Simon Bruce, Country Manager of MyWorld Careers, tells us about finding the best local talent in Myanmar.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Simon Bruce: Covid has not really affected us or Myanmar compared to many others. As a country, the first wave was more like a wiggle of a finger, and the second wave was around 1,000 people per day, but really short-lived. It certainly affected the economy, but generally, the Myanmar government did a very good job of containing the spread.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded MyWorld.
Simon Bruce: My real career only started when I was 31. I started in a recruitment company in Japan called Wall Street Associates (WSA). WSA was probably the no. 20 in the market at the time when I joined, but in the following 5 years, we grew it to be no. 2 (it is now no. 1) in our market segment, which is supporting MNCs in Japan. For 4 of those 5 years, I was the no. 1 performer in the company. I moved back to Australia but continued working for WSA (now called en world Japan) and later transferred to the company they acquired in Australia.
However, in 2014, I started to get really bored with the Australian market. It lacked the vibe, passion for success, and drive that I had experienced in Japan and suited my personality. The former owner of WSA approached me to launch a business in Myanmar.
I came over in April 2015 and officially launched MyWorld in October 2015. Utilizing the techniques, systems, and training that I was familiar with from my time in Japan, we quickly (within about 6 months) became the no. 1 in the country, and within about 1 1/2 years, we became the largest recruitment company. It is very tough in Myanmar for recruitment companies as the fees are very low, so there are only a small number of companies in the industry (around 100), so to be honest, becoming no. 1 wasn’t that hard. However, we have maintained that position, and our growth has outstripped our competition.
How does MyWorld innovate?
Simon Bruce: Innovation is all about the training of our staff. We have a large in-house training team with strong systems and processes, and we spend a lot of time developing our people to be better at what they do and come up with their own style. We then have them teach others and share their adaptations of our processes and systems to other staff, and that cultivates learning, growth and from this comes innovation.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Simon Bruce: Covid was tough, but we still maintained business enough that we didn’t have to lay off any staff, and there were no salary reductions. The military coup that we had in February is a much bigger problem for the business than Covid was.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Simon Bruce: The choice was to survive and make sure we keep our employees employed for as long as possible. We achieved this. However, in hindsight, we probably should have been stricter on performance prior to Covid, and we potentially wouldn’t have to carry some staff during Covid whose performance was up to the level we expect.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Simon Bruce: Nothing specific to Covid, just what we do every day all day. We use technology in everything we do to ensure that we are as efficient as possible. From a management perspective, because nearly all staff were working remotely, it just meant more video meetings and friendly catch-ups. We really encouraged our staff to “go to lunch with their colleagues virtually to ensure that our strong company culture was able to continue.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Simon Bruce: AlphaSearch (based out of Singapore), MyJobs, and VCS (but they just closed down)
Survival is the name of the game at the moment, and the team is very focused on this. Covid and then Coup means that a lot of companies will close down in our sector and in all sectors. We just have to hope things get resolved soon and the people and country can begin to prosper again.
Your final thoughts?
Simon Bruce: Passion for your people and ensuring that a business puts their people as a priority while still focusing on ensuring the company makes money so it can grow is essential in any market, especially a developing one.