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Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Group Welcomes 288 New Employees at Entrance Ceremony
Encouraging all to set individual objectives and prepare for new challenges

May 10, 2024

On April 1 the Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Group held its 2024 entrance ceremony.

A total of 288 new employees have joined three group companies: Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan, Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Vending, and FV Japan. This was the first in-person entrance ceremony held in five years since 2019. Here follows a report of this memorable day when executives and representatives of these organizations assembled to welcome their new graduate employees.

"I want you all to grow without fear of change and without being bound by your past successes and values”

This year our entrance ceremony took place in Roppongi, Tokyo. With the ceremony's opening, the executives and representatives of each organization took to the stage with warm greetings.

The ceremony began with opening remarks from Calin Dragan, Representative Director & President of Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan. He discussed the goals of the Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Group and shared his own experiences, explaining what each of us should do to achieve these aims.

He joined the Coca-Cola system about 30 years ago, starting at Coca-Cola Leventis in Romania as a member of the warehouse team. At that time, he couldn't speak English, so learning the language became one of his top priorities. He then moved into logistics before transitioning to sales, where he learned to work with people from all over the world.

“I have never forgotten the warm messages of encouragement and gratitude that I received from customers, and they are still important to me. Learning never ends while we live. By challenging yourself, staying positive, and always keeping your mind open to new things, you can expand your possibilities and open up new paths for yourself.”

The president noted that the term "everyone" in the company's mission, "Deliver happy moments to everyone while creating value", refers to all of its stakeholders, be they consumers, customers, employees, shareholders, or members of the local communities. To pursue this mission and realize the company’s vision, he advised the new employees to always keep the following four values in mind:

① Learning
Never lose the ambition to learn

② Agility
Be agile and unafraid of change

③ Result-orientation
Focus on results and see things through to the end

④ Integrity
Act with noble aspirations based on integrity and trust

In the latter part of his speech, the president then touched on "Vision 2028," the strategic business plan that runs through 2028, saying, "We have positioned 2024 as a year of strong profit build up, and are aiming for further profit growth in this first year. To achieve this, we need to challenge ourselves and accelerate our transformation on a daily basis, and we all look forward to working together as one team with all of you who have joined us today. Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Group is a workplace where each and every employee takes part in creating value for our stakeholders, no matter what roles they may play. I hope that you will all grow as people and create significant value through your work.”

He concluded his opening remarks with the following message: "We expect each and every employee to keep growing by constantly honing their individual skills. Do not be bound by past successes or values. Have the courage to say that the way things were done in the past is no longer an option, and continue to learn without fear of change."

"Every one of us will set individual objectives to fulfill the Mission, Vision, and Values"

Following the President's address, three new employees from our group companies took the stage: Hinako Takagi from Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan, Masaya Komatsuzaki from Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Vending, and Tomoka Kashiwazaki from FV Japan. Each of them shared their thoughts and feelings with those present.

Takagi from Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan was the first to speak. She expressed her commitment by saying, "I want to maintain a spirit of challenge and remain an enthusiastic supporter of my company. I will do my best to contribute to Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan's growth as a company loved by everyone."

Next, Komatsuzaki from Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Vending shared his aspirations: "As a salesperson, I aim to build trust with customers and deliver happiness through carefully planned sales activities, fresh ideas, and unconventional actions."

Finally, Kashiwazaki from FV Japan spoke about her ambitions: "I want to contribute to realizing the company's vision by always cooperating with my colleagues, never giving up in the face of difficulties, continually challenging myself, and dedicating myself to achieving results in every task I undertake."

After the three speeches concluded, the audience turned their attention to the screen to watch a video prepared by the Entrance Ceremony Steering Committee. The video featured comments from new employees across the group companies. Each employee shared their thoughts on one of the four Values—Learning, Agility, Result-orientation, and Integrity—that they had chosen as their particular focus.

Takagi concluded, "The individual objectives we have set for ourselves will serve as inspiration as we begin our careers. With the support and guidance from our senior employees, we hope to continually improve our performance day by day."

"Even when you fall, remember that your potential is revealed on your way climbing back up"

After the messages from the new employees, representatives from each organization delivered speeches. They discussed various aspects of their business operations and addressed questions from the new employees.

Alejandro Gonzalez, Executive Officer and President of Retail Company, began by explaining his organization's goals. He stated that they aim "to deliver profitable growth to the Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Group, to be loved by customers, and to achieve market-leading performance."

Gonzalez expressed his excitement and enjoyment in carrying out these goals in the highly competitive Japanese market. He noted, "When you start working, you will likely face many challenges, but the joy of achieving new results with colleagues who share a strong motivation to grow, both individually and as a team, is exceptional. I look forward to working with you all to accelerate our transformation.”

In response to a new employee's question about overcoming the fear of taking on challenges, Gonzalez replied, "First, believe in your own abilities. Knowledge will give you the strength to conquer your fears, so make informed decisions after gaining sufficient information and examining it closely. Don't be afraid of failure; mistakes are part of the growth process. Remember, your potential is not only at the top of the mountain you aim to reach but also in the valleys as you climb back up from where you have fallen. Challenges are opportunities for growth. Just go for it!"

