In 1983, the founder of Ashisuto, Bill Totten, wrote “The Second Decade” to share with Ashisuto employees the company's possibilities, values, philosophy, basic beliefs, history, and goals.
Over the next several years the document went through two revisions and the title was changed to “Ashisuto: Philosophy and beliefs.” Our company continues to adapt its business activities to the significant changes that have occurred in the Information Technology industry. Nevertheless, the underlying ideals and principles of Bill Totten's and Ashisuto's approach to business remain unchanged.
In sum, “Philosophy and Beliefs” is the foundation upon which all Ashisuto employees share common purpose and unite in service to our customers and partners.
K.K.Ashisuto : Philosophy and Beliefs
History of "Philosophy and Beliefs"
In June of 1983, after spending a decade selling computer software products and building our company, I wrote the first draft of this document. It was entitled "Second Decade". It was substantially revised in October of 1985 through a process described below and was retitled "Ashisuto: Philosophy and Beliefs" (1st edition). A second edition was published in June of 1993, followed by the current edition, which was published on June 14 2002.
Why I wrote "Ashisuto: Philosophy and Beliefs"
I wrote the original draft of "Philosophy and Beliefs" because I realized, as Ashisuto increased in size, that all of our employees should always be clear about our company values.
Before 1983 we had fewer than 100 employees. Most employees at that time worked together in small offices and frequently had dinner together. It was easy to learn what everyone was thinking. Moreover, as president I didn't have to explain what I wanted from our employees, nor did they need to explain what they wanted from me. From around 1984, however, the number of employees began to increase and we found it more difficult to have deeper-level communication through face-to-face meetings. This is what motivated me to write the first draft of "Second Decade".
When I had completed the first draft, I gave copies to our directors for review, asking them to indicate anything with which they didn't fully agree. I felt the issue was so important that it was their responsibility either to accept my version of the document, convince me to revise the document or to resign. Our directors undertook their task sincerely, and together we came up with a second draft.
The next step was to have all employees read the draft and give us their critiques and suggestions. Here again, to emphasize the seriousness of the project, we made it clear that their responsibility was to accept our version of the document, convince us to revise anything they didn't agree with, or to resign. All members of Ashisuto participated, and through this process we jointly drafted the original version of "Second Decade".
After revising the document several times to reflect the changes in our business environment, the current version entitled "Ashisuto: Philosophy and Beliefs", has become the common philosophy and beliefs of all Ashisuto employees, rather than just my philosophy alone. Thus, when reading the text that follows, please replace all occurrences of the pronoun "I" with "we".
Role of this "Philosophy and Beliefs"
Ashisuto employees sometimes refer to this document as our "bible", or as our "scripture" (Kyoten). I personally think of it as the written collection of morals we must follow in our business, and how we must conduct ourselves as individual employees. Whatever name is used, the essential point is that "Philosophy and Beliefs" should be treasured as the common basis of our thinking and actions.
Having said that, I also want to emphasize to all current and future Ashisuto employees that this document should not be viewed as something that cannot be changed. Each employee has the obligation to make recommendations for change whenever he or she believes changes should be made. The other Board members and I promise that we will consider all such recommendations sincerely, and we will make the desired changes if most employees agree to them. In return, we expect all employees to act in accordance with the principles in this document, or to resign from Ashisuto.
I am confident that Ashisuto will be able to survive for many years in the future, perhaps for over hundreds of years, so long as we keep running our business according to the principles written here. I would like all employees to continue their excellent work while always striving to achieve these three goals:
1. To be the best company from which to buy computer software products.
2. To be the best company at which to work in computer software field.
3. To be the best company for every supplier of computer software products.
However much technology evolves, and however much the society around us changes, we believe that our customers will always want to do business with honest, sincere and competent persons.
We promise that we will always strive to become and to remain such People Assisting People.
March 1, 2012
The purpose of this paper is fourfold :
What I want you to do with this paper :
Through this process, I believe that K.K. Ashisuto can achieve the internal consensus it needs to reach its potential. It is up to each of us to improve our working environment.
02: WHO WE ARE
Ashisuto is a company that sells computer software products and related services to Japanese organizations that need them.
We believe that selling computer products will be one of the world's most important businesses for a long time. We plan to continue concentrating on this business until we're confident we've become the BEST company we can be in this field, or until a better business opportunity emerges.
