Alma Media may not be a name that many of you will know or recognise but over the last 18 months this Finnish based media group have become one of the largest Job Board and Recruitment Solutions businesses in Europe.
A series of acquisitions including DMGT’s Jobs Boards in Czech, Slovakia, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, the acquisition of leading Baltic’s Job Board group CVOnLine and last year taking over, via a share swoop, Monster’s businesses in Poland, Czech and Hungary means Alma Media sit very much at the heart of recruiting in a wide and diverse region.
Many of the boards are market leaders (Jobs.cz, Professia, CVO) but they face many of the same challenges as Job Boards in the U.S and Western Europe; LinkedIn, Indeed, new revenue models etc.
CEO Raimo Mäkilä shared some of his insights with us.
Q – What are the challenges of running a business built through acquisition and partnerships?
Our businesses are local and you have to understand that we’re much more of a ‘holding company’. These businesses succeed and continue to succeed because they understand the local market and understanding why they succeed is critical.
When you acquire a business you tend to think you understand much more whereas, in reality it’s very little. Only when you get inside the business do you begin to understand it; its competencies which in turn define why it’s good.
Many assume much is learned through failure but much more is learned by analysis of success and to then keep repeating it.
Finally seeing where we as an organisation can add value to the business. However, that is not telling them what to do but by engaging with the leadership and management team and agreeing where and how value can be added.
Q – What do you look for when considering acquiring a business?
Interesting question. Well one thing we do not look at is the technology, one Job Board platform is very like another unless they are making a specific play around technology i.e. a unique matching technology etc.
For us it is about the following;
• The management team: the quality of not just the founders but the tier one management team. Most founders want an earn out and therefore does the business have a quality tier two management to take over and drive the business forward to the next level? Succession planning is important for us at Alma.
• Leadership: Part of it is having good management, but for us, leadership is critical. Before any acquisition the business will have fears and challenges. Change is inevitable and quality leadership is required.
• Its market position: this includes where the geography fits ours thus far, where it is in the market is terms of marketshare and of course its financial situation.
• Finally we look at the local market conditions: the economy, the political situation, the media ownership map and the current party in powers stance on media ownership.
Q – What threats or changes do you see out there that maybe keep you awake at night?
I suppose I can divide these into two. Macro global issues first:
• Being Finnish I have seen our economy being hit hard by the situation in Russia regarding Ukraine, so that concerns me and therefore under that any global shifts in power that hit confidence.
• The economic situation in the Eurozone is still not resolved and hiring is still a confidence issue.
• Local changes in my Job Boards regions in terms of governments, media ownership or restructuring of ownership.
• Finally, and like the others we can’t control it, but any changes in Employment or Data Protection Law that makes it more difficult and costly for us to operate.
At a micro industry level, the following:
• Consolidation gathering pace i.e. Stepstone in Europe, Seek in AsiaPac but also in the Americas.
• The growth of Indeed. Having completed its IPO Recruit.com has a huge war-chest to invest.
• Content aggregation driven by the success of Indeed and now including Monster and LinkedIn is a threat to the traditional posting model.
• The Status Quo or ‘cash cow’ mentality. We could become the print media off 1996: ‘something is changing but we’re doing OK so ignore it.’
• Finally Job Boards work for job seekers but we need to evolve in the same way that our audiences are changing, what a 45 year old (the first Job Board users) wants is different to what a 21 year old, new job seeker wants or expects.
Thanks you so much for the time Raimo and for those who are unsure of who Alma Media are take a look here – Alma Career.
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