Eight years ago, Anthony Goodwin was working for Harrison Willis recruitment consultancy when European communism collapsed and demand for skilled staff within the former Eastern bloc started to take off. Frustrated by his employer's lack of interest in the new market, he invested life savings of pounds 15,000 to start up his own company, Antal International.
'It was a huge risk. I had no history and the banks weren't interested in lending me money,' he says. But Goodwin had trained as an accountant and always had an entrepreneurial spark - 'even at school, I was the guy who ran the discos and made the bar turn a profit'. Unlike most headhunters, Antal is set up as a company. 'There are no partners, just me,' says the 38-year-old. 'That means there's a much lower cash drain and faster decision-making.'
Last year, the company turned over pounds 25 million and was placed 13th in the Virgin Atlantic Fast Track tables. It now has 18 offices in 16 countries across Europe, Asia and the US, and boasts customers such as Coca-Cola, IBM and Vodafone AirTouch. It also has a healthy internet presence, with 5,000 vacancies online.
'The internet will boost our business,' says Goodwin, 'but success is about bricks and clicks. You can't do recruiting without staff on the ground.' Which is why the company is continuing its global expansion, later this year opening offices in Latin America.