Yoshida Tadao (1908-1993), a Japanese entrepreneur, was born in 1908 in Kurobe Township, Toyama Prefecture, Japan, and went to Shanghai, China, in the 1930s to study business.
In 1945, after Japan's defeat, he set up a zip factory in Kurobe, making zips with human machinery; to improve the quality of the zips, he imported old machines from the United States for making zips with various different alloy materials, producing high-quality zips. In 1948, Sanso changed its name to Yoshida Kogyo Corporation, or YKK for short.
Birth and Establishment
Tadao Yoshida was born in Uetsu, Toyama Prefecture, the youngest son in his family. He had two older siblings and an older sister. His father's profession was a combination of chicken farming and pet sales, and the family was very poor but very warm and friendly. Growing up in such an environment, young Yoshida was a daring young man who often saw opportunities to start small businesses to earn a little money to support the family.
He once persuaded his classmates to join him in buying a fishing net with the 1.5 yen pocket money he earned from selling birds and fish as a capital, and against his mother's advice, he stood in the dangerous river at high tide to catch and sell fish, earning 5 yen. It was this persistent, perceptive character that contributed to his success.
In 1923, at the age of 15, Yoshida graduated from higher primary schools and excelled in his studies during his school years, but because his family was too poor to continue his studies, he began working after graduation. First, he worked in his eldest brother's rubber boot shop in a neighbouring town, and with the belief that he could not stop studying, he enrolled as an external student at Waseda Industrial School and studied on his own.
In 1928, at the age of 20, he came alone to Tokyo, the heart of Japan, in search of a career, with only 70 yen from his eldest brother.
For the next few years he worked in the Furuya Store, a department store dealing in ceramics and other goods, owned by his fellow countryman Furuya. From his initial role as a casual worker to his eventual role as head of the core business, including stocking goods in Shanghai, his diligence, sincere work style and strong sense of responsibility won him many friends and partners. However, the 1930s were a time of war in Japan and the Furuya Store went through two major crises before finally closing down in 1933.
After the closure, Furuya Store had a lot of unsold sub-standard zips, and Tadao Yoshida persuaded his supplier to lend him the zips as an investment, and his sincerity impressed the supplier to get the goods.
On 1 January 1934, Yoshida set up a shop specialising in the production and sale of 3S Shokai in Nihonbashi Lili Shell Town, Tokyo. With only two employees and a capital of 350 yen saved from frugal food, he had a debt of 2,070 yen. He was 25 years old at the time.
However, the quality of zips was generally very poor at the time, but Yoshida stubbornly believed in the quality first doctrine, and he used a hammer to strike all the zips to check their strength. The faulty parts were cut off and thrown away. In this way, only 1/3 of the quantity bought is sold as merchandise. However, because of this stubborn insistence on quality, his products withstood the test of the market and gained the reputation of "Golden Hammer Zippers", and with the popularity of western-style clothing, demand for zips increased rapidly and the company's business began to improve. The company expanded from 3 to 50 employees and began to export its products.
In 1938, Yoshida built a 280 square metre factory in Komatsu River, moved the company over and started producing metal parts for zips. At the same time the name of the company was changed to Yoshida Kogyo-sho.
However, as YKK's business was flourishing, the negative effects of World War II grew stronger and Yoshida had to stop all overseas exports and production. On March 10, 1945, during an air raid by the US military, the factory, which had been painstakingly run for over ten years, was reduced to ashes and it was no longer possible to continue production, so he had to give each employee a severance package ranging from 100 to 500 yen and disband the factory. Years of hard work were thus ruined.
Crisis and development With the belief that they would not die, Mr. and Mrs. Yoshida escaped from the fire and temporarily took up residence with an old friend. Every day, they went to the ruins of the factory like a treasure hunt to sort out the repaired machines and parts that could still be used, and then packed them up and sent them to Yoshida's hometown of Uozu. In order to make a comeback, he took out a huge loan from the Bank of Japan to purchase the Uozu Iron Works in order to make a comeback.
However, after Yoshida had paid all the money for the purchase, a mass riot broke out among the employees of Uozu Iron Works because the company had not paid off all its debts. The company was emptied of all its goods, and with the announcement of Japan's defeat, his burning faith was completely extinguished. He dismissed all his staff and was left alone again. He was 36 years old at the time.
He spent two years persuading his peers to join together and pay a large sum of money for advanced zip production machinery, but none of them agreed. In such circumstances, he gave up trying to convince them and in 1948, alone, took out a huge loan of 12 million from the Société Générale to purchase a zip automatic manufacturing machine in Germany. This sum was 60 times the capital of Yoshida Industries.
