Interview with Helen Iwata of Sasuga! Communications

Interview with Helen Iwata

Robert Millar interviews Helen IwataI recently had the pleasure of interviewing Helen Iwata of Sasuga! Communications for this blog. Helen is our first ever monthly member at Ginza Hub, joining almost 2 years ago in August 2014, and she recently published a book in Japanese called 英語の仕事術 (Eigo no Shigotojutsu.) Over a cup of coffee, I asked Helen a few questions about her success as an entrepreneur, while Tia Haygood of TopTia Photography snapped a few shots for us.

RM – So Helen, let me start by asking you how you first got started in Business.

HI – I first came to Japan with the JET program, and worked there for my first 3 years. I then worked for 7 years with Nippon Steel Trading, and then for 10 years at McKinsey.  I decided to leave McKinsey in 2013, and the very next day I set up Sasuga! Communications to focus on what I really wanted to do: communication-skills training and translation.

RM – Where are you based and why?

HI – I decided to base myself at Ginza Hub because of the positive atmosphere here. I mean, there’s always high-speed WiFi, good coffee, and snacks from all of our various travels, but I love the sense of community here best.

RM – That’s great to hear! Ok, next tell me, how has the internet empowered your own business?

HI – Wow. That’s a long story! Well, first I thought that online business wasn’t appropriate for my line of business which is helping people to communicate with clarity and confidence in global business, but I’ve realised that actually there’s a lot of potential with it. One thing is that I can introduce basic techniques through online training, which then saves participants time in the classroom. But also, I can now do a lot with video! This means that people don’t have to travel or to be at the same location at the same time. So we can do things that are live, and then record them for viewing later.

RM – Ok, so the Net is supplementing your in-person training because you have a better reach with your recorded material.

HI – Yes, so it can be for the same people who attend my in-person workshops, plus a whole new set of people who can’t make it to my in-person workshops because they’re in a different location.

RM – Nice. Ok can you explain exactly what Sasuga! Communications is?

HI – Well, Sasuga! Communications’ mission is to help 2020 people create communication habits for success and happiness in global business by the year 2020. And the main areas that I work in are listening and questioning, giving presentations, participating in conference calls,  facilitating meetings and dealing with conflict. And I do this through both in-person and online group training and one-on-one coaching.

RM – Awesome USP there, Helen. And what are the main “features” of Sasuga! Communications?

HI – One thing that’s a big feature is that I’m the only one who conducts the training, so people who receive my training receive all of my background, career and experience. I’ve lived and worked in Japan for 25 years, and during that time I spent 7 years with Nippon Steel Trading understanding Japanese culture and communication practices, plus 10 years with McKinsey where I was Manager Of Client Communications and trained McKinsey consultants and clients in communication skills. So you get all that expertise and consistency, and of course my personality (laughs), which is very much focused on encouragement and building confidence. Another feature is that I adapt to my clients’ needs and change my approach depending on who I’m working with to bring out the best results for each individual.

RM – Interesting. So how can Sasuga! Communications enhance the world for businesses and individuals?

HI – Ok, imagine, if you will, having a meeting with someone and having them not distracted by technology but really listening to you. Imagine going to a seminar where the presenters are passionate and engaging. Imagine joining a conference call where everyone feels confident to contribute their ideas and gives space for others to speak too. Imagine attending a meeting with a clear goal and roles for all participants, with constructive debate, and clear results and next steps. Imagine being able to understand others’ perspectives and deal quickly and compassionately with conflict in the workplace – and even to embrace constructive differences of opinion. Sasuga! Communications can enhance the world for businesses and individuals by helping people to make these five ideals a reality, and these are the 5 chapters of my book!

RM – What interests you outside of your working day?

HI – I’m really enjoying yoga at the moment, as taught at Ginza Hub by Ashina Saiki of Yoga Buddhi. I find it really centers me, and also compliments my martial arts (ed. Helen is an Itosu-ryu Karate world champion.) I’m also really into my new garden! I recently bought a new apartment in Shinjuku, and love working on my little herb and veggie garden there. We even had some of the herbs I grew with dinner at home last night!

RM – Sounds wonderful!

HI – Yes, it is!

RM – Ok, what’s next for the entrepreneur Helen Iwata?

HI – I’m hugely excited about the recent launch of my mini online course, How to Avoid the 5 Biggest Presentation Mistakes. I think lots of people can benefit from this – not just for giving big presentations, but for speaking up in business meetings or giving sales pitches. And I have ideas for bigger and better online courses. I’m also fired up about the idea of launching a podcast

RM – The last question is, what type of music, films and artwork do you like?

HI – Music, I actually pretty much like anything – if it’s got a beat I’ll tap my foot to it! (laughs). I’m especially an 80s music girl. But I also listen to a lot more modern music because I have a teenage daughter. So yeah, I can listen to anything. In terms of films, I’m totally a romantic comedy kind of girl. “Love Actually” is my all-time favorite. And art… I actually like to draw things myself. I don’t do it much these days, but when I was a kid I used to do a lot of drawing. I don’t have a specific kind of art that I like, but I appreciate what people do. Oh, and one more if I can add in on art. One that I haven’t done yet, but is waiting on my bedside table to do, is sashiko, which is a kind of Japanese embroidery. A friend of mine is setting up her business, promoting sashiko to the world. It’s a very traditional Japanese art and it’s starting to get a little bit more known in the West, and she’s an expert in this area.

RM – Cool. Ok, well, that was the final question in our interview today, so thank you very much for your time, Helen. And all the best with your next big project!

HI – Thanks, Rob.

