” explains Doug Bugie, president of Antal International Network, Antal International’s franchise division.
Goodwin launched his new venture in Budapest, with its name deriving from the Hungarian word for Anthony. And it wasn’t long before the company established a strong presence in the surrounding region. “He was one of the first people over the horizon and ended up building what is now, in Russia and Poland, far and away the largest recruitment company,” says Bugie. “That platform became the springboard to come back west.”
By 1997, the company was operating in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, with a headquarters in London. As Bugie explains, the British capital was Antal’s natural home. “In our business, London is the place to be,” he says. “It’s the key city in the world for recruitment.”
In the space of ten years, Antal had built up a thriving network of offices that stretched from London all the way to China, Singapore, Japan and Taiwan. Confident that his business model translated well in all corners of the globe, Goodwin decided it was time to ramp up the rate of Antal’s growth. By this time, his attention had already been piqued by another company operating in the executive-search space, which was headed up by Bugie and serial entrepreneur James Caan. Launched in 1992 – the same year as Antal – Humana International grew rapidly to 130 offices across 24 countries before being sold in 1999 to CDI Corp, the parent company of the recruitment giant MRI.
It was Humana’s growth strategy that caught Goodwin’s eye, not least because it was unheard of in the recruitment industry at the time. “As I travelled around the world, I had seen that there was an opportunity to franchise the business of recruitment,” says Bugie. “Nobody had ever done it outside the US and James [Caan] thought that was a good idea too. Brick-by-brick, we built it up until it started gaining its own momentum.”
Needless to say, Goodwin wanted a piece of the action. “He liked the idea of it, he saw it was working and he’s the kind of guy who, when he sees something good and it’s in his wheelhouse, he wants to try it,” says Bugie. “And he did: he made a serious investment in franchising Antal and never stopped.”
However, having never franchised a business before, Goodwin needed some experienced hands on board. And where better to turn than the company that had inspired him to franchise in the first place? “He managed to attract some key people from [what became] MRI and one of them was my top salesperson,” Bugie laughs. Five years later, Bugie himself came on board to help propel the franchise’s international growth. “I liked it so much that I thought ‘this is great – I am going to get involved with this company,” he says.
The Antal network now spans 130 offices in 34 countries but, unlike the growth strategy adopted by other international franchises, it doesn’t sell master licences for individual countries or regions. Instead, Antal franchises are sold directly by its teams in Mumbai, Frankfurt, Dubai and London. “They know how to sell them, train them and support them but they’re not masters,” explains Bugie. “They have made a lot of money as individual franchise owners and we have liked them enough that we have offered them a deal to come into the bigger picture.”
As one would expect, Antal’s franchisees are cut from a similar cloth to the people they are trying to source for their clients. “They are normally white collar professionals who have probably been earning between £60,000 and £150,000,” says Bugie. “They like the kinds of industries they have been involved in and don’t want to leave them.”
And while only 2% of Antal’s franchisees have a background in recruitment, the investment that the company makes in training and ongoing support means it can get anyone to the required level with ease. “Our philosophy is to reinvest the entire franchise fee in the training,” says Bugie.
This is backed up by the knowledge that each franchisee has of their respective territory, which helps localise Antal’s offering to each and every country it operates in. “We give them the structure and know-how and they translate that into their own culture,” says Bugie. It all adds up to a service that is almost identical wherever it is found. “The differences between how this business is done in the Ivory Coast, Paris, Madrid or Shanghai is five degrees of separation,” he adds.
Having launched 27 new franchises this year, Bugie is targeting a further 45 in 2016. It comes after a successful rollout across China and India – where it is now a market leader – reflecting Antal’s strategy of targeting the fastest-growing recruitment markets first. “If you had to pick places in the world where recruitment is really going places, you are going to concentrate more on China and India than you are on Brazil,” says Bugie. “[That’s why] we are only now starting to advertise in South American countries.”
It’s evident that franchising has worked wonders for Antal International. And, with more countries on its radar, it looks like it will have the world at its fingertips for years to come. “We have got a great pipeline and a lot of confidence,” Bugie concludes. “The planets are aligning for this industry and, I’m pleased to say, for us.”