My own story (2): “The President’s Isolation” that I created by myself

Last time, I talked about the subjective truth based on my own experience of starting a business. This time, I would like to tell you about what is necessary to live in the subjective truth from my other story.

In the first article, “What is the paradigm for integrating contradictions in management? (If you haven’t read it yet, please read it from the first article.)

The Stingy Start-up

Did you ever consider the risk of failure when you started your business?

For a while after I started my business, that was the question I was asked most often. “I’ll make it,” was my gut feeling at the time.

The three of us started the company together, but we were stingy with our salaries at the minimum level we could live on. While working on our main business of developing educational products and services, we were earning cash by taking consulting jobs through connections from our previous jobs.

And even if it didn’t work out and we lost the $10 million which was put up with the founding members, we could still work for a consulting firm again. (Whether or not they’d actually hire us was another matter though…) With that in mind, those were the days when I was able to take it easy and say, “We’ll make it.”

Through a connection from my previous job, we were offered an opportunity for a consulting project, and while that job was going well, we were having a hard time making sales on our main business of education. We tried to make an appointment through cold calls based on the company’s quarterly report, but of course, we couldn’t get past the door.

I was able to make an appointment with potential clients even though through cold calls at my previous job, but they wouldn’t receive my call at a nameless company, which was a harsh reality.

But young people who have the energy to start their own businesses don’t let this stop them.

We started to get creative in our approach to making appointments. Through repeated trial and error, We’ve found that if we knew the name of the person in charge, we could get them to connect with us in most cases. If so, that’s what the three of us from the consulting firm do best. We made a research to find out the name of the person in charge, and could made a list of it.

Then, little by little, we started to get appointments. Our concept is “Practice makes perfect, 100 fungos”. At the time when most of the training was still lecture-style, we were able to get the HR manager interested in our training.

However, there was a big chasm here. This is the gap between being interested and placing an order. In the corporate sales process, there must be a clear reason to choose one from several companies. The “interest” of the person in charge is not a reason for placing an order.

On the contrary, if the “reason not to choose” becomes clear, the option will be the first to be rejected. Since our company was just established and had a limited track record, the “reason not to choose” was clear to a HR manager.

Our first order came a year after we started the company. We received the order from T-san, who was an old friend of the founding members. Our first order for a major company came a year after our first visit, when a customer contacted us about something they wanted to do using our 100 fungos. It’s truly a story of fate and luck, but I believe that these fates and luck came because of the days of appointments that had been made.

With the addition of these accomplishments, the education business continued to grow steadily.

A sense of responsibility as president leads to a vicious cycle

However, as the business expanded and the number of employees increased, I was struck by the anxiety and sense of isolation of having to take on the responsibility of the whole business and organization.

To grow a business, capital is needed. We needed to raise the money from venture capitalists and banks.

Initially, the amount of the loan was in the tens of millions of yen, but within a few years it grew to several hundred million yen. At the time, I thought that it was necessary for business expansion and that it would be the president’s role to provide a guarantee, so I had no hesitation in doing so.

However, subconsciously, I began to feel that I was the only one who had to bear this responsibility. I was also aware of the reality that if the company collapsed, I would be left with a large amount of debt. When something went wrong, I didn’t blame anyone else, but I went into “I’ll take care of that” smugness mode. I became more isolated from those around me.

For example, when the company was a little short on sales at the end of the term, before we thought of an action to take as a team, I said, “Okay, I’ll go sell it. As a result, even though we were able to achieve our goals, the sense of unity with those around me began to diminish. I think the company members also looked at me and said, “Here comes that, again”

I was stuck in this mode for quite a long time, and I was aware that the organization was not being managed well.

Gradually I was able to change, thanks to the help of those around me.

The members of management, who couldn’t stand the situation, gave me many opportunities to talk to each other. On one occasion, they gave me a coaching session as a Christmas gift, which helped me to objectively realize my lack of perspective and bad mode of thinking. (The gift of coaching sessions eventually lasted three years.)

Over a long period of time, I was able to gradually change myself, and here I am today.

The key was to free my consciousness

What I want to convey in this episode is that a leader’s “awareness” is the starting point for company and business operations. To put it bluntly, the success of a company depends on the mindset of its leaders themselves.

The most fundamental factor that caused me to fall into complacency mode is my own self-made belief with regard to what a company president should be.

This has led to a narrowing of my own perceptions and a loss of the connection with the subjective truths that I felt so strongly about when I founded the company.

What is important here is that I was able to recognize my assumptions objectively, which helped me to break through the situation.

When we are dominated by biased assumptions, our consciousness is constrained and we enter into a vicious pattern. Do you have any experiences that you are bound to follow the same pattern into fail? In such cases, it’s often because of some biased perception within you, and unless you change it, you won’t be able to break out of the pattern.

The key to breaking out of the pattern is to take a meta-perception of yourself. It takes time, but it’s the first step in becoming aware of your assumptions and freeing your consciousness.

Many of us have had the experience of talking to people and experiencing new things that expand our perspective on things. This is also a kind of metacognition, similar to the feeling of freeing your consciousness.

In order to open your mind to subjective truth, the starting point is to take a meta-cognitive view of yourself and free your consciousness. (I’ll talk about how we can see ourselves in a meta-cognitive view in future posts.)

Here are the quests of the day. (If you’d like, please share your thoughts in the comments.)

・What was the experience, if any, that changed your perspective of things?

・What was your experience, if any, of breaking out of a pattern of repeated failure by changing your perspective and/or belief?

Bunshiro Ochiai

Founder and CEO of a training company, Alue | MS in Particle Physics. | BCG | Questing “What is the paradigm for integrating contradictions in management?”