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Management’s Point of View ~Wow! Your Client~

March 15, 2024

“Wow! Your client” (i.e., deliver service that will truly impress the customer) is no doubt something that is talked about in various industries and various companies. However, even though its importance is extremely well-known, I am embarrassed to say that our company has not yet reached the “Wow!” level. As I was thinking about what it would take to really impress our clients, I was suddenly reminded of something that happened to me long ago.

I was born and raised in the countryside of Fukuoka Prefecture in the southwest of Japan. There were only two train lines, the Japan Railways and Nishitetsu, which ran parallel to each other with very few branch lines and stations between major cities, so I pretty much had to go everywhere by bicycle. Even as an elementary school student, I rode my bicycle to my grandparents’ house in neighboring Kumamoto Prefecture, and as a middle school and high school student, I would head out and explore the whole island of Kyushu, which is hundreds of miles in circumference. Since I was a student with no money, exploring usually meant sleeping rough under the eaves of places like schoolhouses and shrines, or perhaps unrolling my sleeping bag on a bench at a bus stop, but nevertheless enjoying the youthful freedom of travel.

At one point I had gone into the mountains of Oita Prefecture. Kyushu, like most of Japan, is quite mountainous, and once you get deep into the mountains, there are only mountains behind you and more mountains ahead of you. I was in such a place when the sun had gone down and I decided to spend the night in a hamlet there. It was autumn, but the mountains were cold; the temperature was close to freezing and the wind cut like a knife, rather too harsh for a bus stop bench with just a sleeping bag. As I looked around, I noticed a phone booth, so I figured I could stuff the gaps at the bottom with cardboard and sleep there. At first, I felt that at least it wasn’t as bad as outside and tried to brave the cold, but gradually, I felt colder and colder. I started looking around again, thinking about how I could make it through the night in this weather. There were just a few houses, but among them, I spotted a homestyle curry rice shop that was open. The warmth of the heater greeted me as I went inside, a warmth that revived me. I ordered just a plate of curry and some water and ate little by little so as to stay as long as possible. The other two customers in the shop finished and left as I was eating my meal, slowly, slowly, taking tiny bites in order to make the time last longer. I wasn’t very good at talking to people, so I avoided making eye contact with the older man running the shop, while still trying to stay there. I don’t know how much time had elapsed, but the bearded shop owner abruptly said to me, “I’m going to be closing up soon.”

“Right,” I said in a small voice. As I vaguely realized that I would have to leave, and that it would be cold outside, the shop owner said, “You probably don’t have anywhere to stay, do you?”

“No,” I quietly admitted.

After taking a long look at me, he asked, “You want to stay here then?”

“Really? Would that be alright?”


Then I told the owner all about how I had been thinking of staying overnight in the phone booth, and how it was so cold, and that I had spotted his shop and wanted to stay in a warm place while I ate, and that I was sleeping outside on my bicycle adventure from Fukuoka. After he had listened to me, seemingly enjoying my story, I stretched out on the floor of the curry shop in my sleeping bag. The owner left the heater on for me and went home.

It was the first time in a while that I had spent a warm night indoors, and I must have slept soundly because it was the rattling of the shop door that awakened me as the owner came in in the morning. No sooner had he entered than he was already making breakfast, which he fed me for free. I set out again after professing my thanks.

Although I had ordered just a plate of curry, the owner saw that I was in a bind and kindly offered to let me stay overnight in the shop. I learned from him that the true meaning of service is to do everything you can for someone when you see that they really need help.

Later I graduated from high school and went to the United States. Now, after founding the company in 2017, we are still small, albeit with 26 employees. We are pursuing American efficiency and operational standardization, but even as we develop the managerial structure of an American accounting firm, I still reflect from time to time on what the curry shop owner did for me. And every time I remember that episode, I feel inadequate in that I haven’t really been able to become that kind of person.

Twice I went back to the curry shop as an adult when I was visiting home in Japan, traversing the road by car, taking gifts with me. One time was the shop’s day off, unfortunately, and the other time, it was supposed to be open, but the owner was attending a wake or some other personal business, so I left the gifts in the care of neighbors and went home again.

To this day, I still remember what he taught me: how a great service can earn a life-time customer. Reflecting on myself, I haven’t gotten anywhere close to him. There are many areas in which I still lack, and I often leave those around me frustrated. Nevertheless, I will continue striving to accomplish genuine growth and development, seeking to mold a company that people will look at and say, “Wow!” In doing so, I ask for the support and cooperation of our entire staff.


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