Years ago, a college-aged Tim Hatsukari sat down with his father in their home in Tokyo. His family was clear with him: he wouldn’t inherit his father’s real estate business, which was struggling along with the entire sector at the time. Hatsukari needed to find his own path.
A seed was planted. Hatsukari blazed his own trail by moving abroad and developing a career in IT and finance, eventually becoming vice president of finance and accounting at fast-growing IT firm Synoptek.
Remembering an infectious energy that he experienced during a number of international travels, Hatsukari decided to move to San Diego, where he knew only one person. Later, he enrolled in business school at the University of California at Riverside. He recalls that serious commitment with his family to seek his own path as a trigger for everything that has come after.
“For me to think, ‘Hey, I should get outside of my own country’—it was a bold move, but I wasn’t thinking about the consequences at the time,” he says. “I thought I’d jump off the ship and see what happens.”
What he found when he got to California surprised him. That infectious energy was everywhere, as well as a diverse world where people were driven and hungry to see their vision come to fruition. “People came here with passion, and I came here for a reason. I was surrounded by people with so much energy, and that was so inspirational. That drove me to grow,” he says.
First, he had to figure out what his new path would be. He may not have known many people, but what he did have was some IT experience and a natural ability with numbers. He started with business and finance, first landing various roles within a large digital storage media distributor, touching almost every facet of the business.
That experience would soon help in what has become something of a dream role as CFO, Hatsukari says. “The CFO role is identifying the dots, connecting the dots, and creating a path. You have so many business opportunities as well as problems every single day,” he explains. “It means understanding and communicating the landscape to investors, leadership teams, customers, and employees, and leading the organization to move forward within the dynamic playing field.”
Hatsukari sees his team leader role as a chance to empower others to make connections and solve problems. If Hatsukari’s jump to the US without a safety net was a bold leap, experience has taught him that adhering to a strong leadership philosophy and meticulous planning is everything.
He sums up both his individual and team philosophies succinctly with the three Hs—humility, harmony and humor—with his wife and two children as a daily reminder of what’s important. And for his team, he seeks to lead in a way that showcases both individuality and a team purpose, which he describes as “one for one, one for all, and all for one.”
At the center of it all isn’t metrics. It’s people. Those relationships, he says, are key to both personal and team success.
Hatsukari manages a far-flung team of more than twenty at Synoptek, with nearly every position a remote one across different time zones and as far away as India. Synoptek has grown by leaps and bounds, which means new team members who are “very talented, very dedicated” with a lot to offer the company. “The challenge,” he says, “is it gets fragmented over time.”
The “all for one” philosophies get translated into the company’s culture by two relatively simple tactics, he says: constant communication and instilling in others the belief that failures shouldn’t be swept under the rug.
“I don’t want my team to be afraid of making mistakes,” Hatsukari says. “Mistakes represent an opportunity to learn and grow, and if you have a strong team, you can always come up with a Plan B.”
“I don’t want my team to be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes represent an opportunity to learn and grow, and if you have a strong team, you can always come up with a Plan B.”
That kind of thinking means many team members naturally began to fully explore their own potential and problem-solve without kicking up much dust. During the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, several members of his team had young children who were home when daycares and schools were closed.
Despite both the personal and business challenges, he witnessed individual team members seamlessly stepping up, supporting one another, and uniting as one team to achieve remarkable business milestones. Some team members put forth significant efforts behind the scenes, adjusting their work schedules to ensure tasks were completed without putting additional stress on colleagues. “The materialization of ‘real teamwork’ is incredibly powerful and brings about an infectiously positive energy across the organization,” he says.
And that is what Hatsukari hopes to achieve at Synoptek, putting his “all” and H principles into place, focusing on himself so that he can be better for his team and they for him. He views it as a lifelong pursuit—blazing his own path as a finance expert and helping lead a growing IT company.
As some businesses grow larger, with varied team members, their bosses become more faceless. Hatsukari says he wants to ensure that doesn’t happen at Synoptek. “I will always strive to be a people-driven CFO,” he says. “That’s my passion and my journey.”