What is Altios?
Altios is a global player with a unique network of offices around the world to help clients take their business to the next level by entering dynamic new markets, expanding their in-country presence and managing their cross-border investments.
- 25 Million Euro in turnover
- 26 offices in 18 countries
- 180 employees
- Host to 220 local employees for clients
- 5,000m2 of total office space
- 15-20% yearly organic business growth
- 27 years of experience
What is your personal background, what made you start this company, and how did you get started?
My educational background is in engineering, specifically food processing. After my studies and while traveling in Australia, I was hired by a company that helped foreign companies setup office in Australia. They closed up not long after I started. But, as I had already met my future wife, I decided to stay and setup an office in my garage, offering the same type of services to help businesses settle in Australia. Soon after, I found a partner to open an office in France as well. Realizing that we needed to work with more markets, in 1999 we opened offices in China and the US.
Over time we became specialists in emerging markets: India, Russia, and Brazil. Today we have 26 offices around the world focusing on the G20, the top 20 economies in the world, which altogether are worth over 80% of all international trade. This means that we can find ourselves working with more than 700 companies at any one time.
What’s behind the name “Altios”?
More than a decade ago our company was called “Albatross” as we were aiming for “far-away” markets. The name worked for France, but in English “Albatross” doesn’t have the same positive connotation. We wanted to find something more unique, especially as we switched our focus from “far-away” markets to the strongest markets in the world. We tried to keep it close to the word “Albatross” but also wanted something unique. The first idea was “Altos” and, after testing multiple variations and word combinations, we finally settled on“Altios”.
Why did you decide to set up in China?
That’s easy! China is the fastest growing and largest market in the world. It’s an obvious priority for companies looking to increase their international presence. And, companies do need help with their expansion into China. I mean, if you’re a Spanish company that’s expanding to, let’s say, Argentina, you might not feel like you need much help. But, when you head to China, the gap between East and West can be quite significant. So, companies coming here need more support such as people on the ground to expand the business and, more importantly, people who understand how business works in China. The power of interpreting Chinese dialog goes beyond translation.
A Chinese “I agree” doesn’t always mean “yes, let’s do it”.
The Chinese market is quite unique in itself, and we provide this multicultural business support to avoid any misunderstanding and to provide a local expertise. We love this market and are expanding into similar markets such as Hong Kong. We already have an office in Singapore. In fact, China and China-related markets represent 20% of our overall business.
Specific Services in China:
A service we provide in China but don’t provide in other countries is recruitment. Also, we spend more time accompanying our clients to meetings, whereas in other countries this isn’t always necessary. However, we don’t provide legal solutions or market trend reports for the next 20 years which we do for other markets.
Are there key solutions/core services you focus on providing?
What we provide is a custom solution: advisory, expansion, subsidiary management, setup, bookkeeping – all you need to extend your business abroad. We also provide supervision and management of the transfer, duplication and adaptation of large-scale business models which require local expertise, such as transferring a manufacturing process from one country to another.
What is it that makes Altios unique?
We also have quite an interesting environment. We have three levels of partners in every country. First, there are the government agencies and trade organizations. For example, there is CCPIT in China, a worldwide agreement with Business France, Austrade in Australia, and APEX in Brazil. We work very closely with these types of agencies. Second, we work with many banks because when companies need to grow, the first place they visit is the bank. In 12 of our 18 countries, we have banking partners including Credit Agricole, Credit Lyonnais, Santander, who has a stake in Bank of Shanghai, Bank Nationale du Canada, and Alfabank in Russia. When the bank refers people to Altios, that gives them the confidence they need to work with us. That’s surely one of the best types of promotion a company can get. Moreover, we understand how important it is when a bank gives you a lead, and we report back on how the lead is progressing as well, such as when the client will be ready for Forex, etc.
Finally, we work with private equities. Private equities are very interested in building partnerships with Altios for the following reason: we can identify potential investments for them – companies that need to grow, and we can help them make those companies abroad grow in a short time frame.
What industries do you most often work with?
We work in various types of industries but choose them carefully. For example, in Australia we won’t work too much in manufacturing, as there is very little manufacturing. In Mexico, one of the biggest sectors is the automotive industry, whereas in India we are becoming more involved in the defense industry. We adapt to our sectors and work with senior advisors in each country based on local businesses and industries. F&B is very big for us in China, particularly wine. The Chinese market is huge, and people are willing to invest in this sector, so we are investing as well so we can provide the best resources.
What are the main challenges of your company today?
There is one in particular: time! A dangerous consequence of moving too fast is losing track, as well as the inability to build expertise and having to deal with frequent changes in HR. On the other hand, the danger of going too slow leads to an inability to catch up with the extra costs incurred by quick growth, and the eventual death of the company. We want to be sure that our people grow with the company at the right pace.
What are the main factors in the success of your company today?
The team. We strongly believe in team spirit. Everyone in our company has their say and are involved in our strategy. We run regional and global seminars. I am also always available for my team. Another part of our success is that every office is a part of an entity, as it is not a franchise. This brings a certain level of flexibility, and that’s one of our strengths.
As a key person of such a big company, what would you say are the main qualities one needs to ensure so many things are kept running smoothly?
To make oneself available. My priority is not to have any calls or no more than 10 emails unanswered by the end of the day. Being available to people, and listening to people, that’s what’s most important to me.