Delivering Prosperity to the Community Through Cleaning [Fuji Company]
I interviewed Mr. Takuma Otsuka, the representative director of Fuji Company, based in Mibu Town, Tochigi Prefecture, who operates with the philosophy of delivering prosperity to the local people through their cleaning business.
I would like to delve into his management methods that have allowed the company to continue growing steadily in the challenging industry of house cleaning, which is difficult to establish and maintain independently.
It would be fortunate if the content of this interview could serve as a reference not only for those who wish to establish themselves in house cleaning but also for those aiming for independence in other industries.
Regarding Fuji Company’s business
Firstly, could you tell us about your company’s business?
Our main business involves “House Cleaning” and “Air Conditioner Cleaning.” In reality, we also undertake the cleaning of entire buildings owned by corporations such as stores and clinics, with the aim of maintaining their cleanliness. I started this business independently in 2019, and thanks to the support of many people, our work gradually increased to the point where we needed more hands.
What I want to do is to convey prosperity through cleaning to many people, but I realized that it was impossible to achieve this alone. We hire personnel who share this vision and are eager to expand our team. However, since I still play a significant role, I plan to transition from being a player to a player-manager, gradually increasing my management responsibilities.
Currently, how many employees do you have?
We currently have two employees, but for larger projects, the three of us at our company are not enough. In such cases, we collaborate with other cleaning contractors who are members of the House Cleaning Association I belong to. For substantial projects, we have worked with about 15 companies. This collaborative approach is how our company operates.
After a year of operating independently since 2019, I concluded that it was tough to expand the business alone. Since then, we have been outsourcing more, which led me to the decision that we could afford to hire employees. We have two staff members, both of whom are women, which I consider a strength of our company. For instance, while men may be preferred for specialized tasks like air conditioner cleaning, the meticulousness of women is essential for cleaning areas like the kitchen and bathroom. Moreover, the presence of women adds value; customers feel more at ease with a mixed-gender team visiting their home.
This is one of the things I wanted to achieve. Customers often expect a man to arrive for cleaning services, so when a woman shows up, they are pleasantly surprised.
Do you think there are limited tasks that your female staff can handle?
On the contrary, our staff do not face limitations “because they are women”; they can also clean air conditioners, which often surprises our clients. Some customers say that seeing female staff cleaning and dismantling air conditioners inspires them. Although many people have the impression that only men can dismantle air conditioners, our female staff perform these tasks routinely.
About the Inspiration to Start the Business
Could you please tell us what inspired you to start your current business?
After graduating from vocational school, I worked at a family-owned supermarket in my hometown (Mibu Town, Tochigi Prefecture) but often found my suggestions for improvement were not taken seriously, leading me to feel out of place. I changed jobs to manufacturing but didn’t find fulfillment there either.
In fact, I found my time at the supermarket more interesting. I enjoyed selling products and pleasing customers. I realized that a service-related job like that was more suitable for me.
I wondered if I could find a job in my hometown doing something I love. I actually liked cleaning around water fixtures, so I started to explore if I could turn it into a business. Searching online, I found information about a major cleaning franchise company (hereafter FC). Thinking I could be independent with them, I quickly attended a seminar in Utsunomiya with my wife. The excitement took over me when I heard their pitch, but my wife was cool-headed. She suggested we think it over more .
However, the FC was eager to expand their franchise network and suggested talking with an existing owner, so my wife and I visited their headquarters in Tokyo. The meeting was held in a high-rise building, and after hearing the owner’s success story beside the windows of a lofty floor, I felt determined to go for it, but my wife remained calm .
She said, “You usually lose interest quickly, so if after about five years you still feel the same, then go ahead.” Indeed, I hadn’t been at the manufacturing job for long, so I decided to heed my wife’s advice. In retrospect, it was a great decision. Over those five years, I researched the industry thoroughly. I witnessed how new businesses would start and then quickly disappear, learning the harsh reality of franchises.
Before I became independent, I had my home air conditioner cleaned by a FC contractor, but that store was gone a year later. Knowing this helped me make a clear decision about the difficulties of starting up with a FC. This was very positive for me. I am truly grateful to my wife.
Your wife’s business acumen really shines through!! How did you eventually realize your dream of starting a cleaning business?
During the research period, the desire to work in cleaning continued to smolder within me. At a local event, a senior business owner who I was involved with asked me if there was something I truly wanted to do. When I confessed my interest in starting a cleaning business, his encouragement led me to go ahead with it.
Upon researching the cleaning business again, I came across the “House Cleaning Association,” an organization that teaches the know-how and knowledge needed to become independent in the cleaning business, instead of being a franchise. They had a certified school in Sano City, Tochigi Prefecture.
My wife and I immediately went to listen to their presentation. After that, I became convinced that it was possible to start my own cleaning business without being part of a franchise. Starting a business isn’t just about oneself, so I also went to explain the situation to my wife’s family before getting started. It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision.
About the Most Moving Experience So Far
Could you share the most moving experience you’ve had while running your business?
There was a time when we received a job to clean 40 commercial air conditioners. Such a volume was far too much for our company to handle alone. In these cases, we form teams with fellow members from the House Cleaning Association and other colleagues in the industry. The ability to cooperate in such times is crucial and depends on the relationships we’ve built over time. Eventually, we managed to gather about 15 companies to accomplish this significant task.
When selecting team members, I didn’t just call on those who could immediately contribute; I also reached out to those who were new to the business or had less experience. This approach stems from my own experiences when I started my business. Back then, there were hardly any people around to teach me on the job. However, I believe that hands-on experience is essential for growth in this work, and the opportunity to handle the cleaning of 40 commercial air conditioners like this is immensely valuable.
