Eddie Guillemette is the CEO and Director of Midori no Ki K.K. (MnK), a real estate and property management company. MnK`s main business is transforming raw land into managed communities in the ski resort area of Niseko, Hokkaido. The company caters to investors looking to own and enjoy their property in Niseko by offering services ranging from land acquisition and house design to renting out the property and providing on-site concierge services.
Back in 2001, Eddie and his wife visited Niseko while he was working at a Wall Street bank in Hong Kong. They kept coming back to the rural mountain resort as it was their antidote to their often unhealthy, frenetic corporate lives. They were drawn to the place because of the perfect combination of great food, amazing snow, year-round activities, and kindhearted people. Eddie started investing in Niseko real estate in 2005 and found that there was a demand for homes in managed communities which did not exist at that time. He listened and responded to the needs of home buyers while building relationships with service providers in Japan. MnK was born to provide real estate and hospitality services to their social network and other like-minded investors.
The company also provides comprehensive property maintenance and financial administration services for owners, as well as helping with short and long-term leasing. MnK has long provided the EdVenture summer camp experience for children to entice families to enjoy the green season in Niseko while providing owners and guests with communal play areas, nature walking trails, yoga classes, and it recently ventured into offering on-site food and beverage options.
A unique feature of MnK is that the company started its business and continued to grow into new areas only after buying and using its services first. “We are not only a service provider, but we are a neighbor, fellow guest, and patrons at our EdVenture children’s camp, restaurants, and ski school. In other words, we eat our cooking before we serve it to others. This firsthand experience and personal attachment allow us to better serve our customers,” asserts Eddie.
A Passionate Entrepreneur
MnK, under Eddie’s leadership, has a core set of values that have not changed since the company was started 10 years ago. “Serve our owners well—they are the reason we are in business and their satisfaction allows for our longevity,” says Eddie. The company seeks to ensure that its guests have a safe, fun, and memorable experience through continuous training for staff and paying attention to detail. MnK strives to be the employer of choice in Niseko by being flexible, inclusive, and fair. They also prioritize taking an active role in the Niseko community by volunteering, organizing events, and engaging with the governments, its competitors, and residents on areas of mutual co-operation. The company takes care of the environment through recycling, composting, planting trees and gardens, and everyday energy-saving rituals.
Eddie was first struck by the people whom he met Japan as being especially polite and professional. “We are fortunate that in Niseko we have a diverse and interesting mix of local people from Hokkaido, imports from other parts of Japan and foreigners,” states Eddie. An area for improvement in Japan`s business practices is going digital for business and government communications, this would remove time consuming paper-based forms, using hankos, and fax machines.
The biggest challenge faced by Eddie was establishing a productive routine in the transition from working 20 years for investment banks to running a startup company. He says that while running one’s own company, there are a million things to do—all of them are important—with limited resources. Eddie learned to focus on improving the processes rather than worrying about the short-term results and ensuring decisions across the company were consistent with their values.
“My idea of success has changed over time. When I was younger, success was superficial—the next promotion, bonus, or some external recognition. I achieve or feel successful now when I have a healthy balance in my life between time with family, work, friends, and my wellbeing,” says Eddie. In the middle of the outburst of the global pandemic, he is looking forward to a return of open borders and normalcy. According to Eddie, many ski resorts around the world are nearly as busy in summer as they are in winter. For Niseko to be recognized as a year-round destination, he firmly believes they have to continue to help connect their guests to the various activities and experiences they can enjoy during the green season. “On a personal level, I enjoy the summer in Niseko as much as winter. I am looking forward to seeing Japan export its values to visitors given the unique combination of politeness, attention to detail, and care for the group while opening up to new ways. There is much to be learned from each other,” says Eddie.