03: WHAT OUR GOALS ARE
Our goals are simple. They are to become :
Please notice the emphasis is on the word best. Our goal is to become the best in every aspect of our business, not merely in a single aspect such as size, profitability, product and service quality, or working environment. The context referred to is becoming the best vis-a-vis ourselves, not in competition with others. We simply strive to become the best we can possibly be.
PRIORITY OF GOALS
Let's look at each goal in order of priority.
1. The best company from which to buy computer software products:
I believe the role of any company is to contribute to society by providing products or services useful, helpful and beneficial to other members of that society. Ashisuto sells its products and services honestly and competently, always striving to ensure that customers receive from us more value than they pay to us.
2. The best company at which to work in the field of computer software:
The best company provides challenging work that employees can be proud of accomplishing. The best company offers career paths that enable employees to develop themselves to their fullest potentials professionally and personally, encouraging them to become responsible members of society -- the best citizens, employees, spouses and parents they possibly can be.
3. The best company for every supplier:
'Every supplier' means any person or organization that provides goods or services necessary for our business. This includes software developers, those who rent us office space, those who sell us stationery and other office supplies and equipment, banks, consultants, lawyers, accountants, and so on. Ashisuto must strive to become the best company for such suppliers to deal with by always being honest and sincere.
We should never forget that our customers always come first, before employees or suppliers. We must treat each customer as a king. Our customers keep us in business; if we always strive to help them unfailingly, they will reciprocate.
04: HOW WE CAN ACHIEVE OUR GOALS
I believe there are two things we must do to achieve these goals:
- Individually, each of us must strive to become the best in the computer software field;
- Collectively, we must strive to become the best organization in the computer software industry.
Let's examine these two things.
<1> The best people:
Everything we do involves people. We acquire our products from people, sell them to people, work together with the people in our organization to acquire and sell products and services. We support the people using them, and rely on the people employed in the organizations supplying the materials and services essential to our business.
We believe people want to buy from, supply to, and work with people they like and respect.
Note: See 12. Our "People" badge.
Therefore, one of the two basic things we must do to achieve our goals is: Become the best people we're capable of becoming.
This means each of us must strive to become someone who is:
- The friendliest and most considerate,
- The most helpful,
- The most honest,
- The most competent and knowledgeable, and
- The hardest working.
Each of us should remember that any prospective customer always buys for the following reasons:
First, he decides whether to buy based on the qualities of the person doing the selling.
Second, if he trusts the salesperson, he evaluates that person's sales organization.
Third, he considers the organization's products. If the prospective buyer is pleased with both the salesperson and the organization, he will probably want to buy the product.
In other words, people decide whether or not to buy products based primarily on the qualities of the people selling and supporting them.
<2> The best company :
To achieve our goal, we must strive to be the best we can possibly become by:
- Hiring, educating, and motivating the best people;
- Acquiring the best software products;
- Adapting those products to best fit our clients' needs;
- Creating the best documentation;
- Providing the best support and service;
- Selling more enthusiastically and honestly than anyone else.
The only way to accomplish these goals is constantly to be acutely aware of the ever-changing problems and needs of our clients, developers and employees, and to work harder than any other company in the computer software field to satisfy those needs and solve those problems.
The kind of people we are, the way we treat other people and how we work as a team, are the most important aspects of our business. The products and services we provide are secondary.
05: OUR PEOPLE
People are our most important asset. Ashisuto provides the kind of environment where ambitious and enthusiastic people can blossom to the fullest potential their capabilities and efforts allow. Ashisuto is for people who prefer opportunities and challenges to an easy job. I believe that in the long run, a company with such enthusiastic people can provide the most secure and rewarding jobs to its employees.
We strive to:
- Hire good young people
- Train and educate them
- Challenge and motivate them
- Reward them fairly and as generously as possible.
Let's look at each of these points.
<1> Hire Good Young People
We want to hire young people who:
<2> Training and Educating Our People
Ashisuto will train its people in the specific techniques required in our business, educating them to become effective employees. In return, each individual must strive to take maximum advantage of the training programs and facilities provided by the company and must constantly seek ways to improve himself.
<3> Challenging and Motivating Our People
I believe the best way to help people enjoy their work is to create an environment that challenges and motivates them, while providing immediate feedback. I also believe in giving recognition and rewards for those who work and produce most effectively for their team.
