One on One With Dwight Sakuma of Methode Brigitte Kettner

The company president discusses his life and career.

What’s the best career decision you ever made?
I’ve always tended to be open to opportunities and not feeling uncomfortable with different types of industries. A lot of people stay in one career… there’s a comfort level zone. For me, I feel that some of my best career decisions have been to not fear moving into different market places and to take principles learned in previous career and apply it to new experiences.

Tell us about Methode Brigitte Kettner.
We’re owned by Telefield Ltd, a Hong Kong-based corporation. What makes us unique is that the corporation bought MBK, a skincare company out of Germany. Brigitte—who, by the way, is not a made-up person!—opened her company in 1987. She had a very personalized, holistic approach to skin care and believed that everyone skincare’s regimen should be tailored to their own location, profession and so on. She was very successful going into the spa market in Europe, but it was tough to grow business based on that one-on-one type of selling. She was getting a little older, and she was open to a company purchasing her. Why did we purchase a skincare business when we’re more of a manufacturing company that deals in phones, consumer electronics products and so on? We were actually starting to look at beauty care devices and we realized that it was quite a good market to get in to. Lo and behold we were introduced to the brand, and about three years ago we bought the business. That’s what makes us unique: we’re a great product line, but we also have devices that help those products work better. So you can use our cleanser, but if you use our facial brush it’s more effective. Most companies do either devices or skin care; we do both. Brigitte is still involved—she comes works in the German office every day, and she still does training; she’s very involved in the European market. She’s a great spokeswoman for the company.

Who is your mentor?
I’ve been in a lot of different careers, so I’m not sure there’s any one person. I tend to start networking to understand what the marketplace entails, and what drives the market. I try to seek out people who have a wealth of experience and who are willing to share it. Sometimes it’s via LinkedIn or at trade shows. I prefer meeting people on a one-on-one basis at events and exhibitions. I’ll make myself available and seek people out so I can speak to potential clients.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I like to garden and do my own yard work—I don’t have a gardener come in. I’m also an avid golfer. I go at least twice a week, and I try to squeeze it in on my travels. I like the fact that I can do it alone—it doesn’t matter if no one else has time to play. I do a lot of thinking on the golf course: it’s where I figure out how I’m going to approach certain situations.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I used to race formula cars. I went to a race driving school when I was younger. I raced at Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk in the U.K. I wanted to stay in Europe and race but I came back to the U.S. with sponsorship. I did it with an eye to see how far I could take it. I had a chance to go back to England but it didn’t work out quite right so I passed. I also realized I was getting older, so I wasn’t going to get the best drives any more.

Do you have a personal mantra?
Yes: Always try to look for the positive, even in negative situations. Try to turn things around. If a situation is bad, how best can I turn it into one that’s good? There are always ways to make things either better—or at least agreeable. Seeks solutions rather than problems.

Who would you most like to meet?
Warren Buffet. Not just because he’s highly successful, but he has an ability to look at things that aren’t profitable and build them up. A lot of companies he invested in and bought weren’t necessarily successful but he saw something in them, and realized that if he changed something they would become successful.

What’s in the pipeline for MBK?
We’re looking at different products. Our product line is quite extensive already, with everything from toners to serums, but we’re continuing to look at certain areas such as sun care and light therapy to bulk up the line. I want to make sure it makes sense for us. We want to make sure everything delivers on its promises, so at this point we’re still doing investigative work and clinical studies. We’re also looking at bringing treatments offered in our European spas, such as deep peels, to the Americas. It’s important to get these products into the hands of trained estheticians—they must be able to explain the process and recovery time to clients, and appropriately manage their expectations.