PWI about Berkeley International Belgium: the serendipity of transferable skills
The serendipity of transferable skills Interview by Alessandra Zocca Annemieke Geneviève Dubois Heintz Owner and Owner and Managing Managing Director at Director at Berkeley Berkeley International International Belgium BelgiumI was reading on the web one of those articles, very popular nowadays, about work-life balance and I wasremarking how much emphasis is given to the conflict between career and family compared to theconflict between career and having no time for a private life, when I bumped into an article advertisingBerkeley International opening in Belgium. What a coincidence, I said to myself, let me explore it!Annemieke and Geneviève, how important is - in your opinion - a happy and serene private life tosupporting a very demanding career?It is absolutely true that companies very often put the emphasis on supporting the balance between careers andfamilies, more than on single employees’ work-life balance.Having said this, it’s clear that people don’t need to have a family first before starting to think about havinga right work-life balance. Having time to relax, to get in contact with like-minded people and to take care of bodyand mind (culturally and physically) is of utmost importance. Being happy enhances creativity, enhancesperformance and stimulates a positive mindset. Having a busy life, without taking the time to think over how to getit balanced – brings an unbalance at some point in time – implying a not 100% satisfied life.As we are talking about this subject, let us make a couple of points about the status of life-family balance: societyis becoming more aware of the importance of a work-life balance, for instance, parental leave or temporary careerinterruptions, which are even promoted on the radio nowadays. These are initiatives coming from governmentalorganisations.Companies are trying to adapt to these needs, there are cases of child care organised and provided by thecompany, flexible working hours, work at home policies; However they don’t always like to include the flexibleworking hours and work at home policies – since they still like to keep control and believe that a manager needsto be close to their team and vice-versa. The fear still exists at employee level, that career opportunities might belimited in case they make use of the possibilities above. Nevertheless improvement is ongoing.Considering that working people have limited time for their private life, based on your knowledge does ittake a considerable amount of time nowadays to find a life partner, to create a couple/ family?It doesn’t take a considerable amount of time; it does however require a considerable amount ofopportunities.Everything depends on the age, the past experiences, the time you have for spending in “personal interactions”.It’s clear that for a student it’s much easier to find a partner, since they have the time to have a wide circle offriends and acquaintances. Once you are working and professionally busy, time is often the limiting factor inaddition to expectations that might increase because of unsatisfactory past experiences.You also have to consider that even if you meet a lot of people, this is not a guarantee of “chemistry”: the conceptis that it is more probable that you find the chemistry factor in people with whom you share common interests,values and life styles.
Although surrounded by social media and various meeting opportunities, although free from old culturalbarriers, why do people struggle to find the right partner in their private life? What is different from thepast??Society became over time more and more demanding. It goes quickly, emails are often handled the same dayand answers are expected the same day. Yes, society is demanding: there is a kind of natural pressure to bepresent on all types of social media: LinkedIn / Facebook / Twitter/... all this requires a tremendous amount oftime and effort… time you could otherwise spend in having a drink with your friends and having “real contacts,meaning face-to-face contacts”.Alessandra, chemistry can only be felt in a face-to-face contact, which includes “what" you say (content),“how” you say it and your “body language”; and specifically: The “content” counts for 7% The “way you say things” for the 38% The body language for the 55%The virtual contact allows you to get in touch with a lot of people, true, but it becomes extremely complicated toknow who the “like-minded” people” are, because virtual interactions are about “what you say” only: this meansvirtual contacts represent only 7% of the full message. There is a huge difference between virtual and face-to-facecontacts, don’t you think?Additionally having too many superficial or virtual contacts means that you know very many people but not verywell. Then you wake up one day and realise that despite knowing a lot of people, having a very broad and largenetwork, you have still never found your unique “soul mate”.”Like-minded people”? It reminds me the Goethe’s novel “Elective Affinities” … Why in such an “open”society is it so difficult to get in contact with “like-minded” people?Like-minded people are the ones that welcome the same way of viewing things: they share the same basics, thesame vision of life and the future and they have “enough” to share, they subscribe to the same educationorientation in case of children. These factors are fundamental for a couple relationship, the two individuals need tobe on the same level, on the same page.One major barrier to finding like-minded people, is that often people think they know themselves well and theythink they know what they like, which is not always the case …Our customers have at least one year of timeto question themselves and to ensure they realise what they really appreciate and long for.Isn’t belonging to the same social level a positive factor for a good match?It’s easier. Is it the only way possible? No, absolutely not, excellent relationships can exist between differentsocial levels, but the probability is higher if people have a comparable life style. Belonging to different social levelsrequires partners to have an open mind and to feel complementary.Is the professional network not good for potential private encounters?It is very difficult and risky