Ashisuto is organized as a group of teams. Each team member has an important job and receives constructive feedback to help the team succeed. We constantly strive to ensure that each team faces frequent challenges, is motivated to meet them, and is rewarded for doing so. By granting members the authority to fulfill their responsibilities, we also offer the ultimate reward: the self-satisfaction of knowing they are doing something important and doing it well.
<4> Rewarding Our People
Ashisuto rewards its employees by providing them with the most interesting, exciting and lucrative careers we are capable of providing. Being a results-oriented company, Ashisuto does not pay its employees for the length of time they spend completing tasks, but for actually achieving results. Employees are not expected simply to follow rules and obey orders. Rather, we expect our employees to take the lead in finding what work needs to be done -- and for whom -- and then seeing that it is done promptly.
I do not believe money is the only effective incentive, but I do believe it is important. Ashisuto's employees create the company's success and should be rewarded accordingly.
For this reason, Ashisuto, since its establishment in 1972, has had a performance-oriented bonus system that distributes all Ashisuto profits, other than those needed for growth or corporate security, to the employees who created those profits. Ashisuto's employees are the ones who reap the rewards for their efforts.
Ashisuto allocates its performance-oriented bonuses among employees as follows.
Ashisuto does not provide a safe haven for people whose only objective is to earn enough to support their families adequately. Rather, Ashisuto tries to offer unlimited opportunities to its employees by providing challenging and lucrative careers to ambitious people. It is the responsibility of each employee to use those opportunities to best advantage.
06: SALESPERSONS AND MANAGERS
Every Ashisuto employee must be both a salesperson and a manager. Let me explain.
Every Ashisuto employee by his behavior influences a prospective customer's decision to buy software products from Ashisuto:
- When someone telephones, visits or receives a contract or invoice from Ashisuto, the prospective customer will be favorably impressed and possibly buy from us if the Ashisuto employee he talks to is polite, helpful, honest and enthusiastic.
- When someone reads a user manual or other material written by Ashisuto employees, he will be encouraged to buy our products if the material is well-written and helpful.
- When an Ashisuto employee makes a sales call, the prospective customer might be persuaded to buy from the salesperson if the latter is competent, polite and honest.
- Whenever we install a product, or provide training, we will be judged by how helpful, knowledgeable and considerate our people are. If our employees treat each customer as king, the customer will continue to buy from us.
If our employees do not treat the customer with the respect he deserves, that customer will refuse to buy from us. The attitude of all Ashisuto employees toward each customer is of utmost priority.
In other words, every Ashisuto employee is a sales person. Everything that every one of us does at all times makes a difference in our sales performance. This in turn makes a difference in the revenues we need to stay in business and pay our employees.
I prefer an organization with the least number of so-called "managers". The only way to create such an organization is for every Ashisuto member to manage himself responsibly for the benefit of his immediate team and the entire Ashisuto organization. Such employees should be able to:
- Train and educate themselves to become the most competent and valuable people they are capable of becoming in the software business;
- Hire the best people for Ashisuto and educate and motivate them;
- Acquire the world's best software products for Ashisuto to distribute;
- Adapt those products to best fit our clients' needs;
- Sell those products honestly to every company that really needs them;
- Ensure that every client buying from Ashisuto receives maximum value for the products purchased.
I believe it is wasteful for a productive person to have to spend his time managing other people simply because they will not manage themselves. I also believe it is humiliating for a person who is capable and willing to manage himself to be managed by someone else.
Although every Ashisuto member is a sales person, we specifically refer to some employees as "salespersons". These are people whose primary job is to visit as many prospective clients as possible every week to persuade them to buy our products. They do not spend their time answering telephones, localizing and installing products, translating or training users.
During Ashisuto's first decade, most of our employees were salespersons and they were our most important employees.
The reasons for this were:
- Most Japanese companies had not yet bought any products from Ashisuto, so our critical task was to make a first sale to them. Most of our revenues came from these initial sales rather than from additional products sold to existing clients.
- Our products were simple and not critical to our clients' daily business operations, making them easy to support. This meant the quality, thoroughness and speed of our support was not critical.
Times have changed! These conditions no longer are true. Today we face the following situation:
- A large number of Japanese companies have bought one or more products from Ashisuto. Selling additional products to such companies has become very important. In fact, more than three-fourths of our revenues now come from selling additional products to existing clients rather than from selling to first-time buyers.
