What is the life of being “country manager” as a new career?

In December 2019, an event with the theme “Country Manager as a Way of Life” was held. This is the report of the event. In this final article, real discussion about how to live life as a country manager is done by the speakers.


Takahashi: Let’s move on to the last question due to time constraints. Of course, you’ve had a lot of good experiences being a country manager and as its first employee. But would you recommend such a career? Could you tell us why?

Could you please give a message to those who are challenging to be country managers or first employees of certain companies? Let’s hear from Mr. Ido.

Ido: Well, from the beginning, while I was working for financial institutions, such as Goldman Sachs, I had a desire to become a player on the industry side and be involved in manufacturing.

At that time, I didn’t want to simply join a manufacturer as a normal member but I wanted to do something special using my own experience in life. In search of that, I came up with the answer by becoming the first member and country manager in Japan. I’ve been very happy over the past seven years.

Perhaps there were so many moments that I would not have gotten to experience if I didn’t do it. It was really tough, however, I think the breadth of my career has expanded tremendously.

Perhaps even if the day I leave Anker comes, this experience will always be remembered. If you ask me if I recommend it, I definitely recommend it.

Yoshitsune Ido (Anker Japan Co., Ltd.)

Most likely, those who will become a country manager, are those who want to be one or those who can be one. Finding these people in Japan are quite rare.

Even if the services and products are popular in the United States, Europe, and other countries, having to penetrate Japan’s large market would require finding the right step. But that is hard to find. Due to this, I think there are quite a few situations where Japan’s side is very advantageous for negotiations. 

It is like a balance between supply and demand. You need to be able to take advantage of the situation.  Rather than starting up a business from scratch, you can leverage existing products and operations from overseas and head-start the business in Japan. I think this is the interesting part of the job as a country manager.

Takahashi: Thank you.

(Applause)

Takahashi: Next we have Mr. Tomimatsu.

Tomimatsu: That’s right. If there is a chance, I hope everyone can try it.

I had a friend who worked for a global company who then moved to a venture company as a country manager. He had a similar background to that of me, but along the way, he was involved in various internal politics and eventually went back as a CDO of a large company.

I believe it is quite possible to go back to your previous career after having been a country manager. In that way, I would like you to experience a lot of things in life. 

As I said earlier, if you think of it as a trial step to start your own business (the challenge to be a country manager) it is best to start as soon as possible.

Keiichiro Tomimatsu (MediaMath Japan Corporation)

If you are a country manager, you already have a product or service and now all you have to do is to figure out how to fit into the Japanese market? I think it is good to think of positioning yourself from the beginning.

It is often said, what differentiates us? Where is the competition? I think it’s very interesting to be able to change my point of view and make strategic and tactical decisions and sell it in this way.

Rather than starting from scratch, you can buy a share, get a salary and start a business. It can’t get more exciting than this.

Finally, the probability of success. Previously, I had the opportunity to meet and talk to someone at Intel Capital (Intel’s Venture Capital division). They were saying, “We invested in 100 companies and only one succeeded, but that one company overturned 99 losses and made significant profits.”

One out of 10 companies are breakeven or somehow surviving. Given that probability, starting a business is not so easy.

“One out of 100 is a big success. One out of 10 manages to survive.”

I think it would be better to challenge yourself, considering that it may be even more difficult now. After 99 trials or 10 trials, you may be one of them. That’s all.

Takahashi: Thank you.

(Applause)

Takahashi: Finally, Mr. Shintaku, please.

Shintaku: I’m the first employee to join as a marketing manager. If I rate Apple as 1 out of 100, I can say I am happily at a hundred right now with my current company.

It’s been five weeks since I joined and I haven’t launched a service yet, but it’s really fun. I’m only 31 years old, but if a younger guy is here, I would highly recommend you to become a Country Manager or a company’s first employee.

One reason is that, as Mr. Tomimatsu mentioned earlier, you can decide on your own positioning, how to sell, and where to sell.

Akira Shintaku (Wolt Japan)

Wolt is currently present in 19 countries, in Scandinavia, Central Asia, the Baltic countries, etc., but Japan is a very culturally unique market. So, the investment from the home country is large.

People, money and investments are tremendous, and today, employees from Finland headquarters are present in this event. Indeed, I am receiving all these various support.

I was in Finland until last week. Whenever they met a Japanese person, they felt like they met a star and mention “Japanese? (Unconditionally) Thank you!”. It is worth to be part of the Japanese branch. 

In particular, because Finland loves Japan as a country, I believe that because of that aspect, it is more pleasant to be able to do business with them while receiving attention from the entire company at the same time. That would be all.

Takahashi: Thank you very much. The time has come to an end. I’d like to ask more questions but I’m hungry too, so I’ll end here. Once again, please give a round of applause to these three people.

Everyone: Thank you very much!

(Loud applause)

(Fin)


Speaker Information

Country Manager Year End Party 2019

-Speaker-
Yoshitsune Ido
Anker Japan Co., Ltd.
CEO

He graduated from the University of Tokyo, Faculty of Economics, Department of Management in 2002. In the same year, he joined Goldman Sachs Japan Co., Ltd., and engaged in M&A transactions for client companies and advisory services in capital markets in the investment banking division. In 2006, he joined TPG Capital, a private equity investment firm where the focus was investing in Japanese companies and increasing corporate value. In 2013, he established a Japan subsidiary of the Anker group and became CEO. He grew this business with sales exceeding 10 billion yen within 6 years. Fifth ‘Dan’ (grade) in Kendo.

Keiichiro Tomimatsu
MediaMath Japan Corporation
Representative

Joined P&G Marketing Department as a new graduate, then worked at Reuters News Agency (Sydney), Citibank, GE Capital, 20th Century Fox Movie (now Walt Disney Studios), Google, etc. Established two Japanese companies, most recently DAZN Media Japan, UK representative. Received numerous awards, including the Japan Academy Awards, Tokyo Interactive Awards, and Dentsu Advertising Awards. Advisory board member of the first Ad Tech Tokyo 2009. Completed the MBA from the # 1 Macquarie School of Management in Australia.

Akira Shintaku
Wolt Japan
Marketing Manager (First employee in Japan Branch)

After leading the strategy of direct response advertising on Twitter, engaged in marketing at UNIQLO and Apple. In November 2019,  joined Wolt (Japanese branch), which develops food delivery based in Helsinki, Finland, as its first Japanese employee.

-Moderator-
Kiminari Takahashi
RTB House Japan K.K.
Sales Director of Japan

After graduating from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, joined Recruit as a fresh graduate. After entering the ad tech industry, joined Criteo, Appier. In January 2018, joined the retargeting advertising company RTB House from Poland as its first employee in Japan. Within just two years of joining, led Japan to become “RTB House’s fastest growing global market”.