Executive Director Mar / Apr 2021

The difference one year makes

After a year of maternity leave, I’m thrilled to be back in the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) hot seat. I’m busy soaking up the latest UK–Japan news, on-ramping back into chamber business, and catching up on develop­ments from members and other stake­holders in the private and public sectors. 

Settling in

My first day back “at the office” (my dining room table) was energising and intriguing. With the kids on their way to nursery, I dived into a whole new world of lingo: digital transformation, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, Sparkup, and Zoom backgrounds.

Work and life have changed immeasurably since I gave birth to my son in March last year. It’s been inspiring to see our chamber members and executive team rising to the challenges presented by 2020 and 2021—not least the rapid digital trans­forma­tion of the workplace and business.

Since the pandemic took hold, the chamber has been proactively championing digital innova­tion and delivering high-quality member services—including events and B2B promotion—in associa­tion with trusted partners such as the UK govern­ment and Export to Japan. 

We’re now laying the groundwork for an exciting spring / summer season, reviewing and bolstering our membership value proposition—particularly in the areas of innovation as well as diversity and inclusion—and working to advance bilateral com­mercial interests, while remaining flexible as we face the ever-evolving public health situation.

Looking ahead 

The chamber is also evolving. I’ve transitioned the executive director role to a four-day work week, and will be focused on the strategic leadership of the chamber. I’m delighted that Sarah Backley can continue as full-time associate director, ably taking care of day-to-day operations alongside our digital genius Sam Maddicott, and our super administrator Sanae Samata. Sincere thanks go to Graham Davis for his commitment to the team over the past year in the capacity of senior adviser.

Over the coming weeks, I look forward to recon­necting with you and your teams, and to stand­ing alongside you throughout this year in the pursuit of sustainable growth for your business, and the wider UK–Japan partnership. It will not always be easy, but I have faith in the power of our network.

As ever, it’s a privilege to serve you, our members, and to support your ambitions, especially during these challenging, yet promising, times. 

What do you need from the chamber to further your business interests in 2021? Let me know:

Thank you very much for your ongoing support of the BCCJ.


A warm farewell

By Graham Davis

I cannot believe it has been a full year of involve-ment with the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) and that my time here is at an end. 

I’d like to thank Associate Director Sarah Backley, Marketing and Communications’ Sam Maddicott, Operations Manager Sanae Samata, and Executive Director Lori Henderson at the BCCJ office for having made it such a rewarding experience. I must also extend my gratitude to David Bickle OBE and the BCCJ Executive Committee, who provide the chamber with excellent leadership.

My stint here has coincided almost exactly with the coronavirus pandemic. Despite this, BCCJ activities have benefitted from being able to bring in speakers and audiences from anywhere. There has been no need to wait for interesting people to visit Tokyo; we have been able to involve them seamlessly in our digital event formats.

For the BCCJ, it has been a great opportunity to partner with other chambers in the Asia–Pacific region and with parties in the UK.

When I think about the village I live in, there are people in the community I have not seen in the past 12 months. It has been similar with business. On one level, it has been possible to maintain relation-ships digitally, but missing are the additional contacts: chance meetings and quick introductions, which are useful for starting and developing relationships.

A village is definitely not the same without its community activities, but I am not worried about the village here, or the BCCJ. Both are healthy and adaptive bodies, keen to renew relationships and connections. The village welcomes new births and people moving in; the BCCJ has new platforms, members and opportunities. I’m excited to see what happens next.