- Our products have become more complex and critical to our clients' daily business operations, as well as more difficult to support. The quality and speed of our support has become critical.
- Additionally, many clients no longer are content to buy from a company that can supply only software products. Rather than buying merely tools or components, they often want to buy consulting and other services to help them solve their problems. As a result, our ability to analyze a customer's or prospective customer's requirements, to design ways to deal with those requirements, and to provide the products and services required to satisfy those needs, has become increasingly vital to our business.
This situation represents an excellent opportunity, not a problem!
In the past, the only way we could distinguish ourselves from our competitors was by providing the best products and sales performance. Now we also have the ability to offer the highest quality, most thorough and fastest support for more complex products requiring such support.
This critical support must be provided on a daily basis over an extended period of time. In a sense, this seemingly difficult situation provides Ashisuto with the best opportunity to show our clients that our employees are the most considerate, helpful, honest and knowledgeable specialists in the computer software field. By providing excellent support to our clients we will gain their allegiance and they will recommend us to other potential users.
Times have changed, and so has Ashisuto.
Now only 214 of our 820 employees (as of April 2011) are full-time "salespersons". The rest are specialists: persons whose primary jobs are to prepare written materials, localize and install products, train users and help them obtain maximum benefit from the products we sell.
Thus, we no longer encourage our employees to become salesmen. All positions within Ashisuto now are of equal importance. We want each of our members to become the most competent, helpful and considerate person that he or she can be in some technical aspect of our business. This includes translation, writing, programming and consulting. All of these skills are vital for our success.
08: VALUE AND SERVICE
Our clients do not really want software products; they want the value they think our software products will offer. This value derives from the service we provide.
- When selling a product, it is much more important to emphasize this value than to talk about the technical features of the product.
- User guides and reference manuals are tools to help our clients obtain maximum value from our products. They must be written with that goal in mind. A manual that merely documents the product's features is inadequate. The same is true of our courses and seminars for training users.
If every one of us always focuses on providing the best service and ensuring our customers get maximum value from the products they buy from us, they will be satisfied with their relationship with Ashisuto. They will then continue to buy from us, and all of us will prosper.
Business is easy and satisfying if we do it right.
Growth is not an Ashisuto goal. If we become the best company from which to buy software products, at which to work, and through which to sell products, we will automatically grow because:
- Clients want to buy from the best supplier.
- People want to work for the best employer.
- Developers of software products want to sell through the best distributor.
10: HOW TO GROW
It is vital to remember that growth is not our goal. Growth is a result of becoming the best. We must avoid the temptation of trying to grow for the sake of growth itself.
Specifically, we should remember the following:
11: WHAT I EXPECT OF ALL ASHISUTO EMPLOYEES
You can expect the same kind of cooperation from me that I expect from you. If we all work together, we can become the best company in the computer software field.
Our HITO ("People") Badge
The purpose of this badge is to remind each of us every day that we are a "people" company.
- People are our most important asset.
- We need the help of our fellow employees.
- We sell our products to "people", not to companies.
We must never forget that people bought our products for the following reasons, in order of their importance :
In a sense, we sell ourselves, rather than our products, to our customers. We must maintain a trustworthy relationship with our customers, with the banks that lend to us, and with the media that reports about us. This means we must always be dependable.
The reason we spend so much time and money producing our Ashisuto Magazine is that we think it will help our customers. This is the same reason we require our salesmen to make 15 sales calls per week and why we conduct so many Ashisuto Salons and seminars, and promote Solution Kenkyukai. These are all projects designed to build better interpersonal relationships with those who deal with our company. Our customers like to buy from us when we demonstrate that we care about them by visiting them and doing things for them even when we have no intention of selling to them.
This is why our attitude toward the people we serve is just as important as the quality of our products and service. Never ask a client, for example, to mail you a necessary document, if it would be possible for you to visit his office and analyze it more quickly there.
The same applies to our telephone manners. When we use the telephone, we must always be thinking of how the content of what we say and how we say it sounds to the person on the other end of the line.
We will all prosper if, and only if:
- We strive to build and maintain excellent personal relationships;
- We conduct ourselves in such a way that others will respect and trust us; and
- We are always keenly sensitive to how our actions, attitudes, and behavior affect and are perceived by others.
Let's remember these points every morning when we pin on our badges