What has allowed them to come this far? We uncover the secret of I-GLOCAL, the largest Japanese accounting firm in Vietnam.

                     Business name: I-GLOCAL CO., LTD. 

                     Nature of business:  Consulting service

                     Service used: kintone on cybozu.com

                     kintone usage: Time management, mail magazine delivery management etc.

I-GLOCAL CO., LTD.  (hereafter referred to as I-GLOCAL) was the first Japanese accounting firm to establish itself in Vietnam.

They do business with more than 700 of the approximately 2,500 Japanese companies operating in Vietnam, leaving the several dozen other Japanese accounting firms far behind.

Partner Mr. Takayuki Jitsuhara (Left in the above picture)

Deputy General Director Mr. Tran Nguyen Trung (Right  in the above picture

 How has I-GLOCAL managed to support such a venture? We look into the secret behind their success.

A Japanese accounting firm made up of young Vietnamese

When you enter I-GLOCAL’s Ho Chi Minh City office, their largest base, few people would likely realize they had entered a Japanese accountancy firm. The majority of employees are young Vietnamese. Out of a total of 250 staff, there are only 10 Japanese: not even 5 percent.

This is actually where I-GLOCAL’s strength lies, explains company director

Mr. Jitsuhara. “With Mr. Trung at the helm, there is a large number of Japanese-speaking Vietnamese executive staff who take part in the management of the business. In the Vietnamese consulting business world documents are of course all in Vietnamese, and for dealings with government agencies it is not really the place for Japanese staff to get involved. For this purpose, we have a strong team of Vietnamese staff on-site, and I believe the reason we can be successful as a Japanese company here is the fact that they deal directly in providing advice to clients.”

 

The most surprising thing is the young age of the employees.

As a norm, new Vietnamese staff is employed as fresh graduates.

This is extremely unusual for Japanese companies in Vietnam.

“In Vietnam there is still a prevalence of fraudulent or dishonest activity in business. In order to develop not only their business skills but also cultivate a healthy corporate culture we’ve found that fresh graduates make the best candidates.”

 

Furthermore, as a general rule it appears employees are asked to leave after three years.

“For example, if they join the company as new graduates at 22 years old, by the time they reach 25 they will overwhelmingly have reached a higher level of professional development when compared with 25 year-olds from other companies. We have confidence in our experience when it comes to training young graduates.

However, when it comes to the structure of our organization we cannot guarantee further promotion to all of them. As a result, with the exception of a few truly outstanding candidates who stay on, we make a commitment to introduce employees who stay for the full three years to another company once their term with us comes to an end.” (Mr. Jitsuhara)

 

“Of our firm’s 700 client companies, we are really blessed to be dealing with businesses that are excellent even among those Japanese firms operating in Vietnam.

Among these companies there is high demand for hiring I-GLOCAL employees who have completed their 3 years, and in fact companies have to wait their turn.

For the staff that stays on with our company, they go on to become department heads and section managers of the accounting departments.

Of course, in the short-term to lose personnel when we’ve specially invested in their training does work out as a loss, however in the long-term this set-up fosters a strong relationship with our clients.

 

Likewise, the brand image that I-GLOCAL has as a company that invests seriously in personnel training and career development also helps us to continue to attract the best graduates to apply to our company.” (Mr. Jitsuhara)

How were they able to establish a customer base of over 700 companies?

For three years starting in 2010 there was a final rush of Japanese companies entering the Vietnamese market. With an attitude of “Vietnam is on the rise!” major corporations including many manufacturing and trading companies flooded into the market. Along with such expansion into a new market came plenty of work for us, so we decided to focus our effort on those clients in front of our eyes.

 

So, we really didn’t do any special kind of business promotion. By focusing on the clients in front of us it also led to introductions to new clients.” (Mr. Jitsuhara)

“With more and more work coming in, it also became necessary to train more staff to take on the workload. The result of those frantic 3 years from 2010 on was that we now had a training system of sorts in place. After another 3 years of fine-tuning this, we arrived at the model we have now,” explained Mr. Jitsuhara.

When a strength ceases to be a strength

“I-GLOCAL’s strength has been its large number of clients. For example, if a client consults us about a tax investigation, we will have had experience with other clients in similar situations which we can draw on to advise them. However, our client base has grown so much that it has become impossible for an individual consultant to have a grasp of all cases. As a result, a consultant may not even know of similar cases previously dealt with and might therefore be unable to deliver the best advice. What had been the source of our strength actually turned into a weakness. In order to compile our knowledge and experience in an efficient manner we found there was a need to systematize.”

