Yuhei Saito

Vice President,
Novus International, Inc.

I started working at Novus International in Missouri in May 2011. I'm one of two Mitsui people here. As VP for planning, my role is to support Novus' management team and help them devise and execute long-term strategy.

Quite rightly, the Novus CEO is always a veteran from inside the company; as majority shareholder, though, it is Mitsui that has final management control. So the other side of my job is to get a good grasp of the issues surrounding the business and relay them to the Mitsui board. In that way, they can make informed decisions about Novus' future. I participate in projects and travel a lot, meeting customers all around the world, so that I really know what's going on at ground level.

If I was asked to sum up my job in one word, I'd describe myself as a bridge: I connect the subsidiary and the parent. Before coming to Novus HQ, I actually spent two years working for Mitsui U.S.A. in New York running the overall nutrition business. Part of my job involved getting Novus to provide the financial and other information to Mitsui. I worked first for the parent and then for the subsidiary. I've been both pitcher and catcher.

Is the job a stretch? Definitely. I'm working directly with the Novus management and am involved with decision-making. The scope of my work is very broad; it encompasses all sorts of things—IT problems, HR problems, you name it. Back in Japan I was in sales-type jobs, so there was a steep learning curve. I think I'm on top of things now, though.

Novus is a global business with almost 800 employees. That's a big responsibility. The important thing is that the parent and the subsidiary work together to devise the best possible strategy. Working together makes us stronger.

Around a decade ago, Novus enlarged the existing plant in Texas for manufacturing ALIMET®, our liquid methionine feed additive. Tokyo approved the decision to expand because it believed in the product. Novus' current success is very much the result of the hard work of our predecessors. We need to work equally hard to make sure that the business will continue to flourish in the future.

I think Novus' greatest strengths are its powerful sales network and the fact that it's so tuned into its customers' concerns. Novus also has a wide range of products that address a wide range of problems. If there's an issue which we can't solve alone—like eliminating antibiotics from livestock—then we work with other companies to develop a collaborative solution.

Did I experience culture shock when I came to America? No, absolutely none. At work, the important thing is to listen carefully to other people's opinions and communicate your own clearly—that process is the same everywhere. Novus is a very diverse company, anyway. Our CEO, Francois Fraudeau, is French.

Novus has a very good reputation in the States. At a meeting I had with one large feed mill, they were telling me how Novus had continued with deliveries even after Hurricane Ike in 2008. We're seen as trustworthy and reliable. The age-old values still count for so much.

With world population predicted to hit 9.6 billion by 2050, Mitsui and Novus share the same sense of mission to contribute to a stable supply of food. “Food and Agriculture” was highlighted as one of seven key strategic domains in Mitsui's latest mid-term management plan, so the two companies are very much on the same page when it comes to global food security.

Interviewed in November 2015