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The Beginning Of A Singapore Recruitment Agency

Channel News Asia, 28 Jul 2011

He was nearly bankrupt, but with tenacity, 48-year-old entrepreneur Joshua Yim managed to turn the situation around. Today, his human search and recruitment firm Achieve Group sees an annual turnover of S$16 million from being in the red ten years ago. Just how did the CEO, who started his business 21 years ago, do it?

Taking the Plunge
Yim was with a German company when he took a leap of faith in 1990 to focus on his business full time. He explained that at age 27, there was still time to pursue his passion as he faced lower opportunity costs such as having the option of rejoining the corporate world if his business were to fail.
Within months, his company began to break even – but not for long.

Gloomy Days
His business took a tumble in 2001, following the bursting of the dot com bubble.
More bad news followed – the September 11 attacks in New York, followed by the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Singapore in 2003.

The triple whammy almost caused Yim’s company to fold, with losses amounting to more than S$900, 000 including his personal loss in forsaking his salary. But the optimistic Yim persevered, believing he could attain greater success by going through this difficult time.

In late 2003, Yim bit the bullet and took drastic measures to save his sinking company. He wiped out his personal assets, took bank loans and risked declaring himself a bankrupt should the banks come knocking. Also, he had reduced his manpower from 20 to nine.

I Learn, I Apply
However, the downtime did not defeat Yim, who put his human resource skills to good use.

To the CEO, leadership was a major factor for his success apart from his entrepreneurial spirit.

The 2010 Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Award winner acknowledged that “a critical success factor of (his) company is (his) people,” especially since his consultants are the ones retaining customer relations.
He added that it is important to engage with his employees and to ensure a “political-free” working environment for them.

Yim also rewards his staff based on merit to ensure “there is no nepotism in the company”.

In addition, Yim organises staff sharing sessions, where he recognises employees who adhere to the core
values of the company, such as respect for others.

His effective staff management ways have not gone to waste.

In the 10 years after his company first suffered heavy losses, Yim managed to not only save his company
from biting the dust, but also evolved Achieve to comprise of four companies.

Today, his firm is regarded as one of the forerunners in Singapore’s recruitment industry.

Looking Ahead
To prepare his company for a slowing economy, Yim is looking to diversify his business.
He will be focusing on talent management with a goal of expanding the business with “one country growth per year”.

Plans include developing a training consultancy as a HR-related service while heading for the fast-developing Hong Kong and China markets. This comes after his Malaysian office opened in June 2011.

Looking back, Yim said his hardship – from facing criticisms to managing his company’s finances – made him a better businessman.

“When the journey is tough, it really makes a man,” he says. People Are Not Good Interviewees

These days, Yim faces less acute problems – one of them is having to face interviewees who do not prepare themselves for a job interview. This includes those at the managerial level, he adds.

Based on the numerous interviews he had conducted, “winners are the ones who are really committed, not necessarily [based on] competency,” since skills can be honed, especially if the job is not a technical one where certification is necessary.

So what does a HR person like Yim look out for during a job interview?

Chemistry and engagement, said Yim, as that would give interviewers an idea of how well the interviewee can work with his future colleagues.

It is also important to have basic knowledge about the company before going for the interview. What’s even better is if the candidate can offer solutions to improve the company, he said.

The Achieve Group provides recruitment services for business, executive search, and recruitment of foreign workers, amongst others.

Sources: CNA, 28 July 2011