His keen vision paid off handsomely as the manufacturing machine he purchased produced quality zip products at a staggering 50 times the original production capacity. Seeing such production capacity, Yoshida decided to hire Nippon Seiki to produce such machines. The following year, 100 highly efficient machines were delivered. Because of this vision and drive, Yoshida's business began to take a leap forward.
1957, the start of the building materials industry
In 1958, at the age of 50, Tadao Yoshida finally got what he wanted. That year's zip production fulfilled the ambition of producing an annual length of zips that would circle the globe.
Nov. 1959 Establishment of the first overseas local corporation (for the production and sale of zip products) in New Zealand.
Nov. 1961 Production and sales of aluminium building materials begin.
Career and family As mentioned earlier, Tadao Yoshida was the youngest son in his family, with his eldest brother, Hisamasa Yoshida, four years older, and his second brother, Hisamatsu Yoshida, three years older, above him. The family was poor but homely. After Tadao Yoshida set up his own company, they joined the company in 1939 and 1945 to assist Yoshida in his business.
In 1935, at the age of 27, Yoshida got married. The bride was Komako, a waitress from the restaurant next door, at the age of 21. From the time they began their partnership until Komako's death in 1991, they shared a 56-year life path.
In 1946, Tadao Yoshida's eldest son, Tadayu Yoshida, was born, at the age of 39 and after 12 years of marriage. He had a son at an advanced age and doted on Tadayu, but did not coddle him. He sent him to his factory as an intern after graduating from university, starting from the lowest level of the workforce and learning and practising little by little as his successor.
Yoshida died of pneumonia in 1993 at the age of 84.
Throughout his legendary life, Tadao Yoshida believed in the philosophy that "if you do not consider the interests of others, you will not develop yourself", a philosophy that came from the numerous biographies he read as a child and decades of business experience, particularly the biography of the life of the American steel king Carnegie, which had the most profound impact on him. He summed up this philosophy as the "Cycle of Goodness" and adopted it as the corporate spirit of the YKK Group. The so-called "Cycle of Goodness" philosophy, as explained by Tadao Yoshida himself, is that "if you don't think about the interests of others, you won't have the prosperity of your own business."" I have always believed that a business must make money, and that more is better, but that the profits must not be taken for granted. We divide our profits into three parts, 1/3 to the consumer public at low prices, 1/3 to the distributors and agents who sell our company's products, and 1/3 to use in our own factories." To control profits and benefit many parties." If we sow the seeds of goodness and give goodness to others, then goodness will also return to us in a cycle. Good keeps circulating among us so that everyone receives the benefits of goodness." That is, from goodness, good is left to others as well as to oneself; others receive it, and eventually one brings it to oneself. This is how goodness runs in a continuous cycle, so that everyone receives the benefit.
First of all, he "gives" to the consumer. He stressed, "As long as there is a demand in the market, no matter how big or small the profit is, we will produce." YKK zips rely on quality and low prices to make them affordable to consumers and win their trust. According to relevant information, in the Japanese market in 1950, each metre of YKK zip sold for 106.5 yen. By 1980, prices had risen many times, while the price of a YKK zip per metre had fallen to less than 70 yen, a 35 per cent drop.
Secondly, they "gave up" to distributors, agents and competitors. In the Japanese zip market, there are many competitors, but none of them are close to Tadao Yoshida in terms of competitive strength and market share, and none of them pose the slightest threat to Tadao Yoshida. He followed the "Good Earth Cycle" philosophy and did not want to see his peers fail, always telling them: "You can never beat me if you want to compete with me, stop! You are all sighing and complaining that you are not making money. Please stop production and become my agent! I will make you all earn more money." And it was later proved that when his dealers, the operators of his agents, all made money, some even made big money. Of the more than 70 manufacturers competing in the same industry, nearly 40 became his agents.
Thirdly, Tadao Yoshida started from a philosophy of "the cycle of good" and was careful to "give" benefits to his employees. He encouraged his employees to buy shares in the company. The company's employees already owned more than 50 per cent of the company's shares, and those who held shares received an annual dividend of 18 per cent. He also made it a rule for employees to deposit 10% of their salaries and half of their bonuses with the Company to improve production facilities, paying them interest at a much higher rate than the Bank of Japan each month.
Spirituality and beliefs (I) Tadao Yoshida's philosophy, "The Cycle of Goodness", comes from the insights he has accumulated since he was a teenager. What were the things that influenced Tadao Yoshida more than anything else?
"'How should one live?'" -- 'biography' 'collection of speeches' prompted the germ of philosophy
The books Yoshida read most as a teenager were biographies of famous people, and he borrowed the biographies of Kintaro Hattori, Carnegie, Ford and Kiyoharu Noma's Collected Speeches to read repeatedly and voraciously. The one that had the most profound impact on him was the biography of Carnegie. Carnegie summed up his life from nothing to become a steel king, believing that the secret of success was that "if you do not consider the interests of others, you will not prosper yourself." So in his later years, he donated the vast majority of his fortune to society. Yoshida was very impressed by Carnegie's thinking. Later, this idea matured in his mind and became his philosophy.
