S8E14: Maintaining agility in a 6000-person business, with Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz (EVP, Amaris Consulting)

An episode of The Impact Multiplier CEO Podcast

S8E14: Maintaining agility in a 6000-person business, with Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz (EVP, Amaris Consulting)

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz (EVP, Amaris Consulting) speaks with Xquadrant's Founder Richard Medcalf. Cahê started as an Intern and now runs the entire 900+ person Asia region of this 6000-strong technical consulting business

We are continuing our season "The CEO Learning Curve". Interesting and inspiring CEOs reflect on what got them the top job, what they've learned over the first few quarters in the role, and what lies ahead.

In this conversation, you’ll discover:

  • The 4 elements of the "Smart Corporation Approach" that allowed Amaris to open 80 offices in 60 countries in just a few years.
  • Proof of why a single year's performance doesn't predict future potential
  • The structure that Cahê has built around him to avoid 'loneliness at the top' syndrome
  • How he juggles multiple time zones without burning out

"Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is a nightmare."

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Transcript

Richard Medcalf
Today I speak with Cahê, I'm not gonna say his name, because I know I'm gonna say it badly. He says it himself who is the Executive Vice President, basically the CEO of the whole Asia region of this very fast growing technology consulting, business, Amaris Consulting and we get into really interesting conversation as he explains the smart Corporation approach that allowed the company to open up 80 offices in 60 countries in just a few years. For consulting business, that's phenomenal and I've been in consulting, I've seen businesses very successfully open, just a handful of offices, they've been able to absolutely multiply and it's great to understand how they did that and he also talks about honestly about how his first year in the business he started as an intern, and his first job was not great, he failed pretty much in his own words and yet the business gave him a second chance and he went on to succeed extraordinarily. So enjoy this. Enjoy this conversation as we dive into the hypergrowth that Amaris Consulting has experienced.

Hi Cahê and welcome to the show. Hello,

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Thanks for having me.

Richard Medcalf
Hey and looking forward to talking to you today about you know, your recent experience. I know that you joined Amaris Consulting as an intern and now you're an Executive Vice President, you basically running the entire Asian business with almost 1000 employees. So but before we get into that, just kind of give us a quick soundbite about you know, your background and, and what is Amaris Consulting? What's, what's the context here?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Yes, sure. Well, let's say that basically that I'm a Brazilian who left my nest very early to see how was the world outside, I left my parent home when I was 14, then left my country when I was 17. I went to France to do my engineering degree and actually, since as far as I remember, I was passionate about business. My first big deal was exchanging my playstation one for a horse story. Never have had such a profitability since then. And then I ended up doing my engineering degree in France and well, my passion followed me. So it's not that I was completely an interested to go to my class, I did went, I did go to my class but I find a way to join an association which we call in France Junior Enterprise, which is basically a consulting firm composed by students and my goal was to develop business during this activity. So I met Olivier, the founder of Amaris back it was in 2009 and I tried to, I was trying to sell him some services from my junior enterprise and Olivier very quickly made me understand that he was not interested by buying anything. Still, he could be interested by working with me after I was graduated.

Richard Medcalf
Okay, so let's just take a pause there. So yeah, so just story so far, you grew up in Brazil, you move to France, you know, we talked a little bit about that before we started recording and I have that story, as well as a slightly accidental and surprising stories later, both of us ending up in France, but you ended up in France and then you encountered you know, the the founder of Amaris and before we go into that story, don't just tell us like what, what does Amaris do now? Like what's you know, just give us a bit of an idea about the structure.

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Sure. Sure.

Richard Medcalf
And what you're currently doing, and then we'll go back into time and we'll finish off that story.

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Okay. Well, Amaris Consulting is an independent technological consulting. We provide guidance in services for more than 1000 clients in 60 countries, we have today, more than 6000 talents working with us and we basically have activities in for business line, which is, is in digital engineering, telecommunication and life sciences. Basically, this is the activity of the company. Got it?

Richard Medcalf
Okay, so you got Yes, 6000 people, these four main technical areas. Yeah and it sounds like it's a really global business, right? You've got, I guess, in multiple geographies?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Yes. This is actually part of our strategy since the first days of the company, we were created to go global and we have what we call internally, a smart corporation approach. We try to align, let's say, the best world of startups and corporations. So with all the agility when we are creating new offices, going to new countries, the mindset, the quick decision process, and then align it with the capacity of a corporation that is based in indeed 60 countries around the world. So...

