The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

President | ACCJ Successes

November 2013
GETTING BETTER AND BETTER
The ACCJ brand is being held in increasingly high esteem

Larry Bates
lbates@accj.or.jp @ACCJPresident

I am very pleased to report on two completely different ACCJ activities, both of which have been successful. First, the 18th Annual Diet Doorknock; second, the final recommendations of the Special Presidential Task Force (SPTF), as approved by the Board of Governors on October 7.

The doorknock, a staple of the ACCJ advocacy brand, has become increasingly better over the years that I have participated, and especially during the past four years under the capable leadership of Government Relations Committee Chair Arthur Mitchell—and, more recently, Larry Greenwood, his vice chair.

Kudos to everyone in the ACCJ office, especially Noriko Ijichi and Asami Ide, who supported the committee’s efforts with many late nights.

The doorknock team comprised nearly 70 ACCJ leaders, including Japan CEOs of major companies. Members attended a total of 48 meetings that brought them into contact with 53 Diet members and other top government officials. This is a hit rate of about one-third, based on our target list.

The results of the doorknock are much more exciting than might have been expected because we pushed the dates so the campaign would carry a timely message during the Diet recess. This was just prior to the opening of the Extraordinary Diet Session focused on growth strategy, which commenced on October 15.

Despite the recess, we had an excellent turnout at the reception at the US Ambassador’s Residence by US Chargé d’Affaires Kurt Tong, on September 27—a Friday evening.

This all goes to demonstrate the importance of our growth message. It focuses on the need for key structural reforms to promote inward-bound foreign direct investment and new investment by entrepreneurs, as well as the benefits to the Japanese economy of a successful conclusion of the ongoing negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

We can attribute this success to the increasing esteem in which the ACCJ brand is being held. At these valuable meetings we rarely have to spend time explaining who we are, even on first-time visits. Thus, we can move straight to the substance of the discussions, in a friendly and cooperative manner, even when we do not agree entirely.

Further, I am very grateful to ACCJ Vice President Jeff Bernier and the leaders of the three SPTF working groups, as well as to Laura Younger and her team in the ACCJ office for getting the leadership focused on the opportunities and impediments to membership growth.

We have been making progress even with our existing resources and processes: corporate sustaining membership (CSM) has increased to 57 members from 49 in January, and women now represent more than 20 percent of the total membership—up nearly five percent from when we started tracking this figure.

But we can do so much more. The board and the office will address, in particular, the opportunities around engagement of CEOs, the conversion to CSM status of larger companies, the better engagement of the Japanese who comprise 50 percent of the membership, and making ACCJ membership more meaningful in terms of a concrete impact on real business for the significant number of our company members that are small or medium-sized enterprises. By year end, we will hire a senior-level director of development to take up these and other membership-related strategies.

We have identified many specific actions to pursue immediately, or to place in the hands of the new director. These include the addition of a CSM gold section to the ACCJ Directory; further engagement of CEOs through the CEO Forum, the doorknocks, and a special board of advisors comprising CEOs to periodically brainstorm with the elected board; designation of a committee or task force charged with developing global talent within our Japanese membership base; publication of a small and medium-sized enterprise handbook to showcase this segment of our membership; incorporation of the net promoter score concept to make better use of our membership satisfaction surveys; and formation of a company membership outreach task force to expand membership in under-represented industry sectors, among non-US companies, and with government organizations.

We will need volunteers to step up to the plate for leadership of some of these activities, and I look forward to hearing from you!