Publisher May / June 2020

Power of positive

Face tragedy with humour and help

As an insurance firm advert once famously said: “We won’t make a drama out of a crisis”. We all cope with tragedy in our own way: stoically, dramatically, practically or philo­so­phically. Some people volunteer or practice humour. While I do not advocate we daily recite the lyrics of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” there is ample evidence of our inclination to laugh during hard times, such as a recent job advert for a major British organisation in Tokyo: it requires appli­cants to have “a good sense of humour!”

Why? Banter, explain HR specialists, is the best way to endure tough times, because it:

  • Builds company morale
  • Boosts mental and physical health
  • Helps retain the best staff
  • Bonds managers and staff
  • Strengthens teamwork
  • Increases productivity
  • Decreases stress

While some consult their bucket list for inspira­tion, the positives for me have been rediscover­ing the simple joys of small local corner shops selling fresh produce, garden weeding, small talk with neigh­bours, and walking to and from the school bus. I also finally enrolled in a couple of long-overdue online courses by the excellent Board Director Training Institute of Japan and Saïd Business School. I haven’t worn a suit, tie or a watch for seven weeks and I no longer feel uncom­fortable at webi­nars in just a shirt and unmentionables.

As we begin to creep back to the office, some observers anticipate post-virus positives, such as:

  • Less hanko, meishi, faxes, receipts, meetings, bullying, pressure, judging, overtime, commuting and general nastiness
  • More flexitime, family time, fairness, resilience, resourcefulness, respect, rest, sleep, manners, space, niceties, helping and mentoring

Talking of which, the 26th annual Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC)—a hands-on, non-profit organisation (NPO) that trains aspiring entrepreneurs, executives and other young leaders to write real business plans for actual firms entering or expanding in Japan—battled on, despite the virus.

As an executive committee member, and with Custom Media being its long-time media partner, I am involved with JMEC all year round. For the first time, however, I also served as a mentor for one team writing a business plan and as a board member of an NPO on the other end of another business plan.

Supported by 23 foreign chambers of commerce in Japan, JMEC 26 exposed me to further valuable insight into how the three diverse groups view opportunities and challenges. Last year, the local arms of UK outfits Pearson and The Salvation Army scored awards; previous JMECs welcomed the British Council Japan and GlaxoSmithKline which, coincidentally, decorate our previous and present front covers, respectively. Although no UK firms featured in JMEC this year, a record five British young professionals entered. More details on how they fared in the next issue.

I’m also a board director of two other NPOs and will soon join another, along with a couple of event committees. So where is all this going? The NPO industry, I hear, is bracing for a post-virus surge of interest from both volunteers and worthy causes. But how to find the right one?

Custom Media’s latest venture is to tap the emerging goodwill with a free digital platform on our website that matches keen volunteers with NPOs, as well as interns with firms. It is part of Connect, which we launched in April, a free digital marketplace to help virus-affected local firms. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with more than 6,500 visits per month to 62 featured firms offering up to 100% discounts, which also generated a number of new leads and much goodwill.

So let’s see if Connect can do the same for volunteers and good causes. Simply email me, browse the list of help required or register here:

Lesson in history and media

With the 400th anniversary of the demise of William Adams on 16 May, I had been swotting up on the first Englishman in Japan by reading the divisive but entertaining Anjin—The Life and Times of Samurai William Adams, 1564-1620: As Seen Through Japanese Eyes, by Devon-based Hiromi Rogers. Thanks to our media contacts and press release for the William Adams Club, an announcement on that very special day earned generous exposure in The Telegraph, Daily Mail and Sunday Times. Until now, Adams—long revered in Japan—has been relatively neglect­ed in the UK, outside of his Gillingham birthplace, so perhaps this will go some way to help correct that injustice. How to get your story in the quality press? See our case study here:

I hope to see you all at a BCCJ event soon.