[Top Talks] Why We're 「LINE Fukuoka」

    [Top Talks] Why We're 「LINE Fukuoka」 サムネイル画像
    [Notice] Effective October 1, 2023, LINE Fukuoka has changed its company name to LY Communications. Articles published on or before September 30, 2023 were written with our former company name.
    LINE Fukuoka celebrates its seventh anniversary on November 18. In that brief period, the company has rapidly expanded in both organizational scale and the functions that it is equipped to perform. 

    To celebrate our seventh anniversary, we will be re-introducing you to the functions that we currently serve. We also sat down with several department leaders to ask them how they've grown over the last seven years, as well as what challenges they plan to take on in the future in our 7th anniversary project.

    The theme for our final issue is "Why we're LINE Fukuoka." We sat down once again with our CEO, Mr. Noritaka Ochiai, and our COO, Mr. Yusuke Suzuki to talk about the significance of LINE Fukuoka as a company, and what it should look like.

    The Resolve Instilled in the LINE Fukuoka Company Name

    ― Please tell us again about the background behind LINE Fukuoka's establishment.

    Ochiai: LINE was established based on the difficulties many people experienced in contacting their friends and families during the Great East Japan Earthquake. LINE needs to be usable even when a major disaster strikes in the Kanto region exactly because it's a "smartphone app that closes the distance between people, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."

    In order to do that LINE's management decided that a second base that can be at the top of the company together with Tokyo should be established, and Fukuoka was chosen as that location.

    Note: You can learn more about why Fukuoka was chosen as the second domestic base here.

    ― A lot of people ask us if "LINE Fukuoka" is really "LINE's Fukuoka branch office." Why was our company named "LINE Fukuoka" and not "LINE's Fukuoka branch office?"

    Ochiai: LINE Fukuoka had a predecessor, but "Fukuoka" wasn't a part of the company's name at the time. When we restarted the company as a LINE site, the reason we established LINE Fukuoka as an independent company and not a part of LINE, was because we wanted to show people our resolve and desire to be "a company that's rooted in Fukuoka, and one that can be loved and accepted by its residents, not a placeholder." 

    We also started the company with the idea of making more friends in Fukuoka, including collaborating with people in the region through our services, and resolved to expand the company as well.

    Suzuki: I joined the company in 2014 about a half a year after it was established, and in my interview I was told "Right now the company is extremely chaotic. As it expands, there's a limit to what management can do from Tokyo, we want to entrust Fukuoka to you."

    When I actually joined the company, it was exactly as they said. Everyone was giving their best to respond to rapid expansion, but each department was working separately, and there wasn't any unity in the company. Corporate activities were also shared with other group companies at the time, and a lot of employees held additional posts in Tokyo. 

    The spirit and intent of the company's establishment was exactly as Mr. Ochiai just said, but there was a huge gap between the company's ideals and its actual circumstances.

    Ochiai: Even if we established a vertical team to support business, we didn't have anyone to cross departmental and company boundaries, and think about how to drive growth in the company as a whole. Employees were coming from Tokyo on business trips to handle recruiting, HR and accounting, so at first we hired people who could take on recruitment.

    The 2014 TV commercial filmed to inform residences about recruitment and the establishment of the Fukuoka site. 1,000 residents joined us in filming.

    Thinking for Ourselves Because of a Lack of Other Examples

    Suzuki: There aren't a lot of examples of companies that manage with two people at the top, are there? Other companies besides ours establish offices here to increase Fukuoka's influence as a city, but generally most of them function as a branch office that takes on some of the company's functions. None of them recruit in all fields related to offering services including corporate activities, or are managed as an independent company. There are a lot of ways to manage an office, and I don't think that one way is necessarily better than the other, just that it's one of the things that makes LINE Fukuoka unique.

    As a result, that "independence" might be one of the things that's created a good culture within our company. We were able to grasp a certain sense of "we have to think about this ourselves, and build it ourselves" exactly because there was nothing for us to copy or use as a reference. I feel that created a sense of independence within our members and organization itself.

    Ochiai: I agree. Additionally, LINE Fukuoka's senior managers are also lively in communication. They share issues in business and work, and discuss them actively. We also started from a staff of 180, and I feel that our layer of senior managers has an especially good relationship, which is one of the causes of our relatively good growth as a company.

    Of course, those who joined midway are flourishing as well, not just those who've been here since the beginning. There are limits to what can be considered as a small community, including the number of ideas, so it's important for members with different experiences and thought processes to join a company and provide stimulus.

    A Center and Department Head meeting (Image taken from the 2019 "LFK Value Award" deliberations)

    Efforts Looking Two to Three Years Ahead Bear Fruit

    Ochiai: This isn't just a reactive response, but our efforts to focus on two to three years away moving forward based around Mr. Suzuki are also bearing fruit now.