"Think for yourself and be willing to question anything that does not make sense"

Next, Andrew Ferrett, Executive Officer, Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO), and Head of SCM, gave a congratulatory speech to the new employees. With a smile, he described the supply chain as "where the magic happens." He advised the new employees to "think for yourselves and be willing to question anything that doesn't make sense." He also encouraged them to "make dear friends and enjoy working here."

Then he received a question from one of the new employees who asked what his most memorable challenge was. To this, he responded by talking about one specific experience he had in the past.

"In 2004, I was promoted to manager of a large brewery that had been successful in the past but was experiencing a major downturn. We did everything we thought was right and built a solid process, but things were not improving. However, with painstaking effort, we managed to turn the performance around by focusing on the key performance indicators necessary for our recovery. In business, there are times when you cannot produce the expected results even when doing the right things. Conversely, delivering good results overcomes any excuses. So, I encourage you to always think about how you can achieve better results."

"The leader of the team should be persistent in communicating objectives and goals"

The next speaker was Atsuhiro Higashi, Head of the Vending Business Management Division at Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Vending. He stated, "The mission of our division is to increase the profitability of the Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Group's approximately 700,000 vending machines currently operating in the market and to build a strong business structure." He added, "We are also focused on increasing the productivity of operations, from shipping products from the plants to replenishing them in vending machines, in collaboration with other divisions."

When a new employee, fresh out of college, asked what is required for a team to tackle a challenge collectively, Higashi replied, "It is important to share the goal of that challenge with everyone on the team. When working alone, it is easy to get caught up in your day-to-day tasks and lose sight of your objectives. This is even more true for a team. That is why I believe a team leader must consistently communicate the objective. I hope you all grow into individuals who can demonstrate strong leadership."

"If ‘Do’ or ‘Don’t’ are the only two options, choose ‘Do’"

Next, Tatsuhiko Sano, Representative Director and President of FV Japan, stepped up to the podium. He highlighted FV Japan's unique position of "contributing to sales growth while also handling products other than the Coca-Cola brand." He stated, "We aim to become a producer that creates value and delivers it to our customers."

When a new employee at FV Japan asked Sano what he expects from the new hires, he listed three things: “Enjoy change. Think and act independently. Hold onto your dreams.” He added, “There is no need to be afraid of failure. Even if the challenge seems too difficult, always choose to 'do' it rather than 'don't'.”

"Taking planned paid leave is another important business skill"

The final speaker representing one of the group’s organizations was the Executive Officer, President of Food Service Company, Chief Business Management & Sustainability Officer, and Head of Business Transformation Maki Kado. Unable to attend the ceremony in person, she delivered her message and answered questions remotely through an online audiovisual communication system.

In her message, she introduced the Food Service Company as an organization dedicated to providing products to business partners such as restaurants, recreational facilities, and hotels. She also described Business Transformation as a function focused on promoting corporate efforts to achieve sustainable growth, including social contribution activities and initiatives to drive profits.

When a new employee from Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Vending asked what is particularly important for new employees to keep in mind in their first year, she suggested two points: “Learning” and “Striking a healthy balance between ‘on’ and ‘off’.”

She elaborated on these points, saying, “In the first year, you start a new life and undergo a major environmental change. Even if you feel that you are enjoying every day, you may be accumulating fatigue without realizing it. It is important to clearly switch between your 'on' and 'off' times and to refresh yourself once your work hours are over. Additionally, taking planned paid leave is another important business skill.”

As the ceremony neared its end, Yuki Higashi, Executive Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer, and Head of HR & General Affairs, took the stage as the final speaker. In her closing speech, she shared her expectations with the new employees, saying, “Now that your student days are over, it is time to start your new life as members of the workforce. I hope to see you grow by learning and broadening your knowledge as much as you can so that you can become part of the future driving force of the Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Group.”

She then offered advice based on her personal experience. “The transition from student to working adult may be a bigger change than you imagine, and it can often be quite confusing. I know this because I had a similar experience myself. Even so, I have made it this far because I was blessed with supportive colleagues and supervisors.”

In closing, she concluded her speech with the following message: “The fellow members gathered here today will be your precious assets. Our HR team will support your growth by providing various learning opportunities, including department-specific training programs. I look forward to seeing you all work your way up by embracing the Mission, Vision, and Values, and pursuing your future possibilities seriously so that you can grow together with us as one team!”

The new employees also enjoyed a pleasant chat with the executives at the post-ceremony gathering. "The members gathered here today are precious assets," remarked one executive

After the ceremony, the executives went around the tables to meet the new employees in person and made a toast with them using our products. They had pleasant conversation, deepening their connections.

During the post-ceremony gathering, the new employees also received welcome video messages displayed on the big screen. From beginning to end, the event was filled with a friendly atmosphere.

The entrance ceremony turned out to be a truly memorable once-in-a-lifetime event for the new employees. They had the chance to hear directly from the top executives driving the Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Group’s business, who spoke to them from various perspectives and offered warm words of encouragement. The new employees' expressions reflected a sense of exhilaration as they looked forward to their future.

The determination and goals set in each of their hearts and minds on this day will undoubtedly lay a strong foundation for their future paths as businesspeople. With these 288 trusted new associates, Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Group will embark on a new challenge together.

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