Steve Renard remembers a time when international recruitment meant a lot of legwork, snail mail, rotary-dial phones and the headaches of telex machines. Needless to say, much has changed since then.
In 2020, Renard International Hospitality Consultants will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. Over that time, it’s grown from a small local oper- ation servicing Canadian customers, to one of the longest-standing international executive-recruitment firms in the hospitality industry. It services clients in more than 100 countries, from hotel chains and casinos to airlines and cruiseships.
When he established the business in 1970, Renard says he’d been working with another search company. “I realized at the time there was no such thing as a recruiter specifically for the hotel industry. It’s understandable, given there were maybe half a dozen major hotels in the city back then. There really wasn’t much here.” As the hotel boom started to take shape, he struck out on his own to form his recruitment firm of three people. “Now there are 30 of us.”
The international aspect began relatively early in the game. Within three years of starting the company, he realized the Canadian market was simply not big enough to support a hospitality-focused recruitment venture. “We didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket, so we started to work in the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America.”
These days, Renard International has worked in almost every country in the world and amassed a client list that includes almost every major hotel chain — many of which have been with the company from the outset.
Marriott was one of the first major hotel companies to engage Renard when it started its move into the Canadian market and Four Seasons used Renard to hire the general manager for its first hotel in Toronto. Those relationships continue to this day, he says.
Renard’s long tenure also provides insight into how the inner workings of the recruitment industry have transformed. “We used to use telex for sending résumés. Sometimes a presentation would be 20-feet long. God forbid the tape should tear and we’d have to start all over again.”
As technology evolved, so did the firm’s approach to conducting business internationally. “At one point we had nine branch offices. Since then we’ve brought our employees back to Canada. We don’t need those offices anymore because communications have become so universal.”
Being a Canadian-based company is a key advantage in the industry, regardless of which country they service, he notes. “Canada has a great reputation globally. Being based here gives us a lot more recognition than others may have.”
Another advantage is the strong loyalty the company has forged with its customers, which has stood the test of time. Renard attributes that to the high level of personalized service and extensive global connections offered.
“We know our customers, we meet them and we travel globally to trade events to keep visible. You don’t build relationships by emailing. You build them by shaking hands in person.”
Every staff member is equally dedicated to the company’s success. That’s evidenced in the fact the average tenure is 25 years. “When somebody joins us, we take good care of them,” Renard says, noting recruiting staff for his own company is never an issue. “People here have plenty of opportunities to travel. It’s a business where no two days are the same. That’s why they’re excited to join us.”
Sylvia Menezes, director of Worldwide Recruitment, is one of them. She joined the firm in 2003. A hotel IT systems specialist in India, she had no idea that executive recruitment would be a fit for her. “My expertise was mainly in software development. But when I wanted to rejoin the workforce after taking time off, I applied to Renard for a systems job.”
Instead she was offered a recruitment position. “I did my own due diligence and found they had a great database of candidates, access to all the top hotels and an outstanding reputation around the world. I was confident I could go anywhere in the world and recruit for them.”
Once she started, she quickly realized how important a place Renard International holds in the minds of hospitality customers. “The reputation they’ve built over the years, and the fact they’ve been in the industry for so long, says a lot. Customers want to work with us.”
She especially appreciates Renard’s commitment to value- added service and its ability to adapt to the market forces of the day. “That’s the key and why people come here. It’s never a strait-jacket approach here. We’re given the freedom to be the best we want to be and go anywhere in the world. If there’s a client in Mongolia, we’re there to support them.”
Five decades in, the business has allowed the company to generate a prolific network of connections, Renard says. “We have 60,000 people in our database, which means we can act quickly and provide somebody for customers at any time.”
To deepen its expertise, Renard makes a point of meeting as many candidates as he can personally. “Clients like to hear details about the person. If they didn’t, they’d just go online and place an ad on a job board. Knowledge is how we live and die in our business — clients trust us and our judgment. That’s especially important for luxury brands because people at that level are hard to recruit.”
Responsiveness has become a hallmark for the firm, regardless of the challenge. “One thing our customers have learned is that when they call, we jump,” Renard says. “We just had two people turn down two jobs paying in excess of half a million a year. Instead of crying about it, we just go back and find someone else.”
Even during times when hotels are laying off senior staff, Renard has never underestimated the value of those individuals. “In the 1970s and ’80s, one hotel had to get rid of its resident managers globally. We took care of those people over the years. Now many are back as general managers and giving us their business.”
Renard International has weathered a number of storms in the industry, but that doesn’t stop it from supporting its customers, he says. “We’ve seen many recessions and been able to overcome them all, despite the fact the last thing clients were doing in those times was hiring. When 9/11 happened, we were on one of the first planes out of Canada to Asia to support clients dealing with dropping occupancy challenges. The reality in our industry is, when the sun shines it shines on everybody, and when it rains, it rains on everybody. In other words, we all starve or we all get rich.”
As part of its ongoing commitment to the industry, the company presents an annual Renard International Humaniarian Award to a deserving second-year student in Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management program. The peer-nominated award is presented to a classmate who has displayed a humanitarian approach toward their fellow students.
Not too long ago, Renard discovered the groundwork it laid years ago has been paying unexpected dividends in recent years. “The strange part is, recently we’ve been dealing with the kids of people we placed years ago. It just goes to show that people don’t forget what we did for them.”
Written by Denise Deveau