Richard Medcalf
How do you do that? Let me interrupt I'm fascinated, right. Smart corporation. So it sounds great but how do you do that with 6000 people in 60 countries? I mean, yeah, what? How would you maintain that agility?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Yeah, trust. I think this is the key word here. First of all, we trust our people and this is what actually allowed us to create in this space, because I didn't explain it exactly but we went from three to 6000 people in this 15 years within organic growth. So it's not related to external growth. The people that are working with us today was recruited in amorous and so it was an organic growth. We started our operations in 2007 and we in Switzerland, and we went very quickly to France, Spain, and England and with our approach of having young talents, giving a lot of responsibilities and trust, to those who showed a lot of potential, we were able to create around 80 offices around the world. So I can give you the example of Brazil because it's an office that I was in charge since the beginning, which was kind of a dream for me to work back with Brazilians. I haven't ever worked with Brazilian actually, when I left Brazilian seven was 17 years old, then my first experience was in 2017, when we sent one of our talents to create the office in Brazil. So we hired this guy, Joffrey, Adele. And he was traded during three months in our office in Madrid, on how to do business, the culture of the company, different process and so and when we thought he was ready, we sent him to San Paulo, Brazil, he arrived there and then he started, what we have explained it to him is like, getting in touch with clients, potential clients, getting touch with candidates, understanding the market, and then at some point, starting first project, then a second, a third and so and so, today, it's around 100 People working between San Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, really Chiba my hometown, and also Belo Horizonte. So it's a nice success story that actually we made in 60 different countries. I could tell the same story in China, in Singapore, in Vietnam, in Canada, each time we have sent someone with our future with our trust, and we empower this person to take the charge development of the company. How was it possible with that young talents is that they are supported by what we call our hubs in be a structural organization of the company. For example, in Brazil, we don't have a local HR, we don't have a local financial financial team, right, this team they're based in Korea. Gambia where we have people, for business partners, so finance, HR recruitment, marketing it that provides services to other countries in the region, right?

Richard Medcalf
Oh, yeah, I was getting I was interested about this, because I was thinking, you know, there's extreme level, if you just send somebody out to a new place and say, build a business, right, I was wondering, Well, why would they, you know, stay part of Mrs. At that point, if they're just going out there and building their own business? Right. So I think it's fine to answer that. But there is, they've actually got really good at building a structure that allows this multiplication, right? I mean, what we're talking about here is multiplication, right? The calf is about multiplying impact. And I think it sounds like you've built some good structures to allow this application to happen, right? That it's not that once you've got your central regional hubs, for example, then support multiple entrepreneurs building.

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
And we have several, we had one here in Vietnam, we have one Colombia, we have one in Spain, in Tunisia, Mauritius, India, and others. And those hubs of activities, they provide services to the business. So we can focus, when we are opening a new office in a new country, we are focused on understanding market and developing business.

Richard Medcalf
So it's interesting, a lot of people would say, you know, we trust our employees, or, you know, we trust our key leaders, or whatever they would say. But not every company manages to open up 80 offices in, you know, 60, I think 80 offices, he said, right, in 60 countries, in a relatively small number of years. So what do you have to believe as a company to make that shift?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
It's not just because we show our values that we live with them but value should not be just a marketing tool. When we say that we our values are performance, independence, trust, boldness, commitment. It's really what we live for and I think that the leadership of the company has a very important role to play, I used to tell my teams that accompany with a vision, but no actions, leaving the dream when a company that has a lot of actions, but has no vision leaves in a nightmare. So the whole thing here is being sure that the vision of the company is there, and are embedded in body by by the leaders and then we aligned the whole strategy and action plans of the company with dashes and then the actions of our team will nourish the vision of the company and then you enter in a positive cycle in which you have vision, action, vision, vision, action, and so things work together but it's very difficult because it's a matter of future, and we need it.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, I mean, this was talking about about beliefs, perhaps I didn't phrase the question really well, but it's like, you have to believe some things about people and about business to go, we're going to send you know, we're going to open up all these offices, we're going to send just somebody there and kind of let them get on with it by the sound of it right without overly constraining them, or, on the other hand, providing them with support. Right. So that is definitely a mindset thing there, which, as a business you had to have, right, because many consulting businesses, I wasn't a consulting business, you know, they they grew and they're different business. Right. But, you know, perhaps they opened something right and it's time you've opened 60s. So...

