He set up his own business and named the company Antal – Hungarian for ‘Anthony’, in 1993. Since then, Tony and his team have developed substantial businesses in some of the most challenging emerging markets across the globe, such as Russia, India and China. All that, through a mix of wholly-owned operations, franchises and joint ventures.
MEET THE FOUNDER & CEO OF ANTAL RISK VENTURES
1. How you came up with the business idea for Antal Risk Ventures?
I came up with the idea for Antal International in 1992 when I was reading the Financial Times and general business press and saw how much investment (and general interest) was going into the newly opened Central & Eastern Europe markets by the likes of Microsoft, Compaq Computers, Hewlett Packard, Procter & Gamble, GE Electric, Unilever, Mars etc. There were Western government sponsored programs (PHARE) ploughing $billions into the region to ensure that it didn’t revert back to the old communist style regimes.
2. Tell us the first three things you’ve done to turn the idea into facts.
1. I started looking/ advertising/ networking and searching for people who had western qualifications that could speak hungarian, czech, polish and russian;
2. I hired my own consultants with those languages skills from all my research;
3. I started travelling to Warsaw, Prague, Budapest and Moscow in 1993/94, to check out how easy or not it was to do business there. This was an amazing time and I realised that the whole of CEE was undergoing a once in a lifetime transformation. I was so excited to be part of what was happening.
3. Name one situation that made you want to quit.
I wanted to quit in 2002/03 when we had a market crash in IT recruitment and we had to downsize from 22 offices to 12 and from 429 employees to 160. Fortunately we were also able to recruit into other disciplines too, but this was a really tough time. I had to remortgage my house and sell my Aston Martin car in order to support the business, and that was almost not enough. Very stressful indeed.
4. Name one situation that made you want to go forward.
I struggled on and continued partly because I had to keep going, I had no choice, really (like losing my food & supplies rowing across the Atlantic at the half-way point, no point in going back).
Also, I realised that we had created something unique and distinct that was worth persevering with. The Antal Brand had become firmly established as THE developing markets recruitment brand.
5. What do you think are the most difficult challenges entrepreneurs have to face on english market nowadays?
Uncertainty surrounding Brexit and, as always, hiring the right people for our profession. Hiring good talent is our profession and building teams is one of the hardest parts of the job, even today with over 1,000 staff in 35 countries and 140+ offices.
6. Investment matters. If you would invest in something else but your actual business, what would that be?
I have invested in many businesses outside of my main recruitment business, most of which have failed, so now I only invest in my business/industry or directly related to it.
If I could have my time over again, I would probably have invested more of my capital into property in prime or up and coming locations. This is easier to manage than service businesses.
That said, I still love the challenge posed by building and creating something from nothing in our industry.
7. If you could change something about UK’s Entrepreneurs Community to improve it in any way what would that be?
I believe that in the UK we have a brilliantly vibrant, flexible, open and positive environment to foster and nurture start-ups.
I think we may need to put more warnings about the ability to take on the inevitable challenges and have less of an expectation of success.
8. What is Antal Risk Ventures bringing to the market, that is different compared its competitors?
As a recruitment company (or business services) we are far more integrated than the rest of our competitors with the ability to “share information, knowledge and experience on behalf of our clients, candidates and colleagues” better than any other recruitment company in the world.
MEET THE MAN #BEHINDTHESUIT
1.Name one good habit that helps you deal with your active life.
I’ve always been a sports oriented and active person, going to the gym regularly, running four half marathons in the last three years and so on. Most recently I’ve gotten into cycling so I cycle to work most days (11 miles round trip) and go to my gym with my family to do Blaze exercise classes, which keeps me clear headed.
2. Name one bad habit you can’t quit.
Watching box sets late into the night which upsets my sleeping pattern; my all-time favourites are Sopranos, The Wire, Narcos, El Chapo, Game of Thrones: Ozark, The Affair, MindHunter and some others.
3. If you could be anything else but an entrepreneur what would you be?
I would love to have been a terrific professional sportsman in any field, but football and tennis would have been my top choices although I wasn’t particularly good at either. However, post that career, I am sure I’d have gone on to do something entrepreneurial afterwards, it’s just in my blood and my DNA.
4. You are the founder of Antal Risk Ventures, what is the favourite movie of the man who founded it?
5. Tell us your favourite book. What’s the best thing you learned from it?
I read so many autobiographies of famous entrepreneurs and businessmen 20 years ago that I realised no-one really knows what the true ingredients of success are and that they cannot be replicated time after time.
I loved Warren Buffet’s ‘Shoe Buckle Principle’ which is about the fact that if you are good at capturing one market, doesn’t mean you know everything about anything else.
6. Name the most important value that you believe in.
Integrity. Antal has done business in some of the most difficult countries & markets on the planet and have done so without offending any laws or regulations by doing things properly, legally and fairly. I consistently say that we don’t ‘do dodgy’ deals or aren’t things that are a straight-forward honest transactions. That hasn’t always been reciprocated by the people we have dealt with!
7. If you could compare your journey as an entrepreneur with a song what song would you choose?
Swedish House Mafia – ‘Don’t you worry Child‘ (Heaven’s got a plan for you).
8. Tell us the best experience you had while working to build Antal Risk Ventures.
The totality of the 25 year journey; the pain and pleasure of going to some of the most interesting and challenging countries in the midst of their great economic upheaval’s that have ever occurred to them; China; Russia & India to name, but a few of the 35 we have offices in and the other 30+ I’ve visited on business.
9. If you would give our readers one piece of advice from your entrepreneurial experience, what would that advice be?
Don’t take no for an answer, ask why, then change your product or service offering accordingly, then be relentless.