Get to Know Thomas André Sola, Managing Director of APSCo Deutschland

Thomas André Sola brings more than 15 years of experience in the German-speaking recruitment market for permanent positions, executive search, freelance and temporary employment. After Thomas convinced himself of the advantages of APSCo membership as managing director of a member company, he made himself available as managing director for the further development and expansion of APSCo in Germany and Switzerland in 2021.

Thomas entered the recruitment industry in 2006 and five years later, he co-founded EarthStream Global, an innovative HR start-up, which he successfully expanded until it was integrated into the TechStream Group.

Passionate about nurturing talent and supporting APSCo members of all sizes, his mission is clear: to elevate the recruitment industry’s standards while fostering professional growth. Dive into our exclusive interview with Thomas to discover his insights and aspirations, both in his work and personal life.

Can you tell us more about APSCo Deutschland and your role as its leader…

APSCo Deutschland is the trade body for the staffing sector in the recruitment industry. We aim to raise standards and provide expert support and market intelligence to our members, who are white-collar staffing agencies placing temps, perms, and freelancers. As General Manager, I oversee operations, deliver webinars, and build a community of key industry stakeholders. My passion for connecting people with opportunities and helping organizations succeed inspired me to take this role. I see APSCo Deutschland as a platform to advocate for high standards and provide valuable resources to our members while improving the staffing industry’s reputation in Germany.

You’re passionate about recruitment. What pivotal experiences led you to view recruitment as a “dream job” and advocate for it as such?

My passion for recruitment comes from several key experiences. Early in my career, I saw how the right job placement could transform lives and how crucial staffing is for organizational success. I remember the candidates I placed and how it changed their futures and their families. Recruitment is more than filling vacancies; it’s about shaping futures and building successful teams.

In 2022, after Corona, we helped the German recruitment industry get back into shape – something I am very proud of! Helping both candidates and companies find the perfect fit is incredibly rewarding. I aim to inspire young people to see this industry as their dream job!

Could you describe a significant challenge you’ve helped a client overcome in the recruitment industry…

With 16 years in recruitment, I’ve faced many challenges. Working mainly with British agencies taught me to prioritise the customer. I solved many customer-centric problems to find the perfect match and solution!

Today, my clients are staffing companies. My strength lies in advising on market entry in Germany and Switzerland. Companies often struggle with managing multiple jurisdictions and their legal requirements. At APSCo Deutschland, we offer services based on our seven pillars, enabling staffing agencies to deliver excellence.

What initially drew you to pursue a career in the recruitment industry? Was there a specific moment or experience that sparked your passion for this field?

My dad ran a staffing agency in Bogota, Colombia. I was supposed to take over but needed to learn the basics, so I applied at HAYS in Munich/Germany. After excellent training, I moved with HAYS to Switzerland to build the Basel office and the Life Science Skill. My wife did not want to go to Colombia so I did not fulfil the obligation to take over my dad’s company but recruitment became my passion so I stayed in the job. I co-founded a staffing company, which we sold after ten years.

As a Non-Executive Director (NED), what are the key areas you focus on when advising organizations to improve their financial situation and processes?

Besides my role at APSCo, I work as a Non-Executive Director. In this function, I help staffing owners and investors with transaction management. I guide them through buying or selling staffing agencies, focusing on making them investment-ready. I emphasise optimising investment strategies and leveraging financial data for informed decisions. My goal is to ensure organizations are financially stable and poised for sustainable growth.

In your view, what are the critical elements of successful transaction planning for staffing agencies, particularly when seeking growth or investment?

Successful transaction planning involves several key elements: a clear strategic vision aligned with long-term goals, thorough due diligence to identify risks and opportunities, effective communication and negotiation skills, a management team that backs up the process, a detailed financial plan for funding and ROI, and post-transaction integration planning to ensure a smooth transition and realise benefits.

You specialise in market entry for German-speaking countries. What unique challenges or opportunities do companies face when entering these markets?

Companies entering German-speaking markets face challenges like navigating complex regulations, understanding local business culture, and building local networks. However, these markets offer significant opportunities, including access to a skilled workforce and robust economies. Conducting thorough market research, engaging with local experts, and developing tailored strategies are crucial.

