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Regus Japan

Ms. Ann Sado
December 2003

Key Points:
* At the outset of starting a business, practical experience will more often than not be more valuable than qualifications
* Without passion a person will find it difficult to become a real entrepreneur
* Intuition is very important to be successful in business
* To achieve peak performance as an entrepreneur, find, create and use support groups or mentors

After passion and purpose, you really have to learn patience and perseverance and let the business grow. If you keep working at it you become more and more professional in what you are doing, and then at that time you have to reach your peak performance. When you reach that level everything is like heaven on earth. You are enjoying what you are doing all the time and it is like living in paradise.

On its own the 16th letter of the alphabet means nothing, but to serial start-up entrepreneur Ms. Ann Sado , 'P' stands for Passion, Purpose, Perseverance, Professionalism and Peak Performance, the five keys she believes that are crucial for driving a business.

"Without passion or purpose, nothing happens." says the bi-cultural, bi-lingual 3rd generation Tokyo-born Japanese-American. Ann is proprietor and representative director of A TO Z Sado Enterprises Ltd., a small niche company specializing in advisory work by consulting selective clients of multi-national luxury, high end consumer goods. As well as being involved in a number of other valuable projects, Ann is also a partner and managing director of Legacy Memoirs , a Japanese pioneer in family publishing that provides workshops on Oral History to preserve history of families and individuals.

Ann enjoyed six very successful years working in the cosmetic industry as Marketing Manager for the Aramis division at Estee Lauder . When she was scouted to become a Product Manager/Brand Development Manager of L'Oreal Japan for Lancome , her passion pushed her to accept.

Many people asked her "Why are you throwing away this wonderful job as a Marketing Manager at Aramis?" Her answer was "This has been something of my driving force all of these years - I like to have passion, but I also like to have balance."

At that time Ann had a fiance who she eventually wanted to marry and balance her career and marriage. "Entering product development as a Product Manager was not as high up as a Marketing Manager but it allowed me to balance my private and business lives."

She and her staff were responsible for completely taking out all the Lancome products that were being sold in the L'Oreal hair care salon and totally rearranging distribution so that Lancome could be shining on the cosmetics counters in department stores and specialized retailers. "We had to create a new product to place in the L'Oreal hair salon and this was a miracle that took place." she enthuses. "In six months time we created a whole new brand, "Institut de Beaute." Soon after we finished all this I was asked to start-up again, Helena Rubinstein - it was a grandmother brand that had been in Japan for 23 years, the image was starting to slide, it looked very old. So I was asked to revamp this whole new brand and in one years time we were up and running."

After six years in the field of fashion she concluded that the marketing and cosmetics industry was very narrow. "People keep moving from one brand to the next. I realized that as your mind gets bigger and bigger and you think you know everything, you begin to wonder whether what you are telling them really works in the market." Ann decided that in order to increase her job satisfaction, she had to enter another area. Her focus zoomed in on management consulting.

She was asked by the Chairman of Wella Group to join a joint venture consulting firm. "Most of the consultants were women from the cosmetics industry because we are very competitive, used to pressure and very passionate. "We have this purpose to drive our goal and make that market share. This is when I learned about business to take it from one stage to the next." Ann recalls.

"What really drives the business is your practical experience."
Ann's impressive performance in business surprises many people when they learn that she has an undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature and an M.A. from Waseda University Graduate School in Japanese Classical Theater and Dance. How did a woman who has been studying creative arts enter business and become successful? The tone of her voice is the same as her answer - "Again, it is passion!"

Ann draws an interesting parallel between business and performing on the stage.
"In Kabuki, we have to really perform. We are like the star. Everybody is helping you to shine out on the stage. But what happens if for example, the katsura (wig ) snaps? What do you do? You have to recover instantly. I think men in business learn all of this through sports. I learnt through my Japanese classical dance experience, how to be a team player with the musicians, backstage hands, the lighting people; they are all trying to help me create a very exciting performance."

Ann believes the discipline of learning Japanese classical dance has also helped her. "It is a very hierarchical system and you have to fit yourself into that mold. But all this is the apprenticeship training system that the Japanese feudalistic companies go through and for me, going through that was very helpful because I came to understand the Japanese mentality better."

When she realized there was very little room for new people to take on leadership positions, Ann jumped from the arts into business. Keeping in mind she had no business training when she was placed into a management position, it was clearly a major challenge. How did she learn the ropes?

