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Japan Create Group is a holding company that operates a diversified business focused on outsourcing through staffing solutions. Established in 2001, Japan Create Co., Ltd. has embraced the principle "Business is about people," and has continually developed in accordance with the times. Today, Japan Create Group oversees 15 companies as a holding entity.


The overall message of the group is "Towards a Jobfull Tomorrow." This message embodies the desire to create a future where numerous joyful employment opportunities are generated throughout society. To realize this vision, they are committed to creating value, conducting responsible business activities, and promoting the success of their employees through their business efforts, starting from the local community.


Since 2022, they have integrated Interbeing Inc.'s services into their HR policies, targeting middle management and executives within the group. This includes one-on-one dialogues with a Sangyoso*, management training, and lectures.


We had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Nobumasa Igarashi, the founder and Chairman leading the group, and discussed the background and effects of the implementation of these services.


*Note: "Sangyoso" (産業僧) refers to a monk akin to a counselor or advisor, offering guidance and support in a corporate setting.


Matsumoto: The business operations of Japan Create Group are quite broad, but would you say that staffing and outsourcing services are the core of your business?


Igarashi: Initially, our main business was staffing for manufacturing and distribution sectors. However, the Lehman Brothers shock prompted us to diversify our operations. Currently, we focus on domestic businesses, with our core operations being in staffing and outsourcing services primarily in the human resources and food distribution sectors. Additionally, we have expanded into various areas such as store management, web promotion, and environmental infrastructure. Japan Create provides teams ranging from 10 to 200 people to our clients, taking on parts of their business operations.


Matsumoto: So, you systematically provide staffing services, do you?


Igarashi: Yes, that's correct. First, we learn the work under the guidance of our clients and understand the situation on-site. Based on this, we assign personnel according to the client's needs, such as addressing issues or meeting requests, and manage the team to take over the site. This approach of outsourcing parts of the business process is now commonly referred to as "Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)."

Due to the impact of the Lehman Brothers shock, our staffing business saw a significant decline in sales. In response, we diversified our operations, and one of the ventures we undertook was the food distribution business. Specifically, we expanded retail meat shops nationwide. We brought our family business, a butcher shop, under our group and grew it significantly with the group's capital strength. Now, the scale of our food distribution business surpasses that of our staffing business. During the diversification process, including M&As and business right transfers, we temporarily had around 40 companies. Currently, through mergers with similar business and other consolidation efforts, we have streamlined our operations to 15 companies.


Matsumoto: As the chairman of the group companies, what do you think your main responsibilities are, Chairman Igarashi?


Igarashi: One of my responsibilities is to make decisions for the entire group. I only attend formal meetings, such as the annual or biannual strategy report meetings and board of directors' meetings. Decisions for each company are left to their respective presidents and responsible executives. I believe my primary role is to create a comfortable working environment for our employees. This includes health management for our employees and improving the overall environment that surrounds them. For instance, I consider it my role to pose questions on how we can engage in well-being management practices that meet the demands of the local community and society, such as those outlined by the SDGs.


Matsumoto: To improve the company's performance, everyone on the ground is focusing intensely on their immediate tasks. However, Mr. Igarashi, you are providing them with a broader perspective, aren't you?


Igarashi: Everyone is working hard to expand our business, and that is extremely important. I understand that it is quite challenging to stay focused on daily tasks while also paying attention to social conditions. Therefore, even though I may not be fully capable, I hope to play a role in prompting different perspectives whenever possible.



The Starting Point of the Sangyoso - A Monk as a Corporate Advisor



Matsumoto: As a Sangyoso from Interbeing Inc., I have had the privilege of conducting one-on-one dialogues and giving lectures for the employees of Japan Create Group. But my personal connection with Chairman Igarashi dates back to before the founding of Interbeing Inc. Looking back, I believe that the conversations we had through mutual acquaintances became the origin of my role as a Sangyoso.


