Becoming the owner of your own company is the dream of the stouthearted who wishes to live a life of financial freedom. There is nothing more exciting and self-fulfilling than the knowledge that you make or break yourself on the merits of your own efforts. No more punching a time card and goofing off on someone else’s time in a nowhere, dead-end job. No more following the orders of a surly bureaucrat who knows little or nothing of the actual problems in delivering the product or implementation of the service. When you are your own boss, then the buck truly does stop here.
If you want to get ahead in this world then the answer is to become financially independent by starting your own company. Creating your own company and showing a profit or, even more difficult, turning around a company that has lost money for several years in a row is a Herculean task. In either case, not only do you have worry about cutting costs and increasing sales but you also have to develop a "Company culture" that is positive and promotes a "can do" attitude for yourself and among your co-workers and staff.
In March of this year, TV Tokyo Broadband (TX-BB), one of the largest television broadcasting networks in Japan, and the only major network to successfully venture into the broadband market in Japan, bought InterFM. InterFM is one of the five major FM radio station in Tokyo. InterFM has also lost money for ten years in a row — to the tune of about $140 million dollars. InterFM, by the way, is also the FM station that has fired me three times in the last ten years.
TX-BB hired me back in April to produce, direct, and co-host the a.m. drive-time morning show on InterFM. By the end of June, our show was the number one rated show in Tokyo. It was the first time ever that InterFM had beaten out its competitors for the coveted morning time-slot.
In July, I was hired by TX-BB to be the Chief Music Director and to help turn InterFM into a profitable FM radio station.
At first, I was extremely hesitant to take on such a daunting task. For one, I knew the InterFM people all too well; they were like government employees: always complaining and running around looking like they were busy when, in fact, they were actually accomplishing absolutely nothing. They were excellent at acting like they were busy, but extremely poor at getting things done — I suppose that these people choose the wrong career direction and should have opted for a career in acting. These people didn’t want to "do" radio station, they wanted to "play" radio station. There is a huge difference.
When I, at first, refused the job offer, Koji Kamibayashi, the president of TX-BB (a man who started his company with only three people and created over $130 million dollars in six years) asked me to read some books and documents that explained the company goals, mission statement, and company culture that he had created at TX-BB. The books he asked me to read were true eye-openers and reading that I highly recommend for any business large or small.
These books, along with a few others that I have always used in creating my own business mentality are ones that I’d like to recommend to you today.
First off, one must realize that dedication to the success of your own business, and in turn, the financial success and security of your own family, is a goal that cannot be separated from your personal life. The success of your own business is your personal life. That being said, it must be realized that in order to be a successful manager, one must be truthful at work and at home. It is difficult and highly hypocritical if you are demanding that your staff and co-workers be honest at work when, say, you are having an affair or beating your wife and children at home for example. Everyone says they want honesty, but to attain true honesty is a difficult business indeed.
The Road less Traveled will, unfortunately, make you realize what a lousy person you’ve been up until now (it did for me) but will, fortunately, show you how to rectify the situation. It is also highly recommended for parents of small children — try to straighten out before you mess up your kids. People of the Lie is quite useful in understanding the mindset of those around us inside and outside of work. You know, there are so many people around in this day and age that lie so much, so constantly, that they don’t even realize that they are lying. They are, in fact, living a lie. For proof of this fact, witness our current president and all of his staff as well as his supporters. Please read these two in the order that I have introduced them.
Once we get our own mindset and personal affairs in some semblance of order, we can move on to the books recommend by the president of TX-BB. By the way, I forgot to mention that the plans TX-BB has for InterFM and for a global revolution in broadcasting, then in turn, a revolution in the music business are mind-boggling in their implications, yet they are so simple. I have been told by several people that what we have planned is impossible and can never be done. I’m sure that the Wright Brothers were told the same thing a hundred times a day before that momentous occasion when they did take flight in 1903.
