Marco Tiozzo, our Americas Director shared with us during this interview how he built the Americas division from the ground up during his 5 years at Kilpatrick.
Looking back at his trajectory he shared with us his biggest achievements, life lessons, the importance of building a strong team, and how culture plays a role in business.
Looking back on the past five years, what would you say has been the biggest achievement or accomplishment of your time here?
When I was presented with the opportunity to start and shape our organization in Latin America, I was aware of the challenges that the process could arise such as:
Financial planning and cash flow: Securing sufficient funding to launch and sustain the business is a typical challenge for small businesses or startups. It is important to ensure that economic and market fluctuations, such as the arrival of Covid-19, do not negatively impact the business’s performance and revenues. The key concept in this case is risk mitigation.
Market competition: Standing out from the competition significantly increases the chances of success. This can be achieved by building brand awareness, attracting customers, and creating a market niche where you differentiate yourself from other businesses.
Establishing operations: Creating a strong foundation for managing day-to-day operations is crucial to ensure smooth functioning. Having a solid ground allows you to focus on optimizing the team and client experience.
Hiring and retaining talent: Finding and attracting exceptional talents who align with the business’s culture and values is as important as the financial and operational aspects. Our business is composed of people and works with and for people, so having a team that can effectively spread your vision across the market is essential.
Technology: Having the necessary technology in place can be an asset for businesses like ours that heavily rely on staying connected with people. Investing in the right tools, systems, and infrastructure is key to keeping your business competitive, and in Kilpatrick’s case, to keeping the global team united.
Emotional intelligence and resilience:
Starting and growing a business requires a dose of courage, determination, perseverance, and the ability to deal with frustration. Keeping it afloat can be mentally and emotionally demanding at times because a group of people relies on you. My approach to this is focusing on creating a bond with the people I manage. It is important to make sure they are fulfilled and do not take on any unnecessary stress.
While these challenges may seem daunting, they can also present opportunities for learning, growth, and innovation. During the journey, it has been crucial for me to learn from excellent mentors, Jaap Hoesktra and Cristina Spagna (owners of the business) and from talented colleagues and peers who have always been available to me.
The main achievement has been to build up an organization made of people with a unique DNA built on a clear vision and mission, strong values, a modern company culture, distinctive products, and strong stakeholder relationships.
The DNA of your organization is your biggest asset. Anybody can copy your products, but no one can copy the genetics of your organization, meaning how you deal with your people and your clients from a cultural perspective. As the organization grows, adapts to market changes, and embraces new opportunities, its unique characteristics may also change. Continually nurturing and reinforcing the organization’s unique DNA is crucial for maintaining its identity, competitiveness, and long-term success
How has your role evolved over the past five years, and how have you adapted to those changes?
Initially, I was tasked with opening our business in Latin America, and later I took over our US business as well. Although there are various differences between the Latin American and US markets, such as labor laws, regulations, hiring practices, and language barriers, the most significant challenge has been cultural differences, especially in recruitment. In Latin America, personal relationships and networking hold high value, and building trust with candidates through constant interaction is emphasized. Whereas in the United States, a more structured and transactional approach to recruitment is common.
What would you say has been the most challenging moment you’ve faced during your time here, and how did you overcome it?
Establishing the first client in the region is always the hardest part of the job. Finding someone that can give you a chance in a market in which you are practically unknown has been very difficult.
We overcame the obstacle by focusing on positioning Kilpatrick within a niche market and developing a unique product proposal. This has been possible only through a in depth investigation to understanding our target market, identifying potential gaps (and therefore a potential lack of offer within our sector), and offering a distinctive way to address the specific needs of the market, staying focused and determined to achieve the goal is what has continued to steer us the right direction no matter the circumstance.
How has the company changed and grown since you first joined, and what impact do you feel you’ve had on that growth?
The company went from “zero-to-hero” in a very short period of time, from being a startup business to being a successful business that brings significant financial successes and can look forward to continuing to build wealth.
This is especially true when Kilpatrick branched out internationally. We were given the task to create new business opportunities and build a trustworthy brand in regions where we were not well known. Now I can confidently say we have done this successfully placing Kilpatrick amongst the best executive search firms worldwide.
To make this happen, I had to combine my consulting expertise and international experience with my personal cultural knowledge of the region. This led me to set our long term goals and vision for the Americas.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in a similar role to yours?
I would say my top three pieces of advice would be:
- Keep control over your destiny and try not to be dependent on someone else’s decisions or actions while approaching the market. Find ways to make it happen, don’t wait until they do.
- Influence through example, in order to have the power to shape the future of your organization you have to perform as you wish other to do so.
- Take calculated risks, and always consider the course of your business to never steer away from your beliefs.
Looking ahead to the next five years, what do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges facing the company?
Creating a legacy.
We work everyday to build a successful business that is differentiated by the way we view business and cross border teams. We have made the building blocks for a business that can be passed onto future generations or serve as a foundation for future ventures by our attention to detail, and international approach.
What has been your favorite project or initiative that you’ve worked on during your time here, and why?
Working on our team. I believe that giving them the space to pursue their passions personally will give them genuine joy and direction in their professional lives. My goal is to make Kilpatrick a platform that could allow them to express their creativity, talent, and skills, and provide them with a sense of belonging and personal fulfillment and satisfaction. I view it as growing alongside these individuals.
How have you built and maintained strong relationships with your colleagues and team members over the past five years?
By positively impacting their lives through social activities and focusing on flexibility and work-life balance, we allow our employees to spend quality time with their families and engage in personal pursuits. Being a recent father myself, I truly appreciate the time I can spend with my 2-month-old baby boy, André, and being an involved parent. I wish the same for all our employees, which is why we have made it a priority to make Kilpatrick a modern and forward-thinking organization to work for.
While we recognize the importance of providing our employees with a strong level of flexibility, we also believe it is crucial to promote the values and culture of our organization. At Kilpatrick, we achieve this through team activities outside of work, such as sports and creative events. These activities allow us to connect on a personal level and explore other interests and talents that can ultimately lead to personal growth for our employees.
What have you learned about yourself as a leader during your time as a director here?
During my time at Kilpatrick I have learnt to continuously evolve, acquire new skills such as, building up an entrepreneurial mindset, elaborating a business strategy and working on planning, elevating my marketing and sales abilities, learning financial management, developing leadership and team management skills, being a problem-solver and improving communication either with internal and external stakeholders. As you navigate the challenges and the opportunities, you learn many lessons.
These are some of my main lessons I have learnt :
- Be determined when facing situations that are frustrating, maintaining focus on solving the problem at hand will guide you to the best solution.
- Remember your vision and values at all times, this will give you a sense of direction in your business and give you the freedom to make decisions that will be beneficial long term
- Be grateful and appreciative toward the people who gave you the chance to pursue the opportunities at hand. I constantly remind myself of the importance of the role I was given and how I impact multiple people on my team on a daily basis with the choices I make.
- Confidence is the key to everything. I trust my intuition and abilities to lead me to success in each of the projects we take on.
What does this five year anniversary mean to you personally, and how do you plan to celebrate this milestone?
I will celebrate this milestone by opening a bottle of good Italian wine. Remembering not only the success I have built alongside Kilpatrick but also the personal growth that has come along with it. I am excited and grateful for the many more years ahead alongside my team.