Bigbeat LIVE Speaker interview #1
Adobe’s Takumi Ozawa
In 2017, Adobe Systems Co., Ltd. took the big leap from being a ‘package sale business model’ to a ‘subscription business model.’ How did the person in charge, Mr. Takumi Ozawa , Director of Professional Services, Adobe Customer Solutions , face the change monster and those who hate change. Our CEO, Yutaka Hamaguchi, listened to his story.
From Violinist to Marketer
Hamaguchi (H): Mr. Ozawa, when I heard that you started at a Foreign owned consulting company I imaged you as a pure consultant. But I was surprised when I heard that you actually first started as a musician. What is the career path you have followed up until now?
Ozawa (O): I started playing violin when I was 3 years old. I started because I went to the recital of a girl that I had a crush on. When I saw her playing I said ‘I want to play violin too!’ (Laughs) I continued playing and when I was in middle school my dream was to join a German orchestra.
I went to college at the Musashino Academia Musicae but one day I went to the memorial concert of jazz violinist Stefane Grappelli. Up until that concert I had always thought that anything outside of classical wasn’t real music. But the first time I heard jazz, I was incredibly moved.
Classical music is about following a certain set of established musical rules and delivering a very beautiful piece to the audience and getting applause. But while jazz does have certain rules to it, you can create music on the spot while talking to other musicians and audience members. I saw how happy all of the audience members were at that concert and without thinking I wrote on the back of my pamphlet ‘I want to be your pupil. Please call me’ and gave it to the musician when he climbed down the stage. That was my first experience with jazz.
H: That’s really amazing initiative. He didn’t call you, did he?
O: He did. Out of coincidence, he wanted to gain experience teaching at the time so he could become a TV teacher on some program. Out of luck I became his pupil. After my first year of college, I mostly stopped going to classes and spent most of my time in jazz bars. All of the people around me in those bars used to tell me ‘if you want to become a jazz musician you have to go to Berklee College of Music. So, I transferred to Berklee.
H: There’s that initiative again.
O: My teachers in Japan always told me it was difficult to eat when you were a live performance musician. Its better to earn a living through playing movie soundtracks and do what you like. So, at Berklee I majored in film scoring and learned how to put music into videos. After I graduated, I wanted to get a job in sound effects. I sold my first piece for 0 dollars. Then 100. And eventually 200 dollars. I sold my last piece for around 2000 dollars.
H: It sounds like you were able to follow the path of a musician in America. Why did you return to Japan?
O: When I was 25, my father became very sick and was only expected to survive for a half a year when I found out. I realized that my parents had hid my father’s condition from me so that they would not get in the way of my success. Despite this, I knew my only option was to return to Japan.
After I returned to Japan, I worked for NHK writing the musical pieces for their educational programs. During my time at that job, my father passed away and I took on his debt. He was a business owner and did design work.
H: Was it difficult to pay back the debts with a career in music.
O: It was. In that career I couldn’t even pay back the interest. In order to pay the money back, I change jobs so that I was making more money on weekdays and did jobs that involved the violin on weekends.
The company I started at music.jp which was a popular cellphone ringtone website at the time. I was recruited as a ‘sound designer.’ I thought that it was a job where I would create music. It wasn’t a music creation job, but instead a corporate one. I had to think about what artist to use, what song to make into a ringtone, what kind of page to make. What kind of budget did I have? What advertisement do I release? How do I increase LTV? I found myself in a marketing job.
H: how old were you at that time?
O: I was 27. I very quickly learned the scheme of music.jp and got a job at DeNA which operated the ‘Mobage Town’ website, which was an even bigger selfish site.
My superiors would always ask me ‘do you even have an interest in making games?’ In truth I didn’t have a strong interest in it at all. I wanted to pursuit a career in marketing. I must’ve decline 2 to 3 times, but a superior of mine who I really respected kept saying to me. ‘The only thing we can do is act; we will use marketing to create products that aren’t in Japan.’ I started analyzing various hit games in Japan. I then started mixing Japanese culture into the product. That is when we created ‘Kaito Royal.’
H: That game exploded into a huge hit. You were hugely successful right?
O: Not exactly. My superior said at the time ‘Selling 10 times the amount of you target number shows that you are a third-rate marketer. A first-rate market is able to estimate the sales within a 5% percent margin.’
If you sell so much in a short time, you break the supply chain. When that happens the someone between the producers, consumers, and suppliers will be unhappy. My superior told me ‘Making a big hit game is a third rate job, quit right now and go work for some global company where you can learn how to handle data and do analytics properly.’ So I got at job SiteCatalyst (Now Adobe Analytics), which was just acquired by Adobe.
H: He sounds very strict.
O: I think my career path hasn’t changed since my time as a violinist. It has always been about getting applause and appreciation from the costumers.
H: Did you think that you would follow the same path as your father into starting your own business?
O: I respect my father from the bottom of my heart, but I am definitely not a business owner. I decided never to become a business owner. That’s how I see my responsibility to my family.
The goal of marketing and management is the same.
H: ‘Marketing’ and ‘management’ are two separate words, but how you would you explain the meanings of these words?
O: I think the goal of marketing and management is the same. It is about making taking the things, work, and people you are involved with and creating a happy cycle. There are a lot of difficulties in that. Figuring out how to overcome those difficulties is management.
H: You understand them well.
O: A very important client of mine once told me: ‘BtoB marketers are not only responsible for MQLs but also SQLs, and they are responsible for watching over conversions and LTV.’ This is one mechanism of marketing that can make you and others happy. Figuring out how to accomplish that is the job of management.
H: The Japanese word Keiei (経営) is translated to ‘management’ in English. But they’re a little different.
O: They are. At my company the positions are divided into ‘manager,’ director,’ ‘VP,’ and ‘senior leadership.’ The only people who actually manage are the managers. Senior leaders work with the board members, but these people are the leaders of management and don’t manage the normal employees. In Japan there is the image that everyone in management is managing the employees.
H: Especially in small to mid-size companies.
O: My job in ‘change management’ is analyzing Japanese management and helping those who are stuck and don’t know what to do move forward. My job is helping those who are saying ‘In my daily work I want to do more, but no matter what I try, I can’t do it.’
H: I see.
O: When dealing with these challenges you always have to face the human psychology. Optimizing an operation is actually not that difficult. But when you make changes to the operation you have to convince people to change things they do not want to change. That is thing I think many of my clients find difficult.
H: The change monster.
O: There is no time the human defense instinct works as much as it does with someone feels their psychological safety threatened. In the business world, there is nothing as scary as a man’s jealousy, anxiety, and mistrust.
H: How do you go about changing people’s mind about change?
O: I fail constantly. I think about 80% of the time it doesn’t go well. I think the hardest cases are in PMIs (post-merger integration). There are a lot of companies who do not realize how difficult PMIs in merger and acquisitions are. I have heard so many cases of of companies failing to integrate reforms into their companies. So, I studied those cases when I was thinking about how to implement my own changes.
H: I want to hear more about ‘change management’ but it will have to wait for Bigbeat LIVE on August 2nd. For your last remarks could I ask what you are expecting from the event?
O: I expect to hear someone ask the audience ‘who here is dissatisfied with their organization’ and to see everyone raise their hand. But because many people will not know how to take the first step or where to start, they can’t make the changes they want to. I think it would be great if we could help the attendees envision their first steps. I think I would be happy if we could build a society where we gather the people who output change.
H: The slogan of Bigbeat LIVE is ‘I became stronger through failure.’ Even it is only small, I want this event to create some sort of movement and change. Thank you for your time today!