to mix both the private and the professional spheres, but it happens. Professionallywise people don’t want to risk being vulnerable – opening your heart can make you vulnerable –. Above all if youare professionally successful and something goes wrong in your personal relationship with somebody in yourprofessional circle, this could harm you.Going back to social media: some people have long correspondences before meeting; don’t you thinkthat writing/chatting is a good way to know each other?For sure, it’s a nice way to “break the ice”… this is often why and how dating sites are perceived: very easy andaccessible to all. However, long correspondences can create huge expectations and disappointment once theymeet. So a good start, but as stated the face to face contact is key.What are the main factors that encourage people to use (or discourage them from using) introductionservices nowadays? Discouraging factors: why are some people skeptical or ashamed about introduction
services?Some people get encouraged by the fact that introduction services help find the like-minded people and enlargeyour horizons in a natural way. Instead of turning around in your own world of contacts, you will be introduced tointeresting people, sharing the same values, background and life vision, but from new geographical or socialplaces, for example a lawyer can be introduced to an artist; a Belgian to a French person …On the other side, a discouraging factor is that some people still believe that encountering a partner has to comenaturally, by chance. Another discouraging factor is that asking for professional support might be perceived or feltby some individuals as being “imperfect”, not social enough, not having an optimal social life. Should companiesfeel imperfect because they take advantage of head hunting and consulting services?Have you envisaged differences in their background and in their approach to introduction servicesbetween the ladies and gentlemen who are your customers?No, not significant differences in their background. Ladies and gentlemen all come to see us with very similarstories: they worked too hard, invested a lot of time in building a career and their professional network, oftenforgetting their private life… and realizing that suddenly they would like to have a family and a soul mate theycould spend their life with. Some other customers – who have been married and for one or another reason arenow get separated - suddenly realize that their social network reduced drastically over time … leaving them prettylonely.On the contrary we noticed a difference between ladies and gentlemen in the decision making process toresort to introduction services: ladies tend to have previously discussed or shared this idea with their friends,while gentlemen keep this intention to themselves.There is, instead, a significant cultural difference in approaching introduction services amongst geographicalareas, for example in the USA people consider an introduction service agency as simply as a personal trainer or apersonal buyer, not like here in Europe, but the mentality is changing.Based on your experience and expertise which characteristics do professional/ business ladies look forin a potential life partner? And men, what do they look for?Ladies look for a “sparring partner” and a “soul mate”, someone intellectually challenging they can discusswith, they can share their point of view with without requesting they agree. The sparring partner represents theintellectual side; the soul mate personifies the heart component.They want to share their happy moments: travelling, enjoying an evening at the restaurant, relaxing with a goodglass of wine. What they are looking for is a man that has some interest in what they do, with whom they cancommunicate about different topics, with whom they can share their wealth… it’s no fun to have means when youcan’t share.Men and women have very similar demands: what are they looking for in a partner? Friendship, humour,communication, passion, sexual intimacy, affection, loyalty and respect, someone who supports them and isopen-minded, and – last but not least - building a future together with plans/projects.In Berkeley International experience are the majority of your customers male or female? What are thetarget profiles of your customers?At the moment we have quite equal numbers of male and female applicants, but women often decide to applyearlier. We constantly monitor the balance of applicants to ensure a good mix.Target profiles are broad: going from entrepreneurs, to lawyers and doctors, politicians, successful professionals.What they have in common is that they are financially independent, and leading a satisfactory life… just missingthis one piece of their puzzle that could make their fulfillment complete.What is your company mission? Which are the values or other factors that make your services differentfrom those of your competitors? How do you ensure that your company retains its impeccablereputation?Berkeley International stands for respect, discretion and openness. In our business we strive for high ethicalvalues, with a professional empathic attitude.Our mission is helping people to accomplish their highest level of happiness, supporting them in theirsearch for a soul mate and life-long partner. This is what we aim for every day, we do this through our honest wayof working: during the intake we investigate and don’t accept customers who are not in line with our values, we
