For the shy, guarded or reticent of heart, be warned: Mariko Yoshihara really wants to know what makes you tick. From the get-go she tries to find out people’s motivations and passions in the hope of understanding them more.
”I want to get to know you before you get to know me. Tell me something about yourself,” she said during the first few minutes of our meeting.
The managing director of international recruitment and consultancy firm JAC Recruitment Indonesia also likes to determine the reasons behind every action because it provides insight into what people have in mind, especially in her line of work of connecting corporate clients with the right people for their needs.
“Our position is like a mak comblang [matchmaker]. To bridge the expectations, we should put more time into delving into what the clients really want,” said the Japanese-Indonesian.
She explained that by understanding why clients had set certain requirements for job applicants, she could suggest to them how to expand or tweak the requirements to secure better talented candidates.
Her management style includes creativity, making the best of people and creating diversity, she said.
“Just be yourself. If you’re genuine and put credibility in your life, people will respect you and follow your leadership,” she said.
“I try to make myself and the company prudent, full of integrity and fair. So I will never go against those values.”
Instead of formal training of employees for a set period, Yoshihara encourages them to pick up tips from their peers, including “copying and pasting” methods they are comfortable with.
“We have on-the-job training 365 days a year. I usually rotate the seating arrangement to change the atmosphere, if employees have work problems or they can motivate others,” she said.
Yoshihara applies teamwork and builds connections among employees who are not performing to expectations.
“Connections are important. I always ask my employees if they have a best friend at the office. If you have a best friend or soulmate in the team, you wouldn’t want to hurt them. You will give your best.”
She started a business when she was 19 years old and in her third year at the University of Indonesia. At that time, the Japanese literature university student worked part- time with PT Marubeni Indonesia as an Indonesian language teacher to the CEO. It led to many referrals and work offers.
She would overhear CEOs talking about their expectations and how difficult it was to find good talent in Indonesia.
They should have thought about diversity, she says.
“The companies did not understand how to make good use of the diversity. You are not going to have fun with uniformity. Diversity makes things colorful. I like to utilize diversity in my company management,” she concluded.
Asked to rate the quality of Indonesian human resources, Yoshihara said that Indonesians were very people-oriented, cared about others and so were particularly good in the hospitality industry. However, they are spoiled by the ease and comforts of living in a tropical climate.
“Sometimes if you’re too positive you become too set in your ways. It would be good if you had a crisis, so you could have a contingency plan,” she said.
She tries to create working environments that challenge employees and hires interns from abroad such as the US and European countries.
“Having overseas interns forces the other employees to practice their English. They can learn from the interns and vice versa. The experience is invaluable,” she said.
Yoshihara starts her day at 3 a.m. by having a quiet moment to herself and checking her e-mails. Between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., she exercises and then prepares to go to the office.
“Once I arrive at the office, I don’t check e-mail. I try to be present. If I see someone’s face is not happy, I ask if I can help,” she said.
She takes a breather at 5:30 p.m. every day to contemplate the company’s future plans. She returns home at 10 p.m. and is in bed an hour later.
Her weekend schedule involves networking, such as assisting with the Japanese festival or participating in a Rotary Club campaign to help people with visual impairment disorders.
Yoshihara believes that Indonesians should ask themselves what they could do to improve their surroundings, instead of waiting for the government to take action.
“If Indonesia has this mentality, it will grow ten times in a year. We are still ego-centered. Sharing and good attitudes are not common,” she said.
But she does hold to the view that it’s all about having big capital to ensure business success.
“What you need is trust, credibility and a lot of guts to do it. People will come and support your dream. We like to be part of other people’s dream,” she said.
Place and date of birth: Jakarta, Nov. 24, 1967
2002-Present: Managing Director PT JAC Indonesia and PT JAC Business Center
1999-2002: CEO of PT Interprofesi Servisindo
1992: University of Indonesia, majoring in Japanese Literature
1990: Completed Japanese Studies program at Kyoto University, Japan