    Suzuki: It's easier said than done, but the important thing is to never give up.
    Nothing goes well from the beginning. Even so, if you aim for your ideal through a process of trial and error, you'll move in the right direction. Everything is a result of accumulation.

    ― What are some of the things that you've worked on looking a few years ahead?

    Suzuki: One is "opening communication". When a company doesn't have many people, if something happens you can talk to someone about it anytime, and you know who you should talk to. But, as numbers increase, information doesn't flow smoothly, and mistakes occur more easily like in a game of telephone, and that can harm the company. We've worked to avoid closed communication, exactly because we chose to expand our company.

    Our internal LFK Value Award system has also served to extend those efforts, because as a company grows and takes on more work, it's hard to understand what other departments are doing. There should be a lot we can take on to expand horizontally like educating new employees, so I think that making information open and available, and intermingling is necessary.

    The panel discussion held at the 2019 LFK Value Award. Award recipients shared the background and thought process for their projects.

    Suzuki: The establishment of the Value Management Center is another example that we've worked on looking a few years ahead. When I went to take a look at our CS, Monitoring, Review, and Localization Departments, I saw that they weren't involved in upper-process work, and that everyone was struggling with tools that were difficult to use. 

    By nurturing departments like that, LINE Fukuoka can expand its value. In the future I wanted them to be active on a global scale, so I established a department and named it as the Global Operation Department, although it only had two members initially. 

    Now it has expanded to about 40 members and became a Center, and they work closely with those on site to improve their work. They've grown to the point that they can work in cooperation with global LINE offices exactly as intended in the early stages.

    There's also our Smart City initiatives. LINE Fukuoka was established with a desire to cultivate LINE together with Fukuoka residents, and contribute to the city. We wanted that desire to take shape, so initially we collaborated with Fukuoka restaurants in 2014, and held the "1 COIN WALK" event in Tenjin. 

    In 2017 we collaborated with the city to create the Fukuoka City LINE Official Account, and the account now has 1.74 million registered friends. This year, we created the "Fukuoka Smart City Community" together with private businesses in the area, and began collaborating to make the city a more affluent place. I think continuing to carry those desires from the company's establishment made these initiatives possible.
    The Fukuoka Smart City Community kick-off ceremony held in October 2020.

    Leading the Group through Different Types of Work than Tokyo

    ― It's been seven years since LINE Fukuoka established. How do you perceive what you've been able to accomplish and what you haven't?

    Suzuki: In terms of accomplishments, the scope of our work has widened in all fields, and we've been receiving more credibility from our business partners. It's easier for us to make proposals on-site, and more things are entrusted to us.

    Ochiai: The actual shape of LINE Fukuoka's leadership is a little different from the two-man leadership that we imagined when the company was initially established, and the direction that we're aiming for is changing as well. Our initial idea for the company was one that could "do the same things as Tokyo" if a disaster struck. By taking on different types of work from Tokyo, there are more things that LINE Fukuoka can currently do to lead the LINE Group.

    The Smart City initiatives that were mentioned earlier are an easy to see example of that. LINE Fukuoka has demonstrated its ability more than any other member of the LINE group, and even Tokyo is using Fukuoka for reference. I think that's one way that we're leading the group as a whole.

    In Customer Care service operations, evaluations regarding Fukuoka's stability are improving, and our credibility is increasing. We've taken the initiative in a variety of challenges, and can now expand onto the global stage.

    As the company expanded, we also created departments like the Value Management Center, and even a lot of departments in Tokyo are interested in what they're doing.
    In ways like this, our presence within the group is growing.

    The Global Operation Department, one of the departments within the Value Management Center, holds a meeting.

    Suzuki: In terms of our Development Department, when I joined the company they had less than ten members. They've grown to almost 100 members including Data Analytics and UIT, and more and more talented engineers are joining the company. By increasing our talent from overseas as well, our ability to progress in projects while understanding each other's culture and background is increasing, not just an improvement in language abilities.

    Ochiai: The QA and Test departments have also expanded alongside the Development Departments. They've grown to the largest scale in the LINE Group in their field, and are driving the group forward with their work.

    The Creative Department has also split off from the Development Department, and the scope of illustration and design work they take on is expanding compared to early stages as well. We're fully in charge of more services now as well, and we're growing from both a technology and organizational standpoint.


    Suzuki: The Media Operations was also originally established for BCP purposes and has gradually accumulated credibility. Now not only are they recognized as a foothold for BCP, they are independently working to deliver local news, and they still have a lot of dreams and goals for the future they're moving towards.

