Moonshot Maezawa says working less brings more success

Japanese billionaire set for lunar mission with SpaceX says short workday is the reason for the success of his firm Zozo

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, founder and chief executive of online fashion retailer Zozo, who has been chosen as the first private passenger by SpaceX, poses for photos as he attends a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo, Japan, October 9, 2018.   REUTERS/Toru Hanai     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa says working less, not more, is the reason why he’s been able to build an $8.4 billion company, become a major force in the art world and land a ticket on Elon Musk’s rocket to the moon.

The founder of Japan’s second-largest online shopping site Zozo was introduced last month as the first passenger on a flight to the moon scheduled for 2023, on a rocket built by SpaceX. The announcement instantly raised his global profile, which before was mainly based on his $200 million-plus splurge on artworks.

Asked how he’s going to prepare for a physically demanding trip while running a company and spending his money, the 42-year-old said he’ll have plenty of time, given that he goes to the office three to four days a week, for a maximum of six hours at a time. The short workday is the reason for the success of Zozo, where he also encourages employees to work more efficiently and find inspiration outside the office.

“Our employees began working differently under the programme: they stopped wasteful activities, wasteful conversations, wasteful meetings. As a result, they could concentrate more, be more productive, and actually go home after six hours,” Mr Maezawa said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo, where he held a news conference to answer questions about the lunar trip.

Elon Musk’s rocket company launched a commercial satellite for Argentina on Sunday evening, marking SpaceX’s 17th mission of 2018 in the type of steady success that so far has eluded his electric-car maker Tesla Inc.

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s central coast about 7:21pm local time. About 8 minutes after lift-off, the rocket’s first stage returned and landed at Vandenberg in a first for a California-based SpaceX launch. The second stage deployed Saocom 1A, an Argentine Earth-imaging satellite, about 12 minutes after the launch.

Mr Maezawa's Zozo, which changed its name this month from Start Today, embraced six-hour workdays in 2012, a spokeswoman said, adding that each department tweaks its implementation. She said the idea of working intensely over fewer hours is a core principle of the company’s culture. As of March, the company had about 1,000 employees. In April it began recruiting tech workers with annual salaries of as much as 100 million yen ($883,000).


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Zozo has grown into Japan’s go-to site for online fashion shopping, with sales volume reaching 270 billion yen last fiscal year. Maezawa said he plans to make Zozo a leading global clothing brand within a decade by revolutionizing how people buy clothes online, beginning with this year’s debut of a body-measuring outfit called the Zozosuit.

Zozo’s stock has surged more than 24-fold since its public listing in 2007. Maezawa has sold almost a half a billion dollars worth of shares since 2016 to fuel his art purchases, and most likely to secure a spot on Musk’s moon rocket. He’s worth $2.1 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

“I believe if I go to the moon I can produce better work, great work,” Maezawa said. “So this is very important to me and I try to promote this among my employees as well.”