I work as a manager for a food company in Fukui prefecture, and it’s my vision to connect with other hard working managers to form a business circle, expand, and start a wave of economic development in Japan. I’m in my late 50s now, and I’d love to hear some useful advice from you on what to be aware of and what’s important as a business manager.
Master Okawa held this question & answer session on November 29th, 2009 at the Happy Science Fukui Branch Shoja (Fukui Prefecture).
Thinking About Your Customers
If only a few good people come to the fore and take the lead, expanding their businesses, they can take everybody else along with them on the path to success. There is a Japanese saying that goes: “It takes but a single man to make a nation flourish or drive it into ruin.” I believe the same can be said about businesses.
There is one basic principle that applies when you want to expand your business: “Work for the customers!” This is the one thing that really matters. The motto you should strive to implement in your company is, “I want to make as many customers as happy as I possibly can.” Once you internalize this idea, your company is going to grow. Of course, technical details are a different issue, but gaining the support of a large group of customers will definitely lead to growth.
If you cannot achieve growth, it means that your support base has stopped expanding after you reached the members of your certain group. Offer something that makes more people support you, which can convince people, not only in Fukui, but beyond your prefecture as well. If you can do it, you can create a business that is successful on a national level.
If Fukui manages to produce significant businessmen, others will follow them. What you are looking for, what you need in Fukui right now, are successful businessmen.
If You Only Think About Yourself, Your Company Will Go Bust
As I said before, valuing your customers is the single most important principle. If you want to know what valuing your customers means, it basically refers to doing the opposite of what the government’s administrative bodies have been doing. If you do the opposite of the government’s administrative bodies, it usually means that you truly value your customers.
I am a frequent flyer, and often use the customer lounge of a certain airline. Once after I had used the lounge with some of my co-workers, somebody from the airline’s business department called my secretary and complained about me, “It says in our bylaws that customers are only allowed to bring four people with them when they use our lounge. Your boss brought five.” In fact, the lounge was completely empty that day – there was nobody in it. If they had said, “The lounge was extremely crowded, which made it unacceptable for us that your boss brought in more people than our bylaws permit”, then I would have understood. But telling a customer he is only allowed to bring four people, not five, when the lounge is completely empty is like telling customers not to come at all. Following this rule would have meant that one member of our group would have had to wait for his flight outside the lounge. This is the same as the Japanese government telling the people, “If we don’t invest tax money in financial reforms, our country is doomed!” It doesn’t make sense, does it?
In other words, if you behave like the government authorities, you usually lose sight of the customer. This situation was an example of that concept.
It is essential to always think about the needs of the people who buy your products or use your services. It is absurd to insist on a four-people-per-group limit when the entire lounge is empty. Maybe to play a game of Mahjong it’s a necessary to have four players, not five, but if a lounge is empty, the fifth person should be permitted without a problem. This is obvious, and the airline’s behavior had nothing to do with service.
This is the kind of behavior that leads to financial trouble, to mass layoffs, and an injection of taxpayers’ money. I have to say that company has bad management.
People, who think only about themselves and feel that whatever they have decided is right, and individuals, who are not willing to change, create deficits and economic downturns, and make businesses go bust.
The problem is that people who think this way never believe their own company could even be concerned. Indeed, if you tell them, “Your company does not put customers first,” they won’t agree. And the reason they do not agree is that they are overconfident. They are so convinced that their products or services are the best; they’ll never take the chance to listen to criticism.
If you remember that it’s the customers that make your businesses expand, you cannot go wrong. If you gain customers’ support, your businesses will definitely grow. It is easy to make hotels go bust. If guests do not come again after their first stays, hotels will go bust, but if they keep coming, they will expand. That’s all you need to know.
Hard Facts Exist to Teach Us Lessons
Life may be tough, but it is a good teacher. A bullish or bearish economy, company growth, and commercial failure – all these are hard facts, but don’t forget that they can teach you something.
If this principle is not respected, and the government implements fiscal policies that involve the provision of government aid, the deficit will grow, and next time, the government will go bust. People need to see that they themselves are the reason things happen, and they should make an effort to get them right. The essence of doing that is gaining the support of a large customer base. This is the only thing that matters.
I want Happy Science to be needed and wanted by countless people. If you are not careful and do not exercise strict control, maybe the people that work at your production facilities are going to get overexcited about the product and think, “This is perfect!” But this is not enough. You need to rethink your product and keep improving it again and again. If there are any mistakes in your thinking, then you need to reflect on them and keep improving your work.
You can only make businesses grow through management when you follow this method. There is only one-way; Increase your customer bases. You always have to think about the customers. Whether you’re awake or asleep – always think about the customers.
(Somebody in the audience shouted, “Today, I closed my store to come here!”)
So, work that much harder starting from tomorrow. Use what you’ve learned today, and come tomorrow, smile more often and offer your customers better service.
Learning new things is important, too. If you don’t work on improving your content sometimes, you won’t have new ideas. Especially during an economic downturn, business people need to educate themselves and learn new things. Educating yourself is never a waste of time.
So maybe you closed your store today and disappointed your customers, but be positive and make it up to them starting tomorrow.