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President’s Message
Newsletter "SEI WORLD" Vol. 461

Masayoshi Matsumoto President & CEO

My Memories in Kenosha

In 1973, the seventh year after my joining the company, I was transferred to Chicago. When I set foot at O'Hare International Airport, I was overwhelmed by the huge size of the facility, and was later astonished by the imposing appearance of Sears Tower.* I still remember that nevertheless I could not stop trembling with excitement in anticipation of my battle to expand new sales channels in the U.S. for cutting tools from Sumitomo Electric.

Although the phrase “working abroad” might make some Japanese people imagine something sophisticated, the reality was caravan sales. Driving a car myself, I visited almost all of the small factories that I found in various cities and gave sales demonstrations. In those days, many people in the country had a negative image about products made in Japan, and there was still a strong anti-Japanese sentiment because of the Second World War, making it difficult for me to obtain orders.

When you drive north about one hour from Chicago along Lake Michigan, you reach Kenosha, where one car manufacturer was located. For the first year, the company didn’t listen to me at all. It turns out that the company’s procurement staff used to fight against the Japanese army in the war.

But I didn’t give up and continued to visit him, until he finally began to call me “Mike!” in a friendly manner. Saying “Though I might fought against your parents, it’s not your fault,” he began placing orders little by little.

One day, saying that he would retire soon, he invited me to join him drinking. At a bar, he said “Mike, how old are you? Drink as many glasses of gin as your age!” So I drank all of the glasses they served me, and then he told me, “OK! Visit me at my office at 8:00 am tomorrow.”

The next day, when I went to his office with my head aching badly, he gave me an order of 500 dollars as his last job in his career. Although the amount wasn’t so large, the order showed me his warm feelings toward me.

Even if they have different languages, cultures, and mindsets, people share the same basic nature. This is the conclusion I got from one of my episodes regarding my primal experience of diversity.

*Until recently this super-high rise was the tallest building in the U.S. Its name has changed to Willis Tower.

Masayoshi Matsumoto President & CEO

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