professionally follow-up, we reply quickly, we are there when our customers need us and we proactively manageeach case individually, we make sure that each client feels at ease at all times.We tell the potential customer whether we can help them or not, we do not sell illusions, we do not engage inunreasonable requests and we do not accept customers in troubled situations: reputation is all in our businesssector.How do you ensure you accept as customers only people meeting your target profile characteristics? Iguess this is a fundamental pillar for the prestige of your company.We initially run a 2 hour interview, not an informal chat, really diving in deep in a predefined format. Then we havefollow-up interviews and coaching sessions during the whole process.We seriously dig into a person’s motivation, background, passions and values… if we feel that their values are notin line with ours or that their motivation is looking for a wealthy man/woman to simplify their life or they areseeking only a short-term relationships… then we will not offer our services.I am intrigued, why did you choose to open an office in Brussels? How many people are working in theBrussels office?Are you planning offices in all the European capitals?The opening of the Belgian office is a natural consequence of the fact that we have here a number of Europeaninstitutions and corporations with people from different foreign countries (i.e. the European Parliament, theEuropean Commission, NATO, lobby groups, multinational head-quarters etc.).Previously the requests for introduction services from the customers in Belgium were forwarded to the BerkeleyInternational office in London, but due to the increased demand we opened up the Brussels office, where we canalso manage the customer expectation of a close presence by our staff, both morally and physically. Currently we- Annemieke & Geneviève - plus one admin support are working in the Brussels office.The Belgian Office covers also the Netherlands and Luxemburg. Offices already exist in London (HQ), Monaco,Nice, Manchester, NY and Melbourne. The office in Paris opened one month ago. A new office will soon open inItaly (Milano) and further European cities are currently under consideration.It is hard to believe, Alessandra, but apparently the economic crisis has increased the demand for match-makingservices: people feel more fragile in this insecure environment and they perceive more deeply the importance offeelings and love, and not only money.You both have a HR background, which skills and techniques could you transfer from recruitinginterviews to introduction services interviews?Actually, we think that selecting and coaching people for a life-time partnership is a natural extension of theactivity of recruiting and coaching employees in a company. In the company the task is to find the right matchbetween employer and employee for working together, in this case the effort is to find a match for living together.Many of the HR and head hunting skills are applicable to the introduction services sector. For exampleinterviewing skills are critical to be sure that you can get to the heart of the matter… and to get a goodunderstanding of the person sitting in front of you. This means starting with a motivational interview, capturing thereal motivation of the customer, listening and watching the person provides so much valuable information. Also apsychology background, emotional intelligence, passion and matching skills are important to do this profession.Coaching skills are critical as well: supporting a person if she/he falls in love with a man/woman, but not vice-versa, demands a lot of empathy, listening and ability to encourage in order to help the person overcome theirdisappointment and try again.On the other hand this work requires us to also be detached and not get emotionally involved in our cases, thisguarantees we are objective and not conditioned in any step we take.I imagine you have received a lot of training in how to approach the business of introduction services.Which are the necessary prerequisites, skills and qualities to do your job? I guess your network plays animportant role …For this job you need business skills: understanding how business works, marketing & sales and finance. Beingalso entrepreneurs it requires an additional skill set: just to make it happen, passion and drive, willingness tobecome the best and search for excellence. And of course the HR skills: interviewing, writing profiles andcoaching. Next to that some practical skills are required such as handling CRM systems, tracking reports andcomplete administration activities.
Having an extended and high profile network is a key prerequisite, like in Head Hunting, of utmostimportance… something that needs to be taken care of, a precious resource.What gave you the idea to start this business? Did you know each other before?We have known each other for approximately 10 years; we met for the first time in a client-provider situation:Geneviève as the client and Annemieke as the provider. We both moved afterwards to international careers andlater, when we both returned to the Belgian market, we met again as colleagues in the headhunters business.We read an article about BerkleyInternational in “Sabato” the week-endmagazine of the Belgian newspaperDe Tijd/ L’Echo, where we learnedthat there was an increasing demandfor an introduction service introductionby customers in Belgium to theBerkeley office in London (HQ).We envisaged the businessopportunity of launching ourselves inthis similar business, counting on ourtransferrable skills. We knew that weshare the same values, such asrespect, honesty and openness andwe both have the willingness to dosomething “good” for others.Helping people to find a job or help them to find a soul mate is extremely similar to each other!Head hunting is about matching people and organizations, people and their teams;, people and their boss bytaking into account their skills and values. While now the matching is about individuals taking into account theirbackground/values and life vision. Pretty close to each other. Short Biographies Annemieke Dubois Worked for 15 years in Executive Search for especially Pharma, Medical Devices and Biotech companies. Main responsibilities were Business Unit Head – People Management - Human Resources on a national and international level. 2012: Launch Berkeley International Belgium with Genevieve Married, 1 child (5 years old) Geneviève Heintz Obtained a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences (University of Ghent, a MBA (University of Antwerp + HEC Montréal) and a Master in HR (Vlerick Leuven/Ghent Management school) Worked for 15 years in a pharmaceutical company as Business Unit Head – People Management – Change Management and HR Management; and as freelancer in executive search and coaching. 2012: Launch Berkeley International Belgium with Annemieke Married, 2 children (14 & 12 years old) Contact Details Annemieke Dubois Geneviève Heintz Owner and Managing Director at Berkeley Owner and Managing Director at Berkeley International Belgium International Belgium