--Management devoted to watching over and letting the staff grow—
--Corporate culture is built on mutual trust—
A major producer of elongated copper milling equipment with a domestic sales share of 90%, IKUTA SANKIKOGYO Co., Ltd. is also highly reputed overseas.
We spoke with present CEO Mr. Yasuhiro Ikuta who states that his staff make their own decisions and don’t need to go to him for everything. We learned more on the development of his staff taking initiative and the policies of this corporate culture.
Mr. Yasuhiro Ikuta
CEO of IKUTA SANKIKOGYO Co., Ltd.
Ikuta was born in Kyoto City in 1961. After graduating from university, he continued his studies in economics at the University of St. Thomas in USA. After working at Ishida Co., Ltd., He entered IKUTA SANKIKOGYO Co., Ltd. in 1989. He has been in his current position since 1999 after the passing of his parents – Vice Secretary of the Nihon Dokeikai General Incorporated Association of Kyoto and a registered member of the Institute of Moralogy.
The company was founded in 1919 and incorporated in 1953. It expanded its business of developing and selling metal process lines with a corporate capital of 20M Yen and 63 employees. KYOWIND Co., Ltd and IKUTA Suzhou Mechanical Engineering Co., Ltd. China are also affiliated corporations.
We spoke with Mr. Ikuta regarding his company’s majority shares in the domestic market.
Ikuta: “We have been delivering solutions for parts makers with copper and copper alloy materials necessary for electronic equipment for over half a century. We are the only company in the world that can provide the 3 in one technology for copper elongation equipment. Thanks to that we are highly reputed domestically and overseas and have been able to grow into a factory corporation of 60 members with countless orders from abroad including Germany, Turkey, Bulgaria and more. Some of our younger members are out on business in China as we speak.”
[What is the origin of this world renowned technology?]
Ikuta: “I believe that it is the hard work of each and every one of our proactive employees. They take on their work with a high awareness of responsibility and are always striving to revolutionize the technology. To consistently develop their skills, we have a daily report policy. We share and update each other’s progress through a group mail system in every department. This allows me to manage and see the development of my employees on a daily basis. Whether there is a problem or guidance that needs be given, most of the issues are resolved within the department and is also effective to carry on the skillset of the team.
Until about 5 years ago, I used to get calls while I was on business trips from my staff asking me what they should do about a certain problem. Now, I don’t get those kinds of calls. The employees have been able to proactively work out the resolve any trouble on their own. I believe it is because of the safe company environment to communicate and the trust we have in each other. There was a time when the atmosphere of our company was uncomfortable and tense because of my distrust and ignorance.”
[What kind of distrust are you talking about?]
Ikuta: “I had just come back to the company after spending some time away to gain experience. I was 28 at the time. My father was the supreme leader. He was a junior high school graduate when he entered the company but worked his way up to become president. He was ambitious and knew his stuff more than anybody else. Any order that my father gave; employees would take to heart and complete each task with a high sense of responsibility. That was the way things were run then. I had just come back from studying economics in America at the time and to me, the way he ran things seemed like a dictatorial leadership. Sure enough, I butted heads with my father saying his management style was old fashioned and we didn’t stop fighting. This obviously damaged the atmosphere of the company and the employees suffered. In hindsight, I must have felt like I couldn’t fill his shoes
[How so? ]
Ikuta: “My father worked his way up for everything. He was well experienced and knew everything about his work and the company. Unlike him, I didn’t know much about the work and my experience was still very limited. Under those circumstances, I may have been trying to prove something as the successor and went after my father. I’m sure that the employees were uneasy when my parents passed away one after the other 15 years ago, and I became the successor of the company. I was the 3rd generation leader that always brought conflict. I’m sure the employees doubted my competence. In that environment, I managed to get through it and expand into a new market in China. Unfortunately at the same time, we also built up a 150M Yen deficit. I’m sure my father would have been able to overcome that hurdle, but that was out of my league. Instead, I had to use the corporate internal reserved funds that my father had saved up and from the following year, executive remunerations, overtime, pay raises were all cut. The internal environment was at its worst. That was a time when I still hadn’t established a trust with my employees. I’m sure they had no idea what I was thinking and were worried sick.”
--Overcoming adversity and building our corporate culture--
[How did you over that trouble?]
Ikuta: “Just around that time, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Akinori Meguro, former President of the Institute of Moralogy Business Administration.
One of my seniors studying at the Institute of Moralogy invited me to a seminar saying that Mr. Meguro would be there. I went and sought council from him in desperation. For a year, Mr. Meguro came to our office once a month as the vice president and helped us out of the rut. When he saw the financial reports he said “I don’t need a hotel, bring me a futon” and he slept right there in the office while he stayed to guide us. He taught us how to increase profits based on a sharing method of establishing a management team that could see the financial statements that only the president had access to before. We also implemented monthly management meetings and annual presentations on corporate policies.
[As you worked hard to get back on our feet, did the atmosphere of the office got a little brighter too? ]
Ikuta: “It wasn’t that easy. I had so much on my plate, I didn’t have the capacity to tend to my staff. I don’t think they saw a future at this company. Some of the younger workers even got together and threatened to walk off. We somehow overcame that but at that time, one of the employees of the management team said “To honor our predecessor, we will support you.” That’s when I realized. My father wasn’t a dictatorial leader; he had a deep and honorable trust with his employees. I look back and realize that my father and his father before him valued and cherished their staff very much.
I thought to myself long and hard about what I, the 3rd generation successor, can do. I remembered a lecture from the Institute of Moralogy: A great tree grows because of the strong roots that support it below the ground. To understand the company’s roots, I must relearn the company’s history and reevaluate what this company has put importance on since its establishment.”
[What has been important to the company?]
Ikuta: “Our corporate philosophy [Use the means and God will give the blessing]
These words are filled with the hope that each employee, through their work, will become aware of man's mission and Heaven's will to live a better irreplaceable life and achieve human growth and development - basically meaning to build a comfortable and safe working environment for the staff. I’ve put most of my effort into establishing this honor and trust between myself and each and every one of my employees so I can provide and develop this safe environment. I try my best to communicate with them and maintain a good relationship. We celebrate our staff birthdays and their family’s every monthly morning meeting. I send a hand-written card or prepare a cake. It’s different every time but I do what I can. Slowly but surely, I was able to strengthen the relationships and win over their trust.”
--Building new pathways based on our corporate philosophy--
[I see you have a good trusting bond with your employees now?]
Ikuta: “Before, everyone was a closed book. Our company atmosphere is much more open and people feel free to express their opinions now. Since about 2 years ago, I’ve had 5 members of factory management take part of in the administration meetings. Sometimes they are harsh, but I humbly accept their words and am grateful to be able to hear their true opinions.
In doing so, they have become more aware of where the company stands financially and are proactive in developing higher revenue strategies. The administrative aspect is becoming more flat and we have created an organization that works stronger as a team. Walls between departments have been removed and we are all working together. It’s refreshing. Technicians will go with sales reps to see clients so they can listen to their needs directly. Quotes can be issued quicker and communication is much smoother. As the 3rd successor of this company, I have realized that I must take our corporate philosophy to heart. The spirit of our foundation, the fundamental principles and action agenda – These were just words of a philosophy, but I make an effort to speak of the meaning behind these ideas to my employees during our morning meetings so we don’t stray from our origin.
I will continue to work hard to keep a safe and bright working environment based on these principles that our predecessors have lived by before us.
Work efficiency has been increasing since the implementation of Mr. Ikuta’s 3S (Speed, Simple, Symphony) philosophy.