‘Work less’ is billionaire Maezawa’s secret behind SpaceX moon trip

Tokyo • Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa said working less, not more, is the reason why he’s been able to build an US$8.4 billion (RM34.94 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 Inc was introduced last month as the first passenger on a flight to the moon scheduled for 2023, on a rocket built by Space Explorations Technologies Corp (SpaceX). The announcement instantly raised his global profile, which before was mainly based on his US$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 and wasteful meetings. As a result, they could concentrate more, be more productive and actually go home after six hours,” Maezawa told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo, where he held a news conference to answer questions about the lunar trip.

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 at March, the company had about 1,000 employees. In April, it began recruiting tech workers with annual salaries of as much as ¥100 million (RM3.7 million).

Zozo has grown into Japan’s go-to site for online fashion shopping, with sales volume reaching ¥270 billion last fiscal year. Maezawa said he plans to make Zozo a leading global clothing brand within a decade by revolutionising 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 24fold 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 US$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.” — Bloomberg