Shohei Okubo: Passionately Leading Cross-Border Business Expansion Across Asia

Many Japanese companies today are highly competent, competitive and utilize high technology. However, the entire business world is becoming increasingly complex, and growing businesses need to adapt accordingly. They often face the obstacle specific to a country or region where the business is conducted, that is, constantly changing laws and regulations, in addition to the same related to their core business environments such as rapidly evolving business landscape, emerging technologies, and a competitive marketplace.

While Japanese market has been mature for most of the industries, more and more Japanese companies are searching for opportunities to grow and to expand in foreign nations. But they must be cautious—venturing into the emerging economies of Asia can be highly demanding. In addition to the rising corporate activities and living standards, entire organizations can be scrutinized by the complex local and international laws and regulations.

Shohei Okubo
Shohei Okubo
Founder & CEO, CaN International Holdings

Similarly, many non-Japanese companies are attracted by the size of Japanese market—one of the biggest markets in the world—and branch out into Japan to grab growth potential. However, Japanese market tends to look unique in aspects of the language, context, customs, and value chain as is known, and it might as well be hard for non-Japanese companies to adjust themselves and achieve their success in the market.

In such an environment, it’s extremely tough for businesses to overcome problems themselves. So, considering the challenges involved, it’s vital to confer with a reliable, authentic, and proficient third-party consultancy firm. It’s also equally important to bring diverse and competent financial, tax, and legal experts together, dedicated exclusively to address these challenges within the business.

Mr. Shohei Okubo is a prominent Japanese business leader specializing in helping businesses solve these critical challenges in their overseas expansion through his own consultancy firm. He’s a well-educated, proficient, and seasoned business leader, Founder & CEO at ‘CaN International’, the Japanese accounting consultancy firm dedicated to help businesses solve all challenges in cross-border expansion. His passion and driving force here are rooted in the early and formative stages of his professional life, when he travelled, lived in, and worked from several international destinations.

Shohei’s Inspiration and the Origin of CaN International

Shohei Okubo graduated from prestigious Japanese institutions, gaining a B. A. in Business Administration, an M. A. in Finance, and an executive management program certification. He started his career as a certified public accountant at one of Big Four accounting firms, Ernst and Young in Tokyo, Japan, and he routinely audited large Japanese and foreign companies. In doing so, he worked closely to implement J-SOX (Japan’s Financial Instruments and Exchange Law) and IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) to ensure transparency in corporate financial information and reporting. For several years, he provided audit and advisory services there.

However, Shohei wasn’t satisfied, he wanted to do something more, but didn’t know what exactly. He decided to boldly challenge himself, resigned from his Big Four job and travelled to places like Thailand, Australia, the Philippines and Singapore. By immersing himself in a foreign place, without a clear roadmap of the future, he was exposed to an exciting new world and later reached an accounting firm in Singapore. Whilst working in the firm, he saw that his colleagues were skilled, highly professional, hailing from different nations. He learnt that the professional world doesn’t have borders, because he bonded with similar foreign workers, united by common ethics, goals, and a stoic mindset.

Shohei also noted a fundamental problem that international businesses faced—many multinational organizations needed holistic guidance, something that traditional Japanese accounting firms couldn’t deliver. So, as he returned to Japan in 2012, he established ‘CaN International’ as an accounting firm specializing in cross-border deals, responding to the strategic advisory needs of international organizations. Through this firm, he envisioned providing the best services addressing cross-border mergers and acquisitions (M&A), international taxation, and strategizing growth across worldwide markets.  

“The respect I have for the local countries where I grew up supporting Japanese businesses and the satisfaction of contributing to the international community by creating local employment and improving the quality of services is CaN International’s philosophy,” states Shohei.

A Holistic Support System for International Business Ventures

Shohei specializes in corporate finance, international tax, management strategy, and global economy. As the Founder & CEO, he leads a highly motivated and diverse group of consultants with ample work experience to effectively support overseas activities of multinational organizations.

CaN International is unique—no other Japanese accounting firm comprehensively supports organizations’ national as well as international business interests. “At CaN International, all our members are committed to achieving the common goal of supporting our clients’ business.”  And Shohei continues, “Our clients have diverse backgrounds. So do our consultants—Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Canada, USA, UK, and many more.  It is always in our mind how difficult everything can be if it goes beyond borders. We identify our clients’ issues, propose solutions, and support its implementation from their perspectives in every single phase of their business.”

