“How to Develop Talent Instead of Recruiting It”
It’s usually in the nature of startup leaders to conquer one market and expand to another. That is exactly the case with Hiberus, which is one of the premier tech startups in Spain but aspires to be so much more. Hiberus is a tech consulting startup that offers a variety of services and has offices all over Europe with over 3,000 employees. After experiencing such impressive growth and success in Europe, Hiberus is now expanding to operate in the U.S. and the Americas.
Hiberus Internacional CEO Marcos Latorre recently joined the Midstage Startup Momentum Podcast to speak with startup coaches Roland Siebelink and Carlos Founaud. Marcos talked about the past success and future goals of Hiberus while also sharing the secret sauce that has made Hiberus one of the biggest tech startups in Europe:
- How to attract people to a small company in a small city.
- Why Hiberus tries to create talent rather than just relying on acquiring talent.
- What Hiberus has done to attract customers with a small sales team.
- The three things Hiberus provides clients so that they never lose one.
- The reason Hiberus prioritizes employees over customers and investors.
- How the role of founders and CEOs change as startups grow and expand.
Roland Siebelink: Hello and welcome to the Midstage Momentum Podcast. My name is Roland Siebelink and I am an ally and coach to many of the fastest-growing startups in the world. And today, I have with me my fellow coach Carlos, who is responsible for the Spanish market. Hello, Carlos.
Carlos Founaud: Hi. Good morning, Roland. Good afternoon here.
Roland Siebelink: Absolutely. You have brought one of the growing companies in the Spanish market today. Why don’t you give us a quick introduction and then have Marcos introduce the company to all of us.
Carlos Founaud: Okay. It’s not one of them; it’s the growing company in the Spanish market. I met them in 2005. They were three people and they’re right now 3,000. The story is quite compelling.
Roland Siebelink: That’s huge. What is the name? Let’s switch to Marcos so that we hear it from his side.
Marcos Latorre: First, it was called Iritec. And now it’s called Hiberus.
Roland Siebelink: Hiberus. Okay. Very good. Nice to meet you, Marcos Latorre. Tell us about what you are doing for which customers and what impact are you making in the world?
Marcos Latorre: Well, thank you so much, Roland, Carlos, for the introduction and the invite to be here. Hiberus or Hiberus - because now in our internalization process, we are changing the name a little bit. But what a pleasure it is to be here.
How to explain Hiberus in a few words? We are a consultancy company born in Zaragoza in Spain as a startup, as Carlos said, in 2003. And we have grown based on specialization, always in technology. Our technology core is so strong for us, so important for us. But now we are providing high-tech services to very, very large companies in Spain. Not only in Spain, but in Europe, and now in the US market in America.
Roland Siebelink: Excellent. Carlos, what sparked your interest in inviting Hiberus to this podcast? And can you ask Marcos a few more questions about that?
Carlos Founaud: Yeah. But first I will go through a personal question, Marcos. We all know a small secret about you. Before becoming the CEO of Hiberus International, I think you were a very famous sports man in Spain. Tell us about it.
Marcos Latorre: Well, the first question and the most complicated one. Well not so famous, but I was a professional in indoor soccer. Indoor football is one of the most popular sports in Spain. It was curious because I was doing my engineering degree at the same time. I met our current CEO Sergio, asking him for an opportunity to start my professional career, but I didn’t know how we can work and where because I have to train eight times a week and I have to travel a lot because I have one or two or three matches per week. It was the beginning of our relationship. The first time, Sergio provided me all the flexibility of a small company. It was the start of a very, very good relationship now as partners and as my first boss.
Carlos Founaud: Okay. That brings me to a point in which Sergio - and now Hiberus; we can talk about Hiberus - can find talent and attract talent, which I think is something very complicated right now. You have been growing in the last two years at over 30%. How did you do that? How do you attract talent when everybody is looking for talent?
Marcos Latorre: Well, I think it’s something that came with us from the beginning because our strategy always is based on specialization in high-tech. For us, it always has been a challenge to attract talent because we were a small company in a small city, and we always tried to find the best talent. Now, it’s a global challenge. But for us, it was a challenge from the beginning. And we base our talent management in our culture and provide our employees the best professional career, very, very close to the best manufacturers in IT. And of course, we do our best in talent acquisition.
But it’s not only to hire people; we create those people. We have our own university we call Hiberus University - very creative. And we are training more than 2,000 people per year. It’s not only for hiring people. We have training programs for high schools, for college, also for elementary schools that allows us to create a big brand. We are now a well-known brand in the IT sector in Spain. And we want to be in Europe as well as in America.
