How Craftsmen Can Become Business Managers
World Teacher's Message No.249


The Question:

My wife and I run a pasta restaurant, and we employ three part-time workers. But I feel like my inner nature is that of a craftsman, and that is stopping our business from prospering. Do you have any advice as to how craftsmen can become successful business owners?

Lecture given 6 May 2012 at Happy Science Sohonzan Shoshinkan


I eat pasta around 150 times a year, so I’m quite a connoisseur. I’d have to try your dishes before I can give a diagnosis of your management! [Audience laughs].

If there are only five workers in the restaurant, you don’t necessarily need top-notch managerial skills. I think the higher priority would be to compete with the flavor of your dishes rather than through management. There are many other similar shops out there, so a big factor will be how good your dishes taste.

Just making them cheaper than other shops isn’t enough. You must accumulate hard work, and strive to make pasta that no one else can make. It is about the power of invention.

Let’s take coffee as an example. It was said that the coffee market had long reached saturation point and nothing new could be introduced. But if we look now, there are many different types of new coffee emerging: strawberry coffee, persimmon coffee, macha coffee, coffee with cream and caramel toppings. We are seeing coffees that go beyond the old conception of coffee. I like new things, so I give them a try when they come out [audience laughs]. I try a variety of things to see how these people have used the power of invention.


Repeat Customers and Word-of-Mouth Is Key

If customers only come once because they don’t feel an urge to come again, the sales won’t improve; and this applies to pasta shops too.

There is only one fundamental approach in management in the service industry: “grab hold of customers who come to eat in your shop”, “if they come once, make them come once again and again and again”, “establish repeat customers so they won’t even consider going elsewhere for a meal”. Make your customers obsessed with your pasta – just like with Coca-Cola – and develop your shop so they want to keep coming back.

Another important factor is your reputation via word-of-mouth.

People are honest; they cannot help feeling that something tastes good or bad. As you establish repeat customers, increase new customers through word-of-mouth. Then you’ll have so many customers that they won’t all fit into your restaurant, so you’ll have to expand your business.

More repeat customers and more new customers; this cycle will expand your business without the need for any managerial skills. Once you create a system where repeat customers keep coming back and new customers keep coming in, your shop will get bigger and you’ll have no choice but to expand your business by opening another shop for example.


Knowing How to Maintain Product Quality

This is exactly what I experienced when I started Happy Science. At first I didn’t have much confidence, so I chose to lecture in smaller cheaper venues such as public halls. Then gradually, more people started to come to them, and we had to do them in larger and more expensive venues.

Larger venues are privately owned, so the cost is higher, which made my uneasy. But even more people started to come to my lectures, and it helped us use bigger spaces. Our organization grew.

What ran through my mind then, was exactly what I just told you. If more people come repeatedly and new people become interested, the audience will increase. The managerial scale grows naturally to accommodate the growing audience.

To return to your restaurant, if you open a new shop but the quality of your dishes drops, customers will stop coming and you’ll be forced to close your second shop. You definitely need to know how to maintain the quality of your dishes.

To sum up, if the majority of people don’t think your dishes taste good, your business will shrink and collapse. On the other hand, if more people like your food, your customers will increase. Often the service quality drops when customers increase, so please watch out. You must work hard to increase your load while maintaining the quality.

Since your business is still small, you have no need to worry about management. Focus on creating good food that sets you apart from the other shops.


Show Them How Real Pasta Tastes

I think the problem with pasta in Japan is the flour. If you eat and compare pasta in Japan and Italy, you’ll notice that Japan’s pasta doesn’t taste great. It tastes completely different to restaurants in Italy that have high star-ratings.

The same can be said of bread. Japanese people probably think that the bread they eat is real bread, but if you go to Germany and eat good bread you’ll feel that Japan’s bread cannot even count as bread. Whether it be pasta or bread, compared to the real thing everything else seems ‘fake’. Japanese people eat pasta as a substitute for noodles [audience laughs].

There is need for more experimentation. Japanese people are happy with their pasta only because they don’t know the taste of real pasta. Real pasta is different not just in taste, but also in the feel and impression it leaves in your mouth. It would be quite an achievement to show the Japanese people what real pasta tastes like.

Then you can add some inventions of your own, to create a new kind of pasta. Here, it’s important to note that self-satisfaction over your new idea is not enough. You must gain the support of your customers. If it tastes bad, forcing it upon on your customers is not going to make it taste any better.

In general, ninety percent of pasta in Japan gets a ‘fail mark’ [audience laughs], so the whole industry needs to go up another level. The problem is mostly with the pasta itself, so once that is improved the rest is up to how to improve the sauce or soup that goes with it.


Becoming a Master Craftsman

So, instead of management, focus your energies on experimentation and invention.

If your customers increase, focus on maintaining your service quality. It is easier to provide high-class service if you have fewer customers, but when they start flooding in you must work harder to keep the standard high. Then you’ll get more customers naturally; only then will you need a managerial plan.

If you don’t get an increase in customers, it means that the people passed judgment that your business should stay where it is. Advertising and media coverage won’t help. It may get your business a fleeting moment of attention, but if the quality is not up to standard the shop will fail. It is truly frightening.

It is fine for you to be a craftsman by nature. If so, simply become a master craftsman. If you excel with that it will put you on the path to becoming a successful business manager. It most definitely will, so don’t worry.

Of course, if it’s about becoming a nation-wide chain, I would be giving different advice. If that’s the case, managerial skills are a necessity. Your business is not headed that way yet, so you must work hard on improving the quality of your dishes.

How Craftsmen Can Become Business Managers
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