MEDIA & INSIGHTS
We are celebrating our 15th Anniversary!
November 2022 marks our 15th Anniversary! We talk to founder and trailblazer Tina Engineer-McRae, daughter of a world-famous cricketer, about finding success and the magic of a first client who “loved her bright and vivacious personality!”
As the late Queen Elizabeth shook hands with cricketer Farokh Engineer after a test match at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London she said, “I have news for you. It’s a girl!”. Farokh had missed the birth of his daughter to play in a test match for India, at the height of his sporting career.
This sense of commitment was passed down by Farokh and his forgiving wife, Shernavaz, to Tina Engineer-McRae, who had all the early indications of a highly entrepreneurial personality, full of energy and ideas, destined to put her own stamp on the world.
A few years later, the family moved to the UK where Tina grew up and launched her career. “What made you move to Miami?” we ask Tina. “I was on holiday with my sister and loved the vibrant, multicultural atmosphere. I had studied business, French and Spanish at university, so the Latin influence resonated with me and I immediately felt a strong affinity with the city”.
Returning from holiday to Manpower, Tina pushed for an ‘intracompany transfer,’ a new approach to resourcing that became mainstream as globalisation grew through the 1970s and 1980s. The regional manager in Miami received a ‘masterclass’ from Tina in relationship building as she pushed for a meeting, an interview and the chance to deliver on her promise: “I will help you build your business in Miami!”.
She did just that, bringing ideas and best practice with her. The UK was a more mature recruitment market and Tina brought her own blend of professionalism, pioneering excellence in client service through her ‘concierge’ approach, strengthening due diligence and upgrading documentation and processes,
“A lot of this came from curiosity,” explains Tina. “I was fascinated by the market in this region and had a huge drive to identify opportunities to integrate best practice and ideas from the UK. I was also hungry! I didn’t know a soul in Florida and arrived with just a rolodex, a passion for delivering for clients and a keen awareness that as an award-winning leader at Manpower, I had a lot to prove in this new adventure!”
Despite feeling an affinity, Tina initially felt a ‘foreigner’ in the United States. She recognized this feeling from the UK, where, even though she had been born there, her immigrant background had marked her out. “Not only that, but I arrived with an accent no-one understood!” laughs Tina. “Although I felt ‘foreign’ I knew I could blend into the multicultural environment that had attracted me in the first place. All I had to do was engage with clients as individuals, and do everything I could to understand their culture. My own multicultural background has enabled me to be a ‘culturally adept,’ stepping into the shoes of my clients to see challenges from their perspective. When you ask the right questions, you can find the right answers”.
As she found her way, Tina looked to her heritage. Her father and mother were role models, becoming entrepreneurs in the textile industry and teaching Tina the value of work hard, business integrity and client service. The family culture was proud but realistic. “As immigrants, we were taught we had to work much harder to get anywhere. Racism didn’t stop us, it was in our culture to work twice as hard. Watching my parents become entrepreneurs made me realise that one day I wanted to run my own company ”.
What was the reaction in Miami, when Tina arrived? Martin H. Smith, an early client, then Head of HR for Ivax Pharmaceuticals, says, ”I first met Tina in 1997 when she came to the United States. I was very impressed by her right from the get-go and we instantly connected. I loved her bright and vivacious personality as well as her desire to get to know me quickly, as a key client for her organization.
Tina is a quick study. She learns fast and understands her client’s needs by taking the time to get to know the leaders and their business units. I have brought Tina into every organization I have worked with since the day we met. She has the highest work ethic and her conduct is beyond reproach. Tina is exceptional to work with and twenty-five years on I call her a dear friend!”
Tina will never forget her first client. “Martin taught me how important relationships are. I always had a ‘concierge approach’ built in, because my father was like that, I learned from him how to quickly build trust and loyalty, providing the best possible service, getting to know the client and having integrity in every interaction.”
Tina knew she could make a difference in executive search through the principles of concierge-style client service, multicultural understanding and a fearless ability to take on any work and know she could deliver. It was not easy; the business went through two recessions and a pandemic during which Tina learned the value of agility and reinvention, setting up leadership advisory services alongside retained search. “Don’t be afraid to take risks and reinvent yourself,” insists Tina. “We were self-funded, but we took risks, we are passionate and love what we do. My immigrant mentality has served me well!”.
Through grit and determination, and hiring the right people for her own business, Tina’s firm is now a major part of the commercial fabric of South Florida. “Our success is built on doing for myself what I do for my clients!” she says. “I have hired some exceptional people in my time – people in whom I saw something special, and many have gone on to exceptional careers with leading brands like PwC and other global firms. I am very happy to have trained them and sent them out into the world to achieve their long-term ambitions”.
Tina continues to pick out and mentor young talent. Today’s team includes experienced experts and fast track consultants: enter Fernando, Valerie, Lynda and Valerie ‘two’. “We saw that no-one was doing what we are doing in this region,” says Tina. This led to certification as a member of WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council), membership of the female leaders’ network CHIEF, and also the Miami development organization Miami-Dade Beacon Council, as well as being an early champion of minority inclusion in the business world.
We ask Tina, what advice she has for the next generation, including her young daughter. “Create your own world, there are no grooves cut out for you. Always remember how hard your ancestors worked, respect your elders and family values. And my parents had a great saying, rooted in the textile industry, that is common in the North of England, ‘Cut your coat according to your cloth’! Today, I would say, ‘weave your life into the most beautiful cloth that you can. Aim for the top in whatever you do’.”