Korean-American Scientists and Engineers Association (KSEA) is a non-profit organization that advocates the application of science and technology for the general benefit of society, fosters international cooperation, and helps Korean-American engineers and scientists to realize their full career potential. In celebration of its 50 year anniversary, KSEA published the book KSEA 50 Years to share the rich history, goals & visions, and the development and achievements of KSEA.
Andrew Sungsoo Kim, our CEO & Founder of HRCap, Inc., has actively served as the KSEA Council and NY Metro Chapter Auditor and had won the 2012 KSEA Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Andrew has contributed an essay on his entrepreneurial journey to the KSEA anniversary book. He elaborates on the calculated risks made and what it took for him to be successful.
We hope that this essay gives readers insights on how to become a successful entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurial Journey: Measured Risk Taking and Continuous Learning for Value Creation
Written by Andrew Sungsoo Kim (Founder, President & CEO of HRCap, Inc.)
Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled; an entrepreneur is one who identifies a need for innovation, then takes considerable risk to organize and operate a new business. I received the 2012 KSEA Entrepreneur of the Year Award. I had founded HRCap, a Total HR Solutions Provider, and was acknowledged for its direct impact on the growth of Korean- American businesses and community. As I look back on the past 60 years of my life, I always had an entrepreneurial spirit to create value by gathering like-minded people into communities, changing inefficient processes, and identifying gaps to build from scratch.
I joined LG Electronics in 1987, and specialized in HR and Recruiting. I was identified and hand-picked by the LG Group Executive Committee for a fast-track HR expatriate opportunity. I came to the States in 1995 on a five year expat engagement as the HR & Recruiting Director in the CEO’s Executive Office. This was the first time ever that a Korean conglomerate made the investment to send an expat overseas to solely focus on global recruiting. I was tasked to create recruiting strategies and a strong pipeline of top graduate-level candidates in the Science & Technology field. In the five years, I had visited over 500 campuses and met over 20,000 Korean-American and Korean International students to promote LG’s brand and to recruit strong candidates in advance.
During this time, I met honorable leaders from KSEA HQ and active members from KSEA Chapters nationwide. I was deeply inspired by the impact KSEA had on the growth of the Korean-American community – in not just promoting the application of Science & Technology, but also guiding Scientists and Engineers develop their career. I made it a priority to make LG the main corporate sponsor for UKC and to partner with KSEA NY Metro Chapter for KMSO to instill greater interest in early STEM education. I continued my commitment to KSEA’s mission even after leaving LG Electronics by actively serving on the Council (2000-2010) and as Auditor (2010-2020) for the NY Metro Chapter.
Taking a Risk
In fact, 2020 marked the 20 year anniversary of HRCap. It has been over 20 years since I decided to leave my nest of 15 years and to forego the promised stability of a global corporate job at LG. Instead of going back to Korea alone to climb the corporate ladder, I took a leap of faith to stay in the States to build a start-up. The risk was high – financially, culturally, and socially. I had a family to care for with humble savings and limited funding. English was not my first language and the U.S. labor law was completely foreign to me. I was shunned by my trusted community as a scapegoat for leaving the company at that time. However, the decision was an obvious one. I wanted my children to continue their education here and to see them grow up to realize the American dream. I also knew exactly what the global labor market challenges were at the time, and had faith that my HR expertise and proven recruiting experience will drive the foundations for an innovative business model. Lastly, I had felt a genuine life-calling to create value as an ambassador to the global Korean-American labor market.
Starting and sustaining a business for over 20 years has not been easy. Based on market data, 90% of new startups fail; 50% make it to 5 years, 33% make it to 10 years, and only 25% make it to the 15 year mark. The past 20 years were filled with challenges and risks, but I was fortunate to have advisors, partners and employees who did not lose hope. We stayed firm in delivering highest service excellence even during the recessions, turnovers and now the pandemic. Our secret was to continuously learn, adapt, and transform; organized in 3 growth phases.
First Phase: Foundation & Vision Establishment
The first growth phase (2000-2010) of HRCap was a time of foundation and vision establishment. During these first few years, we identified a market need and reached highest client satisfaction. We acquired top recruiters to strengthen our niche practice, and joined partnerships with the government and press to build our corporate brand. We hosted the first Korean-American Online Recruitment Fair with The Korea Maeil Economic Daily (CyberCampusTour). By 2010, we made measurable impact on the Korean-American market, and were awarded by the Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy with the “Leading Recruiting Firm in the U.S. Recognition” and U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce with the “Top 10 Asian American Business Award.”
Second Phase: Customization & Expansion
The second phase (2010-2020) was spent on further realizing our vision, customizing our services, and widening our coverage. We expanded our business beyond U.S. and Korea to Asia and Europe. We developed our own ERP and CRM systems to allow for efficiency and intimacy. We launched various SNS platforms and opened communication channels to address unique client and candidate needs. While we were busy prospecting new opportunities in the first ten years, the second ten years were spent actively responding to client service inquiries and government partnership requests. We worked closely with our clients to grow their footprint in the States as the go-to bilingual recruiting agency. We were selected to act as the exclusive recruitment agent for official recruiting projects with the Korean government. Our teams began to specialize in unique service offerings, and we continued give back to our community through our HR expertise. We hosted the Global Employment Seminar with the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in New York, published the Road to Employment Guidebook, and organized the first ever two-day KSEA UKC 2018 Public Session with career seminars, job fair and panel discussions to educate the general public.
Third Phase: Digital Transformation
The third phase (2020-2030) is now focused on leading the market with digital transformation. We will not just assess and react to the market needs, but create and lead the global labor market. We now service over 1000 clients globally, with a talent pool of over 600,000 candidates, including 70,000 Korean Americans. We are no longer just known as No. 1 in the bilingual niche market, but have also built a brand for specializing in confidential Executive Recruiting and HR Consulting with exclusive client representation. We have built strong synergetic teams that partner with clients to effectively glocalize through cultural transformation strategies and critical placements. We are not just recruiters, but cultural ambassadors for global mobility by screening and training for adaptability and fit. We have a proven global brand for service excellence in speed and accuracy with emphasis in integrity, intimacy, and professionalism. We are leveraging our HR data powerhouse and differentiated service to become not just the largest but the best Asian Total HR Solutions Provider by 2030.
2020 has been a difficult year for all, but HRCap has committed to turn such challenges into opportunities to mark 2020 as our greatest milestone growth year. Even with the uncertainties brought forth by Covid-19, we took risks to improve our services offerings, hire more qualified employees with entrepreneurial spirit, and invest in systems and processes for greater digital transformation. This allowed us to be more nimble, progressive, and effective throughout the pandemic. As a continuous learning organization, we have delivered even higher service excellence as an indispensable growth partner to our global community.
What It Takes to Succeed
I believe there are 10 distinct traits that have defined and enhanced my entrepreneurial journey:
1) prudent market analysis,
2) honest self-assessment,
3) measured risk taking,
4) nimble adaptability,
5) continuous skills development,
6) investment in networking,
7) proactive collaboration,
8) time & asset management,
9) unwavering self-motivation,
10) genuine passion.
These characteristics and success factors have allowed me to create value as an entrepreneur – all the while adding value to the global labor market, creating niche communities, growing with client partners, making profit to retain and reward top talent, building life-long relationships, mentoring careers, and fulfilling my very own life calling. I will always continue to take measured risks for growth and be a life-long learner.