Igarashi: Is that so? I founded the company 23 years ago, and for the first 3 to 4 years until the business stabilized, I was personally involved in sales and worked on the front lines. However, once the business stabilized, it became easy to get involved in distractions or less critical endeavors, which is a characteristic of this industry. My own company also went through a period of wandering. As the senior mentors who had been involved as auditors were approaching retirement as they aged, I realized that I needed a distinguished advisor for the future of the business. I consulted a friend who is a management consultant, and this led to my introduction to you, Monk Matsumoto. At that time,  you were introduced to me in the role of connecting us with someone else, but you were very easy to talk to, and since then, we have developed a personal relationship.


Matsumoto: I am grateful for that.


Igarashi: As the head of a group company, it is necessary to draw lines and make decisions. Being at the top always comes with a sense of isolation. In such situations, having an external advisor who can look at the situation from a broad perspective and share different viewpoints is very reassuring. That is one of the reasons I value our relationship.


Matsumoto: Our meetings were not strictly regular, but I would say they were about once a quarter. We would have conversations over meals in quiet places. That might have been the starting point for my path as a Sangyoso. Given that there are now many options for third-party advisors, such as consulting and coaching, what does having a "monk" as an advisor mean to you, Mr. Igarashi?



Receiving Wisdom from the Past can Guide Us in Understanding People. Only Through Our Personal Growth Can We Nurture Others.



Igarashi: I have always been interested in "virtue-based Management," and I have read books by various business leaders on the subject. Typically consulting focuses on sales and profits, with discussions often centered on how to build businesses and organizations to improve performance. Yet, I believe I have my own methods in that regard.

A company is its people. Therefore, when focusing on "people," it is not just about managing those who drive performance, but about understanding those who are part of the business. The wisdom passed down through the ages resonates deeply in this context. It doesn't have to be religious, but meeting with a monk brings me peace. I believe that access to mental care in the spiritual realm is essential for leaders navigating the bustling world of business.


Igarashi: Workers often chase performance, get entangled in organizational dynamics, and become mentally strained from relationships, which can lead to depression. Additionally, personal issues and worries related to family environments and parent-child relationships, especially those outside the workplace, are concerns that organizations often cannot address.


Matsumoto: It is generally uncommon for an organization like a company to get involved in personal matters. However, since it is impossible to completely separate personal life from work, there will inevitably be an impact.


Igarashi: Nowadays, I assume there are probably very few people who have regular contact with monks or engage with Buddhism, unless they belong to a family temple.


Matsumoto: Many people visit temples after retirement when they have more free time. However, for those who are still working and constantly busy with their jobs, even if they are interested, it can be quite difficult to find the time.


Igarashi: I believe that middle managers, who are responsible for team management, often struggle the most. By stepping away from the mundane world and talking with a monk or seeking advice, they can untangle their thoughts and take care of their simmering emotions. I think it would be very beneficial for them.

And I believe it is also necessary for them to reflect on their sometimes inevitably biased ways of thinking. Although we have not yet fully grasped AI-based voice emotion analysis, we decided to create the right environment and opportunities by introducing the services provided by the Sangyoso into our company.


Matsumoto: I have given several lectures aimed at the executives. What was the intention behind that?


Igarashi: In life, employees are like family, especially the executives. They are the companions with whom we spend more time than anyone else. Additionally, we must care for the families of these companions. If one family consists of five people, hiring one person means supporting five lives, and hiring 100 people means supporting 500 lives. I once heard the belief that a company has such a mission, and I resonate with that idea.


When conveying to the executives the belief that the company has a mission, it is essential for me to be a calm and stable presence in the spiritual realm. As humans, I have to admit that we sometimes allow emotions and desires influence our actions, but education won't achieve much without personal growth. It's not just about arming oneself with knowledge; spiritual and character development are also necessary.

 

Recently, a senior executive who retired recommended "The Analects of Confucius" to me. When I picked up the book and started reading it, I found it profoundly resonating with me. In the past, I used Zen sayings at the beginning of our internal meetings, but lately, I have been introducing passages from "The Analects." For example, it includes simple truths like "Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire." However, our world is filled with situations where such simple truths are not followed.


From large-scale issues like wars and politics to more immediate concerns like harassment, these matters have been addressed in the teachings of our predecessors since ancient times. Zen teachings, for instance, have been passed down for about a thousand years. Despite the progress of civilization, the fundamental nature of the human mind has not changed much. I want to share this inherited wisdom with my colleagues in the company.


