1. My Spirit

My Spirit

Confronting the world. Hiroshi Saito, President

Entering into a professional world that never compromises

My career may be a little unusual as president of a company. As a matter of fact, I was a professional football player. I had been a member of the Youth Team of the Yomiuri Soccer Club (current Tokyo Verdy) until 18 and then concluded a professional agreement with Yomiuri, which was already a professional team at that time. As a candidate for the Olympic team, I played in a lot of international friendship games. It was a time when J League (Japan's professional football league) had not been started yet. Kazuyoshi Miura and Ruy Ramos were my colleagues.

In the world of professional sports, everything is evaluated only by results. You must think, judge, and face each challenge by yourself to achieve results. No dependence on others or compromise is allowed because one single failure can be fatal.

In the year before the start of the J League, I could not resist the urge to play football in Brazil as a professional. I decided to be transferred to a team in the first division of the Brazilian league and ventured into the severer world. There, I was discovered by Émerson Leão, who would become the coach of Shimizu S-Pulse later and came back to Japan to join S-Pulse.

Fatal injury and another try at playing football in Brazil again

I received a serious injury during a game, which might be fatal for a football player. I had my leg broken, and the bone was sticking out of the skin. I was taken by ambulance to a hospital and had emergency surgery. The coach said that he thought I could not come back as a player anymore. However, I did not give up playing football. I worked hard to rehabilitate myself and finally recovered so that I could play on a local team in Japan.

When I felt recovered, I began to ask myself if I was really all right. I had an irresistible desire to test my ability in Brazil again. It was another try for the football in Brazil. I returned to the previous professional team and played there for about one year.

Two lessons learned from the experience as a professional in the world-class league

I entered the professional world when I was 18 and tested myself twice in the severe environment of Brazil, the home of football. When I look back, I learned and acquired a lot during this period. Above all, I nourished two beliefs, which became my convictions today.

One is relentless pursuit of what is difficult to achieve. In the world of professional sports, one must do his best and produce results. I felt growth when I could analyze the result, act on it, and produce the next result.

The other is an international perspective, which denies prejudice based on nationality or race. Especially in Brazil, it does not matter which nationality or race your teammate belongs to. Rather, it is required to call attention to yourself in a straightforward way. Under such circumstances, I could share the joy of victory, develop friendships, and build relationships of trust with many people through hard training and games. This is an international mindset that can be acquired by earnest people only.

Confronting the world in business

When I was a player, I vaguely thought I would be engaged in football in one way or another even after I retired from playing. However, at the moment when I decided to join Kyodo, I promised myself not to play football or even touch a ball for three years. I wanted to utterly devote myself to business without looking back.

I started my new career from scratch in Taiwan. I did not understand the language at all. In those days, Kyodo started producing parts in Taiwan and supplied them to Japanese companies, where the production cost was lower than Japan. Speedy development of business must be required but consensus-building outside the factory was essential for everything, which was important. The then president, my father, was extremely busy in establishing an overseas subsidiary in the U.S., so that prompt decision-making was difficult. Although I was new and did not know anything, I realized the existence of irrationality in an organization or in a Japanese company. Maybe, I felt the dependence or vagueness of Japanese people, which was different from the people in the professional environment I resided in.

After I understand the flow of business, I started to expand my sphere of action into the other parts of the world outside the production site in Taiwan, exploiting my borderless attitude cultivated during my career as a player. I started to conduct sales activities in overseas markets. As the first trial, I established an overseas subsidiary in Thailand by myself. I did the negotiations with the local parties concerned, which would have been entrusted to lawyers or agents. I believed that I could clarify what the counterpart wanted by talking directly and standardize to some extent the procedure for establishing a factory and a local company and determining the scale of investment for the next time. I wanted to make this a model case for Kyodo when it enters new markets in the future.

I believe it is possible for anyone but myself to establish a local base, by making a swift investment decision when the scale is small. The local corporation in Thailand expanded its market to Southeast Asia and grew to become global. It is a realization of my desire to build a global company that acts without borders and is accepted by local communities at the same time.

Today, the Kyodo Group is establishing a global network in the U.S., Brazil, China, and Europe, while promoting mutual benefits for production, procurement, sales, and alliances. In addition to the production of industrial parts, we are expanding into new business fields, including production of the company's original products and other finished products and joint development of robots where the cutting-edge technologies are applied.

I would like to assist younger employees who are free from the existing fields of business and technologies to fully demonstrate their skills and engage in tireless pursuit. My mission is to encourage such generations to try what seems difficult to achieve.

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