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Makoto Naruke

Mr. Hiroshi Nojima[Profile]

Only organizations which accept mistakes grow

Mr. Hiroshi Nojima
CEO & President of Nojima Corporation

"It's OK to make mistakes using our company's money. I want you to make many mistakes."-Mr. Nojima gives this message to his employees.

Mistakes are constantly shared at Nojima Corporation. This includes the mistakes of Mr. Nojima, the company President. Examples of good mistakes are stored as valuable resources for the next project. This process reflects Mr. Nojima's philosophy that mistakes are a corporate asset.

Mr. Nojima disliked electronics stores

Mr. Nojima's parents started an electronics store when he was an elementary school student. Business was strong and they rebuilt the store three times within eight years after its founding. Eventually, the store grew into a building with three above-ground floors and one basement floor. His parents employed more than ten employees and achieved annual sales of 150 million yen.

However, Mr. Nojima disliked the electronics store. He helped in the store from the time he was a junior high school student. Although he did work like attaching antennas, he never got paid for his part-time work. In addition, it was difficult for him to see his parents arguing about the store's operation.

When Mr. Nojima was in elementary school, he wrote an essay entitled I Want to Become a Corporate Employee. However, his dream did not come true. Business at his parents' company did not go smoothly. Sales declined and his parents fell into debt. Mr. Nojima was forced to help with the business and he entered Nojima Electric Co., Ltd. (currently Nojima Corporation) after graduating from university.

Mr. Nojima really liked audio systems and decided to establish a new sales area for single audio components. His decision was a success and the store's sale of single components reached the top-level in Kanagawa Prefecture after five years. In a continued effort to achieve differentiation from other companies, Mr. Nojima expanded into specialty stores for audio, visual and computer components.

The company made a miraculous recovery from the brink of collapse. Although annual sales were only 50 million yen when Mr. Nojima entered the company, they grew to more than 10 billion yen in 1989.

Lessons learned from an empty year

1991 was a year of Mr. Nojima's life that he will never forget. As the company steadily increased sales and grew large, it was restructured and Mr. Nojima was promoted from Division Manager to Executive Director. Although he became an executive, he actually lost his authority in the company and was pushed aside. Mr. Nojima felt betrayed by his mother, who served as President, his older brother, who acted as Senior Executive Director and Mr. Nojima's superior, and all of the employees who agreed with the reorganization. His heart was filled with the grief of being betrayed by those people.

Mr. Nojima was proud of how he had personally expanded the company and he grew increasingly sullen. He stopped attending meetings and turned his back on work for an entire year.

A year later, Mr. Nojima resumed work at the request of executives who could no longer bear the rapidly decreasing sales. Although he faced a lot of conflict within the company, Mr. Nojima worked to reestablish management and to revise operations so that such confusion would never again occur within the company.

Although Mr. Nojima was continuously employed at the company, he was actually never present during what he calls an empty year. However, he spent a fulfilling time reading many books, philosophizing and having many experiences which are not possible within a company.

Until that time, Mr. Nojima had thought that his life was full of unhappiness and bad luck. However, he changed and adopted a positive outlook by focusing on the feeling of achievement that results from overcoming difficult situations.

Encouraging mistakes

After returning to the company and becoming President, Mr. Nojima worked feverishly with the goal of exceeding 100 billion yen in sales. In order to expand the scale of his corporation, he established nine subsidiary companies such as sales companies for major appliances. However, this effort at expansion was a mistake. Eight of the nine subsidiaries were dissolved and losses climbed to about 2 billion yen. This failure was the result of managers at the subsidiary companies being unable to execute the Nojima philosophy of success.

This philosophy is: "Don't work for money or status. Instead, do what brings happiness to the customer."

Managers at subsidiary companies forgot this single teaching of Mr. Nojima, and instead chose to pursue only profit. Mr. Nojima was shocked at how profit was blindly pursued not only by managers recruited from the outside, but also by managers who had been cultivated within Nojima Corporation.

Mr. Nojima felt that none of his teachings had been absorbed, despite his earnest and heartfelt efforts to cultivate his employees.

Mr. Nojima wondered if the effort he put into teaching was a waste of time. Eventually, he realized that truly important things cannot be taught; rather, they have to be autonomously realized by each individual.

Furthermore, in order to create satisfactory realization by each individual, employees have to actually try, make repeated mistakes and learn from difficult experiences.

This was the origin of Mr. Nojima's philosophy of encouraging mistakes.

Aim to be the first 'digital' star of the evening

Currently, the shift to terrestrial digital broadcasting has been completed (except for Iwate Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture in Tohoku). Sales of flat-screen televisions in November 2011 decreased by 90% when compared to November of the previous year. Adverse conditions are starting to threaten the market for electronic appliances. Furthermore, unit prices continue to decrease due to competition from foreign manufacturers.

Amidst this fierce competition for low prices, Nojima Corporation is exercising the mobility and unique strategy of a mid-scale manufacturer in order to create differentiation from major mass retailers of electronics. By opening stand-alone stores in the suburbs, within shopping centers and within station buildings, Nojima Corporation's stores possess characteristics different from chain stores.

Mr. Nojima's goal is to bring happiness to the communities where stores are opened. He hopes that people will go to Nojima when they wish to purchase electronics.

Nojima Corporation stores have introduced a great number of outstanding technologies. For example, they were a leader in handling LED products. Instead of simply making appeals for low cost, Nojima stores consider the needs of customers and compare products from different manufacturers in order to provide customers with products that fulfill their needs.

"I aim for our company to be the first 'digital' star of the evening," says Mr. Nojima. Just like the first star which can be seen in the sky at dusk, he seeks to position Nojima Corporation as a constant leader in digital products and services.

Hiroshi Nojima
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University in 1973 and then began employment at Nojima Electric Co., Ltd. (currently Nojima Corporation). At the time, the company suffered from financial difficulties and had only two employees. However, Mr. Nojima rebuilt the company into an organization with net sales of 220 billion yen (the forecast for the period ending in March 2012). He established the management philosophy of Encouraging Mistakes and wrote a book with the same title which was published (by Diamond Publishing) in September 2011. Mr. Nojima has close bonds with the community and supports sports. He established a women's soccer team in February 2012. Currently, he serves as CEO & President of Nojima Corporation.
Based on his desire for Chuo University to cultivate more graduates who can perform as business professionals, Mr. Nojima held the Nojima Business Award Contest in 2007. The contest is also scheduled to be held in 2012. Furthermore, from 2009 to 2011, he held an endowed course entitled A Comprehensive Introductory Course for Entrepreneurs at the Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University. In this course, Mr. Nojima himself served as a Visiting Instructor and taught students about starting a business. He also held an endowed course in the Faculty of Science and Engineering in 2009.