Makoto Yasuda

Entrepreneur Interview – Makoto Yasuda

Chairman, Yasuda Makoto & Co., Ltd

Tokyo, Japan

Tell us about your business and what you do

We provide merchant banking and corporate advisory services. Our range of services includes cross-border M&A, joint ventures, and business tie-ups. We also help to introduce new technologies and in fund raising. The firm, which is wholly owned by me, has a staff of four. The team is augmented with additional staff on a project-by-project basis as needed. We also have a number of international and local partners whose resources we could tap into.

The theme of our business has always been globalization of firms and 1+1=3, which means we want to develop those kinds of M&A and joint ventures where the effect of such produces additional strengths resulting in 1 + 1 equals more than 2.

Before starting my own firm in 1987, I worked, for 20 years, at Private Investment Company for Asia (PICA), S.A., a multinational consortium of 243 leading firms and banks from U.S.A, Japan, European countries, Australia and Canada. PICA’s objective was to develop sound private sector in Asian countries through establishing new firms and assisting the expansion of good firms with equity investment, management, financial and technical support and advice. By active private equity investment and advisory services, PICA played the important role of being an effective pump prime water for private investments in Asia in the late sixties, seventies, and eighties. Asia’s success and boom in the private sector came because of active investments from the advanced economies that followed PICA’s investments. I was a main board member and Executive Vice President of the company.

Was there a specific point when you realize your business was moving to the next level?

I am very focused on my clients. When they showed a higher level of confidence and trust with me, I knew that my business was moving to the next level. Success is of course not from talks, but from actions. Confidence in my firm and me would mean more needs for my / our service and advice, whether for profit or purely for social service, which keeps my usefulness going up.

What process or procedures have you implemented that have helped grow your company?

I have developed over the years a network and connections of people who trust me and who have confidence in me. At the same time, I am constantly looking for good firms who need assistance and advice for internationalization and globalization through tie-ups and M&A. I sit on the board of various companies as well as non- profit organizations, as independent non-executive director. I also belong to various excellent clubs. These connections also helped increasing my network.

What are some of the marketing strategies that have worked for your business?

The theme of our services is cross-border and globalization of firms, and the major problem is managing cultural differences – during the deal process as well as after deal closure. We market ourselves as the experts who could bridge the cultural gap during the deal process and advise on how to integrate two firms into one. In this way, making 1+1 equals 3, is a key selling point to convince new clients to use our services.

How have you leveraged the Internet to grow your business?

Except checking facts through Google/Yahoo, and websites etc., and mail correspondence in the usual course of business, I have not leveraged the Internet as much as I should. I plan to ask for more assistance from my secretary who is also my IT manager!

What is most rewarding about running your business?

I feel truly rewarded when clients are so happy and appreciative of my assistance in having successfully achieved cross-border M&As, joint ventures, tie-ups, and in successful integration the investor and investee companies by overcoming cultural differences.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Nothing is easy, and I try to enjoy challenges of all kinds because there are always solutions sooner or later. Sometimes, these solutions might mean giving up eventually. But I believe mutual fairness is always a key point. Most of my problems and difficulties I faced in my life originated from people’s issues, i.e. differences in standpoints and objectives. I learnt that one of the best solutions is not to be emotional, but try to be fair to the other party.

If you were starting over today, what would you do differently?

I would have secured a pertinent partner in each country of Asia, on top of one or two very close overall partnership, in order to cover various countries more locally and minutely. By doing that, I believe, I would have more information, more opportunities, as well as more options.

What advice do you have for other older entrepreneurs?

They would get really old by sitting back, doing nothing. Continue enjoying working whether it is business or social contribution.

Please list any favorite books, tools or resources (software, website etc) you could recommend to other older entrepreneurs?

I cannot recommend internationally the two of my favorite books below because they are written in Japanese. However, these are my favorite. One book was written by my great paternal grandfather who rose from a poor man to be the most successful banker in the history of Japan, and the other book was written by my maternal great grandfather, Baron Takahashi, who also rose from poverty to become Governor of the Bank of Japan and Finance Minister. When Japan was still an unknown small country in the Far East, he successfully raised funds from the West for the first time, to fund the Japan-Russo War 1905.

Now tell us about your lifestyle

You are over 75, how do you keep a “sound body”, i.e. healthy and fit, while running your business?

My regime is: sound seven-hour sleep, twenty-minute exercise every morning, a balanced diet with good supplements, walking, occasional golfing, playing and listening to jazz music. I regularly take a Tocotrienol supplement (the ultimate Vitamin E), which is anti-aging fight against free radicals in the body.

How do you keep a “sound mind” (e.g. manage stress) while running your business?

I do the following: meditation (talking to God), enjoy working and welcoming challenge. I play and listen to jazz music to keep my brain balanced and to protect it from strain. I also enjoy watching the ocean from my weekend house.

How do you stay engaged with your family, friends and community?

I love talking to my family, friends, and enjoy talking to my community. This is a pleasure for me, not an obligation.

What are your favorite leisure activities?

I used to be a good equestrian from which I recently retired; the sport was taking too much time and effort to maintain my standard. I now enjoy playing alto saxophone with my band and listening to jazz music, reading books, walking, watching the sea, and golfing as well as wining.

What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you?

People often don’t believe I’m as old as 75. It may be because of how I look, but also because I’m still young at heart, having interest in many things.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I love jazz music whether it is for playing or for listening. It is so different from doing business, and I believe this difference is useful and important to keep my brain balanced. I can recommend to fellow older entrepreneurs that they should love arts or something completely different from doing business, so that their brain is actively balanced and protected from strain. (in Japanese and English)

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