This week I initiated a comprehensive market survey for a start-up shared services client, had lunch with a potential candidate for a global role for a leading financial institution, met with our project team to finalize testing for our new databank management system, met two candidates for another search for a global position for a BPO company, organized a pictorial for our updated Company Profile, had lunch with a potential client looking for a new Chief Finance Officer…and it’s only the middle of the week! Such is the normal week of my life in KSearch, and as I ponder on the frenzied pace of my work, I could not help but look back at how this all started, and how far we have come.
The Startup Years
I joined KSearch in November 1999 back when it was yet on its first month of operation. I graduated earlier the same year and was idealistic -- hungry for knowledge, and eager to make a difference. Unfortunately, my first foray in the business world, an account management job for a large telecommunications company, fell short in meeting my expectations (except for the good pay). So when I first met Mr. Manny Guillermo, retired partner of Andersen Consulting/Accenture and Managing Director of KSearch Asia Consulting, Inc., who was very enthusiastic in sharing the kind of learning opportunities I would gain under his wing, I quickly felt very optimistic about finding the “job” that I was always hoping for.
1999 wasn’t exactly a busy year for our start-up firm. There were not enough prospects for job seekers who were looking to move up or who were still reeling from the recent Asian financial crisis. However, that did not mean that we were not keeping ourselves busy. I would soon enough be confronted with what it took to follow a professional career track. It all seemed exciting at the outset, especially for one relatively new in the corporate professional world. Then all sorts of challenges confronted me. “Nobody said”, Mr. Guillermo warned, “that this consulting approach to executive search would be an “easy walk in the park”; which only made me even more energized, I thought, moving forward -- especially when he added that our executive search business model is a “Win- Win-Win proposition”. He explained that the first win is because we are delivering value to our clients; the second is that we are invariably enhancing the careers of our candidates -- in fact, improving their lives; and third, we are developing and rewarding our people in the process. By then I was hooked.
We Exist for Our Clients
Mr. Guillermo was serious in becoming a consulting firm that provided real value to its customers. He had as early as then a Mission Statement he crafted for KSearch which spelled out in no uncertain terms that “We are a highly effective, thoroughly efficient search firm – fully focused on providing our clients with outstanding candidates within the shortest possible time.” It was thus clear to me right at the outset what KSearch is, what it stood for, and why we exist as a firm.
Passion for our People’s Growth
Where, I thought, could any one find an organization which makes it a compelling priority to provide its people with a continuing professional and personal development program in its broadest context? This culture is clearly embedded, too, in our Mission Statement where it states that “We are consumed with passion to enrich our people through rapid and continued advancement in their knowledge, skills, professional recognition and rewards.” So, in my case, those first few months were spent in building my business knowledge with due focus on certain industries and functions. I remember speaking with countless finance professionals, in the effort of thoroughly understanding their roles, complexities of their jobs, intricacies in their respective industries, and at the same time keeping them in mind for future opportunities.
We are Consultants, First and Foremost
Those were the days when I had to force myself to read the business pages and other business publications on a regular basis. Those were also the days when we would have long discussions with our then small team on various topics that were not directly related to the business but were very relevant nonetheless. These would range from the global and domestic economy, to interest rates, the stock market, to Jack Welch. Sure enough, to be worthy search consultants of KSearch, Mr. Guillermo expected that our industry and functional knowledge base would be very broad in most, yet very deep in some; thus providing a consultant resource in the firm with the combination of industry and functional specialists. Talk about holistic approach to people development in a consulting profession, you name it we have it in KSearch. As we were dealing with clients from different countries even in the earlier years, Mr. Guillermo made sure that we in his team were sufficiently well traveled and conversant about the varying cultures of those clients.
KSearch – A Learning Organization
It’s a pretty amazing culture what I grew up with in KSearch. I can only feel gratified that I have in a lot of ways contributed as well to such culture. If anything, KSearch is a guaranteed learning organization. By the nature of our work, we inevitably learn new things every day. This is why when we hire for new staff, what is important to us is to see in the person that insatiable thirst for new learning, a certain tenacity to be inquisitive, to be resourceful. Add to these Mr. Guillermo’s own two most critical required traits to be in KSearch, which are a “wholesome aggressiveness” and yes, being “obsessive-compulsive for taking initiatives”. And, as best as I know him, he simply has this unshakable fondness for good writers and speakers. Being articulate will get one far and fast in KSearch, provided backed by performance results.
