It’s obviously the season for awards. The Financial Times’ World Diary this morning tells us that the winners will be announced this week of the UK Green Business Awards, the UK National Business Awards and the US National Book Awards. Makes me feel a bit left out. All I can boast is the Senior Reviewer status conferred on me by Trip Advisor this weekend. Not sure I'll be adding it to my CV, but still, nice to be recognised. Knowing that someone has found one of my reviews helpful is better still for giving me a warm glow: it's always pleasing to have your efforts appreciated by your "customers".
So it must have been a particular honour for the Ambassador to Japan, Sir David Warren, to be selected by the British business community in Japan - one of his most important clients - as the winner of the Person of the Year Award at last week’s British Business Awards (Japan edition). The Oscars it may not be, but it's a pretty hot ticket inTokyo and stunningly presented by the British Chamber of Commerce inJapan. This year marked the Awards' 5th anniversary and the judges were spoilt for choice: a total of 38 nominations across 5 categories, in sectors ranging from helicopters to cupcakes, railway fittings to organic dining, gas turbines to recruitment services.
That this entrepreneurial, business-savvy gathering saw the Ambassador as the individual who had made the most significant contribution to the interests of British business in Japan will I hope put to rest that old joke about the scariest words in the English-language being "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you". If business themselves think he's made a difference and give him a standing ovation then this bit of government, at least, must be doing something right.
Over the 4+ years of his time as Ambassador he briefed dozens of UKcompanies on the opportunities and challenges of the Japanese market, and hosted tens of thousands of British and Japanese people at his home at pretty much daily networking breakfasts, lunches, receptions and dinners. Other highlights of his tenure included negotiating a Defence Cooperation Memorandum which opens the way for British defence companies to break into the Japanese market, and personal cultivation of contacts with Japanese companies which have given them the confidence to commit to major investments into the UK. It was fitting that in the week of the Awards, his last in Japan as Ambassador, Hitachi were confirmed as the purchasers of Horizon, in a move that promises to do for the UK's nuclear industry what Nissan's investment back in the 1980s did for our car industry. More evidence of the role that the Ambassador and his staff at the Embassy and Consulate General can play in supporting business.
The other award winners, by the way, were Lush, for their commitment to sustainability, including their purchase of fresh produce from the earthquake-stricken Tohoku region as raw ingredients for their fresh bodycare products; and an inspirational British woman whose diversity training consultancy, Price Global, is helping Japanese and international companies in this relentlessly homogenous business culture (Japanese, male, university-educated) to make the most of the untapped talent around them. Mackintosh and their Japanese partners Yagi Tsusho picked up the partnership award for the success of their business over many years, culminating in the opening earlier this year of a flagship standalone store which is breaking all sales forecasts; and GSK were company of the year in recognition of their business success allied with a keen sense of corporate social responsibility, embodied by their Team Orange band of staff volunteers.
So success all round, across all kinds of sectors, for big companies and small ones. And the UKTI team is here to help your company get a slice of the action too. We may be government employees but we’re pretty good at understanding business and knowing how we can help! Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out for yourself.
Sue Kinoshita, Director, UKTI Japan