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Yeah, there is something very important terms. There is a control somewhere for sure, we know where we are going. We know our our financials, we know the cash we have. But at some point, there is a kind of let it go approach that is important. I mean, you cannot control everything and you need to trust people because you have a choice. Either you trust people and you grow, or you don't trust, and in you stay where you are and for some, I think this is maybe not a bad thing.

Richard Medcalf
So I think the point I was trying to make here, Cahê, was that in the space of what some consulting companies, you know, you might open up six or eight offices, you opened up 60 or 80 offices and I think it's really about something that you have to believe as a business. That's different, right? Because you have to believe that if you empower people, when you give them some support, and you build a structure to support them, then they're going to build something it's going to work. It's not going to be chaotic. You're not going to create brand damage. You're not going to have too many different parts doing different things that people are going to ask trustworthy, there's all these things that you have to believe, or so I was wondering what specifically do you think, was that mindset that allowed you to or even some of the controls that you put into place to allow the business to feel confident to grow at such a speed?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Yes. I think that there is simple in some point, you need to let it go. That doesn't mean that we don't control that we don't master our process that we don't know what we are doing. We know that we have, let's say, a very good recipe that we know if it's applied, it will work. So we trust, our coaching approach, we trust our training sessions as well and then we trust our people for sure but it's not just like, I hire someone, and I sent to the other to Thailand, in I expect that he or she will be able to build a business. First, I needed to give the example and to explain how to do. So I think first, if you want to really trust people, you need also to coach them to be sure that they will do a good job. But at some point, you cannot control everything and you need to let it go because if you don't let it go in, you want to control everything. Well, you, you want growth, if you want to grow, you need to let people do this growth as well. It's not a, let's say a one man company. If you want to scale and go to 1000s of people, at some point, you need to trust the job that they will do.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, absolutely. See the previous season of the podcast secrets of scaling, I interviewed some of the fastest growing CEOs in Europe in the US and that point about decentralization and letting go is really key and I see that's a principle that's here as well. I mean, I what I heard from you was there was training and mentoring the know of this kind of providing people with resources, your finance, your HR, these kinds of things and then there's that process of just letting go and letting people then work within that.

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
It's framework is there and then when people know the rules will let them play?

Richard Medcalf
Correct.

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Basically, this is the way it works.

Richard Medcalf
And so let's just jump back into your own story. Right? So because I know that you know, you would when we first started the story, you just been kind of in contact with this with the founder. He wasn't interested in buying the university consulting services, but he was interested in you and I know that you then joined as an intern and so just very quickly, perhaps just kind of tell us what happened, what the story was between joining is an intern and becoming the head of the whole of the Asian region in the business.

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Well, it didn't start with success story. This is important to say here, my first year doing my internship and my permanent contract first year was far from a success story and we were speaking about trust the company trust my potential, even though I was not a success, and that was the first point that is important. So after one year in Paris, not have done much results. I had the opportunity to start over again from Strasbourg and then went to Strasbourg and in two years I created a business unit from scratch in from let's say myself to 50 People working and generating a 5 million euros revenue, yearly revenue. This good results allowed me to have another responsibility, which was taking in charge the office of Leon at that time, it was 2016. We had 80 People working long, three years after, we were around 300 People working in the office and generating more than 20 million yearly turnover and between 2016 2019, I had different opportunities in terms of taking the responsibility over Switzerland, south of France, as I told you, I created the Office in Brazil and finally, I started working with Southeast Asia in 2019. It was not very optimized from a timezone point of view, because I used to have activities in Brazil, France, Switzerland, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia around the world. Yeah. And at some point, we decided that the best option was to move to Asia and be focused only on the Asia scope and then I started working with China and Japan as well. So since right, one year now, I'm the Executive Vice President for Asia.

