私たちがアベグレン氏からもらったもの -ピーター・カービー氏


I’ll never forget the day I first met Jim Abegglen in the spring of 1986. I went to an office near Hanzomon for a job interview with a small foreign-affiliated consulting firm about which I knew little else, having sent in my resume in response to an anonymous Japan Times recruiting advertisement. When I entered Jim’s office, I immediately recognized the author of the recently-published Kaisha: The Japanese Corporation, and was pleased to meet this man I’d often read about in the business press. But at the same time I became nervous, fearing I was too young and inexperienced to work for such an esteemed consultant. I left not expecting to receive an offer, but truly excited to have been interviewed by him.

Fortunately, I was wrong about the offer. Jim hired me as the first full-time consultant in his new company, Asia Advisory Service (AAS). He had recently retired from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and was still recovering from an illness requiring hospitalization, but Jim was not slowing down. After he left BCG many former clients continued to reach out to him for help or to refer others to him, so in addition to writing and teaching he decided to continue consulting. At first he worked from home employing ex-BCG independents and his graduate students on a project basis, but by early 1986 Jim decided to open an office with full-time staff. He then continued to grow AAS’s consulting business for about five years before joining forces with Gemini Consulting.

Jim’s decision to form AAS was the start of my consulting career, and of a mentor-mentee relationship and a broader family friendship of more than 20 years. I soon learned that hiring me despite my relative inexperience was typical of Jim. If he had confidence in people he did not hesitate to put them in roles that would stretch their capabilities. At first I was surprised to be asked to present at or organize meetings with client executives, but I soon grew into the role. Likewise when Jim had to travel overseas I suddenly found myself substitute-teaching his Sophia University course of graduate students my age and older, and I quickly learned to engage the class with lessons from our client projects.

Jim was a tough but understanding teacher who invested some of his time to train young AAS consultants. I remember a series of Saturday morning study sessions in the Hanzomon office or at his weekend home in Kanaya, when Jim taught the basics of accounting and how to read a company’s financial statements. He used real examples of competitors’ relative performance over time to illustrate the fundamental differences between American and Japanese corporate financial models. In this way he developed many young consultants and grew a stable business, providing his clients ongoing advisory services and project support.

Jim and I worked together after he sold the AAS consulting business to Gemini in 1991, but it wasn’t the same. His style was more suited to operating independently than being part of a large corporate entity. Jim always sought the right and intellectually honest answer to a client’s business problem, regardless of organizational politics. He preferred straight answers to “consulting-speak”, frankly giving clients his opinion and “firing” them or turning down work if he didn’t consider a project or relationship worth his time or the client’s investment. After a few years he left Gemini to teach and write while doing some independent consulting, once again setting up his own office at age 70.

I worked with Jim for just a portion of the last 20 years when he was already in his 60s and 70s, yet his impact on my career and life were substantial. I can only imagine how many others’ lives he touched professionally as consultant, manager, teacher or author. And I hope that as a manager and mentor I will make as much of an impact on just a few of my team members as Jim did on me and so many others.