BizReach Inc. develops web services in a variety of fields—BizReach, a matching platform for companies and highly-experienced job-seekers; CareerTrek, a job-hunting platform for younger talents ready for the next step; and HRMOS, a cloud-based HR Management service, to name a few. In August, BizReach Inc. released yamory, an OSS security vulnerabilities management tool. What fuels BizReach's rapid growth? Head of Product Development, CPO and CTO Shin Takeuchi, and Head of Business Development and HR Tech Company Director Yosuke Tada dissects the relation between BizReach's production and business management philosophy.
CPO and CTO, BizReach, Inc.
Director, HR Tech Company, BizReach, Inc.
The Relation Between Business and Production in BizReach
Shin Takeuchi (ST): It was 2012 when you joined BizReach, right?
Yosuke Tada (YT): Yes. I had previously founded an employee referral company. Upon joining BizReach, I learned how to work with creatives and the philosophies of a production company. I even had you taught me programming.
ST: Yes, we did a course on PHP.
YT: Right. Before that, I didn't know what it meant for code to be clean or dirty. But we learned how to print Hello World, and we were taught the basic of programming structures.
What Sets BizReach Apart From Other Companies
ST: You were managing a HR company so your field didn't change drastically, but BizReach has been revolutionizing its business structure through the use of the internet. How was that different from your previous experience?
YT: I will discuss two points, on the management style and the creative philosophy.
When I was running an employee referral company, we started with a net worth of 10 million yen. I was overly concerned with the cash flow and focused mainly on delivering value to our immediate customers. At that time, I wasn't in a position where I could consider long-term investments.
When I joined BizReach in 2012, there were only 20-30 employees and cash wasn't in abundance. But despite that, the focus wasn't on immediate profits. Instead, it was on how much time is to be invested on a product and how much of the investment is to be recovered. It may be self-evident, but I experienced first-hand what production is from a managerial point of view.
And when it comes to the creative philosophy, you always told us that there is no need for the sales team to specify how they want something done. You said so long as the sales team specify what they want, it is up to the architect and engineers to think about how to make it a reality.
For example, if I send a request to "put a button here", I would be asked, "Why? What problems are the users facing? What do you think needs to be achieved?". Then the development team would fix the users' pain points with solutions I would never have thought of.
During that time, I learned that though it is alright to tell engineers the WHAT and the WHY, telling them the HOW is frowned upon. The product team will take your request and use their creativity to think of how to make the optimal product. Naturally, I think the sales team should communicate all the requests they have.
However, the sales team shouldn't treat product team like an outsourcee and expect them to simply make something as they were told. I`m glad such culture has been cultivated in BizReach even before I was in charge of the sales team. I think the teams have built a very healthy relationship with each other.
A Healthy, Communicative Environment for Engineers and Salespersons
ST: From the start, we have always discussed how it is essential for engineers and salespersons to communicate and express their opinions openly. That is why we even hold department meetings.
YT: That is right. We did that bearing in mind that it is important for us to understand each other.
The sales team should say what they have to say while being aware of the product team's stance. Likewise, engineers shouldn't just accept what they are told. There is no point in having meetings if both sides cannot discuss matters as equals. All meetings have that prerequisite.
And I think that is still part of BizReach's culture - To create good products through close cooperation and communication. I started to realize that a product would exist, and business thrive only if all the departments work together—sales, engineering, design, etc.
This culture took me by surprise when I first joined the company.
ST: Well, a good and healthy communication reduces potential miscommunication between sales and product teams. I, too, have personally advocated this since we founded the company.
I have also personally experienced work environments where conflicts arise between sales and engineering teams. Under such environment, the product manager would act as a communication hub for both parties. Having said that, however, there are still times where engineers would find themselves questioning why they are developing the product and for whom.
"Keep Asking Until You Understand"
ST: BizReach was where you first worked with a development team, right? Was it any different from your previous work experience?
YT: I became the head of the BizReach department on August 2013. Until then, you were managing the development team and Makoto, another founder, was managing the marketing and customer service teams.
That was the first time I was involved in managing creatives. At the time there were only around 10 engineers and I came up against a brick wall during the first couple of months.
Like I said before, I told them the HOW... I wasn't able to gain the trust of the engineers and you had to play an intercessory role for us.
ST: I remember that.
YT: You joined and facilitated our ticket management meeting. Sometimes, I would take minutes when engineers held meetings to discuss the backlog or product specifications. I learned a lot from observing first-hand the thought process the development team used to define a product's requirements and sort them by priority. I must say, having you to translate and explain concepts to me was a very valuable experience.
For a year I was the decision-maker. But that was also the time when I learned how to co-create business with creatives from managing matters with you and Makoto.
I remember you telling me "You shouldn't keep quiet just because you don't understand". You said that I should keep asking questions until I get it. If the engineers are not able to explain, then its their fault. I think that made me grew a lot both personally and professionally.
ST: Then in 2017, you also became head of the Stanby department—a department that was made up of 80–90% engineers.
YT: Yes. The old me would never have dreamed of it. But I think I was able to put my experience as head of the BizReach department into good use.
Value Added by Engineers Who Understand Both Technical and Business Context of Their Decision.
