International Expansion: How to Grow a Successful Recruitment Business in MENA and APAC, with Justin McGuire, Ep #148

Building a recruitment business in the Middle East and Asia presents opportunities as well as challenges. My special guest, Justin McGuire has successfully expanded his firm into MENA and APAC, becoming very knowledgeable about these markets in the process.

This is Justin’s second time on the show and I am excited to have him again. In addition to providing fantastic insight into doing business in the MENA and APAC regions, Justin shares his experience growing his team from 12 to 30 people. 

But there have been plenty of challenges and detours along the way. For example, Justin discusses his failed attempt to open a London office and everything he learned from that experience.

Justin is the CEO and co-founder of MCG Talent – a talent consulting firm specializing in creative, communications and marketing people across the Middle East and Asia. Justin spent 8 years working for well-known creative agencies before jumping into recruitment for the last 15 years. MCG Talent have ambitious plans for continued growth and have set their sights on opening offices in new countries and scaling the team to 50 people.

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [02:11] Dramatic changes since Justin’s previous appearance on the show.
  • [05:33] Justin shares what recruiting market looks like in the Middle East and Asia.
  • [13:15] What’s the biggest shock in building a successful business in the Middle East?
  • [20:50] Dealing with cultural differences – how did Justin make it work?
  • [30:00] Managing across multiple countries and time zones – why finding the right business partner was critical.
  • [35:20] Learning from mistakes – Why the London office did not work out?
  • [40:53] Deciding factors on when to open a new office in a different region vs scaling in the current location.
  • [48:25] Business management – key practices to scale your recruitment firm.
  • [58:54] Justin’s take on 2023 recession predictions.

Catching Up with Justin – Updates Since His Last Episode Appearance

Justin’s last appearance was a couple of years, more than a hundred episodes ago in which he shared radical ideas on their global recruitment offices and how they get to scale. This time, he brings me up to speed on what has changed since then. 

The last time we spoke, Justin was in Singapore. He has since relocated his family back to Dubai and refocused on the markets they excel in – the Middle East and Asia for roles in the marketing, communications, and technology. 

He explains, “During COVID we really understood the need for a niche where we were doing well and where people were leaning on us.” This move served them well and they’ve grown from a team of 12, they are now a group of 30 people and still scaling to the 30-50 person stage. 

Focusing on the Middle East and Asia Territories

Justin’s decision to focus on the Marketing Communications and Tech niche in the Middle East and Asia regions brings opportunities as well as challenges. For a lot of my recruiters and recruitment business owner listeners, the MENA and APAC region is unchartered territory. 

You will be interested to know what recruiting is like in those regions compared to the European or North American territories. What are the cultural differences? What would be Justin’s biggest shocking revelation? But most importantly, I am sure you are interested to know, how did Justin make it work?

Business Management Practices When Scaling Internationally

Justin shared so many important factors to consider, including:  

  • When to scale in the same location versus setting up a new office.
  • The importance of finding the right partner.
  • How outsourcing can be a game-changer. 
  • How to manage cultural differences within your team.

In addition, we discussed how Justin made the transition from Big Biller to Billing Manager to Business Manager. Most owners aren’t able to navigate these steps and get stuck as a producer with a small team.  For example, how and when do you come off a desk? If you’re a big biller, how do you replace your production in order to focus more time on growing the business?

Our Sponsors

This podcast is proudly sponsored by i-intro and Recruitment Entrepreneur.

i-intro® is an end-to-end retained recruitment platform. Their technology and methodology allow recruiters to differentiate themselves from the competition, win more retained business, bigger fees and increase their billings. Their software combined with world-class training enables you to transition from transactional, contingency recruiter to consultative, retained recruiter. Instead of being perceived as a “me too” vendor, you’ll be positioned as a “me only” solutions provider. Be sure to mention Mark Whitby or The Resilient Recruiter. Book your free, no-obligation consultation here: www.recruitmentcoach.com/retained

Recruitment Entrepreneur is the world’s leading Private Equity firm specializing in the international recruitment industry. If you’ve dreamed of starting, scaling and selling your recruitment business, this is your chance. James Caan and his team at Recruitment Entrepreneur are actively seeking ambitious recruiters who they can invest in. They provide everything you need to grow a successful recruitment business including: funding, financial expertise, coaching and mentoring, operational strategy, backoffice support, marketing and talent attraction solutions. Be sure to mention Mark Whitby or The Resilient Recruiter. Start a conversation here: https://www.recruitmentcoach.com/vc

Justin McGuire Bio and Contact Info 

Justin began my professional career in London at the start of the digital boom, working in client servicing for a fantastic communications agency. During his seven years in the industry, he had the pleasure of working for some of the world’s most celebrated brands alongside some of the most talented and creative people in the industry, many of them have since gone on to become business leaders. Having reached the Director level, he was charged with recruiting talent for his own team as well as playing a key role in developing the agency’s digital offering and taking it to market. It was at this point that his passion for recruitment became apparent and he resolved to change his career. He joined a headhunting firm based in the heart of London, creating and managing the advertising and media division. It was there that opportunity knocked and Justin was approached by a leading multi-national recruitment company and invited to set up their advertising and media business. Following a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding two years, he felt that with my experience in the communication industry combined with my recruitment training and market knowledge, he was perfectly positioned to set up his own enterprise. MCG Talent was born in 2010 with a single vision: to connect the best businesses with the brightest talent in the marketing, communications, and digital space, enabling progress for businesses and individuals alike. Justin lived and worked in London, Singapore, and Dubai. He also spent a year doing charity work in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He proudly invested in diversely.io – a diversity hiring platform and also co-founded and successfully exited a learning and development business called Ampersand.

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