“Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.”
These words, declared by President Obama during his inauguration speech, are uplifting words that resonates in the ears of anybody in any country, in the present or the past, who dares to venture out into uncharted territories.
Eiichi Shibusawa was such an individual with such great ambitions. He is known as “father of Japanese capitalism” not only because he founded the first bank in Japan, The Dai-ichi Kokuritsu Ginko (The First National Bank of Japan, now part of Mizuho Bank), but also because he was involved in the establishment or management of approximately 500 companies. They include many major corporations still in existence today, such as Oji Paper, Nihon Yusen, Tokio Marine & Fire Insurance, Tokyo Savings Bank (Resona Bank), Industrial Bank of Japan (Mizuho Corporate Bank), Tokyo Gas, Osaka Gas, Fuji Seiko (Nippon Steel), NKK (JFE Steel), Ishikawajima (IHI), Toyobo, Shibusawa Warehouse, Imperial Hotel, Imperial Garden Theater (Toho), Kirin Brewery, Sapporo Breweries, and others.
Although Eiichi must have had a very good imagination, he could not have done all this alone. He was joined by many who shared the common purpose of establishing Japan as a thriving member of the modern world society through the development of the private sector businesses. Perhaps Japan in the present age has “forgotten what this country has already done,” as President Obama suggests. Let us see whether what Eiichi has done can be applied to our modern age.
Eiichi believed that there were four basic principles that entrepreneurs should abide by when establishing new businesses.
||He must study whether his business is viable and likely to succeed.
||He must know whether his business is profitable to the individual (founders) as well as to the society as a whole.
||He must determine whether his business is suitable for the times.
||He must consider, especially at the launch of the enterprise, whether there are suitable people in the role of management.
These four basic principles -- the business model, the profitability, the timing for the launch, and the people -- stand the test of time, as these are also critical factors today for the success of a new venture.