Leaders Voice; Words to Inspire | Nikkei special edition

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Yuichiro Ishizawa(Maruki-Homes Co., Ltd.)

*Information accurate as of time of publication.

Taking Japanese Quality to the World

Yuichiro Ishizawa,
Maruki-Homes Co., Ltd.

Personal Networks and Continual Challenge

Maruki Homes has a 120-year history as a manufacturer and wholesaler of household goods and cosmetics. The business originally focused on the Hokumo region in Gunma Prefecture, but we have gradually succeeded in expanding into Saitama, Tokyo, and around Japan, largely thanks to the personal networks I built up when I was young. I take action on my own initiative and respond to needs. If I can't, I will keep trying until I succeed. Taking on challenges and not giving up are still the principles that drive me in my day-to-day work.

Yuichiro Ishizawa(Maruki-Homes Co., Ltd.)

President at 26: Following in My Father's Footsteps

I grew up in the rich natural surroundings of Numata. Summers were spent playing in the river and setting off fireworks, and in winter we went skiing. I was a relatively easy-going kid who would go along if asked by friends. When I was about eight my father started taking me with him on visits to his customers, and I remember watching him up close as he helped restock shelves and explained products to store owners. Even as a child, this made me keenly aware of what business was all about. I picked up leadership skills in my high school and college judo clubs, where I was team captain. To get people to act, you first have to act yourself. That's the only way to pull everyone together. In doing so, I found myself taking command before I knew it.

Caring for my grandmother got me interested in hygiene products, and after graduating from university I joined Hakujuji, which manufactured such products. In my third year there I started running my own team and by working hard to meet expectations I expanded my personal networks, which was really fulfilling. However, I decided to resign to take over the family business when I found out my father had cancer. Soon after I returned home, my father went into hospital and he passed away in September that year. At the age of 26 I became the company's fifth president, and my only regret is that my father didn't get to see how hard I worked at it. Dad told me, "remember to be grateful and be a businessman who understands people's pain." At times I struggled with things like financing, but I took the attitude that I just had to do it and threw myself headlong into the challenge while seeking advice from various people. My father's friends checked in with me whenever they could, and I felt that Dad was still helping me out.

Yuichiro Ishizawa(Maruki-Homes Co., Ltd.)

Moving with the Times and Competing Globally

Changes in the industry compelled Maruki Homes to transform itself in various ways, shifting from a local store sales model to online sales. One of the biggest changes was moving from store products to commercial-use products, and by proposing solutions that reduced total costs we steadily secured repeat orders. Small and medium-sized manufacturers have traditionally competed with their rivals by dropping prices, but since I knew laborious efforts were required to develop products, I searched for sales methods that would not lower product value. As a result of convening regular get-togethers with other types of businesses, we found ways of selling that made the most of each party's strengths. No matter how far business moves into the virtual sphere, I feel that ultimately links between people are still important.

As a company, we continually work on our business focusing on three key pillars: (1) developing the senior market, (2) pushing ahead with e-commerce, and (3) expanding global sales of our own products. Driven by the desire to sell high-quality products we create ourselves at prices we determine, five years ago I invested jointly with some friends to set up a cosmetics manufacturing business. Japan possesses advanced manufacturing technologies, and the world needs such skills. The Japanese population is rapidly shrinking, but the global population is still rising. The possibilities are infinite. I hope that the young people who will determine Japan's future will value links between people and always seek new challenges. Those who succeed are those who never give up. Give it your best shot.