The fresh air has brought the season of flowers. It really is a delightful time of the year, full of joyous songs. And it is a most appropriate time for the customary expressions of determination that people recite from March into April as they embark on new journeys in life.

At this time of year I find myself thinking about various things. For example, about the industry, companies in the industry, managers, working people, and, more than anything else, users. In particular, I am always wondering about what the interests of users are for the industry. My notebook is full of related musings, which range from my own thoughts to the sayings of wise men (mostly the latter).

“In order to ensure a sales volume, you have to rely on large discount stores. As a result, your efforts to cut costs reach a deadlock, and you end up facing management difficulties.”

Whenever I read this statement, I am aware that, from past to present, things have not changed a bit. Indeed, this scene is probably perpetual. If you depend too much on large discount stores, since the stronger the discount store is, the more stringent its purchases and conditions will be, naturally the only way that the dependent side can respond is by endeavoring in various ways to reduce costs. The outcome is that these efforts run into an impasse, and the company slumps into management difficulties and has to withdraw. The secret of a manager’s success, and the secret of success at this time of year, when a new business term begins, lies in somehow reaching a compromise before this happens.

What is occurring now is the result of decisions made and put into practice a few years ago, and the direction forward cannot be ascertained without a rigorous analysis of those decisions. As long as the industry exists in a state of dependence on the large discount stores, the direction of dependence on these stores is not going to change. And as long as the large discount stores are in a state of war among themselves, inevitably prices and profits are going to collapse and that limitless vicious circle will continue. Unless a way out of this situation is found, the outcome will be disaster.
My notebook contains the words of one wise man who says, “From now on, integrity will be everything for the manager. That is to say, we have entered an age in which sincerity, passion, and ethics will be questioned.”
Masatoshi Ito, the founder of Ito-Yokado, said around the time of the establishment of his company, “They won’t sell, they won’t lend, they won’t come.” In other words, business partners will not sell products, banks will not lend money, and customers will not come to make purchases. The reason for the success of Ito-Yokado, including Seven-Eleven, is that this basic thinking is still firmly permeating the company today.

If your business partners become exhausted and fall into management difficulties, in the end you won’t have anything to sell and won’t be able to satisfy your customers. Even if you stock products from the few makers who have survived, your customers most likely will not be satisfied.
There is also a poem by Michio Mado in my notebook that reads: “Looking at a pot, before I know it, I find myself breathing for the pot. Since the pot stands very quietly, it seems to be sitting.”

“Gentlemen, I believe that the main point of politics is to straighten the bends in national society and return the unnatural to nature.”

“Instead of just accepting things, it is important to confirm them yourself before moving forward.”
It is at this time of the year that I find myself writing a lot in my notebook, too.