7 February 2023
AIMS International’s President Dimitris Kleftakis describes the organisation’s strategy for mile-a-minute growth.
The AIMS International board met at the end of September 2022 to discuss the company’s future direction and formulate a strategic blueprint for sustainable growth. What are the key points of that blueprint – your most important goals and initiatives going forward?
Dimitris: Our Strategy for AIMS International over the next three years rests on a cohesive set of strategic pillars which address all the key aspects of our organisation on a global and local level.
Firstly, we are prioritising growth. Followers of AIMS International will know how proud we are to be among the largest executive search and talent management organisations worldwide. We start 2023 with around 620 partners, consultants, analysts, and researchers working from 84 offices in 54 countries, supporting clients in an additional 18.
Our footprint is big, but we are not done. The Board has committed to investing in the expansion of all of our existing partnerships, but we are targeting particularly further growth in the world’s two largest economies: the United States and China. By 2026, we hope to have grown the global team by over 60% to more than 1000 people, all of them collaborating on meeting our clients’ uniquely diverse needs, wherever they happen to be.
Growth on this scale would require any business to tighten up its processes to improve performance and reap maximum benefit from economies of scale. But the most important thing for us is to ensure that our globally active organisational clients and leaders always know what to expect from us. Our second strategic objective is to upgrade service delivery for greater consistency across the globe. So, we will offer all three of our core services – board services, executive search, and talent management – and the same experience anywhere we are active.
From a marketing perspective, we are focused on providing greater clarity on our global positioning, so that all our partners operate under the same brand, using the same voice, clearly describing the same benefits to our prospects and customers. There will always be regional variations on the theme, of course, but the efficacy of local activation depends in large part on there being coherent guidance at the global level about how we communicate our unique value proposition.
We also want to coordinate global and regional business development efforts more closely. AIMS International is a Global partnership of local partners, which is an operating model that has provided us great agility and resilience, but there are areas where centrally managed activity yields stronger results, and this is one of them. Our aim is to supercharge growth through better integrated cooperation between country partnerships, between regions, and between our global practices.
Lastly, we will invest in our internal business platform, so that our partners are optimally positioned to implement our global strategy and can more easily access knowledge and support to complete projects successfully and address the kinds of challenges all professionals face in the course of doing business. We want our country partnerships fit and strong and technology has an obvious role to play in that.
AIMS International’s new board has a mandate to lead the business through to mid-2025, but you mentioned a 2026 headcount target earlier. Can you clarify what your timelines are?
Dimitris: Sure. Our goals are ambitious; we have kickstarted a large number of strategic initiatives – and our Partners will launch many more. We won’t achieve everything we are aiming to do in two years. We see 2026 as the earliest practical point to measure and assess what we have achieved.
Are AIMS International’s regions responsible for developing their own growth strategies?
Dimitris: Absolutely. No-one is better positioned than our regional partners to identify where an umbrella approach needs adjusting to local cultural, organisational, and linguistic conditions. All AIMS International partnerships were born in the regions that they serve, most of them having operated outside of our organisation for many years; they know the growth strategies that work.
What are the issues you’re focused on most as President of AIMS International currently and through 2023?
Dimitris: For us, 2022 was a “crafting” year. We finalised details of our business plan, launched key functional activities, accelerated our searches for partners, and worked on internal communications to ensure everyone stays informed about the changes we are putting in place.
We see 2023 as an “embedding” year, where we integrate everything that we’ve been talking about into our day-to-day working lives, making it a reality. So, our priorities are to roll out our new marketing and technology strategies, launch our partner and client success activities, fine tune and scale up business development activities we have been piloting, and end the year with the geographic coverage we want going forward.
It’s important to stress that, as fast as we are moving on these things, we always aim for sustainability. We don’t want to implement any short-term fixes – at the partnership level, regional level, and at the head office. Sustainability is, for us, increasingly, core to our approach and identity as an organisation. It’s not marketing or PR. You can see that in how we work with and advise our clients, or, in fact, any external stakeholder.
You’re looking to add several new partnerships this year. What characteristics do you look for in a prospective partner?
Dimitris: Values are important: integrity, respect, trust, and passion for what they do. We need to see that there is significant level of compatibility of our values. They also have to have an international mindset and the capacity to market AIMS International’s services locally and internationally.
Will they provide business to our other partnerships? Will they give their time to developing AIMS International further and participating in our global activities? The ideal partnership will always go one step further to contribute to ideas, knowledge, references, and leads to the other partners. That kind of sharing of expertise is what our organisation was founded on in 1992. It’s part of our culture and, at the most fundamental level, it’s cultural fit that sustains long-term relationships. We know that from experience.
What makes AIMS International different in 2023?
Dimitris: As we reach full geographic coverage, we are turning more of our attention to the individual partnerships’ needs. We want to support their work with state-of-the-art technology and other resources, as well as provide more opportunities to improve their skills. We want to help them deepen their knowledge of their markets and of different economic sectors in what is, after all, an increasingly competitive industry where candidates and organisational customers demand more than simply functional expertise. Stronger offices, stronger consultants, stronger AIMS International. That’s what we want in 2023.