However, if a profit-driven executive tries to preach such teachings, it may lack credibility and come off as insincere. In this sense, I believe it is the role of monks to provide this wisdom. I am grateful for the monks who assist us and lend their strength.



Cultivating Principles While Becoming Companions



Matsumoto: While the pursuit of profit and the pursuit of universal values may be one and the same for you, Mr. Igarashi, they can sometimes sound like two different things depending on the situation. In that sense, it is certainly true that having a different face to deliver these ideas can be more effective. I believe that the role of a corporate monk is to translate and convey these universal values. In many cases, principles in any kind of company carry universal messages. However, from the standpoint of executives who face daily realities and are expected to deliver results in terms of profit and performance, it can be difficult to convey that there are universal values and philosophies behind these principles. A monk, by rephrasing according to the audience, can help share these ideas. There is no need to explicitly bring Buddhist teachings into it; rather, they should be kept on the side. The act itself is similar to "spreading the teachings" in the sense of permeating the company's principles both internally and externally.


Igarashi: Given my position, I am not involved in the daily operations, which makes it easier for me to speak up. In other words, because I don't voice my opinion on a daily basis, it becomes easier for me to express my thoughts when I do. Those receiving feedback might also find it easier to accept from someone who maintains a bit of distance.


Matsumoto: As chairman, your role might be seen as more philosophical or even "monk-like."


Igarashi: I believe that management without a guiding philosophy cannot sustain itself in the long run. Companies that don't last beyond one generation or are easily sold off seem to lack such a philosophy. It's crucial for each generation of leaders to learn and pass on their knowledge to the next, rather than making short-term decisions that could harm the company. That's why sharing a philosophy within the company is essential. To foster this awareness, we draw on ancient wisdom from Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.


However, some traditional teachings don't always align well with modern society, so they sometimes need to be translated and carefully chosen. Balancing a strict focus on sales and costs with discussions about humanistic values can create contradictions. It's important for the executive team to step back, organize these ideas, and set an example for others.


Matsumoto: You mean starting with those who nurture others, don't you?


Igarashi: Yes, when employees come forward with their concerns, it would be wonderful to have wise and virtuous individuals who can calmly listen and offer guidance. I hope our company can cultivate such individuals. Since it is often difficult for people to seek learning opportunities on their own, I believe it is important for the company to create an environment where this is possible. In the dialogues with the corporate monks, I assume you've spoken with many different people, and it resonates most with those who seek it out themselves. That’s where the true value of these conversations lies. I believe that those who are struggling with issues need these opportunities for dialogue the most, but making that connection is often challenging. This might be one of our ongoing challenges.



Management Connected to the Future Through Evolving Companions



Matsumoto: Could you share what you expect from your involvement with corporate monks and Buddhism?


Igarashi: I would like to deepen the dialogue within small groups. Specifically, I think having overnight retreats could help us feel closer to each other. While online communication is convenient, truly understanding someone's personality comes from seeing their gestures and interacting in person. Even if it's difficult to include all employees, it would be beneficial to repeatedly gather 5 to 10 executives who, I hope, would grow to view the business from a broad perspective and share in our philosophy.


Matsumoto: I would like to get started right away. At Interbeing Inc., we've also launched a program called the "Philosophy Resonance Program: Yoruka," which deepens dialogue in small groups centered around corporate philosophy. It has created a very positive environment, and I see a lot of potential in it. Opportunities to discuss philosophy purely for its own sake are rare in a business context, aren't they?


Igarashi: I place great importance on "philosophy-based management," so it's my role to talk about our philosophy. I have the opportunity to do this once or twice a year. The content I share with new employees each year changes to reflect the current times, and we share these archived recordings with all employees. We also recite the company creed during our daily morning meetings. However, I don't think all employees watch these recordings thoroughly or fully grasp the company creed. More importantly, I want our employees to have the perspective to find and understand what they and the company should strive for in their daily activities. It would be wonderful if they could discuss their concerns with their peers and grow together. By having dialogues coordinated by someone and receiving feedback, I believe a sense of camaraderie will develop.


