Flight of the Phoenix

Peter Owans, President & CEO Phoenix Consulting, Inc.


In today’s global environment, the HR function in major corporations is undergoing a transformation from an operational and administration role to a more strategic function that is aligned with the mission of the organization. HR is required to fulfill a key management role in realizing the organization’s vision, business needs and strategic agenda.

This is one of the areas that Phoenix Consulting Inc specializes in. A group company of NetLearning Holdings, Phoenix Consulting Inc (PCI) is headed by Peter Owans, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the corporate training industry as a training partner and consultant to many multinational corporations in Japan.

PCI provides a range of services including training and development, consulting, coaching, outsourcing, performance assessment and business English instruction.

Japan Today visits Owans at his office in Nishi Shinjuku to hear more.

When did you join Phoenix Consulting Inc?

I joined on Aug 1 this year. This company is 100% owned by NetLearning Holdings, which owns NetLearning Inc, WiWiWi and Personnel Consulting Inc. The Holdings decided to spin off personnel consulting for me to continue doing what I enjoy doing best. They changed the name to Phoenix Consulting Inc at that point.

What services do you provide?

We provide training in different solution segments, such as general business English programs, English for specific purposes, business communications skills, global business practice skills, executive coaching, academic solutions and HR consulting services.

What’s your biggest revenue earner?

Right now, about 60% of what we do is business skills training and HR consulting. We have just begun establishing our business English training programs, and we are already fast expanding this segment.

Since you’re still a relatively new company, how do you market yourself?

Through networking, events and referrals. I have been in this industry for 30 years and am fairly well known in corporate training, so that helps establish our presence in this industry. Our parent company, NetLearning, has been in business for over 25 years and is well known as an IT learning solutions and e-learning platform company. They have a very solid client base that they have not been able to reach out to in terms of global leadership training and communication skills training, so we are getting introductions through their network.

Who are your clients?

I divide clients into three sectors. We have PCGs (professional clients group) like finance and consulting firms, FACs (foreign affiliated companies) like Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc, and the third is DCGs (domestic clients group). In my previous company, about 70% of our business came from PCGs and FACs. We will continue to focus on all three segments, but I plan to raise our profile within domestic multinational clients a bit more by leveraging my experience working with the PCGs and FACs to support their globalization drive.

We are a “boutique” style company, which means that our engagement process is not scalable. We want to work intimately with our clients so we can provide the best learning experience that is personalized to meet their organizational goals. The methods and delivery platform will be quite different from what I’ve done previously, and it’s a new level of excitement for me.

What is an example of some work you did?

One of our clients is a global company that has offices across Asia, Europe, North America and Africa. The issue is that when the CEO visits each country and talks about the company’s corporate values, the story is always understood differently from each region even though his message is always the same. Each region seems to have adopted their own corporate values that are not aligned with the CEO’s and they don’t understand what the core corporate values are, nor has it been clearly imparted to the various branches. The question is how do you teach or train your employees to understand your corporate values. It’s not as simple as summarizing your core values in your mission statement and hanging it up in the boardrooms.

Core values define what the organization believes in and it’s important that the employees also believe in these values. While I can’t discuss the details here, we are working closely with the clients through consulting, brainstorming sessions and workshops that involve not just key leaders and managers, but also selected employees from each region. Through our unique NetLive platform, we don’t need to bring all the participants to Tokyo for such training, and the client is already amazed at some of the results that we are getting. Each program we do is customized for the client and requires us to work very closely with them.

Are you seeing a shift in the function of HR in major companies?

Yes, there has been a paradigm shift in major corporations in Japan and I can confidently say that the trend will continue. What I’m implying by a “paradigm shift” is a change in mentality. Previously, HR professionals were viewed as the police within the organization, enforcing rules and policies, but not playing a role in formatting the strategic vision. However, HR professionals are now more empowered to participate with the management team and sit on the board to make sure HR provides constant change and development that meets business strategic needs and success.

What about global leadership training for Japanese companies?

Japan is the third largest economy in the world, so you would think there would be no need to even talk about globalization for Japanese corporations, right? The problem is that the primary focus has been on exporting high quality products and building factories overseas instead of developing people or leaders with a global mindset. But, Japanese companies now know that they need to globalize and they also know it involves more than just products and factories. It is my hope that “Made in Japan” will also apply to Japanese leaders one day.

Tell us about your team.

We have 12 full-time staff of different nationalities. NetLearning Holdings has about 40 employees and they support us in most of our operations. Plus, we have 34 trainers and some are also working on program development. I also have five independent consultants, depending on the nature of the project, who work for me almost on a full-time basis.

What do you focus on?

I wear many hats since we are still a new company, but I enjoy meeting my clients and working closely with them. I have set three strategies, or what I call the PCI Priorities, which are – building the core base, building the client base and building our long-term vision.

How do you like to relax away from the office?
When I was younger, I used to hit the highway and drive outside Tokyo without any plan, and I once drove all the way to Aomori before I realized how far away I was from Tokyo. Nowadays, I enjoy listening to opera arias and trying to imitate Pavarotti.

Japan Today

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