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Meeting with Mikael Thepaut, International Director at Talan

Mikael Thepaut, International Director, answers our questions about Talan's ambitions and his career.

Visual of Mikael Thepaut's Interview

Mikael Thepaut

1. What do you feel is the greatest strength of Talan Group as of right now?

Our industry is very complex and we have a lot of competitors. The entry barriers are very low. Anyone can participate.
In my opinion, the main challenge is to hire and retain the best people – consultants able to provide our clients high quality services and managers able to inspire others. Trust me, it is a full-time job.


That is why, according to me, Talan’s greatest strength is to set up and build diversified teams which are able to set out a vision, understand clients' needs and deliver the expected services. I love to say that we are entrepreneurs and passionate people.

 

2. In what ways do you see Talan changing in the next two years, and how do you see yourself creating/being a part of that change?

Talan is constantly evolving, which is amazing.  Can you imagine the growth since 2002: almost 3000 employees, and a turnover of 300M euros? We are present in 10 countries and have a strong reputation in our domestic market (as a Great Place to Work and also because we are part of the top 20 of the ESN ranking). 


As a board member and the co-founder of Talan, I focus on implementing a successful strategy. It is possible to become the Data leader in Europe and let’s dream bigger, in the world. Why not?


Last year, we created the International Directorate in London, we opened offices in Singapore and Spain, we made a fantastic acquisition with Planaxis in Canada and we have a lot of opportunities this year to reinforce our ambition. We are building over the long term.

 

3. As the International Director of Talan, what goals are you setting for the coming year?

As I mentioned before, our main goal is to become a leader in Data practices. To do that, we have to find the right acquisitions and managers. By the end of this year, I hope that we will have finalized two acquisitions in UK and Luxembourg and hired a Global Data Manager. If we succeed, we will quickly become a strong player on the market. Moreover, don't forget our huge assets in France with more than 700 consultants working on these areas (IA, Bigdata, Business intelligence, cloud...).

 

4. What goals can each entity be striving for in order to meet the common goals of Talan Group?

All Managing Directors are aware of the Group’s strategy and they have the power to set up new organizational structures. We work hard every day as a team and we are all determined to succeed. By the way, in each subsidiary, becoming a Data specialist is not optional, in order to stay updated.


I encourage mobility in the subsidiaries and we have just implemented TargetRecruit, a very efficient tool based on our CRM Sales Forces used by Planaxis. Now, we are ready to share information worldwide!

 

5. What was the path you took to get to where you are today?

To be honest, I have no idea – I am an entrepreneur so the project is more important than the position. I wanted to be free when I set up EXL, in order to create something great. I failed twice before creating the EXL group in 2007 (Talan Solutions) at the age of 30. Before the EXL group, I was at Capgemini, Unilog and Avanade which taught me a lot. I chose Talan in 2016 because in front of me were Mehdi Houas and Philippe Cassoulat, smart and dynamic true entrepreneurs. Even if we do not always agree, I have a lot respect for what they are and what they do for Talan. I have never seen that before (except for EXL group).


By the way, TALAN is a real playing field not only for me but for everybody, and we have many examples of success.

 

6. Could you name a few of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?

Well, creating my own firm, EXL group was very challenging.  


Just before the 2008 crisis, I decided to resign from Avanade to create EXL in December 2007. It quickly became very successful, it was incredible. We had a turnover of 4 million euros the first year and almost 8 million euros the year after. The strategy? Becoming a specialist of the IBM product leader in France and apply what I learned from Capgemini, the delivery model from Unilog and specialization from Accenture/Avanade to the business. We focused on the IBM product BI and we won a huge project at the SNCF which is today our biggest client. We currently have a Data Services center with over 150 consultants. Amazing to see the path 10 years on!


The second challenge was to integrate the EXL group into TALAN in 2016 and pursue our growth within the name Talan Solutions. My team has never doubted their strengths and they were so excited that we grew in one year from 34 to 43 Million euros. All this story would not have possible without these amazing EXL group managers and Talan board members open mindedness.


Last but not least, the third challenge is to develop the international dimension within the Talan group. A completely different challenge where I have to understand our markets, set up an organizational structure able to improve our efficiency and of course in the end … have sustainable results. 2020 will be an excellent year for us, we are ready to perform!

 

7. What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is different for me. When I am in London, I start at 8.00 or 9.00, depending on whether I drop my children at school or not. 
I can work in our office near Saint Pancras or from home. I spend a lot of time on conference calls with my different managers and Comex, which represents about 4-6 hours on the phone every day. Fortunately, we have WhatsApp and Hangout, which is very useful. I have one philosophy, to always be available for my team at any time. 


When I travel, almost every week, I want to be efficient and I usually have many meetings to meet a lot of managers, partners, consultants and clients. I enjoy travelling because it is a time for me to think. When you spend 4 hours or 10 hours on the road, you become proactive.

 

8. What are your outside interests?

My family takes up a good part of my free time, I have 2 kids and they are my priorities along with my wife of course.  Aside from that, I love watching football and in London, it is the place to be. I love walking in London streets and discovering monuments, architecture and museums. It can really change my state of mind.

 

9. If you could choose one word that describes you best, what would it be?

Authentic. 

 

10. How do you see Talan USA in 5 years?

Good question, we took a gamble with Planaxis Canada and for the moment, the results are very positive. We have more than 100 employees and an office in Quebec City. There are many synergies between Montreal and NY. We have to pursue the collaboration between both countries and I am sure that we will grow naturally. However, in order to have a sustainable development in the USA, we will have to make some acquisitions.


The USA and not only New York could be the second market after the EU.