The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Established with the purpose of providing members with opportunities to interact and learn from top executives, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Kansai chapter’s Business Programs Committee inaugurated a CEO series in February.

Thus far, four CEOs have been hosted: Danny Risberg, CEO of Philips Electronics Japan, Ltd.; Tim Brett, representative director and president of Coca-Cola (Japan) Co., Ltd.; Monika Merz, president, Toys“R”Us, Asia Pacific and president & CEO, Toys“R”Us, Japan; and George L. Maffeo, president, Boeing Japan and vice president, Boeing International.

In their presentations, they all shared lessons learned throughout their careers.

Speaking at the Hilton Osaka in early February, Danny Risberg—in “Asking the Right Questions”—relied on his more than 20 years’ experience working in Japan to deliver insights on how to engage with Japanese companies.

Using case studies from Philips, Risberg talked about key success factors, and shared tips for win–win relationship with Japanese companies from the perspective of both buyers and sellers.

ACCJ members with Danny Risberg, CEO, Phillips Electronics Japan Ltd. (second from left) at his ACCJ Kansai CEO series presentation held February 5.

ACCJ members with Danny Risberg, CEO, Phillips Electronics Japan Ltd. (second from left) at his ACCJ Kansai CEO series presentation held February 5.

In international business, particularly mergers and acquisitions, a relationship founded on goodwill and trust is vital between buyers and sellers, Risberg said. Both sides must understand and truly know the people that they work with, and be fully aware of the reasons they are conducting business.

For buyers, the question to be posed is, “What will I gain by acquiring?” Sellers, meanwhile, need to be cognizant of the reasons they are letting go of their business. Answering such questions is the key to both organizational and personal success.

Toward the end of February, Tim Brett discussed Coca-Cola Japan’s current marketing strategy here. Speaking at a live-streamed event at The Ritz-Carlton Osaka, Brett also talked about the development of his own career—under the billing “Ideas and Initiative”—and how it led to his current role.

Expats are not sent to Japan simply because of their set of skills, Brett said. They allow the cross-pollination of ideas, which culminates in enhancing an entire organization: Best practices can be shared effectively, employees are exposed to new cultures, and innovation is birthed within the company.

Brett also shared his tips for success. “Put yourself in the way of good luck,” a phrase he teaches all of his new hires, especially those with high potential. “Make good luck for yourself because the future is not predictable. Take risks. Be prepared so that when you encounter good luck, you can be the one who benefits.”

In the middle of spring, Monika Merz—in “Dealing with Setbacks”—discussed her journey in retail: from the sales floor of a specialty fashion retailer to the leadership team of the world’s largest dedicated retailer of toys and baby products.

Also speaking at The Ritz-Carlton Osaka, Merz highlighted challenges she faced over the course of her career, and offered her thoughts on management in Japan.

Merz delivered an inspiring presentation, highlighting the importance of staying positive and believing in oneself. Throughout her career, she has faced numerous obstacles and setbacks, some even set up by peers and bosses.

Naturally, Merz experienced discouragement in such cases but, thanks to the strong support group she had developed around her, she was able to quickly rebound and tackle challenges with renewed vigor.

Merz has practiced surrounding herself with positivity, both at work and in her personal life, and always finds it a source of inspiration. Positivity builds her confidence, allowing her to stay adaptable in a world of change.

For Merz, setbacks are no longer hindrances to attaining full potential; they are, instead, an opportunity for growth.

Speaking at the Hilton Osaka in June, George L. Maffeo, meanwhile, explained Boeing’s strategy to remain at the forefront of aerospace innovation, as well as the role played by Japanese partner companies in its global success story.

Arguably the most important lesson Maffeo has learned over the past 25 years about the aviation industry, he said, is that safety is paramount. Naturally, Boeing’s focus on safety and quality makes Japanese companies desirable working partners, as both traits are culturally embedded in Japan.

This convergence of core values, Maffeo said, creates win–win situations based on mutual trust and understanding, which results in the production of quality products. When problems arise, one side is not solely responsible for the problem—it is truly a give-and-take relationship, he said.

Kendrick Miyano, an ACCJ Intern, is an undergraduate at Wheaton College.