The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

When I first joined the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ), the Chubu chapter had fewer than half the members that it has now. The increase is great, but it isn’t common knowledge and that is unfortunate. For one, it denies Chubu’s leaders the credit they deserve for that achievement, but it also highlights that this growth hasn’t resulted in substantial increases in engagement rates among its members.

There are certainly exceptions, but in general there is no corresponding increase in attendance at events and participation in committees despite having more members. From the ground level, it isn’t obvious that the membership has changed so significantly. This lack of engagement is a nice problem to have, but is still a problem.

We enjoyed a generously long period of growth in the chapter, but to capitalize on that growth we should concentrate more on integrating members into our community and improving the value they get from their membership. Encouraging participation at events and on committees, and focusing on membership value, will ensure that the members and our chapter can fully capture all the value from these memberships, which will aid in retention and recruiting. Happy members are unbeatable marketing.

One way we are already working to increase engagement is the new Young Professionals Forum (YPF), an idea recently adapted from Tokyo’s excellent program. The YPF provides opportunities for younger members to thrive inside and outside of the ACCJ by hosting events focused on the needs and interests of workers and entrepreneurs under the age of 35.

Our inaugural YPF networking event at the Hilton Nagoya and the following YPF event were both tremendous successes, bringing out many of our most active and experienced members to welcome the 66 percent of attendees who were basically new faces and potential future leaders. We are excited by these initial successes and look forward to seeing what the YPF will accomplish in 2017.

An ongoing engagement challenge is that of our Japanese membership. While there are certainly individual exceptions, Japanese members tend to be less involved in events and committees than foreign members. This hurts us not only because we lose their energy and experience, but because we forgo opportunities and relevancy in the local community when those most fully situated in that community are not entirely engaged.

I believe that focusing the attention of our chapter’s leadership on the basic ideas of increasing engagement and improving membership value would be an excellent use of our time, and the right approach for 2017.

ACCJ 2016 Highlights

With an all-new website, unprecedented advocacy efforts, and record-high membership levels, 2016 was a historic year for the ACCJ. We thank our members and supporters for an outstanding year, and share a visual tour of the journey in this video.

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Ray Proper, vice president, ACCJ–Chubu