Managing sales and costs with a comprehensive mid-to-long-term perspective.
Q: Please tell us what you do for your job.
Takeda: I am mainly responsible for managing sales and costs in Profit and Loss (PL) of Quipper’s financial statements. My job is more about controlling budgets than the actual financial accounting. I plan, monitor, and control sales and costs, and profit realized as a result. I also report them to management. Therefore, I have few opportunities to work with other people, including engineers.
Q: Can I say your job is to look at the budget from the entire company’s point of view?
Takeda: Yes, but it is only partially correct. Although I do look at the entire budget I also look at the costs of each business and project in detail. If we pile everything up, the entire cost is several billion yen, but I examine it at a unit of 10 thousand yen a month and monitor how it is different from the estimation with managers every month.
As human beings, we naturally want to spend money as much as we have, and I understand the more we spend money on something, the more effective the result will be. However, I think many people are conscious of and talk about just the field or business they are in charge of. I am afraid there are only few people who see how much impact it is giving to the entire business comprehensively. Sometimes I may be annoying to some people, but if we are in a phase when we need to reduce costs for continuing the business for a mid-to-long term, I ask people to reduce them without hesitation.
Q: I have a strong impression that people in Recruit are business-oriented. Why did you choose an accounting-related job?
Takeda: When I was a student, I participated in an internship program of Recruit Marketing Partners (RMP) and had an opportunity to take part in New Ring. My role was mainly to plan a budget for a new business plan, and that was when I found figures interesting. I was majoring in a different subject at that time, but I decided to join Recruit Administration (RAD) because I thought I would be able to learn accounting and finances there. I had learned we couldn’t separate figures from management through another internship program of a different company, so I suppose that background also helped my interest in jobs that deal with figures grow stronger and stronger.
Q: I heard you were doing accounting at RAD. Isn’t it a little different from what you do for your position now?
Takeda: RAD is a company which is specialized in back-office tasks including HR and legal as well as accounting. Therefore, I had never been assigned to the actual site of the business or the business-related field. After joining Quipper, I can actually see all people, from a member to management, are making various efforts, and this makes me feel that we are responsible for the growth of a business. I think this is really great.
I really enjoyed the accounting tasks I was assigned to at RAD. The main purpose of accounting is how you express the result of business in the past appropriately in the financial statements. The method to express in the financial statements is complex. Sometimes laws of various countries are involved and there are quite difficult rules to follow. I used my head really hard to express the current result of the company in those circumstances.
On the other hand, my current job is mostly planning what sort of strategy the company should have to sell, and how it will make a profit in the future. I look at the company in three years’ and five years’ and think about what the future of the company will be. I find this really exciting.
Checking out cases in the past radically, and making vague rules clear.
Q: Now the main topic. Can you tell us what sort of issues Quipper had in business management’s point of view?
Takeda: Yes, of course. For instance, there were cases people made mistakes choosing between assets and expenses when processing. This could cause an enormous impact on profit. Therefore, we, as a group, had this in mind as an important issue to solve.
Q: I gather that is how you started “defining contents asset”.
Takeda: To begin with, we discussed what was the issue and concluded the fact we didn’t have a standard was a big matter.
Quipper’s B2C business with contents is rather rare within the Recruit Group, so we didn’t have official rules regarding if we should handle contents as our “assets” or “expenses”. Therefore, we decided we needed to introduce proper rules about this vague area.
Q: After introducing the rule, have the contents become assets or expenses?
Takeda: We cannot say all contents are assets or expenses because it differs depending on a case. We should handle them differently according to the business phase and what is included in the cost, so I gathered different cases from the past as examples and added them in the manual. To gather enough information, I looked through all bills of the past 2 years one by one and divided them by patterns. It was a really tough task because I had never experienced a business using content. I managed to coordinate them through hearings to Managers and members of the content group, but I think it still took me more than a month to complete it. Nevertheless, I am glad I’ve had a stance on gathering detailed information and elaborating on the details when making this definition.
Q: Was it also your goal to spread the rule not only making it?
Takeda: Absolutely. As well as not having the adequate rule itself, there was another issue of wrong processing caused by the fact that the existing rule did not permeate Quipper members. Therefore, I thought we needed to do something to spread and help everyone understand the rules of processing, so I also made “ a manual for expense settlement”.
Though I did my best to make the manual easy enough for those who were not experts in accounting, it is still quite difficult because rules of accounting are complex and everything cannot always be divided into black and white. Understandably many people don’t feel comfortable with the judgment on if a particular item should be an asset or an expense without knowledge of accounting as a base.
Just handing out the manual cannot solve all issues. Therefore, we all agreed we needed to improve employees’ literacy of costs and basic knowledge of accounting thus we started training sessions. Because we made the participation compulsory to those who deal with expense processing, and more than 100 people attended, I think the rules are permeating. We also had good comments from the content group because we explained the rules of contents as assets in detail.
To become a person who can be turned on for money-related issues.
Q: Do you actually feel the effects of your attempts?
Takeda: Yes, I do very much. I can think of quite a few effects. First of all, the number of questions I receive from the general affairs staff who deal with accounting and expense processing has decreased considerably. I think the fact that not only the mindsets of people who request expense processing have changed but also people have rules to refer to when they are not sure, has worked in a good way.
Also, I get inquiries such as “I know you said like this in the training session, but what should I do with a case like this?” before they spend money. The number of people who ask detailed questions is increasing, and I am very happy we can actually catch potential risks beforehand.
There is another thing. The rules of expense settlement in the whole group have changed last year when the consumption tax increased. We managed to include the new rule in our training session. As a result, we were told there was no mistake in processing done in Quipper, regarding the new rule.
Q: I think it is great to have built a relationship to become talking terms with other members.
Takeda: Yes, indeed. Business Management department rarely has an opportunity to work with people from other departments. I am not surprised if people don’t even know about the existence of our department. By having the training sessions, I think people now know “there is a department who is responsible for this kind of things. If we need some expertise on money-related problems, we can turn on to this department.”
Q: What is your challenge this fiscal year?
Takeda: With the cost management infrastructure in place, I would like to move onto KPI management that leads to sales. I think there are problems because different divisions or types of work use different rulers and there is no common view. Therefore, people are heading in different directions. I would like to reach an agreement on what indicator we should monitor in the whole learning area, for example, “how many paid users we have gained, and within those new paid users, how many are continuing for how many months?” etc. I would also like to make a mechanism that improves sales continuously. My big goal for this fiscal year is to provide these to the business-related departments, and they will polish the service by using them.
Q: Lastly, please give some comments to your co-workers.
Takeda: The whole Recruit Group, including Quipper, is facing an immense phase partly because of COVID-19. I hope Quipper will make a lot of profits and become a company that will lead the group. You may think expense processing is cumbersome, but I would be really grateful if you could pay attention to details because this could make a large impact on the revenue.
* 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.