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

Johoku Chemical

CEO Tomoaki Ota

Message to young people
Japan is in serious trouble at the moment. In such a situation, you should think with your head, believe your intuition, make a decision and take action. Do not follow your parents or your boss without thinking and never leave anything to the care of others. Japanese people tend to place emphasis on following their relatives and older people. However, the time has changed and the paradigm is also changing. If young people truly become able to decide and behave by themselves, I believe that Japan will recover.

Japan is in serious trouble these days. Be cognizant of the developing complexities in our country by thinking deeply about the changes that are occurring in and around it. Our traditions allow us to acknowledge and respect our predecessors and their contributions, but you must also let your thoughts and understanding of this historical moment guide meaningful action. You live in a new world, but remember, while trouble brought change, change brings opportunity. Through a self-confident assertion and a commitment to ingenuity, I know that you will be capable of leveraging the odds in your favor. Your vision will not only bring about recovery, but also lead Japan to prosperity.

As I look back on it now, my childhood does not seem very remarkable. The most notable characteristic is the memory of my father who dedicated his energy and resources towards developing a business. However, his early sacrifices yielded great benefits, one of which was the opportunity for me to study abroad. With no prior experience in English, those two years were a great challenge. I was, to a degree, isolated by my inability to communicate freely in English. Nevertheless, during that time, I was committed to cultivating both my ability and inner strengths.

The abilities that I spent years developing were unexpectedly called upon when my father passed away. I became the president of his company on New Year’s Day of 2001 and I cannot communicate the degree of uncertainty that I felt. Everything in my life had been called to the test. Further, the employees who found themselves looking up to a relatively inexperienced 36-year-old for leadership of the company they dedicated their lives to were not without their own anxieties. Since that time we’ve overcome disasters that shook the world: the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the bursting of the IT bubble, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the Great East Japan Earthquake. Having weathered these uncertain times we’ve formed a great trust for each other.

I had no problem with the standard inferiority complex generally experienced by second-generation presidents. For one thing, I worked with my father for only a year before his passing and so there was little time for internal perceptions and comparisons between him and me to develop. Further, the independent spirit that I formed in my earlier years lent a certain degree of self-confidence. I think that with this peace of mind I was able to balance my own ideas with the opinions of other decision makers in order to achieve a well-balanced and highly productive leadership.

My goals for this company exceed the expectations I have for my own life.

That is, my father built something meaningful for me, for the individuals who work here, and for those who enjoy the benefits of our work. I will sustain this legacy. I plan to continually develop this company at a modest and consistent rate by creating higher value-added products over time. This process has no end. This corporation should have no end.

Company Profile

Johoku Chemical
Ebisu, Tokyo
Production and sale of additives and chemicals