In a digital world that continues to move forward, Yoshinori Ikura never stepped back. Ikura has been an innovator in the technology services industry for over 40 years. He is dedicated to ensuring his customers have the best solutions available to resolve business issues that they may face.
In 1976, Ikura founded Comtec, a Japanese technology and IT services company that specializes in information processing services, data maintenance and data management.
Yoshinori Ikura retired as CEO 15 years ago, and he is now supporting and guiding younger people as a Director and Board Member at Comtec.
You’ve been in the technology services industry for over four decades. How do you foresee the future of technology? What is your secret to longevity in the industry?
I am always surprised by the evolution of technology. I think in the future, it will be very important to develop new technologies, seasonal services and product development. At the same time, there is always something universally important, even after 100 or 300 years. There will be various things that will help technology companies to succeed, such as to inspire others, and to be courageous, energetic, positive, sympathetic and dynamic.
At Comtec, we think it is important to pursue new technologies. I think it would be great if we could become a company that impresses customers and people. I have a long relationship with my customers and think that it is a “community of fate.” My favorite phrase is “We must change to remain the same.” The philosophy of the Company is that “Nature gives you a life; if you will listen, it will give you wisdom.” I have been able to adapt to the industry and being able to be myself is my secret of longevity in the industry.
In a world that is always evolving technologically, what sets Comtec apart from its competitors?
In Japan, around tens of thousands of new companies are established each year. Only 0.02% of those companies will remain in business after 30 years. This means that only two companies will remain out of 10,000 after 30 years. As you can see, it is very meaningful to run company for a long period of time.
Discovering new technologies and seasonal products for each era are very important, as there are always universally important things in any era. Comtec has continued to pursue this universality. Because of this reason, Comtec has succeeded in differentiating this world where technology is constantly evolving.
You have five locations in Japan, would you ever expand to other areas of the world?
Currently, we are dedicated to nurturing and producing resources that can thrive in Japan for our young people. We must continue to make steady efforts to help build the professionals of the future. Comtec is not currently thinking about overseas expansion, but I think it will be considered in the future to meet the demands of our customers. We have established overseas connections and would like to expand our domestic market share.
As a solution services company, what is your most vital contribution to the industry?
Comtec has always pursued to provide the support which matches to the current era, and I think this is Comtec’s most vital contribution to the industry. We have been making efforts to become a company that can inspire customers and the people around us. We have been working with our customers for a long time and have found the most optimal solution is to become a “community of fate” with our customers as we touched upon previously in the interview.
How do you keep the culture of innovation and transformation alive within the company?
It is important for our Company to keep up with new technologies, and it would be wonderful if our Company was able to impress our customers at the same time. We have a history of keeping long-term relationships with customers, and many have remained loyal to us. I guide the staff in helping them discover the essence of the Company’s corporate culture. Visiting multiple companies, meeting many people, and having conversations with others will accumulate their experience, and will make it easier for them to predict what will happen next. This is what makes innovation happen.
What do you think the future holds for the technology industry?
A person who uses technology must be one with “human power (human attraction).” It is important to keep up with technology, but the value will vary greatly depending on the person who uses the technology. There is no doubt that the future of the technology industry is truly revolutionary by humans.
How do you personalize your offerings for each potential client?
If you can impress people, you may be able to build the future of people. Each customer demonstrates their personal appeal, and I help to make the customers feel respected, so that they then feel comfortable disclosing their own concerns to me. I make it a priority to carry out my word to them.
Can you provide an example of how you do this?
Instead of focusing on the requirements from the customer, which is only a part of the deal, I keep my eyes wide open, and present the solution to them based on the medium-term management plan with courage and hope. This increases my chances of my proposals being accepted by my customers.
How has your long-term partnership with StayinFront grown your business?
I met Tony Bullen, Executive Senior Vice President and CTO of StayinFront over 20 years ago. I don’t fully understand English; however, I know that Tony is a Giri (a value in Japanese culture meaning fulfills his/her duties and obligations) and a Ninjo (a value in Japanese culture meaning compassionate) person. He even understands Japanese Wabi-sabi (aesthetics), even more than some Japanese people do. One of the greatest developments through our partnership with StayinFront is that we were able to release the OneDay3 program which uses StayinFront technology.
Comtec and StayinFront recently launched the OneDay3 program. What are your plans and goals for the program?
Until recently, Comtec had been selling StayinFront’s product as a stand-alone product. However, we are shifting now to selling StayinFront’s software in conjunction with Comtec’s solution, which we are calling the OneDay3 program.
We recently released the OneDay3 service and having StayinFront’s product within it was an earnest wish of Comtec’s. The first seminar on OneDay3 will be held this month. The OneDay3 program begins with improving the field sales team’s performance and results in an increase in sales. The goal of the program is to help improve the personnel, evaluation and management systems within the medium-term management plan.
What advice do you have for others who might want to start their own companies?
For young employees to be professional and successful business owners, consistent and steady efforts will be needed. When Junko Koshino (a Japanese designer) was asked “What kind of person becomes an excellent person, or becomes successful?” she answered, “A person who can grow and can be successful, or a person who is of ranking authority is a normal person.” In other words, ordinary people can become successful if they accumulate diligence and training. I’d like young employees to take the challenge without hesitation.
It would be amazing if all the people and companies who I have mentored become successful. I believe that being honest, obedient and don’t forget appreciative, are the most valuable traits someone can have and are also natural characteristics of a human which everyone is capable of demonstrating. In addition, if you have curiosity, then that’s what will make you even more wonderful and successful.
Thank you Ikura-san for taking the time to share your thoughts with us today.