Taki: When I hear about ENEX Group's on-site capabilities, I have an impression of a lot of people that get really involved. I have the impression that the Company operates in a way that is close to its customers, and that the employees who work together get along and have close relationships with each other. I also think that one of the characteristics of our Group is that we are able to conduct sales activities tailored to areas across the country, catering to the climate and characteristics of each region.
Kawata: I have the impression that we value our customers very much. I believe that many of our employees have a strong sense of wanting to “make better suggestions” and “be more helpful'” to customers, rather than just selling them products and services.
Oguni: I work in the Administration Department, so I don't have direct contact with customers, but I do have sales staff who are in front-line contact with customers, staff who work on-site at factories and other sites, and staff who deliver products. People in various positions naturally work with a strong awareness of what is required at each “site,” and this is the strength of our group's “on-site capabilities.”
Matsuzaki: I also work in the back office, but I have many opportunities to see people who have transferred from other departments, and I get the impression that many of them are working self-motivated and proactive. Of course, there are many different types of employees, and each group company has a different culture, but even if their methods or thought processes are different, they have in common the fact that when they work, they are thinking, “What kind of service does the customer need?”
Kawata: In this medium-term business plan, one of the key phrases is “on-site capabilities,” and I'm glad that the focus is on work sites in the field. It motivates me to work even harder.
Oguni: Those sites are where the company's profits are generated, and I think that “on-site capabilities” have been and will continue to be an important force.
Taki: When I'm actually in the field, I feel that customers look to me as someone they can talk to if something happens. I currently work in a department that deals with cars, and there are many different ways to “sell cars.” We are not limited to the products of a single ENEX division. We can combine them with the products of other divisions and Group companies, and have many service examples to draw upon, so we are able to offer multiple options to suit each customer. I believe this is our strength and also what our customers want.
Kawata: When I make proposals to cultivate new customers, I am often asked for information by owners who are wondering what kind of business they should do next. I like the fact that the ITOCHU ENEX Group allows us to share information from a broad perspective.
Oguni: That is only possible because we have a network. On the other hand, although I know a lot about my own company, I sometimes don't know the details of what other companies or departments are doing, so I think it would be great if we could share more information.
Taki: Even now, there is information sharing within the areas, such as gas and petroleum businesses collaborating in the same area. However, I have a strong impression that it is only partial.
Kawata: I feel that strongly. I think there are many success stories outside of the department where you work that can be utilized, so I think if you can strengthen your network within the Group, you will be able to come up with even better proposals.
Kawata: Currently, there are many jobs that require me to stay within Kochi Prefecture, where I am engaged in sales activities. However, there are projects that are gradually spreading from Kochi to other prefectures in Shikoku, so I would like to increase the number of cases like this. I would like to work in a way that creates a foundation that allows the sales offices of the entire Group to collaborate in doing business.
Taki: What kind of initiatives would that involve, for example?
Kawata: I think it would be great if we could successfully integrate people and systems. We still have on-site capabilities, but even though everyone is working hard, there are inevitably differences in abilities. I think there is also the fact that if the person in charge changes, the business will be lost. Therefore, I believe that our foundation will be more stable if we connect with our customers not only through our individual personalities but also as a company. Of course, just because we're connected through a system doesn't mean we don't have to work hard on the front lines, but I would like to work on creating mechanisms that will further strengthen our relationships with our customers.
Taki: I would definitely like to create a stronger sales foundation using mechanisms like that and our sales capabilities. I also have a strong desire to try new things. In addition to existing businesses, there are ways to utilize the infrastructure we have, and even if it is completely unrelated, if it is needed by society, it is better to take on the challenge with the expectation that it will grow as a business. I would like to involve all kinds of people to take on challenges in new fields, even if they’re not extensions of our existing businesses.
Kawata: It sounds like fun. I get excited just hearing about it. Taki-san, you actually leveraged your own experience to grow a new business, right?
