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Tuesday April 22, 2008

Spotlight on John Chuang

Serena Kirk

When boys are asked what they want to be when they grow up, answers typically range from firefighter to doctor to astronaut.  But ever since John Chuang can remember, he wanted to be a businessman.

"I really never wanted to do anything else," said Chuang, who is now the president and CEO of Aquent, a staffing and consulting agency.

Chuang embarked on his journey to the top with Aquent co-founders Steve Kapner and Mia Wenjen, as undergraduates at Harvard University. The trio had almost no start up capital, and with no assets or collateral, they did what any smart college student would do – hit their parents up for a loan. Luckily, Chuang's parents, who had come to the United States from Taiwan, fully supported his precocious ambitions.

"It took all three sets of parents to co-sign, in addition to our personal guarantees to attain a five thousand dollar loan," Chuang said.

Since the company's establishment in 1986, the staffing and consulting agency has become a shattering success. The dorm room start-up earned its first million in the first year of operation, and within five years, the company became the bank's largest customer. The multimillion-dollar global corporation today has 69 offices in 13 different countries, in North America, Asia Pacific, and Europe.

The key to success for Chuang has been assembling a team of quality employees. But to attract top talent, Chuang realized he had to create an inclusive corporate culture.

Chuang paved new ground in the temping industry with his plan to provide comprehensive health and retirement benefits for temps. He is also the creator of the Partner Program, which matches temps with a talent agent, career counseling, and paid training. Aquent was also one of the nation's first agencies to list job profiles online and now hosts more than 13,000 portfolios.

Chuang's ability to execute his creative ideas has brought him a slew of awards. Chuang was named 'Asian Entrepreneur of the Year' by Asian Enterprises magazine. He received the 'Excellence 2000' award from the United States Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce. Aquent was also named on Inc's '500 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America' list - twice.

Despite his success, Chuang feels Aquent has not yet completed its mission.

"There is still so much to be done," said Chuang.

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