Pioneer Back on Its Feet

“I was greatly saddened by the decline of the distinguished Pioneer over the last few years. . . . When Kotani became president, and indeed through our meetings before then, I sensed that he was a philosophical, optimistic, and farsighted person. I also knew that he was very open and upright, so I had great expectations of him. His abilities have been widely reported, and he talks about the essence of his reforms in the interview. As a result of his efforts, Pioneer has achieved the expected results with flying colors.

“Kotani talks about how he was distressed that so many people had to leave the company and that Pioneer is still a long way from being its true self. But the structural reforms were completed in the fiscal year ending March 2010, and Pioneer is now tackling a growth strategy toward March 2013. Kotani expressed his determination to definitely achieve the targets. I believe that next spring I will be able to proclaim loudly in this column that Pioneer has fully recovered.”

Those opening two paragraphs are from my monthly column in August 2010. In that issue we also carried an interview with Pioneer President Susumu Kotani, who had been appointed to the post one and a half years earlier. The Kotani regime had made a start by telling all of Pioneer’s employees that there were two things the company management needed and he would tackle: speedy decision making and strong leadership. Kotani began with structural reforms that brought much pain, and needless to say the outside world watched on with bated breath.

One and a half years later the foundations of the Kotani regime had been established, and Pioneer announced a corporate vision for the period up to the end of March 2015: “Spread the smiles. Feel the vibes. Share the passion. Pioneer engages you anytime, anywhere.” A growth strategy was launched through management that followed Pioneer’s founding spirit.

Then in the fiscal year ending in March 2011, as planned, Pioneer shifted from deficit to profit. The achievement of this target in just two years following Kotani’s appointment as president was indeed a manifestation of the strong leadership and speed of its management, and it was a truly praiseworthy feat. It was also good news for the industry, and I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations.

During this time we experienced the Lehman shock, a worldwide simultaneous recession, and the sharp appreciation of the yen, but Kotani calmly went ahead with his structural reforms and conversely saw the Lehman shock as a last chance for recovery. He says that all employees, including the management team, came to have a profound sense of crisis.

Whenever I meet Kotani, I am reminded of that famous remark by Winston Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Yes, I strongly sensed Kotani’s optimism. Furthermore, I realized that he had the ability to foresee what would happen in the future, and I firmly believed in the success of his reforms.

Nevertheless, corporate management is a never-ending task. I think that Pioneer has taken just the first step toward full recovery. From now on, I look forward to Kotani’s further leadership, and I will continue to cheer him on.