At Nanophoton, a company of scientists led by Chairman Satoshi Kawata, a professor emeritus at Osaka University, people with a “liberal arts” background are in the minority. Mr. Hiroaki Minoura, GM (General Manager) of Sales, is one of the minority with a degree in sociology. What kind of person is he? We asked him to tell us more. (Email Newsletter editor-in-chief / freelance writer Takeshi Nemoto)
—You are from the Department of Sociology.
Faculty of Sociology, Kwansei Gakuin University. When I was a high school student, I thought I wanted to be a journalist, so I chose a university and a department where I could study mass communication. However, I changed my mind while I was still in school and became an ordinary company employee. When I was in college, I belonged to the Athletic Association Japanese Archery Club, where I spent my time in strict training and hierarchical relationships. I still keep in touch with my seniors, classmates, and juniors from those days, and they have become my lifelong treasures.
—I was also in the Athletic Association Japanese Archery Club.
Oh, really! (We talked about the archery club for a while. I’ll skip it.)
—You joined Nanophoton in April 2019. What kind of work did you do before that?
After graduating from university, I worked for a major electronics manufacturer. Later, I changed jobs and worked in sales and management at a foreign-affiliated microscope company. It was hard work with huge sales quotas. I was satisfied because I was treated well and paid more than enough, but I think it is hard to work that way if you are not young.
Nanophoton was introduced to me by a staffing agency that said, “We have a company that fits your background perfectly. However, although I had been involved in microscopy for a long time, I had never used a Raman microscope before. When I saw Nanophoton’s website, I thought “I should quit” because it was too difficult. Raman microscopy was difficult at first because it also requires chemical knowledge of spectroscopy and analysis.
As I learned at my first company, the best way to learn is to be exposed to real world situations. Of course, I would ask people within the company for technical information and build up my prior knowledge, but once I had a certain level of understanding, it was important for me to go out and meet customers and learn by embarrassing myself.
In my previous company, if you were in the sales department, there would only be sales people, but now there are many different people in one office. There are people making programs in the back seat, people designing optics in another seat, and people doing manufacturing. Very stimulating and interesting. I learned a lot of technical things from them, and they taught me carefully. Thanks to this, I am able to talk one-on-one with customers in university laboratories, government offices, and R&D departments of private companies.
—You are in the position of Sales GM, what is your job?
I have two jobs: one as a salesman and the other to think about sales strategy. The work of thinking about sales strategy includes, for example, how to collaborate with distributors and how to participate in exhibitions and conferences. There are also short-, medium- and long-term sales plans. There is also the task of finding human resources. Nanophoton is now trying to grow further, and for this purpose, we are looking for employees, especially sales people.
—How do you perceive the need for Nanophoton’s products in the sales field?
The base of Raman microscopy itself is expanding rapidly. According to some statistics, the market in Japan is expanding by about 10% every year. Under such circumstances, I feel that Nanophoton’s products are attracting a great deal of attention.
—Why is this noteworthy?
This is because the technical specifications are very high. Nanophoton has the highest spatial resolution in the industry, and the line illumination function that can measure 400 points at once is only available in Nanophoton. In addition, our software has many features that are only available in our products. I believe that people in the R&D departments of universities, government offices, and private companies have a need to use the best products for their own and their companies’ research. Therefore, Nanophoton’s products, which have technological superiority, are very easy to sell. That is how I feel. I think it will be easy for salespeople at distributors to promote our products.
—What is the most challenging part of being a salesperson?
When a customer accepts my proposal and buys the product, I feel the real joy of sales. I think sometimes customers buy not only from the product but also from the salesperson. That’s why I feel happy when a customer decides to buy.
—When you make a proposal to a customer, do you mean which product from Nanophoton or which wavelength laser to use?
That’s part of it, and each customer is different in what they value. Ease of use, service, the technical specifications themselves, daily communication, responsiveness, etc. are all different. It is important to find out what the customer values the most and make a proposal that fits the customer’s needs.
—What kind of company is Nanophoton?
I think it is an excellent company to have such a large number of people doing development, design, manufacturing, sales, applications, maintenance, etc. Some people can do both manufacturing and service, and some people can play two or three roles. It’s an amazing company.