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Placing contractors abroad can be incredibly complicated and burdensome for companies, recruitment firms, and for the contractors themselves. There are a myriad of risks associated with ensuring compliance with domestic and foreign legislation, ensuring prompt payment of invoices and wages, and developing a decent, if not thorough, understanding of the foreign business environment.
In January 2014, Ray Walker launched IF Contracting to fill, what he saw, as a gap in the market: “We’ve had a pretty good response from the industry. I’ve found that the market is open to new entrants. Recruitment firms are eager to speak to someone new. People are tired of how contractor management was run in the dark old days. In the seven months we’ve been in business, the leaps and bounds we’ve made have been phenomenal.”
Ray previously worked as EMEA Regional Operations Director for international contract management and compliance company Albany, before joining global management consultancy Von Essen in 2009, as their International Compliance Director.
Setting up on his own, though, has long been an ambition of Ray’s and after a few years working as an independent consultant he started IF Contracting.
This company has been in my mind for about eight years. I just needed to find someone with deeper pockets than me. We spent six months last year talking about the business before we got set up in January,” Ray explained.
“I’ve built a five-year plan and year one is purely about proof of place. It’s about proving that there is a place for us in the market. We’ve seen that agencies want to work with someone new. By the end of year one we fully expect more money to be coming in than going out.”
“Years two and three are about evolving, starting to grow, and building satellite offices across Europe. These offices will be manned and focus on the domestic marketplace. At the moment we’re looking at Norway, the Netherlands, and Germany. Year four and year five are about looking at regional offices in Africa, Central Europe, and Asia Pacific. Then we would be looking to repeat the European model and open up satellite offices in those regions,” he added.
Despite its relatively recent debut to the marketplace, IF Contracting is already up and running in China. A hub of activity at the moment, China is fast becoming a premier destination for companies, recruiters, and contractors. It has, however, proven to be quite a challenging market for western companies, something Ray attributes to the issue of culture: “The nature of business in China is that it may take a while to get things rolling. Having someone in-country, with experience, and a cultural understanding makes a difference.”
“I love our Chinese solution. Our partner out there is English but he has lived in China for a number of years. He visits the UK quite often so clients can actually speak to him in person. He understands the market, and knows what can and what can’t be done. We’ve already been approached by companies and it’s scary the number of prospects we’ve already been quoted by recruitment companies,” he added.
It’s not just China that presents these difficulties and Ray’s experience and knowledge of the industry is shaping his plans for the future: “In Algeria and Angola, for example, it’s an issue of culture. You need someone on the ground to deal with everything. Business, for us, is on hold there until we can get an office established. Ideally it would be in South Africa. They speak the same language, it’s almost the same time zone, and a similar work ethic. It’s the only place in Africa that you can really do business.”
Ray’s plans are ambitious but he’s approaching the future with confidence: “What I’m trying to build is against the norm. We offer simple, sensible business practices to the world of overseas contractor management because it’s needed.”