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Archive for June, 2012

Small Business Corporate Culture - All Hail the Fun Czarina!

Monday, June 25th, 2012

All Work and No Play

In the beginning, there were a lot of long hours, last trains and the occasional office sleep over! We worked hard, but played…not so much. I definitely deserve much of the blame for that. Seeing the world through sleep-deprived eyes tends to give one tunnel vision. And if you spend too much time focusing on external matters, the internal ones can be easily overlooked.

Don’t mistake these for excuses. My short-coming on the all-work-no-play front was due to inexperience.

More Work and Some Play

I knew the fun quota had to be raised. We had a team of amazing people at the company, and I felt guilty for not providing more opportunities to blow off some steam. We started with the basics: dinner, drinks and karaoke. Compared to late night dashes for the last train, this was a big step in the right direction. However, as time went on the purpose of these events strayed from the intended goal. Getting away from work was critical, but there had to be other ways to do it. I didn’t have the time to dedicate toward this, but I had ideas. I just needed someone who could take on the important, yet time-consuming role.

Rise of the Fun Czarina

A talented Human Resources person is worth their weight in gold, as catering to the diverse needs of the team is critical to overall happiness. However, most people at small businesses have to wear many hats. This was, and continues to be, the case for us. So, it was time to find the right person for the job. We put together a small challenge for the potential candidates, and the winner was hired as the Fun Czarina. (Czar is for males I was told.) You can follow her blog here.

More Meaningful Fun 

We calculated the amount spent on wining and dining, and allotted the Fun Czarina that same amount to plan monthly and bi-monthly events. The focus shifted from just spending time together to incorporating culture and learning experiences into the activities. The budget is spent much better now, and overall, I think that we’re giving our team new opportunities to experience life in Japan! Let’s be honest, it’s why most of us moved here in the first place! Japanese food is amazing, but there’s more to life here than just that.

For example, here is a comparison of events from 2011 vs. 2012

2011 - restaurant, restaurant, restaurant, restaurant

2012 - bowling/ping-pong-karoke, day trip to make soba and pick peaches, hot-spring trip

In addition, there are small monthly events that the Fun Czarina puts together in and outside of the office that focus on team members and Japanese culture.

Balancing Work and Play

I’m hardwired to work. If I put myself in charge of planning fun events for the staff, it would consume me. I know from experience. That’s when I realized it was better to have someone dedicated to planning for fun and let me focus on work. Instead of finding internal balance, it’s more like a see-saw: on one side work and on the other the other fun. Through this solution we have found a much better Work-Play balance.

And now I’m free to continue to pushing!

Be sure to tune into the Motoko’s Blog series to see what the Fun Czarina has in store for us! Tokyo Office Visit

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Hi everyone! Motoko here.

At the beginning of this month, two listeners came to visit us at the office. Apparently we often used to have listeners come and visit us, but for me it was the first time, so I was really excited.

Christophe(SP?) was from Switzerland, and said that he tried to come to Japan at least once a year. It was really clear to me that he loves Japan! This time he visited our Tokyo office with his friend, who is also a listener. This friend is currently employed at a Japanese company! Isn’t that impressive?


We took a commemorative photo together with another member of staff, Jessi.

If you ever come to Japan, please definitely drop in to our Tokyo office for a visit!