Client Stories

Business Strategy of Tenhiko Industrial Aiming to be the Most Rewarding Company in Japan (First Part)

Tomoo Higuchi, Representative Director and President, TENHIKO INDUSTRIAL CO.,LTD
Staff surrounding Mr. Higuchi

ABOUT THE COMPANY

"Aiming to be the most rewarding company in Japan" – TENHIKO INDUSTRIAL CO.,LTD attracts public attention for their corporate culture that exactly realizes their corporate philosophy, and is often introduced in various media, such as books, magazines, and TV programs.
The company has a staff-first policy. This workstyle has been boosting performance and producing great results in recent years, like Web-based market expansion and advancing overseas.
We interviewed Tomoo Higuchi, Representative Director and President of Tenhiko Industrial, mainly about these topics. The interview is introduced in the first and second parts.

Staff-First Policy Producing Maximum Customer Satisfaction

The main business is processing and sales of special steel

"I have been witnessing serious crises endangering the company since the age of the former president and the president before last," Mr. Higuchi began, telling us about his history. "As the president, I personally experienced the 2008 financial crisis and the Great East Japan Earthquake. From many crises, I learned that a company manager could do nothing alone. I advanced the staff-first philosophy when I took on the post of president in 2005. Under this philosophy, we have been aiming to be the most rewarding company in Japan. We cannot please customers from the bottom of their hearts if the staff cannot be proud of their company. I believe that giving top priority to the staff will consequently satisfy customers and give benefits to the company in the end." This philosophy is widely accepted among the staff. All the staff are actively exhibiting their own initiative and reflecting new ideas in their work. The company business is soaring.

Web Business Began from the President’s Ideas,and the Planning Ability of a Female Employee

Desk of the project team TWS led by female staff

An employee presented a plan to Mr. Higuchi. This resulted in a great achievement as market expansion through the Web. It was in 2008. Mr. Higuchi was not very familiar with IT at the time, and was surprised to see that young employees were purchasing all kinds of items on the Web. One thing led to another when an excellent female employee returned from maternity leave. "We mainly deal with special steel, stainless steel, and various other steel materials. I came up with an idea that we might be able to handle even steel materials through the Web because various daily necessities are now traded online. A female employee on maternity leave gave shape to my idea." Mr. Higuchi contacted her three months before her return from maternity leave and asked her to make a Web sales plan for steel materials. "I was very surprised and impressed to see the elaborate plan and estimate that I received from her one week before her return. I became confident of its success at once." She returned not long after, and Mr. Higuchi lunched a project team with her in the lead.

Great Efforts by Employees Change Even the President's Thinking

Special steel machined to satisfy various customer needs

A new project team called Tenhiko Web Sales (TWS) was organized from four female staff members with the female employee who had just returned from maternity leave as the leader. Their first goal was to initiate Web sales services for overseas expansion. As soon as the team was launched, however, they began to receive orders from countries around the world. Sales continued to grow steadily at a pace that Mr. Higuchi had not expected. "The overseas trading ratio at the launch of TWS was about 15%, but it has exceeded 40% thanks to them. We have offices in Thailand and Shanghai as well as the head office for a triangular strategy. TWS is the hub of this strategy." This changed the business attitude of Mr. Higuchi himself. "I'm embarrassed to tell you that the iron industry was a male-dominated society for me, but such prejudice has totally gone, because Tenhiko Industrial will never develop without these female employees."

An Environment where Everyone Can Work Comfortably,Noted by Prime Minister Abe

Shipping from the head office in Osaka to the world

In April 2014, Shinzo Abe, the 96th Prime Minister of Japan, visited the company to inspect this workplace empowering female staff. Women playing an active role in Japan was a pillar of the Abe Cabinet’s growth strategy, so he listened to them attentively at a gathering with five female employees. "The Prime Minister directly asked the TWS leader why she had entered the iron and steel industry, which had an image of being a difficult place for women to play an active role. She made a very impressive answer to that question. She said it was just because she found Monozukuri craftsmanship to be enjoyable. Prime Minster Abe must have felt that increasing the ratio of female workers was beneficial to both the employees and the company. As you can see from the success of TWS, we do not have a gender gap in our work. The Web division is always growing by making the most of the attentiveness of our female employees," Mr. Higuchi explained.

All Staff as the Company Manager

Tomoo Higuchi, Representative Director and President

The staff-first policy that Mr. Higuchi established when he took the post of president has been producing even greater results than he expected. At the 10th anniversary of his inauguration, he gave a message to all employees to let them know his real intentions. "If I managed the company alone, the company would go bankrupt at once," he told them. "I said without hesitation that Tenhiko Industrial can exist only when all the employees get involved in management. I cannot drive a large truck, and I have no skill to accurately cut a steel plate. I have no accounting knowledge, and I can never supervise all the work. I made an impassioned speech saying that this was why we needed the abilities of all the employees. However, I will take all responsibility as the president. This is the only thing I can say." It is not easy to admit your limitations when you are the president, and declaring it in front of the employees may make people feel you are eccentric. He smiled, saying, "Once you admit it, you will feel at ease."

See Business Strategy of Tenhiko Industrial Aiming to be the Most Rewarding Company in Japan (Second Part)

FROM J-GoodTech

Tenhiko Industrial has overcome various difficulties, and they are still continuing to grow with their unique strategy featuring putting the staff first and having everyone as a manager.
There is a lot we should learn from the company beyond the framework of the iron and steel industry.

There are many companies like Tenhiko that have excellent technology and ideas among Japanese SMEs.
However, it is a fact that they are still far from being well known in society.

J-GoodTech will continue its promotion activities with a focus on such characteristic SMEs to make them known by more people.

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