According to Shohei, CaN International provides highly value-added consulting services combined with an entrepreneurial spirit today. Just like other entrepreneurs, however, Shohei himself faced struggles at the early stage of CaN International.  One of his memorable hardships was the client’s joint venture project in some small Central Asian country, which involved every phase starting from establishment of a new enterprise funded by Japanese and local corporations to getting it on the right track for smooth operations of its business activities. Due to the physical distance from Japan, few Japanese people went to this country, and little information about it was out there being available to him at that time. Further, Shohei kept facing a hard, tough negotiation through the process until the joint venture’s launch, and the local professionals in the country he was working with had conflicts with him. “I literally struggled but accomplished this project. This experience gave me an opportunity for stepping back and contemplating what strengths as the professional firm were required to succeed.” says Shohei.

Essentially, CaN International provides simple deliverables with new perspectives and deep insights. It practices a systematic and unique approach in providing services, supported by five fundamental strengths:

  1. Sound Knowledge and High Competence: The firm’s consultants have graduated from leading institutions and have previously worked in major firms. They have successfully helped as many as 100’s of clients by supporting their overseas business and addressing value added service areas such as M&A and initial public offerings.
  2. Close Communication and Convincing Solutions: The firm provides the crucial support that businesses need to clearly identify operational, organizational, financial, tax and legal problems. By working together and through close communication, they take steps towards the solution.
  3. Practicable Solutions and Implementation Support: The firm doesn’t throw the book knowledge at the clients but always provides solutions considering its practicability and feasibility. It also supports the execution phase undertaking services like bookkeeping, accounting advisory, business process outsourcing, auditing and more.
  4. Global Network: The firm has established a broad international network of experts by completing the projects related to more than 50 countries and regions, and the coverage area is even growing at present.  Through their coordinated efforts, it provides clients with meaningful and valuable growth opportunities across the globe. 
  5. Transparent Fees: Most of prospective clients’ very first question is: “How much does your service cost?” It’s true that giant firms have offered services with heavy prices historically. However, CaN International offers fair and reasonable fees upfront and communicates clearly with clients, covering the scope of services, fees involved and deliverables.

Through its comprehensive service outlook, the firm is not just a consultancy service, it effectively thinks and acts as the client’s brain.  These five strengths have been continuously gaining clients’ favour allowing CaN International to grow its revenue for 7 consecutive years since its incorporation. Now there are 5 locations in Asia including Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Vietnam.  In Tokyo alone, its revenue has increased by four times over the last 4 years! This remarkable revenue never satisfies Shohei, and he ambitiously promises further achievement in the next decade.

A Virtuous Cycle of Developing Skills and Helping Clients

“Our consultants are highly motivated to take on the challenges in overseas business, with the philosophy of contributing to the international community,” asserts Shohei.

The growth of the firm’s consultants and clients’ project success are inextricably linked. Striving to provide the best services, its consultants push themselves to perform better. They regularly spend time to understand historical backgrounds, culture, business practices of each country as well as local and international developments. Alongside improving their skills, they successfully solve clients’ challenges, which leads to a continuous stream of fresh work. “We don’t produce material products to sell, and what creates value at the professional firm is its consultants’ expertise, experiences, and enthusiasm – yes, our ‘product’ is ourselves, and a constant ‘upgrade’ is a must for each professional just like any other normal products,” Shohei says, passionately believing that as we step into the future, the diversification of individual values will become more important.  

“It is my and other top management’s responsibility to ensure that our members draw out their individual strengths to the maximum extent possible and supporting their growth. I also encourage our members to bring their irreplaceable ‘individual power’ to do what they cannot do alone,” adds Shohei.

Contributing to the International Business Community Today, Shohei leads CaN International with a sincere desire to contribute to the larger society impacted by various factors such as law changes, political instability, and pandemic diseases, and he is totally dedicated to this role. Within a continually evolving business landscape, he is committed to challenging himself to break through limitations, to learn and to strengthen skills. As part of the next stage of his own career, Shohei took a teaching position in the MBA course as a visiting professor at one of the prestigious universities in Japan starting this April.  He hopes that students will inspire him for new perspectives to help generate solutions for clients’ challenges.  At the same time, this will also be part of his contribution to the community so that students can acquire expertise from his experience and knowledge to take a leap towards their future in the business world. Despite the fast-changing business environment, his passion remains and will remain unchanged. “In the complex business community, the need for the right partner to solve cross-border problems has risen markedly.  We are here to help the clients and help the community,” concludes Shohei.