Leisa: Hello, I’m Leisa Holland-Nelson, and welcome to Women Mean Business, where we’re going to take you up close and personal with extraordinary women breaking glass ceilings, starting new businesses and running big companies. In fact, my guest today is Janette Marx CEO of Airswift, one of those very big companies. Janette, welcome to Women Mean Business.
Janette: Thank you so much, Leisa, I’m excited to be here today.
Leisa: Tell me about Airswift.
Janette: Airswift is a billion dollar private equity backed technical workforce solutions company. So, we’re global. As of today, we have contractors working in over 71 countries around the world, which is pretty exciting. So, we’re a UK based company with a corporate headquarters here in Houston, Texas, where we’re talking right now. And we place engineers, technical professionals, everybody within the STEM field into major projects and into major corporations everywhere around the world. So, we do a lot of global mobility and movement of people into different countries as well.
Leisa: When you say workforce solutions, I think you should explain that to us because a lot of people don’t know what a workforce solution is.
Janette: True. It’s a number of different things. So, first off we find people jobs. So, we’re going to get people working. So, if anybody has any type of STEM skills, that’s what we specialize in. We will find you your career. We will transform your career, which will transform your life as you continue to grow and develop. Beyond helping people find jobs, we can do that through contracting, we can do through that through executive search, direct hire placements with different companies. And then we also have a global employment and outsourcing division, which really helps companies who have their own set of employees and they want to go into a new country that they don’t have a setup. We will do all the payroll, the taxes, immigration visas, et cetera, for them as well. With all the data that we have we also have a consulting arm, which really helps with talent mapping and sharing more data or about the workforce in different countries, different locations. So, there’s a number of different things that we do once you really dive into it. So, workforce solutions is pretty broad, but the bottom line is we put people to work.
Leisa: You put people to work, and you’re putting them to work from entry level to senior executive, or do you start a little bit higher than entry level?
Janette: Most of the time we start a little bit higher than entry level. So, most of it is experienced technical people all the way up to the C-suite. So, our executive search brand Ducatis really focuses on the C-suite. And then we have pretty much everything that ranges in between.
Leisa: So, I’m going to take a moment and clarify that STEM means science, technology, engineering, and math.
Janette: That is so correct.
Leisa: And I think our audience probably thinks that means the oil field are totally energy-based. Where else are you placing people?
Janette: We’re placing people in infrastructure projects. If you think about rail, water projects, in telecommunications, in technology, there’s a lot of technology as you’re thinking about engineering and you’re thinking about the future and where it’s going, it’s very tech based. So, we have a lot of technology positions as well. And then when you think about energy, it’s not just about oil and gas anymore. It’s all about renewables, power, our grids; how they work, utilities. So, we go throughout the entire spectrum of energy.
Leisa: So you’re the CEO of a global company doing business in 71 countries around the world. My goodness. What is your volume?
Janette: Yes, we’re just under a billion dollars in revenue around the world. And let me tell you Leisa, so much fun to go visit all those countries too, and to see the teams and all those areas. But yes, it’s a large company.
Leisa: Yeah. I mean, they’re not very many women running companies like your company at a billion dollars.
Janette: Yeah. My company has been around for over 40 years and I was the first female CEO for my company as well. So, I was promoted about three years ago into this role. So, it was a big move for the company, for my shareholders who put me in this position and to frankly, a lot of the women not just at my company but at our competitors as well to see it.
Leisa: So as CEO of the company, you’ve got a pretty broad brush. I mean, I imagine you’re involved in everything from financial fiscal responsibility to government relations. What’s the most important thing you do every single day?
Janette: My first important thing is always my people. So, everything always starts with your people. Without your people you don’t have a company. So, we have wonderful people all over the world. And my focus has always been on development and growth and really making sure that they have what they need to succeed, because if your people are well taken care of your customers are taken care of, your shareholders end up being taken care of, the people that are working with you and their peer groups are taken care of. So, from my perspective, everything always starts with the people, the relationships that they have, how they build that and how they approach their business. If you have that set up in a real sound way, the rest of the business takes care of itself.
Leisa: So how long have you been at Airswift?
Janette: I’ve been here for a little over seven years now, it’s what brought me to Houston. And I’ve been in the world of workforce solutions for over 25 years.
Leisa: Oh wow. I know there’s some very exciting things going on at Airswift and I thought maybe you’d share them with us.
Janette: So, as I think about this last year, so the year of the pandemic, when so much was going on, I think when you look at a year when it’s been a little bit tougher for companies or for people, I always like to look at tough situations and say, what’s the opportunity in that? What can we get from this? How can we grow? How can we be better? How can we transform? So, through this last year I started conversations, my chairman and I started conversations together, about where could we like really expand and create more opportunity for our own, you know people. And I started talking to the CEO at Competentia, which is currently it’s been one of our competitors. And through the conversation it led to, we need to merge. We need to come together. We need to do this together. And we’re culturally aligned. Our values are so similar. The way we treat our customers and really interact with them is very similar. They’re Norwegian based. So, we had to do everything via Teams calls, everything. So, everything was from remote from Australia, Norway, the UK to the US. So, very multinational in different time zones and working this together. And we finally got to the point where we’ve just announced that Airswift and Competentia have merged. Through this, one of the other big pieces that we had to do is that our term debt for the company. So, we’re private equity backed. We have some term debt, and that was coming up where we needed to refinance. And this gave us the opportunity to do something very different in our industry, where we refinanced our term debt on the Norwegian bond market.
So, our debt is now publicly traded and our equity is still private with the private equity and we’ve pulled this all together and it is just, it really creates opportunity for our clients, opportunities for our contractors that are working with us, opportunities for our candidates who are looking for that next step, and for our people. So, we’re really excited as we integrate and move forward under the expanded, it’s still going to be the Airswift brand, and I’ll be leading that with my CFO and our executive team. So, we’re really excited about the future for us.
Janette: Thank you.
Leisa: This is really extraordinary. And last question, the most important advice you want someone, I sometimes say the next generation, but just any other woman listening or watching today, who wants to achieve your success, what would you tell them? What do you think is the most important thing you tell them?
Janette: Oh, so there’s a few things I would probably want to tell them. So, the first I would say is you’ve got to have grit. You’ve got to be able to persevere. Not everything is going to go your way. You will, you will have dreams as a child. Your dreams will change as you grow older and they’ll evolve and they’ll continue to evolve and you’re going to chase those dreams, but you’re always going to have challenges always, and the way you face and confront those challenges is what will determine how far you can go in your career and in life. And if you see those challenges as opportunities and convert them into something better than what they look at at face value, you can really grow and capture so much more. So that takes determination. That takes grit. That takes mindset. If your mindset moves from why is this happening to me again? And I’m upset and you just face the world upset and mad about it. You’re not going to go far. You’ve got to really take it, flip it on its head and own it, own your future, own what you can be and go after.
Leisa: Thank you very much. There you have it. An extraordinary woman giving you extraordinary advice. I’m Leisa Holland-Nelson, your host for Women Mean Business. You can find me at www.WomenMeanBusiness.us or at Leisa@astounds.com. We’ll see you again soon with our next episode.
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