APSCo Deutschland provides market intelligence, compliance guidance, and networking opportunities to support successful market entry.

How do you assist companies in navigating workforce compliance issues, particularly in relation to contracting, freelance, and temporary work arrangements?

Navigating workforce compliance issues requires a deep understanding of local labour laws. At APSCo Deutschland, we offer compliance training, up-to-date regulatory information, and best practices advice. We also provide resources and tools for managing contractors, freelancers, and temporary workers, ensuring our members operate legally and confidently while minimising compliance risks.

Could you share a memorable success story where your strategic guidance significantly impacted a staffing company’s growth or operational efficiency?

One success story involved a mid-sized staffing company with stagnant growth and operational inefficiencies. After assessing their situation, we developed a financial KPI system that allowed us to identify over and underperforming business areas. We drilled this down on the consultant level and started to tackle sales, recruitment, and operational processes and converted them into best practice. This transformation boosted their growth and market reputation, leading to increased Revenue/NFI performance.

What do you believe are the most pressing issues or trends currently shaping the recruitment industry in Germany and Switzerland?

The most pressing issues include talent shortages, digital transformation, and evolving workforce expectations. Companies need specialised skills and digital talent. The rise of remote work and the gig economy is changing recruitment and talent management. Staffing agencies must adopt new technologies, offer flexible work arrangements, and update strategies to attract and retain top talent. Data access and usage also play a significant role, with business environments demanding stricter data control.

How do you establish and maintain strong professional relationships with managing directors, CEOs, and other executives within the recruitment sector?

Building strong relationships with senior executives involves trust, value, and regular communication. I prioritise understanding their challenges and goals and offering tailored solutions.

Delivering high-quality insights and support establishes me as a trusted advisor. Regular follow-ups, industry event participation, and professional network engagement help nurture these relationships. Indeed, I frequently receive calls from staffing leaders seeking advice.

Given your background in corporate financing and investment, what advice would you offer to staffing agencies seeking capital for expansion or strategic initiatives?

Having a background in staffing and sales, I’ve learned a lot about seeking capital for expansion and that the average staffing MD lacks knowledge in financing-topics. My advice is to prepare thoroughly and understand the consequences. Private equity investors provide cash but reduce flexibility. Institutional funding provides money but requires personal liability and a lot of information. Venture Capital money is most often only advisable for start-ups.

Develop a solid business plan outlining growth strategy and financial projections. Identify the right funding type – equity, debt, or hybrid – that aligns with business goals. Build a strong investment case by highlighting market potential, competitive advantages, and success track records. Foster relationships with potential investors and be transparent about financial health to secure the necessary capital.

How do you balance the need for growth with workforce and service procurement challenges, especially in today’s competitive market?

This requires a strategic approach. Invest in scalable technologies and processes. Maintain a flexible workforce strategy that adapts to market changes. Build strong relationships with reliable service providers and understand procurement needs.

Regularly review and optimise operations to ensure growth while maintaining high service standards. Have in mind that any investment will have a short and long-term impact on your profit numbers. 

What motivates you to continuously innovate and professionalise the recruitment industry in the German-speaking area?

My motivation comes from the feedback I receive when launching new ideas. Initially, people may think I’m crazy, but soon supporters join in, turning it into a movement. Being at the forefront of industry developments and helping our members navigate changes keeps me passionate about my work.

Could you share an example of a particularly complex transaction or negotiation you’ve facilitated for a staffing company? What were the key strategies employed?

Every transaction has complexities. In transaction management, a common pattern is the gap between buyer and seller regarding the multiplier. Bridging this gap requires thorough market understanding, negotiation skills, and strategic planning. In our industry, we use very little of classical evaluation methods and focus on multipliers on EBIT. But to facilitate a negotiation you need to break down company assets in value and come up with a good calculation. 

How do you leverage your network and connections to benefit your clients, particularly when it comes to market entry or strategic partnerships?