But it’s not only hiring people. We have to obviously hire the best-qualified talent. But we are good at creating that talent, training that talent, coaching that talent, and allowing that talent to grow with us because we are not the company that pays more. It is impossible in that sector. We need people that want to be here with us and continue working in that company.
Carlos Founaud: Tell me, you were talking about 2,000 people a year that you are meeting to know who they are, what they do, to create a brand. Among those 2,000 people, how do you say, “This is the guy I want for Hiberus.” How do you detect them?
Marcos Latorre: Well, it’s complicated, but we try to hire - one of the secrets of our growth is to hire the right people and to then maintain and cultivate the people because it’s part of the culture. Obviously, we have a very strong team hiring through all the process of the selection. But it is not only to hire the right people and to select the right people. We believe more in going with the people you hire and train them in the skills you need for your company.
Because you might find a good developer with strong skills in one technology, but you have to help him or her cultivate other skills. We have training programs of soft and hard skills to provide for all our employees. Members of the board are the same because we want to grow together.
For example, we now have a leader program. We have selected 30 young talents inside Hiberus, and we are training those talents to become the new leaders of the company. It is not only to find and to hire people from outside. It’s to cultivate and to train and to help all our talented people - because we have a lot of talent inside our company - and give them opportunities.
Carlos Founaud: Tell me about your customers. Are they longtime customers? Are those big customers who are used to working with big companies now working with Hiberus, which is a fast-growing, very personal company. How do you find your customers? How do you make them work with you for a long time?
Marcos Latorre: Well, this has also been something strange in our company because we are not a company with a big sales team. We never have been that kind of company from the beginning. The VCs and people that wanted to know more about Hiberus ask us about our structure, about our organization, and they are surprised about the few salespeople in our company. The majority of our clients came to us because they know that we work well because a manufacturer or another client told them about Hiberus and wanted to work with us.
Three or four years ago, we decided to focus on large enterprises. We decided to change a little bit our strategy in acquiring clients and be more proactive and less reactive because it was impossible to manage all the leads, all the opportunities that came to us. It’s incredible and crazy to say that, but it was overwhelming. It was impossible to manage all the opportunities and we decided to stop and put the focus on our large enterprise. As you said, Carlos, we are a company with zero rate of client losing. We want to maintain this aspect of our company that came from Iritec in 2003 that we are a client-service-oriented company. And we always put the client first. Well, employees and clients.
Carlos Founaud: What’s the secret to keep 100% of your customers?
Marcos Latorre: Well, 100% - maybe the SLA is 99.999, not always 100%. I remember once that we traveled with a client, and I told them that with Hiberus, you will have three things. One, good quality. Good quality is assured because we are very close to the manufacturer. We have all the qualification processes. We have the best talent, good quality.
The second one is we are trusted. We say A is A. We are this way. We are very simple and we are honest. And if we say that we can do it, we can do it. If we say it is not, it’s not. We are transparent. We are honest. And you can be sure that you have that in your partner, in your provider, and it is a good asset for you.
And the third one is, if there is a problem, we will be there. In IT projects, in services, in complicated projects, sometimes things go wrong and it’s complicated. But don’t worry; we will be there. We will help. We will put in all our effort. This solidarity is one of our big keys in our culture with our clients and inside the company. And I think with that, if you provide good service, if you are honest, and when there are problems, you are there hand by hand with your customer, it’s so difficult to lose a client.
Carlos Founaud: You say it right now, solidarity. That’s the special sauce. That’s a special sauce. I think. Tell me, if you had to choose one day between customer or employees, what would you choose?
Marcos Latorre: Well, we have had to do that. It always depends, but we are putting our employees over everything.
Carlos Founaud: Okay. I may ask you an embarrassing question now.
Marcos Latorre: No. It’s not embarrassing because the big asset in IT is the talent. And maybe you can lose a client, but you cannot lose your team. And it’s not only to lose one person or one team, the character and the values. If the team sees that you are putting the employees behind - no, it is more the message you are giving the rest of the team. But at the same time, I think that you can explain to the client and - in my case, it happens sometimes to me - I put the employees first. But explaining the client the situation, you can always manage.
Carlos Founaud: And what about if we are not talking about employees and customers but we talk about employees and a new very important investor?
Marcos Latorre: Well, in other companies, I don’t know. But in our company, we know that our core is talent. It’s our employees, it’s our team. When some investor comes to us, it is because they know that we have a team and they know that we manage our team very well and we are growing because of that. It’s impossible to put one thing facing the other because the investor came to us because of our team, our employee management. For us, it’s clear.
