Education’s lateness to embracing IT makes it all the more rewarding for us
Before this, I was working at a consulting firm handling business acquisitions, M&A-related work. RECRUIT Marketing Partners was one of our clients at the time, and when I was put in charge of the Quipper acquisition deal, that was the first time I got to know Quipper. RECRUIT completed the acquisition of Quipper in April of 2015, and as I went on to support the business and management integration, I made the decision to change my employer and I joined Quipper in January 2016.
I had three reasons for deciding on this career change. Before, I’d worked as an advisor and my job was to help my clients make decisions. I thought through the various issues and points requiring discussion, considered the necessary actions and supported the required procedures, but in the end I couldn’t really be a primary actor. This was a dilemma for me. So my desire to work in a business where I would be in a position to have a direct impact on things was my first reason.
The second was that I believed in the management team. During the Quipper acquisition process, I had talked with them many times, and I really agreed with their way of thinking and their goals.
The third reason was the openness and flatness of Quipper’s culture and organization. The short distance from top to bottom, and the organization’s frank way of discussing the issues and finding solutions seemed really fresh to me, and made me want to jump right in.
And of course I saw that there was a lot of potential for the business as well. If you think about service areas that are late to embrace the internet, education is one of them along with medicine and finance. In addition to the business opportunities offered by making use of the internet, there is also a great market demand globally. At a time when our domestic offerings like Jyuken Sapuri and Benkyo Sapuri (now StudySapuri) were getting on track for growth, we could add to our domestic business with overseas expansion in places like Southeast Asia and Mexico. A challenging plan, I thought.
After joining, I realized that this was a much harder business than I’d thought. But that difficulty just means that if we succeed, the return will be all the larger.
Our strengths are our comprehensive content and sense of urgency
One of the main things, I personally think, that puts Quipper–StudySapuri ahead of other players is our product team, especially in a global sense. It’s our strength that we have built a common platform that can be used globally, and I don’t think that there are any other EdTech businesses in the world that have anything this refined.
Another strength is our sense of urgency. After the Quipper acquisition, we started up paid services in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Mexico. From a starting point of having no local corporations or regular employees in those locations, we launched paid services, established legal corporations, and brought our business to a growth phase all in just a few years, which I think is a rare achievement. This speed was only possible because everyone who was involved worked toward the service launch and commercialization moving quickly to get their tasks in order, make decisions, and take action.
However, the current situation is that the size of our staff has grown both domestically and overseas, the organization has expanded, and along with that the number of projects requiring a lot of capital and involving many people has increased. This calls for much greater care in terms of governance and internal control, and we need to consider how we should structure our organization and move forward as a company while maintaining our sense of urgency.
In our work, it’s OK to have 51 wins and 49 losses
Also, I think that in our work, it’s OK to have 51 wins and 49 losses. I try my best to do what I think is right for the company and for the business, but it’s impossible to maintain a success rate of 70 or 90 percent. I’m not such a clever person, so I just go about my work thinking that even when I fail, I’ll just carry on and somehow wind up with more wins than losses. Maybe that’s what I tell myself to keep from becoming negative.
I don’t have a particular concrete dream that I’m trying to realize through my work, but I’m just satisfied if I can keep doing things that I think are interesting. Also, I’d like the projects I’m involved with to be recognized as being meaningful to society and worthwhile. I believe that Quipper–StudySapuri have great social significance, so if we can grow Quipper–StudySapuri to be the world’s number one educational business, that would really be wonderful. I’ll be very happy if I can support that process from the standpoint of finance and the middle and back office.
I am prepared to be disliked
In my position as head of middle and back office operations, even as everyone is enthusiastically pushing our business forward, one of my important roles is to jump in and act as a brake. Although it is natural for a business to invest resources like staff and money in the creation and expansion of products and services, I have to maintain an objective point of view regarding the reduction of risk, so I will say things like, “From a legal point of view, it is not realistic to proceed that quickly,” or “It’s fine legally, but there are still some issues around taxes, so I’d like to you to do xxx.” It is tough sometimes, but I am prepared to be disliked in my role as a brake.
It’s been my personality in the past to over-commit to things and micro-manage a bit, and I think that was to some extent a limitation on my management capacity. Now I’m increasing the number of areas and duties I can leave others in charge of, and I’m trying to focus less on immediate things and more on the medium and long term, not only on my own areas of responsibility but also on peripheral areas, and not on just improving existing methods but on thinking of new methods. Perhaps working at a slight distance will give me a better perspective. Now I’d like to change my style of management to entrust more and more to others.
* The business (including business name and business description), people and titles introduced in the article are those at the time of the interview. It may be different at this time.