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Meet the man with a plan for Spro in the USA and Europe


Although separated by 5,000 miles and focused on their own continental markets, SPRO Corp in the USA and Spro N.V. in the Netherlands share the same DNA.

The two businesses are bound by their strategies of working closely with ‘sports professionals’ (hence the name) to create high performing predator baits.

And now, in a world where so many of the best new baits are being created for regional techniques, Gamakatsu, the parent company of both Spro businesses, has identified a new opportunity.

Gamakatsu plans to cross over the best examples of product design from one Spro to the other. Each business will remain focused on its local markets but there will be renewed efforts to find synergies between them as well as baits that will travel successfully.

Enter Kazutomo Nakamura with perfect timing. The General Manager of SPRO Corp in the USA has also been appointed Managing Director for Spro N.V. in Europe, as of January. It is a new hybrid role that will see him criss-cross the Atlantic between Atlanta, Georgia in the States and Utrecht near Amsterdam in the Netherlands to tie the whole thing together.

It seems like an obvious move (once you discount the air miles that the man they call Kazu will be clocking up), but why is it happening now? In short, this is Spro reacting quickly to moves by bigger global companies to sell-through their American inventories in Europe.

“The difference is, we are not dumping tackle,” says Kazu by way of explanation. “Our strength is that we are close to each market, the USA and Europe, so we do what’s right in each region first, but then use our connections to combine the best local knowledge to either identify cross-over items or develop something new that could work in both territories. Each business is separate, but it’s clear there are big opportunities for us to create universal items.”

Basically, the big guys woke something in Spro and the company responded by playing to its strength in the regions. And not only did Spro have the ideal business set-up to do so, it also had the ideal manager in Kazu to make it happen. While many global businesses are headed up by money men, this is a guy who lives and breathes fishing in all its forms. This man fishes.

The 40-year-old Kazu is not your typical Japanese businessman. Yes, he has steadily climbed the ranks at Gamakatsu and Spro, zigzagging from Japan to China to Singapore to Thailand to the States in the usual way. But ask him about his career and instead of sales and marketing talk, he will tell you of the huge local fish he has hunted down and landed – then send you the photos as proof.

There’s Kazu knee-deep in a river in Thailand cradling a giant Siam Carp. Next up, Kazu bare-chested and grinning in water up to his neck next to a giant stingray that must have a wingspan of eight feet or more. There he is with a big bass in Tennessee and a boated bluefin tuna in San Diego, and then, most remarkable of all, with the 11ft alligator he stalked and killed in Florida. To make that happen, Kazu drove through the night from Atlanta to fill a last-minute cancellation on a charter expedition. His passion for the outdoors is limitless. Not only does this man fish, he hunts… and he eats.

“I’m a Japanese redneck,” he says with a characteristic big smile and by way of explaining just how at home he feels in Georgia, USA. “I love the thrill of the hunt and I like to eat what I catch. I’m from a rural and isolated part of southern Japan, so hunting and fishing is in my blood.”

When it comes to living his job (and maybe surprising a few customers), Kazu is the real deal. He watched his uncle hunt with guns as he grew up in that rural corner of Japan‘s southern island, then took to shooting with them himself when he got to the USA. “Mainly deer and turkey,” he says.

But all this talk of hunting and fishing – and the big grins in the photos – also has a serious side, which Kazu is keen to emphasise. In a world of soulless business execs planning products with only the bottom line in mind, Kazu intimately understands the spirit of fishing. And he promises to bring it to bear in the years to come in his dual role for Spro.

He has tried fishing in all four countries where he has been posted and is looking forward to what the Netherlands has to offer, including giving carp fishing a shot, believing it will give him an edge as a manager and bring him closer to the new market he now will serve.

Gamakatsu has a plan and, seemingly, an ideal manager to implement it. Thinking global and acting local has been resurrected as the strategy to follow in fishing.

For Spro, this is not the American’s business’s loss, but it is definitely Europe’s gain. The plan is in place, watch this space.

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