Carlos Founaud: Okay, now we are going into a different part of the interview. Tell me, you’re working from small cities in Spain, what do you want to do in the USA? How do you want to approach it? Are you a lonely fighter in Miami right now?
Marcos Latorre: I am based right now in Miami with a colleague - with Sandra - and we are focusing in the north but also in the south. We are here in Miami to coordinate the creation and growth of new Hiberus hubs in Latin America, in Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Argentina. And also to explore the US market, maybe hiring and creating teams in the US as well. But our strategy is more oriented to provide services from our hubs in Latin America and from Spain.
We are not starting from scratch, obviously, because we have the support of almost 3,000 people. And also we are supporting our global customers that have a presence in America with global services right now. We provide services in Spain to global customers that have international locations. And we are in that global customer strategy as well.
Carlos Founaud: Many of the companies we talk to are in a scale-up phase, and they rely very much on the founder. They’re very dependent on the founder. And sometimes they fail because they are so dependent on the founder. In your case, it will be very interesting to understand how Hiberus has relied on other people and scaled up - because Sergio cannot cope with the problems of 3,000 people. How has he managed - or how have you all managed - to keep the spirit but not to have the founder always involved everywhere?
Marcos Latorre: Well, it’s an interesting question. We have passed over that when we were 300, 500; we relied on one person and it was a problem. But then we realized that with the growth, things are going on without him. Of course, we have to create a good team on which the whole company is based. I think Hiberus has it. It always will be the service company and the culture and his new ideas and this acceleration that he improves. He puts on everything. It’s important, but nowadays Hiberus can go on without him in many projects and many different activities and initiatives.
This is the most important thing because if not, it is impossible to grow at the rhythm we are growing. For example, the internationalization process. He trusted our team and me. I think it’s another challenge we have passed, but it is still very, very important, his participation in the critical or the more strategic activities of the company. But not in everything, of course.
Roland Siebelink: Is that the advice you would give, Marcos, to powerful founders of these fast-growing companies to remain involved in the strategy projects but to remove themselves from the more technical things?
Marcos Latorre: Yes. It’s very important. We are a very operative company. We are partners for our partners, and we also have the support team of our main investors. It’s a great joint venture because they support us, but they let us decide and manage the operations. But yes, it’s so important that you create an operative team in which you trust in the day-by-day operations to put your vision and your effort on the strategy
Roland Siebelink: Very good. This has been a great interview. Thank you, Carlos, for preparing all these questions and for getting Marcos on board. Marcos, where can people find out more about Hiberus? What’s the website to go to and what should they download? And also, how can they help Hiberus if they’ve listened to this podcast? What are you looking for?
Marcos Latorre: Of course, they can take a look at our website hiberus.com. Here is our email to contact us. We are always searching for collaboration opportunities. We are always open to collaborate. We are a company, as I said, that is focused on quality, on specialization. In this specialization, we are always working with other companies with our philosophy to create products with big projects, with big clients. Obviously, any of the big companies or clients that want to contact Hiberus is welcome. We are always open to hiring people. If somebody thinks that this is a good company to work for, we are open to every kind of candidate.
Roland Siebelink: And that’s primarily in the Miami region at this point in time?
Marcos Latorre: Yeah. In the Miami region or in Latin America regions.
Roland Siebelink: Perfect. Okay.
Marcos Latorre: Obviously, now we have a need in the US. We have started this adventure in the US market this year. Every kind of help is welcome. This is a collaborative company that is always open to study new synergies and new opportunities.
Roland Siebelink: Excellent. Last question, Marcos. Five years from now, how big will Hiberus be in the Americas?
Marcos Latorre: Well, it is complicated because if you were asking me that question five years ago, I would never say that we will have almost 3,000 employees. Obviously, we want to be a global company, as I said. I use an example: I see Hiberus as Forest Gump in the running scene of the movie. This is one of my favorite films. And we set an objective, he starts running because he loves it. We started in technology because we love technology. We want to go to the corner running, and when we have reached the corner, we put another objective to cross the village. Another objective is to go to the ocean. When we reach the ocean, we want to cross the entire country. And now we are achieving those small objectives or not-so-small objectives. And when we reach one, when we achieve one, we stop and we say, “Well, not bad. I can continue running, so let’s go running.
Roland Siebelink: Love that analogy. I think we even got a great title for the podcast with that. That’s excellent. Thank you very much, Marcos Latorre, CEO International for Hiberus and Carlos Founaud, our coach for Midstage Institute in the Spanish market. Thank you for joining us today for this podcast. For the audience, thank you for listening and we’ll have a new episode next week.
Roland Siebelink talks all things tech startup and bring you interviews with tech cofounders across the world.