Josef got his start with another large Maltese recruitment agency in 1998 and rapidly worked his way up the ladder until he was ready to go it alone. His fledgling recruitment firm grew quickly, taking on four new team members by the end of its launch year and redefining the rules in Malta’s recruitment sector.
Josef explains that in 2007, “we were the only recruitment agency that actually focused solely on recruitment; back then clients thought we would not survive.” Konnekt also implemented some unorthodox rules: “do not headhunt, do not sell and focus on the client even if we lose money.”
Josef adds, “we also decided to invest heavily in technology, which we now sell to clients, and we rely on a strong dose of statistical rigour. This has worked well, since Konnekt has always been profitable.”
Konnekt’s ongoing success has been largely due to Josef’s unique approach towards people. “My job is to make sure decisions are made wisely. I see my role as an advisor to the different team members.” Konnekt also has a ‘zero entitlement’ policy. “Everyone is free to act in the way they think best, irrelevant of their pay grade. No one has an office, a reserved parking space or any other special entitlement – and that includes myself.”
The company’s systems are built towards team collaboration. Josef explains, “we share everything, from unabridged accounts to individual performance. Every team member can ask whatever questions he or she wants. No subject is taboo. Transparency promotes accountability across the organisation.”
Life at Konnekt can be pretty peculiar for newcomers. “We have a culture of polite but very, very raw feedback.” Josef believes that this helps people assimilate quickly and grow faster within their roles. “We also give people the confidence to ask for help; we construe the action as courage not weakness,” he says.
Working collaboratively means that the Konnekt team is totally focused on finding the perfect fit for job seekers and businesses, changing the lives of their many clients for the better. “Our single purpose is to serve our clients, and we are only judged on what we deliver,” Josef says. “Our work has a disproportionate impact on people’s lives. We meet around 4,500 people a year and give them advice or help them find employment that could potentially make all the difference to them. We take our role extremely seriously.”
“Time is the only scarce resource any person has,” says Josef. “Working hard and working smart are the keys to success. If you’re running in the wrong direction, it doesn’t matter how fast you’re going. I’m a detail-oriented person and this helps in the ‘working smart’ aspect. The devil is in the detail. There are significant opportunities in harnessing what the others overlook.” He adds, “that said – I hate protocol and I am all for change and challenging the status quo. I believe these are critical for success. If you do not change, someone else will force that change on you.”
Josef is very positive and feels that Konnekt will continue to grow in proportion to the organisation’s ability to attract top talent, innovate, be real and change. “We are in growth mode and focused on both expanding the business and innovating. Our strategy is to continue investing in complementary, as well as competing, businesses. That encourages us to up our game even as we benefit from the success of those new ventures.”
Investing in technology is also paramount, according to Josef. “Cutting-edge tech has always been key to our growth; it is a radical enabler. We are lucky to have the right technology partner and coupled with our expertise, we have managed to drive significant gains in both efficiency and effectiveness.”
Josef’s forward planning also takes into consideration how to prepare possible successors to take on leadership positions at Konnekt, including his own role as CEO. “The future of the company lies in the quality of its leadership and the ability of that leadership to inspire every individual within the firm, as well as our clients and suppliers. Nurturing people who are better than myself is critical and my single most important project,” he says.
Nevertheless, Josef has no intention of stepping away from work any time soon. “I have so many ideas, and there are not enough hours in the day to implement them. I inherently love work – I dream work – so I have no plans to retire.”
MaltaChamber.org.mt is proud to be serialising MaltaCEOs 2019, a high-profile publication consisting of 50 in-depth interviews with leading CEOs in Malta. Celebrating the most influential business minds in the country, two different interviews will be featured on this business news portal week by week. MaltaCEOs was created by Content House Group in collaboration with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry.