German-Japanese Simon-Kucher trio conquer Mount Fuji together

10 November 2022 Consultancy.asia 4 min. read

This summer, a chance meeting between three Simon-Kucher & Partners consultants in Tokyo took an epic turn – as they decided to climb Mount Fuji together. Meyssam Houshami, Kohei Komoda and Ann-Kathrin Hess discovered important things about themselves, their colleagues, and their company’s culture, on the way to the summit.

People relax in many different ways after a hard week. Some people unwind on a beach. Others attend sporting or cultural events to let off steam. But three consultants from Simon-Kucher & Partners took their workplace-jolly to a whole different level, deciding to conquer the highest point of Japan on a whim.

Considered one of Japan’s three sacred mountains, Mount Fuji has been a pilgrimage site for centuries. Today, it is also an extremely popular attraction for hikers from around the world, with 250,000 visitors taking on the 3,776-metre summit during a two-month summer climbing season. That represents an average of around 4,000 climbers every day.

Meyssam Houshami, Kohei Komoda and Ann-Kathrin Hess

Explaining to the Simon-Kucher & Partners website how she ended up joining those attempting the expedition, Ann-Kathrin Hess commented, “I was in Tokyo for 10 days, working on a project for a chemical company when Meyssam asked me to join the Mount Fuji adventure.”

Hess joined Simon-Kucher in 2018, and is currently a Senior Consultant in the firm’s Cologne office. Working alongside fellow Simon-Kucher professional Meyssam Houshami on an engagement in Japan, it did not take much to talk her into climbing the mountain.

“I think I joined because this was just such a wild idea,” Hess continued. “I wanted to go for the challenge and the experience. But also, I think this is what Simon-Kucher culture is about, right? Sometimes, someone has a great idea, and you just have to go for it! It wasn’t easy, we hiked through the whole night. We started at 8:00 p.m. and walked with head lamps all night to see the sunrise. It was a crazy challenge.”

A Senior Consultant for the firm in Munich, Houshami had been thinking of heading up Mount Fuji for some time. The pull was made all the stronger by his desire to tackle challenges in his professional life.

Houshami explained, “When I think about Japan, certain images come to my head. One of those images is Mount Fuji. In addition, as consultants we always look at new challenges to overcome and problems to solve. So, not only did I want to truly experience this lasting, historic, powerful symbol of Japan, but I wanted to feel a real sense of success from having climbed the highest point in the country.”

Hess and Houshami ascended as part of a trio, alongside Kohei Komoda, another Simon-Kucher professional based in Japan. For Komoda, the experience was just as unique – despite having family near the mountain.

“As a Japanese person, you’d think I would’ve already climbed Mount Fuji, but I’d never been before,” Komoda admitted. “And I was a member of the Mountaineering Club in high school! Also, my grandparents had a small lodge at the bottom of the mountain, and still I hadn't had a chance to climb it. I thought this was a good opportunity to finally do so.”

Journey of discovery

Before the project in Tokyo, the three consultants had never met. But having successfully conquered Mount Fuji alongside his new acquaintances, Komoda believes he drew some important lessons from the experience.

He added, “I never imagined that I’d climb Mount Fuji with my colleagues until Meyssam asked me, and it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had at Simon-Kucher. So, my first piece of advice would be: don’t be afraid to plan these sorts of things. And the second would be: don’t be afraid to ask others to join you.”

Hess similarly had an epiphany – not only about her capabilities; but about what kind of company she is part of. Finding out “who we are as Simon-Kucher”, she explained that while “Meyssam, Kohei, and I barely knew each other,” they were still able to achieve something big together – “climbing Japan’s highest point as a team.”

Houshami concluded, “I still remember the feeling that we had at the bottom of the mountain. We could see the moon – was dark and beautiful. At that point I thought: ‘OK, I'm here in this country to work, right? And we work hard from Monday to Friday, but now it’s Saturday, and we’re in one of the best places ever.’ And it was all thanks to our work at Simon-Kucher in Japan.”