Igarashi: Personally, when it comes to achieving better performance, I envision a future and think about what needs to be done to make that vision a reality. This mindset and approach have become part of my current management know-how. I believe this can become a tradition within the company. If each person can adopt this mindset, both their potential and the company's potential will expand greatly. However, many people lack the time and the environment to do this.


Matsumoto: Because everyone is so focused on their roles and tasks, stepping out of their usual frameworks can lead to breakthroughs and leaps forward. Changing locations or interacting with different people, and immersing oneself in a different flow of time and environment, provides opportunities to incorporate new elements. I believe that the historic and unique setting of a temple can be very beneficial for this purpose.


Igarashi: I agree. We used to hold training sessions for the executive team at a temple. Since my talks alone have their limits, having monks provide sermons was a crucial part of it. This time, I hope to create a setting where monks not only give sermons but also join the members in conversations. It's difficult to create such opportunities on our own.


I remember when I was around 30, my previous company organized a retreat at Mount Hiei as part of our training. It was six days of intense training, but the monk's words during the sermon have stayed with me ever since. Not everyone who participated might remember it, but if it resonates with even 20 or 30 percent of the participants, it will have a lasting impact. I believe those individuals will become the core of the company. In some cases, they might leave to start their own businesses, and that's fine too. 


Igarashi: The Japan Create Group follows the management principle that "a company is its people," so ultimately, it's about developing human resources. One of our major policies for 2024 is "the development of the next generation of talent." I believe this is something that needs to be approached with a long-term perspective.


Matsumoto: The executive team will also see changes, with younger generations joining the board of directors. It's important for these new members to not just hold titles but to truly become part of the team. Continuing this process of integration is essential.


Igarashi: The Japan Create Group operates on the principle that "a company is its people," so ultimately, our focus is on developing human resources. One of our key policies for 2024 is "the development of the next generation of talent." I believe this requires a long-term approach.


Matsumoto: The executive team will also see changes, with younger generations joining the board of directors. It's important for these new members to not just hold titles but to truly become part of the team. Continuing this process of integration is essential.


Igarashi: In the dialogues with a monk, the content of the conversations isn't shared with the company, right? That confidentiality allows people to speak freely. While the effects might not be immediately visible, they manifest over the long term. However, this also means that the cost-effectiveness is hard to measure, which can make it difficult for companies to adopt.


Matsumoto: Exactly. The inability to evaluate it makes its introduction challenging. In dialogues with a monk, we use AI emotion analysis to collectively capture and report the emotions and voices that arise within the company, based on the analysis of the "sounds" within the conversations. However, as you mentioned, the effects can be difficult to see and share.


Therefore, in addition to one-on-one dialogues, I believe it would be beneficial for corporate monks to be involved in team-building activities where executives and staff members explore the company's philosophy more deeply. This process helps them become companions who elevate each other's character.


By combining one-on-one dialogues with corporate monks, which focus on personal care and awareness, with the "Philosophy Resonance Program: Yoruka," where relationships and collective understanding are nurtured, we aim to create a more holistic and long-term valuable initiative for the organization.


Igarashi: Eiichi Shibusawa's The Analects and the Abacus" makes some very astute points. Businesses can't operate on ideals alone—


Matsumoto: —And that's true for the world at large as well.


Footnote: "There are things called the Analects and the Abacus. At first glance, they seem utterly incompatible and very far apart. However, the abacus must be guided by the Analects, and true wealth can only be realized through the principles of the Analects. Thus, the Analects and the abacus are both very distant and very close. . . Wealth that is not based on correct principles cannot be truly sustainable. Therefore, I believe that reconciling these seemingly distant elements is our critical task today." (Eiichi Shibusawa, "The Analects and the Abacus")

VOICE |
INTERVIEW

Interview with Business Leader

Japan Create Group

Chairman, CEO

Nobumasa Igarashi

MONK DIALOGUE

Japan Create Group

Japan Create Group

Chairman, CEO

Nobumasa Igarashi

Japan Create Group

VOICE |
INTERVIEW

SOUND OF INTERVIEW

Language: Japanese

00:00 / 01:04

SOUND OF INTERVIEW / Language: Japanese

00:00 / 01:04
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