"Business as savings" - selling bamboo skins for the first time practiced as a business
"I believe that saving is the fundamental difference between humans and animals. But this kind of saving is not just as simple as filling a bottle with water, it is about using the money in a way that brings benefits. For example, using savings to buy production equipment or books, etc., and then using it as savings to continue to invest when there is a profit, which can lead to greater profits. If it were eaten instantly like an animal, there would not be the rich life we have today."
Excellent Monsoon bamboo forests grew near the teenage Yoshida family. When the bamboo shoots grew into young bamboos, the area was crowded with people who came from all over the country to buy bamboo bark. In order to make some money for his family, Yoshida persuaded one of his classmates to buy bamboo bark with a total of 3 yen as capital, buy the bark before the high season and sell it to wholesalers for a total of 10 yen, after which he bought a fishing net with an equal share of 5 yen to catch fish and shrimps at high tide, earning another 3 yen. This way he earns some money to support his family.
"Drilling down to the root of burdock" - a strong curiosity and desire to learn
This is what Yoshida's mother said about him in the dialect of the Toyama region of Japan, that he would not feel comfortable if he did not see the burdock grass from the beginning to the end and know where it started and where it ended. This is the Chinese equivalent of "asking questions to the end". Since he was a teenager, Yoshida has been a young man with a strong curiosity and desire to learn. If he came across something new, he would always ask people "why?"
Spirit and beliefs (II)
"I want to be an out-of-school student at Waseda Industrial School" - a maverick "motivated" and unconquerable spirit
When he graduated from primary school, he was advised by his teacher to continue his education and was assured by his elder brother that he would find a way to pay for his education, but he decided to leave school in view of his family's situation. However, in order to satisfy his desire for knowledge, he worked and attended Waseda Industrial School as an external student. For Yoshida, who had no status, fame, wealth or family background, the only thing that could make him stand out was his "drive" to get ahead.
He went to Tokyo and learnt through his experiences that "the East is not bright and the West is bright".
In 1928, having just celebrated his 20th birthday, Yoshida came to Tokyo with all his belongings of 70 yen and the ambition to make a living. He wanted to be in the business of supplying fabrics for suits, but was unable to do so. He was introduced by his second brother to a shop in his hometown of Furuya, where he started working as a casual worker and was introduced to zips, which started his relationship. When Yoshida recalls this history later in life, he still feels like he is in a dream.
Two birds with one stone, learning about merchandise by organising the warehouse - creative improvement, Yoshida's way of working
Soon after he joined the Furuya shop, he felt that the warehouse management was very disorganised, and he was determined to organise it thoroughly. Every day after the shop closed he organised the warehouse by sorting into categories and making inventory cards, and often asked the older staff for advice on the characteristics, pricing and origin of each product, so he mastered all the knowledge of the products. Always committed to creativity and improvement is Yoshida's approach to work. This is why YKK brand products always lead the market trend.
If it's a great product, customers will love it!
At the beginning, Yoshida was struggling to survive by repairing sub-standard zips, and because of his stubborn insistence on "quality first", the cost and price of his products were higher than those of other companies, but after the test of the market, he gradually gained a firm foothold. Even in this situation, he continued to focus on quality, scrutinising every component of the zip products, finding the best suppliers and providing customers with the highest quality products, gradually defeating his competitors.
"It took me two years to convince them, but there were no takers".
Soon after the war, all the products were extremely popular in the recovering Japanese market, but by chance Yoshida knew that zips produced by hand were lagging far behind the international market and urged his colleagues in the zip association to jointly finance the purchase of a state-of-the-art production line, but after two years no one agreed with him. A strong sense of crisis prompted him to take out an independent loan to import a zipper-making machine, which he used as an opportunity to accelerate his expansion in the Japanese market, eventually beating all other competitors.
"Even if we suffer a loss of $10 billion, we must maintain the trust our customers have in us"
On 6 October 1973, a massive worldwide oil crisis broke out. The price of oil soared from the original $3/barrel to $11/barrel, dealing a blow to Japan, which relies on oil imports for 70% of its energy. But the 65-year-old kept his cool amid the national uproar, saying, "This situation won't last long, and ours stays the same as planned." He did not even cancel his planned trip to the Gulf and left as scheduled. Amidst a chorus of other directors responding with price increases, he maintained the original prices, leaving the business to take the loss in this regard and maintain the trust of his customers. Sure enough, a few months later oil prices began to fall and YKK tided over another difficult period.