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Laurens had been successfully servicing an international brand in the footwear industry for many years when they engaged him in early 2020 to search for an APAC sales director who would lead the company’s expansion in the Asian market. He came close to a successful candidate introduction, but then the coronavirus hit and their headquarters froze HR budgets worldwide, leaving the APAC region with an even more urgent need for leadership, someone who could drive growth through the crisis. Laurens decided to explore creative ways to continue providing value that didn’t involve direct hiring of new employees.

Negotiation, Search, Challenges

Historically, Laurens’s relationship with the client has been exceptionally tight. He knows all the national/APAC stakeholders, and, obviously, the candidates he and his team have placed there over time. He is also on a first name basis with the global leadership team, making business interactions with the company consistently warm and personal.

When Laurens realized the client was facing serious trouble for reasons beyond their control, he immediately and indefinitely suspended all invoices to ease the financial burden on them. It came as a pleasant surprise to him when they countered with a proposal that he himself come on board as the APAC sales director instead. This was possible only because, although hiring expenses had been frozen, there was still budgetary room to engage a limited number of contracted consultants. With b2c-recruitment suffering heavily from the coronavirus pandemic, it was a mutually beneficial opportunity: Laurens could solve the client’s leadership vacuum issue and at the same time maintain cash flow for Zensho Agency’s commercial team.

The shift from recruitment consultant to commercial director for a global lifestyle brand seemed daunting until Laurens reasoned that the same dynamics applied to both, requiring him to:

  • Build industry relationships and know the market.
  • Make a sales plan.
  • Execute the sales plan.
  • Treat all stakeholders with common business courtesy and always assume good intent.

The learning curve for point 1 was steep for Laurens, but from the client’s experience working with him, they knew he could manage points 2-4, which were always the top priorities in their hiring criteria anyway.


As soon as Laurens signed on, he saw that although the company had been nested in Japan for over twenty years, it had made hardly any connections in the APAC region. He therefore made it his first priority to expand the distributor network and raise the company profile to match those of its industry peers. To these ends, he leveraged his expansive recruitment network, gathering recommendations regarding which distributors he should partner with to achieve the client’s growth objectives – a move that is already having a significant impact on the company’s public profile and reach.

Laurens’s stellar track record of service with the client inspired them with confidence in his ability to provide value in a significantly different role. The relationship is ongoing, and Laurens even now continues to receive new requests from senior management to take on additional responsibilities. He is grateful for their trust and rewards it with proactive ingenuity, deepening their faith in him with each successfully completed project. His next major assignment is to open retail stores in Shanghai, Bangkok and Jakarta.

Recruitment license number (Japan): 13 – ユ – 302223