Kan Kunimura built the San Francisco-based CRM company's Japan business.

Kan Kunimura, Director of Small and Medium Businesses (Asia-Pacific), Zendesk (Photograph by Shekhar Ghosh) Kan Kunimura, Director of Small and Medium Businesses (Asia-Pacific), Zendesk (Photograph by Shekhar Ghosh)

Q. The biggest challenge you faced in your career

A. When Zendesk entered Japan, SaaS was a relatively new concept and we needed to convince people. Then again, when an overseas company enters a foreign market that speaks a different language, operations must be localised and customised. It meant all our marketing and sales material had to be developed from scratch. The next step was to scale up the business. But it was not too difficult as our ethos is to keep things simple while scaling up quickly.

Q. Your best teacher in business

A. The customer is the greatest teacher. Throughout this period - right from starting Zendesk to scaling it up, and especially now, when I am working closely with start-ups and small businesses - our customers have helped us realise there could be no one-size-fits-all approach. We have to evolve constantly and must be attuned to what is happening around us.

Q. One management lesson for young people

A. If you are starting out as a manager or launching your start-up, you may want to do everything yourself. But that is not the way to go. Build a specialist team and always be open with them. You should work together and celebrate each milestone together.

Q. Two essential qualities a leader must have

A. Empathy and transparency. Most leaders are visionaries, but there exists a gap between them and the people who work for them. It is because the team is not completely invested in the leader's vision. A transparent leader gains the trust of his team, and empathy builds camaraderie. If leaders can be transparent about their vision and how they plan to achieve it, the team can align their roles and objectives accordingly.