Richard Medcalf
Great. So what this season is called a CEO learning curve, right. So I know you've kind of moved from this operations role, previously in a business to this overall business responsibility for Asia and so I guess my question is, you knew the company very well, you've obviously been in it for for many years. You've seen it for many angles but were there any surprises that you discovered? As you made that leap into the running the whole business in Asia? What were some of the learning points from that last year?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Yes. Just surprise, is a first, I would say, the loneliness of the leader. I don't know if you've ever heard about this, but probably other podcasts. I was warned about this. But when you really experienced that, there is this kind of feeling that okay, I'm now leaving the loneliness of the leader, which is can be surprising, because in our role, we are never. Now I can say physically or virtually alone. We are every time speaking with someone, candidates, people, your teams, your clients, partners, you're never alone. Still, when there is this moment in which you're taking the decision? Well, you were alone, and then there is this loneliness. You're not, you're part of the team, but you don't feel like being the teammate. Yeah. I don't know if I can put this in the right words but is this feeling about loneliness? In a role that is surrounded by hundreds of people?

Richard Medcalf
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. Because everybody's got a place in the system, right? They're all relying on you for something or counting on you for something. And so, exactly, there's never neutral, right? Yes. Even if they you know, you're your boss, your colleagues, your you know, your reports, your customers, there's always something yeah, there's always a part of the part of the system. And so how have you? How have you dealt with that? You know, have you kind of come up with any ways to kind of get through that when you're making decisions? For example?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Yes. More than just making decisions is also when you need to share, I think this is very important. Solution for me was to find, like my buddies in the company, I would say you need at least one, two, not more than three but people that you really can count on and share. Your difficulties don't need to be ashamed. We all went through difficulties and in this, well, it's not very easy. So you need to share with people because the problem is that when you're in a leader role, if you think that you need no one else that you can always handle it alone. Well, this is very tough and very heavy. So I would say no need to be pittore someone in your team, but someone in company that can be your buddy in a way.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, that's it's a great, it's a great advice, finding somebody that you can do that. It's interesting. I've seen it from various angles. Often when I'm working with leaders, they, you know, they said that it's like, well, at least Richard, you somebody, he's a fresh pair of eyes on this and then also one thing I've done on in my business, which is you know, have a community of CEOs in different, but related sectors, who can go again have that same forum with each other? Right? Who's where they can kind of open up and share challenges and opportunities and get different perspectives from somebody who's not close to the situation and I think exactly, all these different strategies that are great ones, right for kind of trying to surround yourself with different people have different discussions and feel open to share. So yeah, appreciate you saying that it is a key one. Any other surprises or challenges that you found in this first year?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
First was the distance with my teams? Not just because of the COVID situation, for sure. But also because when I started this role, last year, I was based in Brazil, and I was working with Asia. So it was for Vietnam, 10 hours of difference in timezone and China and Singapore 11 hours. So it was a very important challenge. Well, I was waking up very early in the morning. But still, I need to push as hard as I could be concept of working remotely. Right? Not just because of the distance itself, because we actually were was, we're always used to work remotely. I told you since 2007, we are opening a lot of countries at the same time. So we were like actually, actually native Digital's since the beginning. So it was normal for us but when I was in Brazil, working with my teams in Asia, there is it was not just the distance, it was the time zone as well and then how from a personal point of view, how to enjoy it, how to keep your life? Not, you know, working from 2am, on to well, so...

Richard Medcalf
How do you do that? How do you maintain balance? When you've got so many timezones?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Yeah, imposing limits to myself and to my co co workers and I used to wake up very early, which was around 4am but even though I was starting working around half past four or 5am, around 2pm 3pm, I will say, Okay, enough, enough is enough and then actually, it was a nice period for me because I had my afternoons to enjoy my family that I was not in touch since years since I was living in France and so it was kind of Catamounts very interesting from even a personal point of view but a real challenge to, okay, how to create links and bounds between you and your teams working remotely but in a extreme way, let's say. So now that I'm here in in Vietnam, I still working remotely with people in other countries, because I cannot go to China, for example, borders are still closed. Still, we are promoting more and more, what we call the smart working approach in which we, we don't want just to oblige people to go back to the offices, you know, the COVID showed us what was possible to do now it is up to us to decide what we want to do with hybrid work, remote work, presence work and I think this, this period in Brazil helped me think a lot about this and I'm deploying a lot of projects today that help people stay committed, and having a sense of belonging with the company, even when they are working remotely.

Richard Medcalf
Perfect. Let's change gears, just for the sake of time here. I'm going to ask you a few of our favorite quick fire questions. They're just you know, quick off the top again. Comments. Here was interesting. First of what's your favorite quote, or motto that inspires you?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Do you know this one? Every adversity carries the potential of a benefit.