"In order for me to get into the business side I had to learn very quickly so I fully utilized business gatherings to really learn all about business." As one of the founding members of The Forum for Corporate Communications, she soaked up as much as she could about business, marketing and advertising from the club’s monthly speakers.

"I tried to stay in the business area and I found mentors. For someone who is first starting out in business, getting that MBA and knowing the theory helps, but what really drives the business is your practical experience, and that’s how I got started."

Ann believes that to achieve peak performance as an entrepreneur you should always find, create and use support groups or mentors.

When she received an offer from the regional directors of Reebok Japan to become the Vice-President of Apparel in 1992, Ann decided to grab the opportunity and put into practice what she had learned in management consulting. Six young staff were supposed to do 1.6-1.8 million yen in sales. "At that time it was the height of the bubble economy and I told them that we are going to do 'Mission Impossible'." Even though the economy was slowly starting to collapse and the selling environment was becoming tighter and tigher , Ann orchestrated over a sales increase from 1.6-2.2 million yen.

Business was boosted by creating new product lines. "Because there was such a young group of people working under me, I hired a Japanese apparel consultant to help us set up a whole new product line. Until then Reebok only sold caps, accessories, bags, t-shirts, etc., that were imported, but when it came to actual apparel that performed in the sporting market, the company was still way behind so we had to create a whole new line of sporting and fitness apparel."

Family crisis led to change of business focus

At the height of the business a health crisis hit her family and she had to decide again how to balance her private life with her business life. The only way solution she could see was to start her own business. Ann then opened a calligraphy and Japanese style painting gallery, Ginza Shorou, in Ginza in the autumn of 1994 with her mother. At that time there were about approximately 500 art galleries, but hardly any galleries that really focused their energy on calligraphy.

"My mother had been creating a lot of beautiful screens and scrolls and I thought it would so nice to have a gallery that was just totally conceptualized for calligraphy, Japanese ink paintings and sumiya. "Ann realized that although she enjoyed the rollercoaster ride of big business, the number crunching was getting to her. "I am an artist at heart and I love creative things."

They turned the premises into a rental gallery and offered it to the many disciples studying under the master calligraphers who needed a place to display their workmanship. Renting also made economic sense since the income helped offset the overheads.

After A TO Z Sado Enterprises Ltd. was launched in January, 1995, Ann invested in and became a partner and managing director of Legacy Memoirs, a Japanese pioneer in family publishing that provides workshops on Oral History to preserve history of families and individuals on tape or CD.

Big in the States, she is now marketing the service in Japan . "Instead of remembering your beloved mother or father, hearing the actual voice of the person is really quite moving. After my mother recovered from a serious illness, I did some oral history taping with her and even to this day when I listen to her voice, it resonates in my heart. To have that recorded and keep is just a wonderful, wonderful situation."

"You really have to love what you are doing. Passion is the key."
"After passion and purpose, you really have to learn patience and perseverance and let the business grow. If you keep working at it you become more and more professional in what you are doing, and then at that time you have to reach your peak performance." Ann explains.

"Many people in companies just work the hours they are supposed to work. I see a lot of women doin g this and I really wish they would drive themselves to higher heights. Peak performance is very important in order for you to reach the level that you really feel satisfied with. Then when you reach that level everything is like heaven on earth. You are enjoying what you are doing all the time and it is like living in paradise."

Ann holds strongly to the belief that without passion a person will find it difficult to become a real entrepreneur. "This is because you really have to love what you are doing and spend that time to nurture the business and grow it. Passion is the key here."

Does Ann think intuition is necessary, and do people have to be charismatic to be successful leaders or entrepreneurs?
She believes that intuition is very important to be successful in business. "You have to be able to trust your inner feelings. If you are not comfortable with what you feel you are not going to be able to drive your business. But I don't think you need to be a charismatic leader to be an entrepreneur. At the beginning to start something up, you need that passion and maybe a bit of an aura to gather people to come and work with you, but after a certain point when the business reaches a good plateau, you need a different type of leader, someone who is more administrative. I don't think that charismatic leadership is necessarily important for entrepreneurs.You just have to have that drive, passion and vision, that goal and you have to persevere until you reach it."

For more information about Ann and her business activities, please visit:

Text: Jonathon Walsh
For comments and suggestions: businessgrow@hotmail.com

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