Morgan McKinley is your Career Partner. In order to give you the best insight and assistance with your career development, the Morgan McKinley Accounting & Finance team will bring you interviews with CFOs on a semi-regular basis.
The CFO Interviews will be with CFOs and Finance Leaders from various industries, backgrounds, and business cultures. The aim of this series is to give you an informal introduction to various decision makers in the world of back-office Finance within Japan.
This time, I spoke with Reihachi Ishii. Ishii-san is the CFO of La Prairie. La Prairie is a Swiss skin care and cosmetics company that is on the cutting edge of creating innovative personal health products.
The Japanese office of La Prairie is relatively small compared to other markets, but business is strong, and the future business outlook indicates that La Prairie’s market presence will continue to grow within Japan’s competitive skin care market.
Ishii-san was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule in order to speak with me earlier this week.
Brian Martin (BM): What is your role at La Prairie?
Reihachi Ishii (RI): My title is Finance Director for La Prairie Japan. My responsibilities include Management of Accounting to start with, and finance, supply chain, quality control, HR, IT, and general administration. Basically, I manage everything outside of Sales & Marketing. Although having said that, I do work regularly with the Sales & Marketing team.
BM: So you are quite busy?
RI: A little. *laughs*
BM: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
RI: Originally, I wanted to be an engineer. And more specifically, I wanted to design Formula 1 engines.
BM: What path led you to your current position?
RI: Back in high school I was studying accounting because it was available as an optional unit. Other options included other languages, English literature, and Economics. I thought accounting would be the easiest option, as I thought that it dealt with numbers and minimized English requirements.
I chose Accounting to save my overall study time. I became quite good at it and decided to pursue it in university. Afterwards, I was CPA-certified, then started my career as an accountant and reached to the CFO level in 10 years.
BM: As a CFO, what is your goal at La Prairie?
RI: My goal is to steer the company to land on the committed target. It’s like a jet, right? You need to steer the jet so it will land perfectly at the airport.
It’s more than just financial targets. Although the results are numbers, there are a lot of things you need to do to achieve that number, such as culture control and peoples’ motivations. You need to ask others where they want to invest. Such as investing in team-building -- it’s not directly related to the bottom line but if you consider the motivation of the team, it is necessary.
BM: As a CFO of an international company in Japan, what is the most difficult thing about your daily work?
RI: To ensure transparent and consistent communication both locally and internationally. Making sure that information (financial, cultural, etc.) and message is consistent locally and globally.
It is difficult to land the company on the target if everybody has a different understanding or perspective of the goals or situation. Without consistency and transparency, HQ can become suspicious of the local office, while the local staff may feel misunderstood by HQ.
Assume nothing. You need to create the reality by yourself.
BM: What do you see as La Prairie’s next challenge in Japan?
RI: With more international factors impacting our business right now, the finance team needs to be aware of more information than ever before when producing forecasts & reports. Tourists, political changes, currency changes -- there is a lot more external factors that is affecting businesses in Japan right now. The area to cover is a lot wider than it was 20 years ago.
BM: When you have an hour of free-time, what are you doing?
RI: Drive out for coffee if it just one hour, for a change of atmosphere. I can probably have better coffee at home, but changing the surroundings is always a good thing, to stimulate the senses. If I had a whole afternoon, I would be driving outside of Tokyo to relax.
BM: If you could wake up tomorrow with one new quality, skill, or ability, what would it be?
RI: I think I would want to achieve speed reading. There is so much information that I need to absorb. I feel envious of the people that can read and understand instantly.
BM: Interesting. Most people would wish for the ability to fly, invisibility, or some other classic superpower.
RI: I’m a bit more realistic than that *laughs*. You cannot escape reality. Creating the environment as you need is critical to achieve anything. In order to be able to create the environments needed, you need knowledge, health, and physical strength. I feel I could benefit with more knowledge to achieve many things. But if I could have faster reading skills that would make it much easier to gain this knowledge at the speed I want.
For any questions regarding your career, the job market in Japan, or general job-seeking assistance, feel free to call or email me at any time.
In addition, I would be happy to hear your thoughts regarding this CFO Interview series. Which companies and industries are you interested in? Is there someone specific that you would like to hear from? Let me know!