In the end, we completed all the cleanings without a single issue. The people who joined the team were also pleased, so I believe we did a very good job.
I think it’s important for those who have experience to not push away the newcomers but to extend a helping hand. It’s great to accomplish a big task together and for it to benefit everyone involved.
About the Most Challenging Episode So Far
Could you tell us about the most challenging time or episode you’ve faced since becoming independent?
Looking back, the biggest struggle was the lack of people to teach me. Although there were instructors at the House Cleaning Association’s certified school in Sano, there were no seniors before me. I had to make do with very little information.
In hindsight, I’m sure I did some things that weren’t quite right, but at the time, I just didn’t know. This experience has enabled me now to teach most things to others. Especially in the first year, I was so engrossed that it felt like I just had to keep going no matter what.
When a customer would say, “Can you fix this?” I felt compelled to do something about it. It’s a sense of mission. Of course, there were challenges that ended in failure. There were times I had to apologize. There were also times I had to rely on insurance.
Regarding the Philosophy, Importance, and Fulfillment in the Current Business
Could you tell us about the philosophy, important aspects, and fulfillment you keep in mind while running your business?
“Our philosophy is to deliver prosperity to the people in our community.” I believe it is crucial to thoroughly instill this philosophy from the beginning. I tell my staff that if they are ever in doubt on-site and I am not around, they should rely on the ‘philosophy’ to make their own decisions, for which I will take full responsibility.
Employees can become unsure and constantly ask, “What should I do?” if there is no criterion (philosophy) for judgment. However, if there is a solid philosophy, they can ultimately make the right decisions even when they are uncertain.
Lately, I’ve been holding this in high regard. When asked, “What do you want to do?” or “Why are you doing this?” most people can’t answer. That’s not an issue with the staff themselves, but rather a problem on our side (the management side).
Was there a particular reason that led you to think this way?
The catalyst was when an employee who had been working with us decided to leave. At that time, I had a philosophy, but I hadn’t shared it with the employees. I ended up saying some harsh things to get that employee to work, which ultimately led them to quit. It was then that I first realized my mistake and regretted it deeply. When one employee left, the work stopped flowing, and I knew I had to change to avoid repeating the same mistake.
Although that employee left on bad terms, I thought our relationship would end, but surprisingly, it didn’t. The former employee became independent and started their own cleaning business. After gaining experience in different venues, they realized that the way we did things at Fuji Company was the best and even said to me, “I’m glad I worked with you!” However, when offered to return, they declined with a “No, I’m good” .
At Fuji Company, they would never do unpleasant tasks like cleaning dirty toilets, but after becoming independent, they started doing such work and improved their skills. They used to say working three days a week was enough, but now they’re working what feels like seven days a week, jokingly complaining, “I’m so busy I’m going to die!”
It’s fascinating how much a person can change when their circumstances change. Our relationship used to be that of employer and employee, but now we stand as equals as business owners. I believe we’ve built a very good relationship.
About the Future Vision
Lastly, could you share your vision for the future?
I want to reach and please more people with our services. To achieve this, I aim to organize our operations further. For that purpose, we are recruiting men who can be managerial candidates. I want to step back a bit from the fieldwork myself and focus on teaching and educating. This industry needs to provide solid skills to those who wish to become independent.
While I am not an instructor at the certified school of the House Cleaning Association, I have taken on the role of a regional instructor for Tochigi and Northern Kanto. I support the teachers who taught me and offer advice to those in need. I believe in improving not just on my own but together as a community. That’s one part of my vision.
Additionally, I want Fuji Company to extend our philosophy of “providing prosperity to people” beyond cleaning, to convey ‘prosperity’ through other avenues as well.
By the way, do you have any new business ventures in mind at the moment?
I am considering starting a rental business. It would be for renting out cleaning equipment used in our cleaning services. This would be an ancillary service to our cleaning business.
We’re also thinking about car seat cleaning. In fact, we already have the equipment to start this service. We’re planning to differentiate ourselves in how we market this. I want to argue that seat cleaning done by a house cleaning specialist might be of higher quality than what a car dealer can offer.
A Word from the Editorial Department at Comtri
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to President Otsuka of Fuji Company for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us from various perspectives.
What struck us most during our conversation was his commitment to delivering ‘prosperity,’ not just for himself but for his employees and customers alike. President Otsuka acts and thinks in accordance with a philosophy that revolves around how he can provide prosperity to those around him.
It’s exciting to see that his vision extends beyond the growth of his own company to consider the broader house cleaning industry. We are truly looking forward to the future leaps of Fuji Company, led by someone with such a broad perspective!
Profile of Mr. Takuma Otsuka
Born on July 21, 1984, in Mibu Town, Tochigi Prefecture, Mr. Takuma Otsuka joined a local supermarket after graduating from vocational school. He later experienced work in the manufacturing industry before establishing himself in the house cleaning business. Subsequently, he founded Fuji Company and became its representative director.
In the house cleaning industry, where many businesses do not last long, he has continued to grow his company by focusing on valuing ‘people’ in his management approach.
His hobbies include photography, playing the guitar, and camping. He has also been active in various other fields: he led a band called “Meatball Adventure” (currently on hiatus), which made an indie debut, and he has served as an MC at events. His motto is “Effort never betrays.”
Overview of Fuji Company Co., Ltd.
|9-23-3 Mibu-cho Ekihigashi-cho, Shimotsuga-gun, Tochigi Prefecture
|number of employees
|Air conditioner cleaning/washing
kitchen, kitchen cleaning
Range hood/ventilation fan cleaning
washing machine cleaning
House cleaning when moving or moving in