Richard Medcalf
Okay, yeah.

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
This is like.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, nice one. Okay. Next one is what's your favorite app or something? You'll find something that's a bit. Yeah.

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
I'm using a lot of Duolingo. I need to learn how to speak Chinese and it's amazing the way they do it.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, that's Yeah, great. Cool, especially in your situation. What about a book that's really influenced you as a leader?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
The first I have read, I read Lord of the Rings.

Richard Medcalf
Okay.

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
It wasn't my very first one and I started doing getting better grades after I did this one.

Richard Medcalf
Okay, just got you into reading or whatever? Yeah,

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Yes.

Richard Medcalf
Fantastic. What advice would you give your 20 year old self

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
I am very grateful about every mistake that I have done. Every four days, I have made a good and bad situation, because all of this makes who I am today. So I would just say, keep going. Things won't be easy, but life worth, believe it. So keep going.

Richard Medcalf
Okay. That was a good one. What about last week, It's just, It's always interesting for me to ask, I guess, you know, who's somebody that you know, who's an inspiring CEO who's really influenced you or inspires you? I asked it because, you know, many of our best guests on the show come from referrals, right. So I always love to know who inspires CEOs?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
I won't answer exactly what you just asked but there is someone that I think you could have a great time speaking with, which is Kevin Murcko. I don't personally know him but why I'm speaking about him because he's amongst these people that are making what financial will be tomorrow. So he's the CEO of CoinMetro, which is an exchange of cryptocurrency and I think one of them, let's say, most serious one. So I will keep an eye on him because he will probably have important impact in our society.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Nice. Well, thank you for the recommendation. Okay, before we close, I always love to think about the future and take us into the future. So no matter how much we've achieved, there's always a next level to get to, and there's always a stretch, right? So the first question is, where do you go from here as a business, right? What would you love to accomplish in the Asian business over the next couple of years?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
We have a very precise plan for the next three years to reach that one more than more than 1000 constants working here in different countries and we aim to be the local champions in every country in which in which we are. So I can give you two examples of excellence in offers that we are developing right now and you probably hear about this in the next future. First, is our excellence center in automotive sector in China. There's something very interesting happening there. China used to be the factory of the world and now they are also the r&d of the world. So when it comes to electric vehicle, they are years ahead and there is a lot of things and we are known as an important player in automotive sector in China with offers like infotainment, you know, your mobile phone today is not just a phone, it's a platform. Well, your car tomorrow will also be a platform and not just a car anymore, it's already happening. So this champion, local champion in automotive sector, in China mainland, and for South Asia, Southeast Asia, we have a digital factory, main in financial insurance sector, and will be 100. Developers in between next years developing digital tools for financial sector here in Southeast Asia. So basically, this is the goals and we have this roadmap into 2025.

Richard Medcalf
But I think that's a really great project that you know, more than more than individual consulting assignments, there's some real infrastructure that you're building there in the region. Okay, what are you going to need to do differently yourself to Victor hit your next level, as you do all this, right, there's a lot of change and we it's easy to be in a comfort zone when we're doing well, obviously doing very well but what's your stretch gonna be?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
After these last two years, working remotely been very focused on the performance of my teams. Now that I'm finally here in nature, it's time to go to see the external world, much more than what I have been doing since now. We were speaking about the loneliness of the CEO. Well, getting in touch with leaders of other companies is something very important and so far, I didn't do it that much. So I need to change that for next years to go to the next level for sure.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, perfect. So okay, last question is how if people want to find out about you or about Amaris? How do they do that?

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
You can try to join me in LinkedIn, very easy Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz or even easier, going to amaris.com or our LinkedIn account? And we'll be more than glad to answer.

Richard Medcalf
Perfect. Hey, Cahê, it's been a great, great discussion with you. Thank you for sharing. It's really interesting how you know, the company has scaled, you know how it's created this approach that allowed it to replicate itself in different parts of the business nd it's been fantastic to hear how you managed to exchange your PlayStation four horse as well. So do appreciate the fascinating chat and stay in touch, many thanks.

Cahê Kuczera Toporowicz
Thank you very much.

Richard Medcalf
Bye bye.

**Note: This transcript is automatically generated.
Please excuse any errors.

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