“Falling off our Chairs”
A superior client service culture is our DNA in KSearch, to be sure. “Bending over backwards” and “falling off our chairs” for the client were attitudes that were inculcated in me early in my career with KSearch. Being the so-called point-person for one of our first major clients, a large multinational and a pioneer in the BPO industry, I was excited to demonstrate these behaviors. I was part of a team that worked closely with the client, making sure we thoroughly understood their entire operation, culture, mission and vision, thus resulting to quick and effective response through critical recruitment mandates and ramp-ups with tight on-boarding deadlines, as well as having helped create for the client a strong brand image as a coveted employer. KSearch, in effect, became a virtual extension of our client’s HR recruitment function, making possible a seamless interface on all aspects of the recruitment cycle, especially for bigger volumes of pressure-filled on-boarding targets.
Clients’ Delight – The Only Thing
Still on culture, we have internalized in KSearch that “a delighted client is not everything, but that it is the only thing that matters”. With such a self-imposed mandate, teamwork, especially during stressful times; carrying our dealings in the most professional manner; making sure that our processes and outputs carry with them a mark of quality; and that we could not wait a minute to respond to a client – all these have become second nature to every one in KSearch. I know, as I live and breathe these core values every day -- inside and outside the KSearch office. Times have definitely changed the business landscape since our early years as a firm. The “war for talent” has become the byword of the day – with the rise and rapid expansion of dynamic new industries as well as the positive outlook for industries that have taken a step back in the previous years. I never cease to be amazed by how KSearch continues to be relevant during this dynamic period, where competition has become tougher than ever.
Paying It Forward
Small as we are, we continue to make a big impact in companies - as we support them through critical hiring mandates, and to professionals - as we continue to open doors for exciting and challenging careers. But it does not stop there. A corporate social responsibility project begun by KSearch in collaboration with Synergeia, a highly respected NGO, provided workbooks, teacher training and family coaching in support of St. Mary Elementary School in Marikina, Rizal to help the pupils read, write, and understand basic English and equip them for higher learning. At the collegiate level, KSearch continues to partner with the Lyceum of the Philippines University in promoting English language among the youth by holding yearly oratorical contests where KSearch provides the cash prizes and job opportunities to the finalists. This ongoing project is aimed at improving the competitiveness of the youth in the intensely competitive job market.
The BPO in our Midst
Our size, in fact, belies the influence and reach in the industries and regions where we are present. We have maintained a stronghold in the BPO industry in particular, having assisted successfully filling key leadership roles in call center operations, finance shared services centers, IT outsourcing firms, and large back-office operations. Outside of the BPO industry, KSearch continues to make its mark with its chosen market, i.e., the executive search requirements of multinationals and large Philippine corporations in such industries as pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, media, and financial institutions, among others. In 2008, KSearch became part of a global network of independent executive search firms with presence in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, North America, UK, and South Africa. The alliance increased the firm’s capability to support recruitment mandates across the globe.
Highest for Integrity
We started KSearch in 1999 with a bold vision where we said that “In Five Years we will be recognized as an important player in the country’s executive search industry, one among the top five, but highest for quality service, integrity, and ultimate client satisfaction”. Fast forward five years hence, roughly in 2005, we were confident that we had achieved that vision. And so, we expanded our horizon and challenged ourselves with a revised vision which stated that “We will be a globally affiliated leader in executive search in the Philippines for quality and value-added client service and will have the most change-savvy leaders with the best trained and best rewarded professional search consultants performing in highly proactive industry and functional areas”. I’m happy to share that we are well on our way to achieving this vision as well and that we should probably be gearing up to craft another updated version of it.
Moving Up in KSearch
Fast forward further to where I am now. The Board of KSearch has recently made me Vice President – not bad perhaps for one who started nearly fresh out of college back in 1999. Of course, I could only be so edified by this professional recognition. Clearly I have evolved, much as the firm has evolved these last 11 years. All the triumphs, the frustrations, the stressful episodes, the irreplaceable thrill and joy of winning for the clients and our candidates, the successes, the teamwork, the gratification of developing my highly enthusiastic team of consultants, the continuous training and exposure to a broad array of internal and external knowledge enhancement programs, even those beyond the core competencies of the executive search practice, the foreign travels, among others, have defined much of the person I am today.
Is this a Job or What?
As I look back to those ideals I had as a fresh graduate, I can’t quite make up my mind if I am just lucky or if I was destined to find this job. I’m not even sure if it is a job. Remember what they say about enjoying what you do? Then again, an endearing animated character has always said: “There are no accidents”. As I finish writing this, my Senior Consultant brings me good news of a successful hire for a valued BPO client, I respond to two emails of new recruitment mandates from existing clients, I deliver feedback to very good candidates who did not make the cut, and I confirm my acceptance of a role in an industry association … it’s only the middle of the week, after all.