The idea that we are attempting to accomplish something that others say is impossible to do, really turns me on. It makes me even more driven to accomplish our goals in the shortest frame of time. I know that I’m not the only one who thinks likes this at TX-BB either. TX-BB has about 90 employees now and I have never seen an office that was buzzing, no make that aflame, with the energy of self-motivated go-getters like that of TX-BB. It is a breath-taking place to be.
The owner of any business, large or small, absolutely must read Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t both by Jim Collins. Even though Good to Great was written first, I think you should read Built to Last first. These books both point out in detail why some businesses made it while some others failed. They also will show you how you can hedge your bets when starting a new business and to help you to make decisions based on the best possible advice from the people that really matter: your staff.
These books also make for fascinating reading when they go through the trials and travails of companies that we all know such as Disney, 3M, and McDonalds.
Finally, the plat de résistance of all these books and a book that lays out rules that I use to govern my own section at InterFM: Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus by Michael A. Roberto. Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer is published by The Wharton School of Business and Roberto is a Harvard Business School professor.
Roberto argues that the key to successful business is not in the question of "What decision should I make?" but "What process should I use in going about to make a decision?" He states that the process of making a decision is more important than most business leaders realize.
Why Great Leaders… will help you to understand why involving your staff in decisions will help to promote a company identity and pride in their work. Isn’t this, after all, one of the biggest obstacles in making a successful company? If you involve your staff, then they will take responsibility for their actions. They will adapt and overcome. This is a critical piece in cultivating elitism and personal responsibility in your employees.
If you are making decisions all by yourself, without consultation of, say, sales people in the field, then what’s going to happen when some of those sales people don’t like your plan? They are not going to do their best to implement it are they? And if the people in the field are not giving 100% then your chances of succeeding are all that much more difficult. The ideas in these books will show you how to avoid this common mistake of failed leadership. The ideas in this book are not only good business common sense, they are just plain smart.
Roberto offers up fascinating case studies to prove his point. From the failed leadership that lead up to the disastrous Columbia Space Shuttle accident to the decision process that then-president Kennedy used during the Cuban Missile Crisis — a successful process that he didn’t use prior to the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Roberto presents an easy to understand, quite enjoyable read.
I have cultivated these ideas into the operation of my own staff on the Music Direction Team at InterFM. I am proud to say that I have the most motivated, most elite division at that entire company.
And you know what the really beautiful part is? I let my staff argue it out amongst themselves in front of me and allow them to make the decisions. Of course, if I thought that their decision was wrong, I might join the fray and try to convince them otherwise, but, until now, I haven’t had to do this even once.
I goes without saying that I required all of them to read the Japanese version of the books I have recommended here. I know by talking to them and by looking in their faces that they are incredibly excited and enthused about their work; they love their jobs.
Perhaps what we are attempting to do at TX-BB and InterFM is nearly impossible. Perhaps creating a worldwide revolution in the way the music business has always operated is impossible, especially if it is to emanate from Japan. But when I have a staff of highly motivated people who love their jobs and are incredibly positive — and believe that we can succeed — then you know I have increased my probability of success a hundred-fold
Of course, I love my job too. I know we will succeed.
The ideas presented in these books work for businesses large and small. They will apply if you are starting your own store, restaurant, or even your own rock band. These ideas are universal for the success of any project.
By the way, Mr. Kamibayashi also tells me that these books are standard fare for all the upper management at Sony.
Do yourself a favor in 2007, drop the shackles that chain the inner you that wishes to be financially free and secure. Forget about the daily grind or relying on the government or someone else for your financial security. Show your old boss that you do have what it takes; show everyone, as well as yourself, that you can do it. Remember that the best revenge is success. Get these books, read them. Take that chance and become what you’ve always dreamed of: become your own boss and make your own company and be successful at it.
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He is the president of a mass-media production company and also runs a talent agency in Japan. His first book, Schizophrenic in Japan, is now on sale.