With years of luxury retail experience under his belt, it was no surprise that Antoine Vatar had some innovative employee solutions in the works. These ideas inspired his following move to Hong Kong, where Antoine founded Albert Technologies in 2014 and gave life to his vision of a useful corporate communication solution. Since the company’s conception, Antoine has always emphasised his desire to work for his employees (something rarely heard of in Asia) and create a company where people are excited to come into work everyday. Even during the uncertainty of Covid-19, Albert Technologies has managed to continue to operate successfully as a start-up in the corporate solution industry. This is partly due to Antoine’s ability to promote positive thinking amongst his team and keep things real.
Below, we delve into Antoine’s podcast interview with Happyer and pick his mind about how Albert Technologies has remained on track during the pandemic and what others can do to stay afloat and reach their goals.
Be Honest With Your Values
While the most common incentive for creating a company is to be your own boss, Antoine’s motivations were much more ambitious. Having previously been restricted by the rigid, corporate structure he worked in, he wanted to see his ideas actually come to fruition. Trying and failing was all part of the journey for Antoine, as was the increase in working hours and decrease in pay. It was this passion and fearlessness that led to the success of Albert Technologies as a powerful mobile, employee engagement solution. Antoine’s advice for corporates who want to follow suit and make the switch to an entrepreneurial lifestyle, is to “be honest with your values”. He believes being passionate and loving what you do outweighs all of the initial obstacles you’ll face. If your reasons for making the switch are solely to ‘screw corporate’ and ‘be your own boss’ he says you may want to rethink your motivations for branching out on your own.
Stay Plugged In
While 2020 has undoubtedly been a disheartening year for most businesses, Antoine believes staying united as a team is key right now. There are some upsides he has identified as a result of Covid-19, such as, a shift in focus to employees at ‘staff level’ and not just those in ‘middle’ or ‘upper’ management. This is due to stores rapidly closing down during the pandemic and the need to think about employees’ satisfaction at store level in order to keep businesses afloat. He believes it has been especially challenging within the retail and service industry during this virus as their ‘bones are being attacked’, like hotels, for example, who need people to physically come in in order to be operational. This is why focusing on building meaningful connections within teams is a smart move, in Antoine’s opinion. You want to keep your team plugged in and working through the pandemic together so morale remains no matter how bad things get.
Engage Your Team
This begs the question, how can management at all levels promote employee engagement during such uncertain times? To begin with, Antoine says ‘show you are there everyday’ and reinforce that you are ‘in the same boat together’ helping each other perform. Younger people within the industry need to overcome their fears of bringing up initiatives about employee engagement. Antoine believes younger staff need to prioritise their will to ‘fight’ for their ideas and beliefs. At some point, the way we work needs to change so ideas are no longer being ‘sat on for 50 years’. The target consumer, for many companies, is often the younger generations who are fearful of speaking their mind. Ultimately, Antoine says, ‘it’s easy to say, hard to implement...but speak your mind!’. You want to make it your goal to find a company that gives you space to express your ideas and build on them. Age shouldn’t dictate who gets heard and who doesn’t. This is an example of where the Albert solution provides a platform for connecting teammates together and increasing productivity.
From senior management's perspective, Antoine suggests, ‘embracing your mistakes’ in order to promote employee engagement. Often mid to high management take themselves too seriously and this means we, ‘never know what happens behind the curtain’ including all the ‘stupid decisions they’ve made’. Antoine thinks it would create a lot more employee openness if people were made aware of management's ups and downs and that they are on a human journey too. Showing openness and the ‘will to receive information without judging will enhance the capacity of your team to express themselves and benefit your business greatly’.
Keep Things Real
Antoine often compares landing a new job with dating. It’s your ‘ability to evolve, to understand and to change’ that will guide the long-term relationship you have with your company/partner. The greatest challenge, of course, is the fact people are not that honest about things. Antoine’s advice is make sure to dig deeper. Research the company on LinkedIn and contact employees for an insider’s scoop. You never want to fall for the dream a company is selling on paper or the reverse, be fooled by a ‘boring online image’ when actually the business is highly entrepreneurial and simply bad with HR branding. It’s especially important to be honest with your values in an interview and if the company isn’t aligning with them, forget it. Antoine suggests asking questions like, ‘what is the first priority of the company?’ to gauge whether the company is product-oriented or profit-oriented.
In Antoine’s instance, daily life at Albert Technologies is never the same. His biggest achievement is knowing he has been creating ‘employment and space’ for people for the last 6 years and that everyone believes in the spirit of the company. Antoine doesn’t miss a beat with his realness and admits it’s not an easy ride and there are plenty of aspects he actually hates about entrepreneurship, but he counters these by reflecting on the ultimate mission of the company. He reinforces, showing your weaknesses as well as your strengths, creating meaningful conversations with employees and making it a goal to create connections in the workplace. When it comes to the red flags you should be watching out for, Antoine emphasises one in particular - respect. A lack of respect shown for you or anyone else is a major warning sign in Antoine’s opinion and a non-negotiable.
Know Your Motivations
When asked what advice Antoine has for people who want to enter this industry, he says be aware that it is always evolving and changing. It’s a world typically full of passionate people, so you will want to be dedicated to what you do. Money shouldn’t be the defining factor as you won’t necessarily be paid a great deal. Ask yourself the question, ‘Are you going to luxury retail because it’s glamorous?’, if so, maybe reconsider your choice as it rarely actually is behind the scenes. He says, ‘if you love luxury goods, don’t work for a luxury brand’. Be honest with yourself as to whether it is the experience of luxury you want or creating the product of luxury. If the product is your passion...go for it. For those of you who truly want to give this industry a crack, Antoine highly recommends trying as many internships as possible as a way to try things out first and know where your passions lie.
If Albert Technologies sounds like the right fit for you, check out their social media and latest vacancies to see how you could become a part of this rewarding team!