General Director of the Coberon Vostock, one of the first recruiting, outsourcing and HR companies in Moscow
Talks to Natalia Shuvalova
Photos Sergey Koshkin
When did you first come to Moscow?
I first came in 1996, when Russia was an emerging market and business was booming. There was electricity in the air. I was in my early thirties and had been doing recruiting in Paris. But being involved in recruiting there was boring compared to what it required in Moscow. We had international clients and they had their needs in the recruitment area too. We could offer them the same services they were used to in the major markets in the West. The clients did understand and appreciate Western-style management. In a way, it was an easy market compared to the West, but it was not easy to move into as it involved considerable risk. But those who took the risks are still here. None has ever regretted it. Most of us have grown, developed our businesses and brands. Now we we can call Moscow a major market.
Were there recruiting companies here when you started?
There were some. But mostly these were local companies and they were not able to offer the same services to the clients which I mentioned earlier, because the standards were so different. Even today, recruiting agencies work at different levels. Our candidates are people who themselves want to work at the global level. They speak English, and they have had the exposure to the global market. Most of them have advanced education after the crisis of 1998, or they went abroad to get their MBAs and now want to work with global companies, such as our clients. This is our niche. What I like about Moscow is that even ten years later there is dynamism in the market, and tremendous growth and evolution. By this, I mean that everything still goes very fast. A client says that they need one person by next month and all of a sudden they need ten more by tomorrow. Some of my colleagues would prefer a different working pace, but I like it.
As they say, whatever one needs in Russia is needed yesterday…
Exactly. Recently, or to be precise in November, a Swiss-German company, which has been in the market for a long time, had a need. We asked: “Is it OK to have this person by early January?” “No,” they replied, “we need this person since yesterday!” But that’s what I love about this work. I am always in working shape; no chance to slow down.
Do you ever celebrate the Russian holidays?
Well, I do not celebrate French holidays that much. For me the work must be done and the holidays are not a priority. Maybe I am a workaholic (laughs). For instance, I am planning to work over Christmas and on New Year’s Day. Why? It is simple. My Russia staff will be working on the Western Christmas, so I need to be here as well. My international clients will be working on the 1st of January.
Besides the excitement at work, is there anything else that you like about being here? About Russians?
Yes. I think that Russians are very good friends and they are very loyal in long-term friendships. I have been to many places and usually the established relationships stop when I leave the country. But with Russians it is different. When I went back to France in 1998, during the crisis, I still kept my friends in Russia. I have no doubts that these relationships will endure.
If you ever have spare time, how do you spend it?
There is not a week in this city without a new restaurant opening, or a shop, or a club. Spending one’s leisure is not a problem here. Speaking of personal priorities, I love playing music and reading books. I usually do it on the week-ends and I do not even have to go out of my house!