Interview with 3R SYSTEMS CORP.JAPAN/ 3R GROUP
Company Description (Going global with both hardware and software in a turbulent era)
We are developing a variety of businesses as a general trading company.
Rather than focusing on a single axis, our company’s stance is to take on challenges in a wide variety of fields.
In recent years, things have been changing rapidly. We think we are living in an age where products are no longer sold in the blink of an eye.
Therefore, even if we fail in one business, we will continue to run various new ones so that the company can continue.
We believe that through the accumulation of these activities, we will be able to continuously meet the demand.
One of the main axes of our business since our founding has been retail and wholesale business, purchasing products from overseas and selling them domestically or overseas. We are also a fabless manufacturer (a type of business that does not have its own factory but specializes in planning and marketing), and we plan and develop products in Japan and produce them to factories in Asia.
We deal with a wide variety of products, but the core of our business is digital devices. In particular, we handle a large number of smartphone-related products (batteries and accessories) for the retail market.
We also deal in industrial optical equipment (endoscopes, microscopes, magnifiers), mainly wholesale.
We are originally a hardware manufacturer, but in recent years, customers are not interested in an ordinary product, and we needed to create value-added hardware that would satisfy the needs of our clients. So, we launched 3R Software, a company specializing in software.
There are only a few companies in Fukuoka Prefecture that can develop hardware and software in a single process.
Our current focus is on pandemic prevention products.
We have strengthened our lineup of pandemic prevention products since March of this year, and our performance has increased this fiscal year, with pandemic prevention products accounting for about 40% of our total sales. Currently, we have more than 50 different types of products in the pandemic related category.
We have a base in Shenzhen, but we have also established a base in Shanghai to capture business opportunities.
In addition, we are also engaged in renewable energy business, consultancy services between Japan and China, and management of professional sports teams in the esports industry.
For speedy development (willingness to challenge and speed in product development are crucial)
When we start a new business, we invest a certain amount of money, and if it doesn’t work, we immediatelyexit.
If we feel it is impossible, we withdraw. We think this method of development with a sense of speed is a characteristic of our company.
We started the property rental business when Airbnb platform became popular, but then we withdrew.
However, there are actually more cases where we continue to deal with renewable energy generation (solar, wind, hydro) or manufacturing business.
In such cases, we do this with full openness of information within the company in order to brush up on our business.
We have a flat organization, so whether it is the president or a new employee, we try to have the same amount of information, and we take the stance that everyone is a professional in their main business.
Thanks to this, we are able to move flexibly and often solve internal issues from the suggestions of the employees in charge.
We also make sure that our employees are always aware of the importance of speed.
As mentioned earlier about epidemic prevention products, it often happens that a difference of just one month can make a big difference in our business performance.
Therefore, instead of developing a 100% complete product, we try to move first and make corrections as we run.
To instill this awareness, we have a culture within the company that accepts those who have tried and failed.
In Kagoshima, there is a teaching called the Satsuma’s Teachings, the one that is evaluated most is the one that tried and succeeded, the one that is evaluated second is the one that tried and failed, the one that supported the person who challenged is evaluated the next, and the one that did not support others or the one that did not challenge at all is evaluated the least.
Using this as a reference, we created a culture in which those who took on challenges would be evaluated, and thanks to this, people in the company are moving quickly.
We also think that the fact that we are a fabless manufacturer is an important factor in our ability to develop products with speed.
We don’t need to build from a warehouse or production line, and we don’t need to hire anyone.
If you think it’s not working, you can just change the factory, so there is less risk to your capital.
Management (Aim for supportive leadership that encourages employee initiative)
We are thorough in giving authority to our employees.
Of course, when assigning work, we make it clear in advance how much of the process they will be in charge of and how much they will accompany and pass the baton on to others.
After assigning the work, We also give them the authority to make decisions regarding money and decision making, while setting limits.
For example, if we are going to delegate the renovation of a conference room, we will set a budget of up to 250,000 yen and leave it up to that point.
We think that there is a way to enjoy the job that allows employees to move at their own discretion.
We have a system in place where employees can consult with their direct supervisor.
Structure (Maximum evaluation of employee potential)
As for improving employees’ performance, since we don’t know what kind of experience will lead to practical work, the company pays for the cost of qualifications such as the World Heritage Certificate Level 3, even if they are not directly related to work.
The qualifications are their own assets, so we try not to make them aware of whether the company needs it or not.
In addition, in order to encourage the habit of outputting ideas, we have an idea award and an impression award.
For input from books, museums, etc., we offer a prize of 1,000 yen for each output in the form of a book report, with no upper limit.
If they don’t have the habit of outputting and are not good at it, they will not be able to make a difference from others, so we pay them to make it a habit.
Employees who are active in the company (We met them in interviews. We fell in love with their spontaneous motivation.)
One of our active employees is a Chinese employee.
She has been with us for four years since she graduated, and we think her strong management philosophy and desire to be independent is very important.
In her daily work, she sees things from the perspective of a manager and works aggressively to generate profits, which is a typical example of the kind of person who will be active in our company.
At Crius, a group company that provides consulting between Japan and China, she is the business division manager in charge, by taking advantage of her strength as a Chinese.
As the only female business manager in the group, she started liaising with a Chinese agency in her second year to support a Japanese ramen noodle chain to expand into China.
After that, she applied to the company to hire her subordinates, and we used her own connections to recruit new graduates and hire them in our company.
Now, she has launched a restaurant in Japan that has been featured on TV and other media, and are about to expand not only in Japan but also in China and Canada.
Future Prospects and Growth of the Business (Strengthening Culture and Language to Become a More Global Company)
In the future, we would like to expand our business overseas and hire people who can play an active role in it.
The company’s foundational principle is to “create the future and continue to take on challenges,” and specifically, as a small to medium-sized company, we are conscious of creating demand and employment.
We will continue to provide goods and services to meet various demands and expand employment.
We are also focusing on cross-border EC. We used to sell only wholesale to overseas markets, but we have been doing retail since 2017.
We launched an overseas brand and started selling to the US, Australia, and Europe, and we try to hire people of the nationality of the main sales region.
When you are trying to sell on the web, you need to know the so-called “dialect”. For example, if you want to sell in France, it will be tougher if you don’t know the words that French people actually use or the words they use when searching on the web.
Also, when there is an exhibition overseas, local employees are more likely to be spoken to than Japanese (even if they speak English), so we would like to actively hire local people to expand our business overseas.
Also, most of our purchasing and procurement has been done in China so far, so we are planning to increase our base in Southeast Asia.
As for human resources, we will further accelerate employment in the region.
In addition, we would like to expand the Software Division in order to create products that can make things happen.
Fukuoka is a city that is especially easy for foreigners to work in, not to mention in Japan.
The city of Fukuoka is putting a lot of effort into supporting foreigners to work and start their own businesses, and in fact, many companies, including our company, are able to work and live in this city without being aware of their nationality.
We think it takes a lot of courage to work in a country that is not your home country, but we hope that you will come and put your abilities to the test.