July 2nd, 2009
These past few days have been quite eventful. After my super long post about the Kyoto Trip I’ll attempt to keep this one on the short side.
Monday I woke up early and posted pictures on facebook before attending our weekly lab seminar/journal club. I went to the seminar, in which I barely understood anything, and then at around 11:30am came back to the lab. In my e-mail was a reply from Kimura-taisho, the president of Webshark. I replied right away because I was looking forward to meeting him that night.
And how did I get to meet Kimura-Taisho, you may wonder? I’ll be chronological about what lead to it.
During the fall term last year I started attending the MIT Japanese Lunch Table. The Japanese Lunch Table allows students to talk to Japanese people and do a language exchange. This one day I was there, and across from me was this young, nice Japanese guy. I decided to talk to him, he gave me a good first impression. Masato-san was his name, but his friends called him ‘Masa’. He had graduated and was in Boston for 6 months just to practice and improve his English. Once he was done, he would return to Tokyo and start working for Morgan Stanley. He was such an interesting guy, and it so happens that he was looking for a language exchange partner, so we agreed to meet again.
We met a few times for lunch, dinner, lunch, dinner… lunch… and yeah, dinner. I’m lying, we also did a few other things together like ice-skating and enjoying life. Masato-san was a pretty cool guy, and quite smart, so I enjoyed spending time with him. We talked about many things, from basic things like “American food is so bad” to more complicated topics like business, family and friends. It turns out that Masato-san had started his own businesses while he was in college, and he even managed to sell two of them! He was an entrepreneur, and quite a good one! I was quite excited to learn about this, so he told me a bit more about his businesses. It was great to hear about it, but I couldn’t quite grasp how you could simply go out there and make a business. It seemed harder to me than what he was telling me.
Anyway, after a few months having fun together, Masato-san had to return to Tokyo last March. Here is a picture of us the day before he departed Boston (It’s awesome, isn’t it!):
Although I still haven’t seen Masato-San, once I got to Japan he e-mailed Kimura-Taisho and asked him to meet with me. It turns out that Masato-san met Kimura-Taisho a while back and made a good impression on him, so Kimura-Taisho was glad to meet with me because Masato-san asked him to. So here I was in Osaka, Japan going to meet Kimura-Taisho thanks to a friendship I made 8 months ago in Boston. I was again surprised at how things turn out, you never know how things turn out, life is quite interesting.
I got to Taisho’s Company Entrance at 7:55pm but the front door was locked, and I was not expecting that. I was in a small room right off the elevator waiting to see if someone came out through the front door and I could then say something. There was a little phone on the corner, but what could I do with it? There was also a little card with a lot of Chinese characters and the number 37 written on it. At 8:02pm I realized no one was coming out of the office so I dialed the number, but hung-up cause I didn’t know where I was calling. A minute later a young girl open the door and signaled me to come in and said, I’m sorry!
I explained that I was there to see Kimura-Taisho, and she just nodded sort of like ‘not every day a foreigner shows up in our front door, I know who you are’, and she then directed me to the waiting room. It was a nice room, well-lit, with nice furniture and a glass table I loved. The young lady closed the door when she left, but then came back in with a cup of tea. I said thanks and took a sip, and withing a minute or so Kimura-Taisho walks into the room with two other guys and says, “Omar-Kun!”, in a friendly and lively tone that would have fooled anyone into thinking we already knew each other. He shook my hand and introduced himself right then. I was relieved, here was the president of the company being as nice as he could be, even using American customs to make me feel at home. The other two guys that came in with him also did the same, they introduced themselves in English and shook my hand. Kimura-Taisho then said, let’s go! He also asked me if I could speak Japanese, and I said the usual “just a bit” and he immediately turned to one of the two guys and told him “You can be the translator.”
Since it was raining Kimura-Taisho made sure I had an umbrella and then we headed downstairs. He asked me what I liked to eat, but I told him that anything was good… it’s Japanese food after all. Sashimi it was.
We went to a place nearby, a quite nice Japanese-style bar and got a table for the four of us, Kimura-Taisho, Masuda-San, Zhang-San, and me. We talked, had a few drinks, and a lot of delicious food. More than simply talking, that dinner allowed me to make a few new friends and to learn a lot from Kimura-Taisho. I was impressed by Kimura-Taisho, a man with no college degree who started multiple companies and made a living out of it, now presiding a company with a capital of nearly $800,000. When I asked how he started his business the story was quite intriguing and interesting. A few things he repeated that I think everyone should really understand. The key to success in business is knowing how to ask people for favors and who to ask.
Kimura-Taisho needed to implement a website, but he had not learned any programming. He had two options, sit at home and learn programming, or go out find someone who knew what he was doing, and ask him to do it. “Give up easily”, was his secret to success. Instead of sitting at home and learning how to program, he found a guy with 8 years of programming experienced and they worked together. By knowing who and how to ask, he had already saved 8 years of work that he would have needed if he tried to learn the skills this guy already had.
Very important lessons from that night were:
- A great businessman surrounds himself with smart people who can do the things he can’t do.
- Give up easily. By this he meant, know what you’re good at and do that, hire people to do the rest. If you need a website for your company, but you’re only good at managing a business, focus on managing the business and let someone else work on the site.
- Be humble and nice. This was something you could appreciate from his own presence, always interested in what others had to say and quickly noticing the good things in others.
- Friends and family come in first. What’s the meaning of money if you don’t have friends?
This night really made an impact in me, and I was able to meet some very interesting people. I will meet with them once again, at least, before I return to America, and I’m definitely looking forward to that. I definitely have a lot to learn from them, and I’m interested in learning more about their business, and about business in general.
I spent the next two days finishing up my application to Harvard Business School. Now it is done, I submitted it at 11pm last night (Japan time), which was 7 hours before the deadline. I really think the application reflects who I am, so all I can do is wait and see if they think it’s good. I really think that HBS’ MBA program is a great fit for me, and I would be honored to attend the program.
That’s all I have to update. My last three days have been quite business focused and work. I even been reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People” while I commute to and from work, and I couldn’t recommend it more. It’s a great read. I’ll finish it first before saying anything more about it, though. 🙂
This is my update from now. I have truly come to appreciate many things about Japanese people and culture, and I’m very grateful for the opportunities I have had.