    The Game Business Department, which uniquely deals with a lot of inconsistent work, and they responded quickly and flexibly. Now they've gathered all everything needed to serve all functions in supporting our game business, and their ability to respond is top class.

    Together with LINE Ads business becoming one of our core businesses, a Sales Department was also established in Fukuoka. As a result, they have the power to contend for the top national spots in their field, and the Fukuoka Sales Team has shared their know-how and knowledge nationwide as well. Departments that support LINE's strategic business such as Fintech and AI are expanding as well. There's also work that's only being done in Fukuoka, and we're a behind-the-scenes power player.

    Ochiai: Our corporate departments were truly built from scratch, as our company grew. We've assembled a full house including HR, General Affairs, Accounting, Recruiting, PR, and IT Support.
    The 2019 Town Hall Meeting

    Suzuki: Conversely in terms of what we could be doing better, our "close relationship with users" is something that we've valued as a strength since LINE Fukuoka was established, and should be reflected in our business. We have a considerable number of ideas of how we want to utilize our talent in each field, and are challenging ourselves to do so, but there should still be more ways we can directly impact our users in a good way. That's something I'd like for us to continue to challenge ourselves to do.

    Ochiai: I'm expecting to see mutual growth between departments as a result of sharing knowledge within the company. We're coming up with creative solutions like our awards system, but I'd like for there to be more opportunities to share useful information with other departments.

    I'm not sure if people doubt whether the information they have would be useful or helpful to departments carrying out other work, but I feel we're still lacking in sharing information, and conversely seeking it out. I think it would be good if we could distribute information about what we're doing with Tokyo or other global offices as well, not just in Fukuoka. We have information that's just that valuable, so it's definitely a challenge I'd like us to take on.
    Mr. Suzuki speaks at the "Best local companies to work for - Fukuoka 2019" awards ceremony LINE Fukuoka was ranked No. 1 in. We're now able to talk about our initiatives outside the company.

    Becoming a Role Model for New "Regional Offices"

    ― Moving forward, how do you want to evolve LINE Fukuoka?

    Ochiai: The world is dramatically changing, partially due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, people's awareness of "regions" or "the town they live in" is increasing across the nation. People are starting to think about how their work and living spaces should look, and how they want them to look.

    In these conditions, LINE Fukuoka has the opportunity to become a role model to other companies. We're in an environment where we can consider what should be done to improve the town we live in even more, and how to create value in different ways than Tokyo offices, and share that information. LINE Fukuoka has the opportunity to raise its value as a company even further.

    Moving forward, our past relationships such as Tokyo and Fukuoka, or parent company and subsidiary, will begin to disappear. There are things that only we can see from our individual locations, viewpoints, and roles, and an era where that gains a lot of attention is coming. I think that LINE Fukuoka is on the right path, so I want our employees to share their opinions without hesitation, even more than before.

    Suzuki: As LINE undergoes the coming business integration, I think that a lot of users have high expectations for just what we'll do after we've integrated. I hope that Fukuoka can be a symbolic presence in response to those expectations. I want us to be a presence that makes people say "It would be nice if what they're doing in Fukuoka was done all across the country or world."

    LINE Fukuoka's ideal state hasn't changed since it was established, and our goal is still to be a company that makes users, the region, people within the company, and society as a whole say "I'm glad that LINE Fukuoka is there."

    At the same time, continuing to build up credibility within the company is still important. If we don't have that, we won't have the freedom to do what we want. However, LINE has a culture of properly respecting those who have an impact on our users, and create WOWs. It creates a positive cycle of continuing to focus on creating WOWs, without getting caught up with what's going on in the company, and creating results and building credibility within the company.

    We don't know what the future holds. But, opportunities can be found within chaos.
    I hope that we can put the results and credibility that we've accumulated over the past seven years to their best use, and challenge ourselves to take on the unknown together.
    The 2019 Top Talks interview.

    A message from the editor / LINE Fukuoka Press
    While companies establishing offices in regional areas often makes the news, what happens after they're established isn't reported very often. The seventh anniversary project was created from a desire to tell our readers about the "Second Domestic Base" LINE established in 2013, and what's happened since then.

    Thanks to the support we have received in a variety of ways from those who use our services, and those at the businesses and local governments we've worked together with to create value, LINE Fukuoka enters its eighth year in its current state. We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude once again.

    We're sure that there are different ways of thinking in managing an office. Even so, we hope that the articles in this project gave our readers some clues in what a regional office should look like, or how it can function.

    LINE Fukuoka will continue to take on challengess in order to create more WOWs from Fukuoka. We look forward to working with you!


    ▼ 7th Anniversary Project - Discussing the Past Seven Years and the Future of LINE Fukuoka [Seven posts in total]

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