IR Search Anton van Rossum

Anton van Rossum 

2 March 2022

M.M. asks:

I’ve been working for an American high-tech company for more than ten years, the last two of which as a business unit manager. A few years ago, our company was acquired by a Chinese investment fund and ever since our business has gained momentum. We’ve seen our revenue increase more than 300 percent in the last three years and if we continue like this, we’ll grow to over a billion dollars in a year. Our product strategy has proven itself in the past and we have an enormous market share. We’re definitely benefitting from our owner here, giving us unlimited access to the Chinese market.

In view of the market developments and technological progress, it’s been decided to expand the R&D department with dozens of engineers. We’re also going to set up a new product group. Unfortunately, since my business unit isn’t located in Silicon Valley but the German countryside, we’re having a hard time finding suitable local candidates for the open vacancies.

There are interesting candidates from Germany and abroad who want to work in a hybrid way, but we’re experiencing little support from the head office to actually make them an offer. To see whether they’re a match, their CVs are checked down to a T by the investors, who are really not capable to assess them adequately. Candidates rated positively by us are rejected by them without even having interviewed them.

HQ seems to have little confidence in our approach. Nonetheless, we have to meet very high performance targets. This puts us in a predicament. Despite our impressive growth figures, it feels like we can never really do well. Of course, the lack of progress in recruitment has been discussed many times, but each step we take requires a separate signature from the CEO. What can I do to get out of this deadlock?

The headhunter answers:

The predicament you’re in is very recognizable. I’ve seen it happen many times after a takeover: investors unfamiliar with the business and technology getting involved on a micro-level in all company decisions.

It’s a great accomplishment that your company has been able to grow into the high-quality tech outfit that it is today. It’s an even bigger achievement that it’s flourishing in the location where you’re based. The small but high-quality university in your area will certainly have contributed to your success.

To remain successful, it’s essential to bring in young talent as well as more experienced engineers from afar. This is a daunting task already, but if you’re unable to offer a modern hybrid work model, it’s going to be virtually impossible to find someone, especially the mid-level and senior people you’re looking for. They tend to have a working partner and school-aged children, so moving is usually not an option. Other urgent private considerations such as family care often play a major role as well.

An alternative to a modern hybrid WFH policy is opening a second R&D center at a location where candidates are available – or acquiring one. This calls for a completely different approach and also comes with a completely different price tag. However, if there’s a company in your network that would be open to this, I’d certainly consider it. I’d also definitely bring it up with the guys at HQ; maybe it’ll get them thinking.

Prerequisites for any strategy are decisiveness and diligence. Without them, you’ll miss out on opportunities time and again.