Leveraging my network involves engaging with industry leaders, attending events, and participating in professional organizations. I use these connections to gather market insights and identify opportunities for clients. When assisting with market entry or partnerships, I introduce clients to key stakeholders, facilitating important conversations and negotiations. My extensive network provides clients with access to resources and expertise, enhancing their strategies and opportunities.

How do you approach the initial consultation with a potential client during your free 30-minute interview? What are your primary objectives during this session?

During the initial 30-minute consultation, my primary objective is to understand the client’s needs, challenges, and goals. I ask targeted questions to gather information about their situation and aspirations. I provide a brief overview of how APSCo Deutschland and I can support them, highlighting relevant services. This session is also an opportunity to build rapport and trust. My goal is to leave the client with a clear understanding of our support and outline the next steps for collaboration.

Besides your work, what are some hobbies or interests that you’re truly passionate about?

Outside of work, I’m passionate about my family and staying active. I really enjoy kitesurfing. I also swim regularly and volunteer as a youth rugby coach, believing it builds good character traits.

What’s one travel destination on your bucket list that’s not typically found in travel guides, and what intrigues you about it?

New Zealand is on my bucket list. The rugged landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and untouched natural beauty intrigue me. As a rugby fan, I’d love to see the All-Blacks play!

Let’s explore your creative side. Do you have any hidden talents or artistic pursuits that you enjoy?

I love dancing. Also, music has always been a significant part of my life as I grew up in South America. I even created a staffing playlist on Spotify to connect specific songs with experiences in the recruitment industry!

What’s a surprising or unusual fact about you that people might not expect, something that doesn’t typically come up in your professional bio or interviews?

A surprising fact about me is that I set myself every year a sports target which challenges me. In 2025 I want to swim from Asia to Europe through the Bosphorus! It was a personal challenge I set for myself to test my limits and improve my fitness. 

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?

“Don’t work in finance, if you want to be at the top level you must go in Sales.” This advice has been a guiding principle throughout my life and career. It reminds me to stay curious, open-minded, and continually seek new knowledge and experiences. It’s helped me grow both personally and professionally.

We often hear about your professional achievements, but can you share a personal achievement or moment in your life that you’re particularly proud of?

A personal achievement I’m particularly proud of is being a dad of three wonderful children. It is not easy to balance a career with a private life and a healthy body. I am very proud of my children and what they have achieved in life.

Outside of your professional roles, what’s something you’ve always wanted to learn or try but haven’t had the opportunity to explore yet?

I’ve always wanted to learn how to sail. The idea of navigating the open sea, relying on my skills, and understanding of the wind and water, is very appealing. I understand the basics and can help but never had time to do my sailor’s licence. But it’s on my list once I find more time.

If you could have a one-hour conversation with any fictional character, who would it be, and what burning question would you ask them?

It would have to be the one and only Sherlock Holmes! I’d ask him, “How do you cultivate and maintain such a keen sense of observation and deduction?” His analytical skills and ability to notice the minutest details are fascinating and something I’d love to learn more about as this is one of the areas I am not the strongest.

What was your dream job as a child?

When I was younger, my dream job was to become a soldier in the military. But I figured out on the first day of my compulsory service, that I am not the guy for the military. 

What is your life motto?

Don’t worry – be happy.” Enjoy the few moments we live in. Eventually, tomorrow, our life is over, so don’t worry and be happy. Be gentle to your colleagues, your family, and yourself. Life will improve for you!

If you were to create a playlist that represents your life journey so far, what are the top three songs that would be on it?

Heute hier, morgen dort by Hannes Wader – for all the countries I have lived in.

La vida es un carnavale by Celia Cruz – for its connection to my life motto.

Enjoy the silence by Depeche mode – for the love of my children.

If you want to hear the songs I connect with recruitment – please listen to my Staffing Tunes!

Finally, if you had to sum up your life philosophy or a guiding principle in just one sentence, what would it be?

My life philosophy in one sentence based on Max Frisch would be: “Crisis is a productive state. You simply have to get rid of its aftertaste of catastrophe.”

Don’t forget to follow Thomas on LinkedIn! Head here for APSCo’s list of services!

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