Taki: We supported a business that purchases and sells cars by matching car purchasing companies I met at auction sites and members of a co-op with which I had done business in the department I was previously assigned to. I believe that we were able to solve customers' problems and also contribute to solving the social issue of people having to give up their driver's licenses. Our Group's strength lies in our ability to develop businesses like this. This was in Hokkaido, but next we plan to expand to Kyushu and Osaka.
Matsuzaki: So, you can expand nationwide. That kind of move is unique to our Group.
Kawata: The reason we come up with ideas like this one is because we seriously think about our customers. I don't think you would have gotten any insight from a customer's comment if your day-to-day work had just been routine tasks.
Taki: You’re right. Additionally, I have a strong desire to do new and interesting things.
Oguni: Working on new businesses is very important. There are limits to existing business, so we need to find something new. At my company, we are constantly looking for new businesses, and there are some cases like Taki- san's that we came up with on our own, and examples of businesses that we created based on concerns we heard directly from customers. For example, a customer to whom we provide pressure testing for industrial gas containers started a warehousing business because they were having trouble finding a place to store unused containers. That is a great example of discerning customer needs, and now the business is slated to expand further from there.
Matsuzaki: How quickly does a new business get moving?
Oguni: It takes some time. Before an idea can be put into motion, an investment plan must be formulated and stringent internal reviews are conducted to ensure that the return is commensurate with the invested funds, so the process is a long one. However, I think we need to think outside the box and take on new challenges that our company cannot do alone, even if it means collaborating with other departments.
Kawata: It's really exciting to take on new challenges. However, I also believe that we must work hard to improve the efficiency of our day-to-day operations.
Matsuzaki: Last year, our company saw a significant increase in the number of applications in our electricity retail business, but this has increased the workload and costs of our back office, so we feel the need to streamline operations. We have thought about and implemented ways to reduce the workload as much as possible, but in FY2023 we would like to further reduce the workload while also trying to increase the productivity of our employees. We also want to create efficient mechanisms that will ensure that the efforts of our employees who are striving to increase productivity are not wasted. To this end, we will also focus on system development.
Oguni: How do you all feel about working at ENEX Group?
Matsuzaki: My company has introduced working from home on a trial basis. Is it difficult for sales people to work from home?
Taki: It's more like going straight to the work site and then straight home, but it still saves time. There are few restrictions such as having to go into the office.
Oguni: I think it's important to have a comfortable work environment, regardless of where you work. Last year, we conducted a survey of all employees in order to create a vision for the company, and many of them said they wanted the company to be a place where they can feel motivated.
Matsuzaki: That's very important. As mentioned in the medium-term business plan, I would like to see a system in place to reward employees for their hard work.
Taki: My impression is that the Group is full of really nice people. I get the impression that there are many people who are easy to talk to and want to work together to stimulate each other. It's a very flat relationship. I believe that the existence of such relationships between people on a daily basis allows us to move quickly when tackling new businesses.
Kawata: I feel the strengths of our Group when developing new projects. For example, recently, due to the rise in electricity costs, there has been an increase in the number of homes that use both gas and electricity instead of all- electric homes. I believe that the Group's investment capabilities are a strong asset as the products we handle are gaining momentum.
Oguni: You can make proactive moves. It's been more than 10 years since I joined this company, and when I first joined, even though it was called the “Enex Group,” we were on different floors, and it felt like a separate company. But now the office is the same, and it's an environment where it's easy to ask for advice if you have a problem. We also have a project team made up of people with various experiences, and we often meet to see if we can start new business projects.
Matsuzaki: The sense of unity within the Group is amazing. Our company is entrusted with electricity business-related tasks such as provider switching and billing services from various companies within the Group, so we experience a wide variety of things. For example, we handle both corporations and individuals, so we have a wide range of customers. In each job, you gain insights that you can apply to your own work.
Taki: I hope to continue to take on new challenges by leveraging the various strengths of the Group.