Mr. Makoto Naruke
Director and Founder, Inspire Corporation
Mr. Naruke made a bet with a classmate when he was in junior high.
Declaring never to become businessmen, each of them agreed to pay the other his first paycheck if he ever broke his word and entered the business world.
The years went by and in 1977, having graduated from the Faculty of Commerce of Chuo University, Mr. Naruke distanced himself from his friends, who were all shooting for big-name companies, and took a job with an auto parts manufacturer in Hokkaido. His friend from junior high had entered academia, and as promised, Mr. Naruke handed over his first paycheck. However, it seems that from the time he started his career, he was not the usual sort of businessman.
"To play is to live, and work is a kind of pastime."
With this as his philosophy, ever since his youth, he has always thought of a company as a place for making a living, not just for providing necessities like food and shelter, but everything in life. He tried to separate himself from others, going to extremes and attracting the ire of his coworkers. At times even the president would berate him. Nevertheless, he stuck fast to his defiant lifestyle.
From President of Microsoft Japan to Independence
Transferred to Osaka and feeling out of place, Mr. Naruke left his job at the auto parts manufacturer. He went back to Tokyo and joined the ASCII Corporation. On his first day he was assigned to ASCII Microsoft, the forerunner to Microsoft Japan.
At the time, Mr. Naruke knew nothing of software and wasn't very good at computers, but this new world intrigued him. Telling himself there were 40 hours in a day, he worked like mad from morning to night. Five years later at 35 years old, he was promoted to company president. Then, after nine years as a president, he retired. The blood of the contrarian flowing through his veins, he had apparently grown bored of selling software as computers became more commonplace.
Having quit Microsoft, Mr. Naruke founded the investment and consulting group Inspire and began consulting and investing in venture firms.
Though at times exhausted by questions from old-fashioned businessmen, like "Why is it necessary to raise stock prices?" or "What can we do to turn a profit?" he was able through his consulting to bring about increases in company earnings, stock prices, and profits.
Inspire also invests in venture firms that have yet to go public. The focus is on ideas. Mr. Naruke says, "Venture firms must be both creative and practical. Young executives make for diplomatic and optimistic executives."
Furthermore, Mr. Naruke asserts that to be an executive does not require knowledge, know-how or an MBA.
Rather, he explains, child-like persistence, defiance and simplicity are much more important, and those who possess an enthralling talent are the ones who will find success in the business world.
If You're Human, Read
The business world's most prolific reader, Mr. Naruke has a home overflowing with books. "Tons" is the word you would use for them. His basement is packed to the walls with loaded bookshelves, and there are over 50 books in his living room. In the bedroom, the bathroom, also in the bag he takes to work - he is completely surrounded by books.
In the living room, in the bathroom, on the way to work; reading whatever book he finds himself with is Mr. Naruke's "Super Parallel" method of reading. Apparently at any one time he'll be reading over 10 books simultaneously.
People ask, "Don't they end up seeming choppy that way?" "You don't get completely turned around reading so many different genres at once?"
On the contrary, Mr. Naruke believes that this kind of reading helps activate the various areas of his brain. With books ranging from scientific non-fiction to history, he could be called an omnivorous reader, but he says that he rarely reads business books or novels. The former are "for passing the time," and he avoids the latter because they are "too powerful" and decrease his productivity.
"If you want to stand above others, start reading."
With such a belief, Mr. Naruke is saddened by how people nowadays are reading less and less, especially the young people.
He asserts that, "People who don't read are no different from monkeys. Those who do not possess the imagination required for reading are humans in name only."
In Search of Order-Made Happiness
In today's Japan, the government and the administration are not reliable, and one's standard of living is not guaranteed even in the next year, let alone ten years down the road. What should we do to find happiness in our lives?
We must order it for ourselves, achieve it through our own volition, says Mr. Naruke.
For example, Mr. Naruke the businessperson believes that for him, "life's happiness is in play. In other words, in enjoying life."
"Essentially, the goal of business is not to make material goods, but money. Nor is it to leave one's mark on the world. So, in a way, it's an ephemeral sort of job," says Mr. Naruke.
"If so, then for a businessperson, making money, playing and enjoying life is the way to happiness, isn't it?"
Coming on his 60th birthday, retirement is still a long way away for the defiant and insatiable Mr. Naruke. His new book review site HONZ, founded in July of 2011, is already generating some buzz. Maybe he'll get into publishing next - his adventures and personal evolution carry on.