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Suite Talk: How Canon Marketing Asia's Chairman & CEO is making 'big smiles' a reality at work

Suite Talk: How Canon Marketing Asia's Chairman & CEO is making 'big smiles' a reality at work


Hideki Ozawa, Chairman and CEO, Canon Marketing Asia, is "walking the walk" in empowering employees. He tells Priya Sunil how he works with his leaders to do so through:

  • An almost 20-year tradition of wearing red on Mondays, to encourage passion in a "cheerful manner".
  • Bringing to life the San-ji (Three Selfs) Spirit – self-motivation, self-management, and self-awareness behind the brand's philosophy.
  • Driving and strengthening a culture built on Asian values across all markets in the region.

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Q Do tell us a little about your journey to your current role. How did you get to where you are with Canon Marketing Asia?

I have spent most of my career at various Canon overseas offices across the world, and I have always had a special affinity with Asia. Prior to my role here at Canon Marketing Asia, I was also the President and Chief Executive Officer at Canon (China). Being able to develop and strengthen Asian values within our corporate culture here at Canon is something that is very near and dear to me, and I am ever grateful for being where I am to effect change, ensuring a growing corporate culture that evolves with the times.

Q How would you describe your leadership style? How has it changed over the years and what experiences helped you shape it?

I’ve always believed in leading by example and ensuring that our employees are constantly challenged in the work they do while not feeling overwhelmed or alone in their tasks. Teamwork and team efforts are something that I strive for consistently, and I believe that having strong values within the core of our corporate culture is something that is crucial to a company like Canon. Through the years, I’ve helped to helm and implement various initiatives within Canon, such as having the important essence of “red hot passion”.

This was an initiative designed to inculcate and maintain passion within our employees for the work that they do – having been implemented for almost 20 years, our Mondays are designated as Passion Mondays, with staff encouraged to wear something red to remind people of the importance of having passion in what they do, especially when done in a cheerful manner.

Q What are some meaningful lessons you've taken over the course of your career?

I think for the most part, having to be flexible, listening and understanding the various issues and challenges our employees face is of utmost importance to me. It is important that employees feel happy doing the work that they do, while feeling valued within the company.

Another initiative that I helped introduce, “Big Smile with Canon” is something that I am very proud of. With our main trade being cameras, the importance of smiling is paramount. This helps to ensure that our corporate slogan (Delighting You Always) is something that rings true within our organisation, helping our employees to lead a more positive, healthy, and optimistic lifestyle.

Q How closely do you work with your HR head, and on what issues?

I work closely with all the respective heads of departments, as this is the main channel of feedback to understand business needs, and address challenges and issues faced by our fellow colleagues and employees.

The importance of ensuring that our employees feel empowered to perform their duties is also crucial, aligned with our philosophy of the San-ji (Three Selfs) Spirit – self-motivation, self-management, and self-awareness.

We believe that our employees should always feel empowered to take initiative in their work, whilst conducting themselves with responsibility and accountability, which can only be achieved because they understand their purpose and role within the organisation.

Q What, in your view, is the #1 talent challenge in your industry at the moment?

I think being able to identify great potential hires, whilst retaining talent is and will always be a continuous process that we need to keep at. This is honed over time through experience and instinct, which allows us to work together to ensure that we have the best people for the different roles and responsibilities within the organisation.

Q Describe your ideal CHRO.

Being able to apply themselves to our various corporate practices and culture defined by strong Asian values is of utmost importance, which we are proud to have within our Human Resources Department.

Understanding the needs of our employees, adhering to feedback, and constantly in communication with them is vital to the longevity of an employee, and the various initiatives and processes that I’ve mentioned above is something that has helped to foster an exciting and lively atmosphere within our organisation.

Q If not this career, what alternative career path would you have chosen?

I honestly couldn’t see myself working anywhere else apart from the Canon family. The development of the organisation over the years has been an incredibly exciting opportunity, and my contributions in helping to foster strong corporate culture practices within our Asia region has been an absolute blessing and I would not trade the experience for anything else.

Photo / Canon

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