100 Next-Era CEOs in Asia 2014 -The region's best brightest, most promising-

Starbucks Coffee Japan

CEO Jun Sekine

Message to young people
Leadership is becoming more and more necessary these days. I would like you to not work by yourself, but work with the idea of achieving something involving other people.

I was born and raised in Tokyo. This made me feel like I was missing out when I saw my classmates being energized by the experience of coming to Tokyo when I started university. To overcome this, I worked a physically demanding part-time job for four years and used the money I earned to go hitchhiking and traveling by ship. I had a lot of adventures.

After graduating university, I began working for Isetan department stores. A lecturer at my university was a special advisor to Isetan and his lectures were interesting and I was attracted to Isetan’s liberal and innovative culture. One day, while traveling in Mexico, I met a person doing business with Isetan and was invited to dinner with an Isetan executive. I was traveling with little money and felt lucky for the free dinner and this became a turning point in my life.

After serving as the manager of Isetan’s Shinjuku flagship store, I was sent to revive the Marui-Imai department store in Sapporo. I did my best, but unfortunately Marui-Imai went bankrupt. It was a very hard time for everyone involved. After that, while I was pondering retirement, I received an offer from Sazaby, which has an alliance with Starbucks, to become the president of the coffee shop chain.

While Isetan has a well-established and innovative corporate culture, Starbucks is a very young company, having only entered the Japanese market 16 years ago (in 1995, which means 19 years ago). My mission is to turn Starbucks, which has reached corporate adolescence, into an adult. I have worked for a department store and now a coffee shop. The businesses are very different and I was a little scared of taking on the job of leading a company in an unfamiliar industry. But, at the end of the day, Starbucks’ business is the same as Isetan’s: to serve consumers. I have enjoyed being involved in this type of “human business” for many years and I still enjoy my work every day.

I spend my time at work thinking about how to contribute to the community, how to better serve our customers and how to assist our young employees in building their careers and lives. Also, I would like to advise the young generation to not work alone and involve others in tasks. I believe leadership is the most essential factor in work and I want young people to train themselves to become leaders among the people around them to achieve things as a team. For example, even if you are the most junior member of a team, you can gain business skills by constantly thinking about what role you are expected to play on the team.

(This interview took place in November 2012.)

Company Profile

Starbucks Coffee Japan
Shibuya Ward, Tokyo
Operating coffee shops