January 28, 2016,17:25 +0900(JST) In-house Video for Promotion of Diversity
An in-house video aimed at promoting diversity, which I wrote about in this blog in November, has been completed. The video includes an anecdotal episode during my business assignment in the United States. Today, let me share the story with you.
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In 1973, I was posted to Sumitomo Electric's subsidiary in Chicago. People may imagine that my life on an overseas business assignment in Chicago was brilliant. But what I did in the United States in those days was quite different from that image. The main job assigned to me was traveling around the region by car and visiting backstreet workshops and factories without appointments for direct sales of our products through on-the-spot demonstrations. The marketing method, which we called "caravan sales," did not produce the intended results, probably because in the early 1970s, Japanese products were known as low-priced goods of poor quality in the United States. Also, local people's anti-Japanese sentiment was still strong following World War II. Under these circumstances, it was very dificult for us to receive orders from local companies.
The city of Kenosha is located on the shore of Lake Michigan. Situated about one hour's drive from Chicago, the city hosted a business outlet of an American automaker, to which we promoted our products. No orders were received in the first year, however. The person in charge of procurement was a World War II veteran who had fought against Japan.
I did not give up. Instead, I kept visiting his office. Eventually, the buyer called me "Mike." One day, he told me he might have fought against my father. But he added, "You have nothing to do with World War II." Following this remark, orders from his company began to increase gradually.
One day, he told me that he would retire soon, and proposed drinking with me. At the bar, he asked me how old I was. I was 27 back then. He said, "Why don't you drink 27 glasses of gin and tonic?" I accepted his suggestion and emptied all the glasses. He said, "OK, come to my office at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning."
Next morning, I had a bad headache due to a hangover. But I managed to visit his office as I was told. What he did was to place an order worth $500 with our company as his last task before retirement. The order was not a big deal. However, I was moved by the way with which he showed his consideration toward me. What I felt at that time was that people are basically the same around the world, although language, culture or thinking is different.
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Sumitomo Electric is staging a campaign to promote diversity. What the company aims to achieve through the campaign is to accept a set of different values, concepts and ideas, and unify them into the same purpose or the same goal for which all our employees should strive. If nothing is done about all these different values and ideas, it will just end up being chaotic. If they are integrated into a certain unified goal, however, they will become our strength. The true goal of our company is not achieving superficial diversity. What we should achieve lies ahead of that.