Big Question for the Business Samurai
You actually need to go to the toilet, but you’re a little late because you had to finish up that contract. You’re late for that second entrepreneur event, an exclusive CEO lunch, so you pack your cell phone and run out the office: Taxi! To the Canadian embassy please…
Very tasty fish paste and meat and sweet deserts, wunderbar.
You are already a little late, and you still haven’t been at the hairdresser’s. Oh, that hair doesn’t look too entrepreneurial in the cabdrivers back mirror! But the suit looks nice and no organic stuff at the upper lip this time.
Even though you’re a little late you do feel ready for that CEO lunch, and aha, as soon as you arrive you notice that your dear friend is there as well, so you know at least one person. What could go wrong now? You sip your orange juice and chat with some people and the feeling that you need to go to the toilet is gone. You drink more orange juice during the dinner, no, no wine, that might be dangerous, avoid all risks this time.
You sit at a good table with smart company and the conversation really is your kind of conversation. They talk about how dangerous email is and how much more reasonable it is to use the phone in case of trouble. You even get the chance to elaborate on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album and how every song turned out to be a self fulfilling prophecy (Thriller, It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, Beat it…).
Very tasty fish paste and meat and sweet desserts, wunderbar. A little espresso. And as the dessert arrives, the organizers start introducing the guest speaker.
The guest is introduced as a Japanese business shooting star, he is the maker of Uniqlo, since last year, just like yourself. But—unlike yourself—a real prodigy, it seems while you… have to go to the toilet. You absolutely do.
Yes, you should have thought of it before. Maybe, if you hurry, you’ll make it in time before the prodigy starts. So you jump up rushout of the room and run up and down the hallways of the Canadian Embassy, freaking out the security and all those decent serious gentleman. No toilet to be found. How rude to miss that speech and how urgent to get to that toilet. You run back down the hallways and ask the security guy where the toilets are and so you have to run up the hallway past the gentlemen again, and, miraculously you make it just in time…
The guest speaker
The guest speaker is in the middle of explaining in a slightly broken English how he got hired when Uniqlo’s sales hit the bottom, and the rats wanted to leave the sinking ship, as you tiptoe back top your table, and start eating your egg cream dessert.
Soon you put down the spoon as you realize that maybe there is something wrong with your stomach. You try to ignore your stomach as obviously you cannot leave the room again and in plus this looks like it is not going to be your usual CEO presentation. This guy is on fire. Tamatsuka-San is so far from any Japanese standard paradigm that you feel more Japanese that him. Gen Tamatsuka is a totally out of control. And he pushes forward, swinging his raw English sword high above his head, fearless and passionate like an old time Samurai, storming alone in heavy armor against an army of foreign CEOs. And through that fire his language becomes stronger than my Scottish neighbor’s very own Scotch, because it comes from his courageous heart.
Tamatsuka is all gesture, voice and body language. He speaks more like an Italian soccer fanatic than a Japanese sarariman. He raises his voice leans forward his eyes wide open, forms a fist and swings it when explaining that you have to have a VISION, pushes that fist in the air. And his team scores quite well:
you have to FIGHT for your vision, and you need the will to WIN. Other wise you’re not a manager.
He actually makes sense and really really doesn’t bore you. Every sentence is spoken with a clear intent of transferring his message.
His message is enjoy doing what you do or change.
How can you enjoy your work if you’re not learning?
And what does or did he do and learn? Gen Tamatsuka is famous for building up Uniqlo into one of the worlds most successful clothing brands globally.
The hardest part was to convince my wife to go and live in the suburbs. I had to move there because the people who wore Uniqlo lived in the suburbs.
He got bored after he achieved his goal and felt the need to learn more. So he decided to start his own company. He now helps other companies to get on their feet. When forming his team for the new company, he was
lucky to get a really good core team. Money was never an issue.
Imagine what happens inside a former philosophy student and fresh entrepreneur when he hears a top manager say:
Salary is not an issue, what moves us is the belief in what we do and the will to succeed.
Written down, these words can’t convey the energy and passion with which they were spoken. This guy spoke like a warrior, fresh from the fight.
You get so carried away by his speech that complex questions start growing in your head. This one question grows like a tree, this one question fills and the entire roomwith little branches. And then you feel the pain you have been trying to suppress. Somehow that fish paste or the egg cream really doesn’t get along too well with your stomach. You need to go to the toilet again. And this time it’s serious. Be a man. You can wait.
The Q&A starts and that is where the speaker is just about to get started. He gets even more excited during the Q&A, but somehow his voice doesn’t sound so clear to you anymore, as you really need to go to the toilet. Maybe two more minutes.
We have many young talented man in this country, but noone wants to give them the opportunity to realize their dreams. People are too scared. We create these possibilities, that is what drives us, that is what makes us happy.
You need to get up now—now or something really bad will happen. Again of course, being the only one who left the room before the speech you won’t make a good impression leaving before he finishes. Not once to the toilet, twice. What is wrong with that guy? Does he have no self control?
You speed down the hallways of the Canadian Embassy again, fortunately you know where the toilets are this time and so you make it just in time.
Formulating a complex question
As you come back, they’re still in the middle of Q&A. Nice, you think, so I can reshape and ask my growing question. With your brainpowers back in place you start formulating the question, just like you learned it during your 6 years of philosophy studies: If A then B, so why is B in reality not the case, or is A a false assumption? Finally you feel confident enough to ask it. Yet somehow you don’t dare to.
At 35 you’re still shy, but you’re not afraid of people anymore. You’re not easily impressed. At 35 you’ve heard and seen it all. Not all, but most of it. Business men are much too often just as good or smart or dumb as any other person. No need to fear them. But I needed to go over my question again, it was just not sharp enough. If A then B, so why is B in reality not the case?
Finally I raised my hand. Too late. Another gentleman got the last question. Thank you. Goodbye.
After the speech
You decide to walk up to him and babble something nervous and incoherent about the importance of the Internet and interfaces and surfaces and branding, and he of course is too busy to figure out what you want to say: “Yeah, Internet is very important for the business nowadays and we need people exactly like you for that matter.” He hands you his business card and turns away. You want to hook after but he is already talking to the third guy.
My question was still not a question, it was a waterfall, and even though my hopes are low that he is going to read or even answer this, here is what I’d like to know:
Given that nowadays the consumer judges the brand value of a company rather through its interface than the surface, isn’t it fair to assess that the interactive value of a business has become a core element of the overall brand value? And if so, why do the branding companies not invest heavily into interactive know-how? Why do we still see so much meaningless advertisement? Why do so many websites still not work? Why do major companies that invest billions in their marketing not get any traffic on their websites?Ð