MANDRAKE continues to expand

It was not coincidence that Mandrake opted for Venatus Conseil. “Venatus specializes mainly in the financial sector, including banks, insurance companies, trusts and pension funds, which are all fields in which Mandrake was under-represented,” says Normand Lebeau, director of Mandrake Groupe Conseil, the firm’s Montreal subsidiary.

Comparing the respective client lists, Lebeau noted that there was very little overlap, with barely 4% of clients in common. The acquisition of Venatus was therefore a wise choice for increasing market share. According to Lebeau, “The fact that there was complementarity played a big role in our decision. We didn’t want to buy a company that does exactly the same thing we do, otherwise there would have been a duplication of services.”

Normand LebeauWhile this purchase allows Mandrake to extend its net, Venatus clients also stand to gain. “Although the firm offered primarily financial executive search services, we are really multispecialists. Our new clients will now have access to this expertise.” In addition to recruiting, Mandrake helps companies with employee reassignments, and offers services such as coaching, evaluation, training and organizational development.

The other factor that tipped the scale was Venatus Conseil’s name. The firm founded by Nathalie Francisci in 1997 has carved out a solid reputation for itself. In addition to its prominent place in the business and employment media, Venatus is well respected in the recruiting field. For example, over the years Venatus built up a candidate bank of over 25,000 names.

For Normand Lebeau, it was essential for the two corporate cultures to be similar, because the two firms will be together under one roof in the heart of downtown come January 2009. “Our similar cultures pretty well guarantee success. Price is not the only thing that matters in an acquisition—you first of all need to see how the two cultures can work together. For us and Venatus alike, serving our clients well is important, but people first need to feel fulfilled. We don’t want our employees to finish the year dragging themselves to work—we want a culture where people feel good about being here.”

In 2009, Venatus will be completely folded into Mandrake Groupe Conseil, which is a completely different strategy than in 2007, when Claude Vézina et associés became Vézina Lebeau. “Vézina Lebeau groups together our services for very senior executives earning above $250,000. It’s become a brand for this type of position. Mandrake, like Venatus, handles mainly intermediate-level roles, i.e. between $100,000 and $250,000.”

A long-term acquisition strategy

Above all, Mandrake wants to position itself as a leading player on the Montreal recruiting and human resources chessboard. “The ultimate purpose of this acquisition is to accomplish a fairly aggressive growth strategy, combined with organic growth. We bought Claude Vézina et associés in 2007, Venatus Conseil in 2008, and we don’t intend to stop there.”

Mandrake is therefore continuing to look out for interesting opportunities. “We want to continue growing by acquisition. We obviously don’t want to buy just anything, any old way at any price; we are keeping our eyes open. We are planning on other acquisitions over the coming years.”

It’s not hard to see where Lebeau, the head of the Montreal group, gets his entrepreneurial streak from. His family started Lebeau Vitres d’autos, and he himself co-founded a display stand company, Techno POS, early in his career. Eleven years later, he sold his shares in the company.

According to Lebeau, “A combination of circumstances lead me to recruiting.” After selling his company, he was at loose ends. “I had a former client who worked for Mandrake in Toronto. He was the one who got me to give recruiting a try, and I loved it.” He launched himself into his new career in January 1998, armed with only a laptop computer. Ten years later, he oversees 11 employees.

Mandrake is the largest Canadian human capital management firm, with offices in Montreal, Toronto and Calgary. Founded in 1970 to meet the needs of an exploding job market, the firm gradually extended its service offering and today offers support for mergers and acquisitions, the development of strategic alliances, and organizational consulting. In addition to its executive search specialty, the WWWork subsidiary helps companies hire more junior personnel.

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