An Interview with John Barry

John: Hello, my name is John Barry. I’m the North American Human Resource Manager for ECC Japan. ECC is large. We’re coming up on our 53rd anniversary, and we’re a large educational organization in Japan offering all sorts of educational opportunities and courses. My primary focus is to recruit native English speaking North Americans to go teach English in Japan, and have a great experience.

Interviewer: And why do your customers or clients prefer ECC as opposed to other educational groups?

John: ECC has a great name in the English conversation arena in Japan. And they have, for example, what we consider full-time positions. That is, twenty nine and a half hours per week. Doesn’t that sound pretty good? And seven weeks’ paid vacation. It’s just basically a sweeter package. Within the private sector, it’s pretty hard to beat, and it’s also got a great reputation in terms of providing reliable employment opportunities and a good work environment in Japan. So I think folks from other companies, even from within Japan, do gravitate towards ECC. Fifty years plus in the business – you gotta expect that they have a pretty good foundation there for taking care of people.

Interviewer: And what are some of the challenges you may have faced being the North American HR person for ECC?

John: Well, other than those midnight telephone call meetings because of the time difference, really not too many, to be frank. The applicant pools have always been reasonably plentiful. That’s not to say that that couldn’t change. I do find we’re traveling more around North America now. Initially we were. It’s 15 years in Toronto now. Maybe the first five or so I was strictly out of Toronto for the most part. A couple of trips here and there, up to Vancouver or down into the States, but now we try to move around a little bit more, and get a bit more exposure. It costs a lot of money, we realized, to have people to come up to Toronto all the time, so we’re making a solid effort to get around the States and parts of Canada three or four times a year to maximize opportunity for all native English-speaking North Americans. Outside of that, no outright challenges for ECC – other than one year, it was SARS. That’s an exceptional circumstance. So at the risk of boasting, I’d say that the challenges have been minimal. It’s nice to have a set-up here in the business centre, and I can talk more on that if you like?

Interviewer: Ok. How long have you been using a business centre?

John: Actually 15 years. So, I worked in Japan for over decade, and while there working with ECC, they asked me if I’d come over to Canada, set up the North American scenario, and so I actually came over on a trip from Japan to research office space – and within the first day, I found Telsec. In fact, it was my first trip to a business centre, and it’s the one I ended up settling on. Of course, I went to some other ones in Toronto, but the first being Telsec, is the one I went for.

Interviewer: What are some of the things you like about working in a business center as opposed to a private office environment or a traditional office environment?

John: I think within the business center you’ve got, it seems like 50 or 80 other business in here. That network creates a very nice scenario, not just socially, but I know a number of people that have built additional business contracts and partnerships from others within this building. Not that that was your initial intent, but those types of things just seem to happen in this community setting. Outside of that, I’ve utilized various business centres throughout North America and the Alliance Network. They were all coordinated through one person. It was simple. The billing and everything worked quite nicely, and all of them had excellent locations which is essential for people coming into see you. Sort of almost, marquee locations in many cases. One example being, 1 Yonge Street here in Toronto, which is the address of Telsec where I’m speaking to you from. 1 Yonge Street, that’s a pretty popular, or shall I say well know address, right near Union Station.

If you what to have a meeting in a boardroom or a meeting room or a breakout room, all those things cost money. But with the business centre scenario, it’s all under one roof, one umbrella, one package price. Little things. There’s free coffee here if you need it. There’s a newspaper you can check out in the morning, all part of those extra little touches, and the boardrooms are well kept. There’s appropriate AV equipment in there, you’ve even got some whiteboards and dry erase walls there too. When was the last time you could write whatever you wanted all over a wall and not get in trouble for it? So those things are indeed helpful.

And if you have your own private office, you’ll also probably need to have some staff to support you there, unless you’re going to be there all the time. I’m in a scenario where I can’t be, so when I’m traveling in the States or Canada or other locations interviewing North Americans for these jobs in Japan, I’ve got a live call right back here. When somebody calls in, they speak to somebody here. There’s been times where I’ve locked myself out or I lost my key, and what are you going to do if you have your own private office? You go get a locksmith! Well, I easily spoke to the receptionist, she let me in and I actually found the key in my office. So little things like that, they all add up. Staff’s been helpful, it’s a full menu as you can imagine, of services here, from coffee etc. The boardrooms have AV etc. And overall, it’s been a very positive experience. It’s where I like to be.

This may sound odd, but they’ve got great washrooms here and kitchens. It’s important because a lot of places wouldn’t have the proactive insight to build, basically, to stay up with the times. So I’ve got clients coming in, have them come out of the washroom and say: “That’s the nicest washroom I’ve ever been in.” Not that that’s going to close the deal for you, but it’s just sort of nice to have that associated with your company. Those types of extra little touches help.

Another thing that I personally notice that I can speak specifically to is, at least with the Toronto location, proactive improvements moving forward.  They’ve recently knocked out some walls and they’ve put in glass wall windows with smoked glass – so there’s still some privacy for the individuals in these private offices. But what you can see, you get this nice natural light coming in from the lake. You can get a better view of Lake Ontario. Little things that just sort of liven everything up. They ads to the atmosphere of the place versus some kind of dingy spots that you might see in some private offices.