For Sarah Bull, people are at the heart and soul of any business, and engaging with them effectively and empathically is her secret to success.
The Saitama-based Australian is chief relationship officer (and director of legal services) at Translation Business Systems Japan (TBSJ), a role that encompasses the management and care of the company’s internal and external relationships.
With team members in all major time zones and a growing client portfolio, she has key responsibilities and says that empowering people to shine while fostering ties with clients, collaborators and the wider business community is what every company should aspire to do.
Savvy Tokyo spoke to her to find out what her role involves and why it’s so important.
How did you become a chief relationship officer?
I’d been working as a freelance translator and editor with TBSJ since almost its beginning (2010). In 2018, I had a bit of an epiphany that I was more extroverted than my lifestyle, which involved a lot of sitting at home on my computer. Alongside that were other influences—I’d been having professional coaching and my daughter was getting older—so I thought I could do more. By that time, I was also an advisor for TBSJ and had equity in the business so I asked the board if I could go to events for the company. They agreed.
The idea was for me to raise awareness of TBSJ by connecting with people, which I really enjoyed. Then the opportunity came up to join the board. I became involved with management and helped grow the business via industry events and client meetings. After six months or so, the person in charge of HR left and it became clear that I was the logical person to take over. I had so many roles, which all felt like a good fit, but it was tricky to cover everything with a title. The common thread was relationships—for networking, business development and HR/recruitment—hence the title.
What’s a typical day?
Right now I’m focused on internal relationships because TBSJ is growing and we’re only going to a few online events. It’ll be interesting to see how the role changes once we return to having in-person networking, meetings and events. Perhaps I’ll also be focusing on other things such as client acquisition once that happens.
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