I-GLOCAL publishes a weekly newsletter about matters of Vietnamese law. They have established a system where once every quarter they pick out a selection of the contents relevant to each respective client, put them in a column in order of importance, add information on how to deal with each situation, and send it out to staff.

 

“I am the main person overseeing sales, but what is important is maintaining the relationship with customers after the contract period is up.

In the long-term it's really important to put in the effort to maintain smooth and meticulous client support.

Considering the number of clients we deal with currently, we've come to a point where as an organization we really have to respond to this situation in some way." (Mr. Trung)

The company's experience of in-house training focused on human resource development was turned into a seminar format and was extended to the staff of consulting clients.

“First of all, I want to reduce the hours that I work. On the other hand, I also want to have a grasp of everything that goes on. I want my staff to optimize the way they work. I also want my staff to be able to go home early. And I want to reduce the number of staff too.

 

With this insatiable appetite to keep improving the way we do things, we are currently in the process of implementing various measures, one of which has been using kintone,” Mr. Trung explained.

Making things “Simple, Open and Speedy” with kintone

“We introduced our core system several years ago and it made a big contribution to improving our business. However, there were parts where there was a lack of flexibility so we still ended up using paper documents and Excel spreadsheets for some tasks. It was these tasks that we were able to switch over to kintone.

Our company motto is “Simple, Open and Speedy”, so we really want to make everything open that can be, and we rely on our staff to tackle whatever needs to be done with the right resolve.

 

It’s great that with kintone we can make information sharing within the company flexible, allowing us to make things speedy and open.

 

As all the information can be viewed at a glance, if you want to know “What’s going on right now?” or “This part can’t be completed by the deadline, right?” these things can easily be shared and discussed between staff. Everyone’s general awareness of what is going on has become particularly high. It has also become possible to gather information very fast. Everyone simply has to update their own record, but the collective result is really quite significant.” (Mr. Trung)

Work hours used to be added up every 2 to 3 days, but now they are calculated very accurately on an hourly basis.

 

“Even though our volume of work has increased, we’ve been able to adapt without the need to increase our administrative staff, which has been a great help.” (Mr. Trung)

Continuous improvement is not something you can simply demand. Rather, kintone itself becomes the platform to facilitate it

“Now, though, we’ve reached the point where when it comes to creating a simple application, any of our staff can do it right away.

 

When it comes to continuous improvement, I don’t think it’s something that can be achieved simply by us managers saying ‘Do it!’ In order for us to improve our work, however wonderful a system we might try to implement our staff could reject it, and I believe that without a mutual understanding it’s not going to work.” (Mr. Trung)

“I think that what can really initiate the cycle of continuous development is when we actually feel for ourselves that ‘If we do this, our workload will also be reduced’. To have experienced that first taste of success in terms of implementing improvements using kintone is, I believe, a significant step. kintone has a great reputation as ‘A platform that can be used flexibly to respond to change’.” (Mr. Trung) 


An FAQ sheet regarding laws and ordinances for in-company reference (Above left)

And business trip applications (Above right)

 

These kinds of application can be created by staff themselves and help to improve work efficiency.

“However, no matter what system you introduce, if people don’t understand the point of that system I don’t believe it can be effective. At I-GLOCAL I believe that all our staff can be rightfully judged to be working in a professional way, and I also hope that each of them would want to be considered professionals in the work they do. If the staff who are simply ‘pretending to work while seeking appreciation from superiors and others for things other than the work itself’ continue to receive praise, it will have a negative impact on the motivation of those employees who actually work hard to contribute to the company.

 

The introduction of kintone as an addition to our existing system really makes visible to all in real-time those who are actually getting their work done, which I believe in turn leads to a fairer assessment of the value employees bring.” (Mr. Trung)

Future prospects as the accounting firm for Vietnam

“From now on we would like to expand our services that go beyond the normal limits of what might define an accounting firm. For example, the training business that we initiated 5 years ago. Offering up our knowledge of training new graduates has become a business in and of itself.

 

 In addition, this year we opened a place called Co-Working Space where people can do their work in a café-like environment. Basically we would like to make use of I-GLOCAL’s strengths to develop various kinds of services.

 

Finally, and it might still be rather early days to be talking about this, we are considering expanding our services beyond the domain of Japanese companies overseas. As the level of what Japanese companies demand is particularly high, since we are developing such a high level of service we believe it can be considered of value beyond the Japanese company centered market too. Our first priority would be European and US companies, as well as those from Singapore, Taiwan and Korea. Of course, looking to the future we would also very much like Vietnamese companies to make use of our services, too.” (Mr. Jitsuhara)

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