ST: You're currently director of HRTech Company and I'm sure the company understands that the market value of talent is constantly changing and evolving since it involves the BizReach department, right?
From your point of view, is there a skill that an engineer can pick up to increase their market value? Or what kind of engineer do you think possesses high market value?
YT: Let me see. I'd say someone with a good business acumen. It's up to the individual to decide how far they want to pursue that area. But I believe a blend of technology and business acumen, which involves management and business development knowledge would make one a formidable engineer.
In BizReach, engineers sometimes opt to join business training seminars. I think it's wonderful that employees join seminars for developing skills in marketing or problem-solving regardless of their job description.
I think a lot of us in BizReach think that way. I'm always grateful to members who allow me to just say, "I want to create a world wherein so and so", and then pitch to me ideas and business strategies and tell me, "We can make that happen by doing so and so.". The more people like that we have in the company, the greater our chances of creating business opportunities.
ST: I agree. I, personally, wish that everyone would be like that. I'm not just speaking as a point of view of a corporate manager, but also from experience. I would sometimes ask myself, if striving to become the "perfect engineer" that every engineer aspires to be, would it actually increase one's market value? They could become an engineering god, but in the end, their market value would depend on whether or not they have the earning power.
They may earn money based on their skill set. But if, they are not conscious of how much earning power they possess, they would just end up being just a tool for someone else. Engineers have the power to create, and they should leverage their expertise to convert their creations directly into profit.
Someone who can create while envisioning the value of their creation would gain value far beyond simple salary. I wish everyone aims for that. That is why I want engineers to be in the same floor as the sales team. That way, they can be part of conversations regarding money and busines.
They could just be listening at first and probably be thinking to themselves, "So that's how you think of it in terms of business.". We have been consciously doing that in BizReach.
YT: Don't we also announce business strategies to all job positions? I receive a lot of questions from engineers, such as, "Why do you think this way?". I think it shows that they want to be more involved once they could understand and approve of the business intent.
ST: They ask a lot of WHYs, don't they?
YT: Yes! They ask a lot of very insightful questions. I think it's crucial to properly communicate the WHY and, as a department head, to get the engineers involved.
Invest Effort in Building Mutual Understanding
ST: Aside from that, there have also been projects where engineers accompany salespersons when they pitch to prospective clients.
YT: Yes. Engineers still do so sometimes.
ST: It's a good endeavor, isn't it? They get to see with their own eyes whom they are providing value and many of them gain new insights as well.
YT: That's because we have a culture that promotes mutual understanding . I think it's fantastic.
ST: Come to think of it, it may also be a good idea for sales members to take part in the engineer process. it may be too much to ask them to code, but they could join daily scrums, etc.
YT: That's a wonderful idea! They could join ticket management meetings, like I did. If they come across terms which they dont understand, they could just google them and go, "So that's what they're talking about".
ST: It's also a win for the engineers when the sales team understands the product and asks questions when they don't.
Department Heads Should Achieve a Mutual Understanding
ST: By the way, have you been asked by other companies for advice regarding organization management?
YT: Yes, they do. Heads of sales teams do come up to me and say that the sales department are not valued at all in a production company. And so, I would tell them that it is important for the heads of both the sales and production to discuss matters as equals.
I think it's really great that BizReach has had a culture wherein both sides respect each other from the beginning. Granted, there have been times when there was an imbalance due to department population and other factors. But everytime one side becomes stronger than the other, some force acts to restore the balance. I think the heads should first talk things out for that to happen.
ST: On the other hand, don't you also hear that companies with strong sales departments find it hard to develop new products?
YT: Yes. I have been telling them that they should appoint a CTO for their board of directors. From time to time, you have given me pieces of valuable advice when it comes to organization and management. I don't think it's possible for a company to continue creating new projects if they don't appoint executives who have a good technological background.
Bear Responsibility for One's Own Work
ST: Isn't your career in companies with production teams now longer than companies without one?
YT: Come to think of it, that's right. Thanks to BizReach.
ST: What do you think of BizReach's engineers now?
YT: I've never worked in manufacturing companies, but I've always admired executives who have led Japan's manufacturing industry, like Konosuke Matsushita and Kyocera's Kazuo Inamori. All the companies that helped build Japan, involved both manufacturing and sales. Even if we look at the current business situation, the idea remains unchange. I think manufacturing and sales always come together as a set.
First of all, sales is nothing without production. Engineers make things from scratch. It's something that I can't do and I respect them for that. I have always said that sales is taking that product and the principle that birthed it, packaging them with the passion of every single employee, and making the last mile delivery.
I remember a few memorable episodes. We had system trouble a while back. You weren't in your office, and right next to me, were the engineers standing around, discussing on what to do.
A few minutes passed, you came back and said, "Do you realize how much trouble this can be causing our customers per minute? Get to work now!" You made the engineers work on it and the problem was solved soon after. Watching from the sides, a fire lit under me. It was an incident where I really felt that everyone assumes their post with full responsibility.
Having experienced that, I have made it a point to tell the sales team how much effort has been put into by the development team to get a product out into the world, and that it is our job to deliver it to the customers. I feel that it's my duty—as someone who has also worked in sales—to tell them so.
Source: logmi, Inc