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Career Success
DEC 3, 2005

Building a Human Network across Asia

By Yoshito Hori
Copyright GLOBIS

One of the educational principles of the GLOBIS Management School is to provide a “place to construct a human network reaching into the future.” This means that widening your circle of friends makes you wealthier as a person, and many things become possible.

I believe that if you have superior ability, a human network, and ambition, you can succeed in basically anything you take on without requiring anything else. Accordingly, these are the three education principles that I put up in each GLOBIS classroom. I have learned from my own experience that meetings and conferences, as well as schools, provide effective opportunities for cultivating personal relationships. GLOBIS, in particular, is not as well-known overseas as it is back home, and the world is a big place. Even if you meet someone once, it takes a lot of time and energy to actually become friends.

In this regard, I make use of organizational networks and conferences. An organizational network gives you an automatic sense of associating as comrades, and conferences help you meet a lot of people in a short period of time. I refer to these as channels and avenues, and I’ve made good use of them as a proven method for cultivating an overseas network.

Here are a few of the networks I use:

(1) As an entrepreneur’s network, the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization (YEO)
(2) As a grad school alumni organization, Harvard Business School (HBS) alumni clubs.
(3) As a wide-ranging network of politicians, mass media, and students, the World Economic Forum’s Davos Conference

I don’t just show up in these networks; I participate in leadership roles. At YEO, I was founder of the Japan chapter, and I served as the first board member of YEO International in charge of the Asia-Pacific region. I have just been brought on board as a member of the HBS Alumni Association’s Board of Directors. At the Davos Conference, I became a member of the board of directors and the Japan representative of New Asian Leaders. By using this network going forward, I will be able to construct a finely woven global web.

I also use the following conferences for networking:

(1) As a place to encounter Asian venture capitalists (VC) and investors, the Asian Venture Capital Forum (AVF) 
(2) As a place to meet IT entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, events held by ETRE, Red Herring, and Always On
(3) As a place to build a business school network, the Association of MBA (AMBA) assemblies

Needless to say, YEO, HBS, and Davos all run their own conferences. The great thing about conferences is that the planners invite participants from all over the world, so even if I don’t arrange personal appointments, I can meet all of the major members in one place in a short period of time. There is nothing more efficient or convenient.

Therefore, my overseas business trips are always timed to coincide with conferences that are important to the construction and maintenance of my aforementioned overseas network. I always make a point to visit investors and speak at business schools, as well.

Although many of my business trips take me to the U.S. and Europe, the basis for constructing my network is to emphasize Asia and my own generation. Perhaps by the time friends of my generation become powerful, GLOBIS will have a full-time graduate school in the mountains that teaches classes in English. By establishing our reputation in Asia and building up a human network, I hope to attract talented students.

One global network I just joined last year is the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO). Although YPO is a sister organization of YEO, they are actually very different. YEO consists of entrepreneurs under the age of 40, whereas YPO is made up of company presidents under 50, so YPO members are a little older and come from across the entire spectrum of professional managers.

YPO’s Asia-Pacific Regional Conference (ASAPCon) was scheduled from November 30 to December 4, 2005 in Manila. There is an early registration discount, so I signed up more than six months in advance.

As the time for the conference approached, however, I found myself rather swamped with work and other commitments. I could only participate in about half of ASAPCon. Still, as it was the first YPO overseas event since I became a member, I decided to at least put in an appearance.

Arriving at Manila Airport, I walked straight off the plane and quickly made my way to immigration…

And was promptly asked to wait in the lounge.

I was a bit peeved, as I had counted on being one of the first out of the airport after being one of the first off the plane, but I did as I was told and sat down in the lounge. I was enjoying a glass of cold water when a different gentleman appeared. He asked for my passport, and after a short while returned, informing me that he had completed the immigration procedures on my behalf.

I was then led out, straight past the long snaking line of people. This was the first time I had gotten this level of VIP treatment. I got into a black limousine waiting in front of the airport exit and headed for the hotel.

In my room, I changed into a dark suit and left for my first appointment at 5:30, where I was reunited with my Korean friend from HBS. We chatted on the bus with another friend from Taiwan whom we had met at a previous YPO meeting. Noticing how smooth the bus journey was, I peeked out of the window and saw that we were being escorted by police cars ahead and motorbikes on either side. We drove on the wrong side of the road to avoid traffic jamsーthey had blocked off crowded crossings for us, making for a very smooth journey.

We arrived at Malacañang Palace, the Philippine equivalent of the White House. Taking up a glass of champagne, I was reunited with many old friends in the huge reception area, where the walls were festooned with oil paintings of past presidents. HBS alumni were there, as well as YEO friends and acquaintances from New Asian Leaders at the Davos Conference. I could feel my Asian network was growing larger and larger.

We were called into the main room, and after a while President Arroyo entered, striding down the red carpet. She was a charming woman, and her speech was very dignified. I was surprised to discover that four members of her cabinet were originally YPO members.

After her speech, President Arroyo mingled with participants and sat down to dinner for about an hour. She is quite a short woman, so it was hard to locate her among the crowd. When I finally did, I had to bend over to offer my hand, along with a quick self-introduction. She had a charming smile.

Afterwards, a dinner party featuring a famous singer was held in the garden of a YPO friend near the palace, followed by a cocktail party. Manila nights are long. I was tired out from having to stand all day, so I called it an early night. The following day’s conference was also all about networking. In the evening, I was part of a small group invited to the home of a wealthy overseas Chinese merchant. The host owned a telecommunications company, an airline, and a so-called “financial clique.” He was incredibly courteous and likable. He had received his MBA from Wharton.

By my side was a young president of the biggest domestic electric company in the Philippines. He had studied abroad at HBS and mentioned that he swam 2,000 meters in his own pool every day. We were the same age, so we immediately hit it off and promised to one day both take part in the World Master’s Competition for swimming.

The next morning, it was time for me to head home and see to previous engagements. I promised everyone I had met at the conference that we would meet again, said my goodbyes, and left the hotel for the airport.

It had all gone by in a flash, but I decided to continue constructing a human network centered on Asia. Once I get back to Tokyo, I will join my friends at the after-party following the YEO Christmas party. I am so glad to have such good friends. It makes life so much more bountiful.