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JCI Consulting K.K.: better hunters, better musicians.

Timing is everything, so the old business cliche goes, and when Markus Leach and Tim Ondo returned to Japan on September 1 of last year having just founded JCI Consulting K.K., they were filled with optimism for their new venture. The two had spent the best part of a decade recuiting, for two different companies, in Tokyo: Leach was President of Aegis Enterprises, Ltd., and Ondo worked for seven years with Veritas International K.K. before starting his own Seattle-based recruiting firm, Japan Compass Inc. Leach had met Ondo over a bowl of clam chowder at Seatac Airport two years before. Apart from agreeing that the chowder was excellent the two began to discuss forming a Japan branch of Japan Compass Inc. On July 1, 2001, that became a reality when the newly formed company opened their office two doors down from Zest in Nishi Azabu.

As Leach points out, the timing couldn't have been much worse.

"We moved in on July 1, spent the whole month setting up, took a couple of weeks vacation at the end of August and came back on September, 1 with a new team in p lace, ready to go," he recalls. "Then, 11 days later everything changed. Suffice to say, the headhunting business was hit very hard by 9/11." However, although things slowed down dramatically, good companies always need good heads and the hunters at JCI were able to weather the storm.

"What kept us going was that many of our clients were maybe letting two or three people go, but actually replacing them with one outstanding candidate who could do the job of the people they let go. This being the case, our experience and strong candidate network really paid off, for us and them."

Both Ondo and Leach are veteran recruiters. "When I first started recruiting in the early 90s, you don't know how many times I heard: 'Headhunter eh? Where's your head office? Papua New Guinea?' "Leach remembers. "It was funny the first time--maybe. "It was a golden time to be a headhunter as opportunities and salaries peaked with the Bubble economy. Naturally, the competition increased and now there are a large number of headhunters in Tokyo. But this doesn't worry Ondo.

"Obviously through the boom years of the IT Bubble, headhunting became a very profitable business and consequently the recruiting business grew to meet the need that existed, much as it did in Silicon Valley," he noted. "Unfortunately, this lead to a decline in recruiting standards in my opinion. I think the one positive result of the economic decline over the last year in our industry, is that companies have had to be much more attentive and professional toward both client and candidate." Both Leach and Ondo agree that longevity is the key to successful recruiting. If there is a business where dedication and time put in has a direct correlation with success, headhunting is it.

"The Beatles played six sets a night, seven days a week in Hamburg when they were paying their dues and we all know how that turned out, music maniac Leach points out. Tim and I spent countless hours cold-calling candidates, mostly at home on weekends and in the evenings, and that has now paid off for us.

Our network of candidates is excellent, particularly in the IT industry, and it continues to grow."

And speaking of growing, Senior JCI consultant Karlton Tomomitsu says, in this industry size does matter. "We find that an optimally sized executive search company will consist of around seven to 10 recruiters. Less than that and you can't maximize the opportunities for either the client or the candidate; more than that leads to internal competition among recruiters that results in unethical practices. Our team operates as a close group who all trust one another and put the benefit of the clients and candidates they handle to the fore."

Nick Mescia, another JCI consultant agrees. "As far as recruiting companies go, I can't imagine working anywhere else. We've got such a great vibe here. And with 10 years experience in the Tokyo market, an ethical recruiting strategy, and good communication between the consultants and management, things can only get better--with a little help from our friends in the market of course."

And how is the market? "The recruitment industry is definitely improving since the lows reached following the tragedy of Sept 11," says Rory Warren, who works with JCI's financial clients. "Having extensive experience in the banking and finance industries, one thing that I have learned is that markets move in cycles. Whether it be the stock market or employment market, there will be downturns, where the weak disappear and the strong survive, and then upturns, which present opportunities to prosper. ICI is well positioned and has been getting stronger at a time when a number of competitors have closed their doors. We are growing along with our successful client base."

The competition is still fierce but Ondo and Leach are more than confident that the negative effects of 9/11 are fading away and they are well-poised to retain their strong position in the recruiting market.

They take pride in thinking differently about their business "There were a couple of tennis-playing brothers called the Jensen Brothers on the pro circuit a while back," he explains. "And we've taken a leaf from their book.

"When asked one day how they thought they would do against their opponents, the Jensen brothers replied: 'We're going to beat them.'

"When asked why they were so confident, the reply was: 'Because we're better musicians than they are. Well so are we."

I think they have all the angles covered.
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Title Annotation:executive recruiters
Author:Varcoe, Fred
Publication:Japan Inc.
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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