Robert Millar interviews Helen Iwata

Introducing our newest member, software development engineer Fredrik Simonsson

Introducing Fredrik Simonsson

Fredrik SimonssonIt’s with great pleasure that we introduce our newest Ginza Hub member, software development engineer Fredrik Simonsson.

Fredrik is a Scandinavian engineer who has worked with several major research & development companies in the mobile and semiconductor industry, like Nokia, Reneas, and Sony Mobile.

The company that he works for, Fingerprint Cards, is a high-tech, listed company which develops, produces and markets biometric technology that verifies a person’s identity via their unique fingerprint. The company’s sensors are present in some of the major flagship models on the market, like Google Nexus, Sony Xperia and Xiaomi mi5. Fredrik is the local technical support for Japanese customers in Japan.

He says, “I’m very excited to be part of a growing business in a vibrant community.”

Introducing our newest member, photographer Tia Haygood

Introducing Tia Haygood

Tia HaygoodIt’s with great pleasure that we introduce our newest Ginza Hub member, photographer Tia Haygood.

Tia is an American photographer born and raised in North Carolina who’s been living in Japan for over four years. Photography was an isolated hobby for Tia until she came to Japan and marvelled at its many treasures and cultures. Now TopTia Photography assists artists and businesses, both from Japan and from abroad, who are hoping to grow here and beyond. Tia’s goal is to provide excellent photos that promote brands and businesses to others in their respective professional fields.

We’re helping Tia with her mission by providing our conference & event room for her to use as a photographic studio.

Tia says, “I’m happy to be joining Ginza Hub and look forward to adding my services to this growing family.”

The Pivot (Part 1)

The Pivot (Part 1)

Business Coaching

For years I’ve been coaching people on the tools and strategies needed to succeed in business. And I’ve been pretty much doing it for free, but today that has to stop.

You see, over the past 15 years or so I’ve founded or bought, then built and sold, several successful offline and online businesses, such as Zeros And Ones Japan Limited and, so I know a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t work for startups. And I think I’ve been pretty good about sharing what I’ve learned in an effort to help entrepreneurs find the successes I’ve enjoyed while avoiding the failures I’ve endured. But I’m increasingly finding that helping people out pro bono is eating into the time I should be spending on my customers who are paying me. That is, my Ginza Hub monthly members.

So, I’ll humbly and happily continue to offer my knowledge, experience and technical expertise to Ginza Hub members free of charge. Forever. But for non-Ginza Hub members, I’ll be charging an hourly rate for all in-person business consulting or Virtual Assistance.

Now, I don’t expect people to suddenly start throwing money at me, but I do expect some people to see the value of becoming a Ginza Hub member, and I also expect some others to see that I no longer work for free and kindly stop asking for free advice. There will, I hope, also be some who see that they will probably only get one shot at building a successful business, and invest in the expert guidance that Ginza Hub members currently enjoy.

In a way, this is a bit of a career pivot for me, because for the past couple of years I’ve been quite happy to mostly just be “the guy who makes the coffee” at GHub. Then again, this isn’t half as big as my other pivot that’s coming up later this month. So stay tuned for Part 2! 🙂

To see how I can help you build the kind of efficient, effective, profitable business that I’ve been building for years, check out my other post at the link here.

– Robert

P.S. Please also check out “The Pivot (Part 2)” at my sister site if you want to know why this post is Part 1 of 2.

More coffee!

More coffee!

Today we added a second coffee machine to Ginza Hub to double our output of caffeinated goodness for our members and visitors!

second coffee machine

This also means that if one coffee machine breaks down or otherwise goes offline, which occasionally happens, there is now another machine to back it up. So we’ve doubled our output and halved our risk of upsetting our coffee lovers.

Introducing our newest member, game programmer Mazyad Alabduljalil

Introducing Mazyad Alabduljalil

Mazyad AlabduljalilIt’s with great pleasure that we introduce our newest and youngest Ginza Hub member, game programmer Mazyad Alabduljalil.

After deciding to leave his home country of Kuwait 4 years ago, Maz worked in various cities around the world in software programming as an intern, a developer, a contractor, and also independently. He loves to experiment and try new things, and his latest project is a company called Level3, which he plans to start and build at Ginza Hub! He then aims to work on building casual games for the mobile industry, and slowly growing a team of professionals here in Tokyo.

We’ve already helped Maz get started by introducing him to our visa lawyer, Mr. Nishioka, and by translating for him so that there were no misunderstandings.

Maz says, “Exciting times, around exciting people, in a very exciting city!”

Directions to Ginza Hub

Directions to Ginza Hub

We’re in the Ginza Kato Building, just a few minutes walk from Higashi Ginza station and Tsukiji Shijo station, as well as Shimbashi and Shiodome stations.
– From Higashi Ginza Station, leave via exit 6, turn right at the top of the stairs, then walk for 2 blocks, past Starbucks and the the Mori Trust REIT building, and we are across the road from Lawson.
– From Tsukiji Shijo station, leave via exit A2, keep walking straight at the top of the escalator, cross over the bridge, past Freshness Burger, and we are on the left, across the road from Lawson.
Please follow this Google Map :




Coffee protects your DNA (Yeay!)

Coffee protects your DNA (Yeay!)

“If you want to decrease your cancer risk, it looks like coffee is a good place to start. A group of German researchers gave healthy participants 4 small cups of coffee over the course of 8 hours, taking DNA samples throughout. Participants showed significantly more intact DNA within 2 hours of their first cup of joe, and their DNA fared better and better with every cup afterward. That’s great news, because DNA integrity links to lower risk of cancer, immune system function, and brain performance.”

Bulletproof Coffee