With a background in science and electrical design, Trevor Allen, founder and CEO of Ikon Europubs KK, may seem an unlikely match for the beer and pub industry. But his burgeoning business importing rare foreign beers from around the world is proof that things don’t always turn out the way we think they will.
How long have you been in Japan?
For more years than I care to remember. Let’s put it this way—I came before there were hyaku-en (¥100) shops.
Please tell us a bit about your company.
With our limited resources we strive to raise the bar by broadening the variety of imported beer brands available. Japanese beer holds a 99 percent market share so we are up against tough odds. But looking on the bright side, we are growing and they are shrinking. One of our missions is to spread happiness and light, and it’s hard to go wrong with that. My team is top drawer when it comes to keeping the balls in the air. Our biggest challenge is coping with our small but rapidly growing business.
What is your background and how did you arrive at your current position?
I’m a science graduate, and started my career in the automotive industry as an electrical part designer, which led to project management. After 10 years of working for ‘the man,’ I decided that life is short, and it was time to try something new. So in 2000 I took the plunge and with a partner started Hobgoblin Japan. We spun off a second company which eventually became Ikon Europubs KK in 2008.
What are the Japan-specific challenges your business faces here?
Bringing a liquid product from all corners of the planet and making money at it is a bit of a challenge. But maybe the one that is generally applicable is communication. One Japan-specific advantage has to be employee dedication and loyalty, but turning that into efficient operation is, in the end, a challenge.
What kind of advice would you give to aspiring professionals?
Never believe anything, whether free or paid for. Just listen and then make your own judgements. Nobody in this world is really qualified at anything—much less right—except perhaps your mother. At any rate, beer will guide you to your true path. To paraphrase Carlos Gohsn, who was asked a similar question once, “just go for it!” Although he didn’t specifically mention beer, I’m confident he would have difficulty arguing against it.
What is your most popular product?
Our top selling beer at the moment is San Miguel Light from the Philippines. It’s very popular.
Whats your favorite poison?
I have no one favorite! But I am quite partial to ales, of which there are many different varieties.
What do you do in your spare time?
What’s spare time? I don’t have such a thing. But I do try to schedule in a little clubbing, pachinko, and golf a couple of times a month, and I like to watch SmackDown. WWE is one of the best business models I know of.
Ikon Europubs KK