Mr. Hotta is the general manager of a rapidly expanding accounting firm in Torrance, California. He became a Shinran follower in 1992 after watching an animated movie of Master Shinran which one of his clients in Japan introduced to him. Having realized the real purpose of life, he became more confident in his job.
When he confronted a management crisis, his belief based on the teaching of Buddhism opened the way for him, he says. We interviewed him to see what happened.
Q. You became a CPA in your late 20s and started your career at a major accounting firm. There you were engaged in auditing, giving advice on management and taxes. The accounting firm grew and in time gained the position of a top-of-the-line firm and became one of the leading accounting firms in the States. But after eight years of working there you left. What was the reason?
A. It was because the firmʼs policy changed to “profits come first,” giving more favorable treatment to major companies. As a result I could no longer maintain a high quality of customer service which I always pursued.
Q. So you started your own office?
A. Yes, it was a small one, with a female part-timer as the only employee. It was just after the burst of the economic bubble.
Q. Upon opening your own office, I heard your policy was to provide your clients with the best service leaving your own profit out of consideration. You even catered to students’ needs. The reputation of such service grew gradually through word of mouth. I think it is natural that good service attracts many customers. Soon the office overflowed with clients until your business developed into a firm of 100 employees dealing with over 300 client companies. In 2001 you opened a branch office in Tokyo and later in Indiana and Chicago. But business has its ups and downs. Yours is no exception. You must have gone through a crisis or two, I guess, right?
A. Yes, it was eleven years ago. A film distribution company, one of our clients, was fined a few million dollars for nonpayment of tax after a massive sell-off. I was informed of the plan to sell the stocks in advance, but never knew that it was actually executed. Then I was accused of failing to follow up on the plan.
Q. It seems a tall order, doesn’t it?
A. Of course, but on the other hand, I had the pride of a professional. I asked myself if it was possible to check on this account with more diligence. Wasnʼt this the level of customer service that I was always pursuing? Upon reflection, I had to admit negligence on my part. But admitting it to others is another matter. Especially in the US, once you admit fault, you lose. Words of apology may lead to a huge amount of liability.
Q. What was your decision then?
A. To tell the truth, I had the fleeting idea to protect my status and assets by pinning all the blame on the client. But I didnʼt think this was the right way for a Buddhist to act. If you really find a mistake on your side, you should face up to it. Finally I came to the conclusion that I must choose the most difficult path because I am a Buddhist who deeply believes in the law of cause and effect. Then I was free of hesitation. I admitted fault on my side at the beginning of the meeting with the client, and then unexpectedly, the client also expressed apology. With this exchange of words, the awkwardness between the two sides disappeared and the negotiation passed off harmoniously to the surprise of the accompanying lawyer. In the end we agreed that I was not to blame and the client would pay all the fines.
(Later, through Mr. Hotta’s effort, his client’s fine was reduced to as little as a few hundred thousand dollars. That client still entrusts all their accounting service to Mr. Hotta’s office. )
Now I realize that at any time, if you go forward on the Buddhistsʼ path with a firm attitude, you will definitely find a solution despite the cultural and social gaps. In the US and Japan fraudulent accounting practices by a company sometimes becomes a social issue. The accountants have to properly judge not only the superficial numbers but also the validity and logicality behind the numbers. Our social responsibility is heavy to that extent.
Q. What do you think is the key to success?
A. I always hope that my employees are aware of two things: One is being trusted by the clients, and the other is doing the right thing.
Q. It is a very important mind-set, isn’t it?
A. If my company becomes very well known, then more people will have the chance to encounter the teaching of Master Shinran. This thought gives me the energy to work harder. I would like to share more of the teachings of Master Shinran and hopefully true Buddhism will spread throughout the world.
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #19 | 2012, Member Profile - Yoshimasa Hotta
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Buddhist Village Times #19