How Soichiro Honda Started Honda Corporation And Became So Successful
Today Honda Corporation, the maker of Honda cars and motorcycles is one of the most successful car manufacturers in the world, outselling all but Toyota in the United States and it all started with the power of Soichiro Honda’s dream.
In 1938, Mr. Honda was a poor student who had a dream of designing a piston ring that he would sell and manufacture for Toyota Corporation.
Every day he would go to school and all night long he would work on his design, usually up to his elbows in grease. He spent whatever little money he had on his project and he even hocked his wife’s jewellery to continue working on it.
After years of effort he finally had completed his design that he was sure Toyota would buy but when he took it to them they rejected it. He had to go back to school and suffer the humiliation of his teachers and friends telling him what an idiot he was for wasting his time and designing something so ridiculous.
He was broke and frustrated but he wasn’t about to give up on his dream that easily.
“My biggest thrill is when I plan something and it fails. My mind is then filled with ideas on how I can improve it.” – Soichiro Honda
He spent the next two years continuing to find way to make the piston ring better and finally after two more years he refined his design and Toyota bought it.
Now in order to built his piston factory, Mr. Honda needed concrete, but the Japanese government was preparing for World War 2, so none was available. Yet again Mr. Honda was presented with another obstacle that would surely mean the end of his dream. It seemed like nobody would help him but again did he quit? Absolutely not.
Mr. Honda decided to go ahead and build it factory. He got together a group of his friends, and for weeks they worked around the clock trying different approaches until they found a new way to manufacture concrete. Finally he was able to build his factory and start manufacturing his piston rings.
The story doesn’t end here…
During the war the United States bombed Honda’s factory, destroying most of it. Again instead of feeling defeated he rallied all his employees.
He said, “Quickly! Run outside and watch those planes. What they’ll do is drop their fuel cans out of the sky. We need to find out where they drop them and get those cans, because they contain the raw materials we need for our manufacturing process!”
These were raw material they couldn’t get anywhere else in Japan.
After all that finally an earthquake levelled his factory and he was forced to sell his piston operation to Toyota.
Soichiro Honda’s dream was dead but that wouldn’t stop him from going on to achieve something far greater.
“There are… qualities which… lead to success. Courage, perseverance, the ability to dream and to persevere.” – Soichiro Honda
When the war had ended Japan was in total turmoil, resources were scarce in all parts of the country, gasoline was rationed and in most cases nearly impossible to find, and Mr. Honda couldn’t even get enough gas to drive his car to the market to buy food for his family.
Yet again, instead of feeling helpless and defeated Mr. Honda decided that he would not settle for this quality of life and started asking himself some very powerful questions: “How else can I feed my family? How can I use the things I already have to find a way to get there?”
He noticed a little motor he had, the size of one you’d typically find on a traditional lawn mower, and get got the idea of hooking it up to his bicycle. In that moment the first “motorbike” was created.
He drove it to and from the market and it wasn’t long before his friends were asking him to make some for them too. Shortly thereafter he’d made so many “motorbikes” that he ran out of motors, so he decided to build a new factory to manufacture his own.
Yet again another obstacle stood in Mr. Honda’s way. He had no money and Japan was torn apart so how could he do it?
“Success is only 1% of your work, and the rest – bold overcoming of obstacles. If you are not afraid of them, success will come to you itself.” – Soichiro Honda
Well he came up with a brilliant idea to write to 18,000 bicycle shop owners in Japan, telling them that he had a cheap solution to getting Japan moving again and he wanted them to invest. Out of the 18,000 bicycle shop owners who received his letter 3,000 gave Honda the money to manufacture his first shipment and the rest is history right? Wrong!
The “motorbike” was too big and bulky and very few people bought it so once again instead of giving up Mr Honda went to work on overcoming another obstacle. He changed his approach and he stripped the motorbike down making is much lighter and smaller. He called it “The Cub” and it went on to become an “overnight success”, winning Honda the Emperor’s Award.
Everyone looked at Honda and thought how “lucky” he was to have come up with the idea but luck had nothing to do with Honda’s success.
The key to Honda’s success was how he reacted to all the problems and circumstances he encountered.
“We can’t always control the events of our lives, but we can control what we decided to think, believe, feel and do about those events” – Anthony Robbins
Numerous times along his journey events were out of his control but what led to Honda’s success is what he could control. He decided to think, believe, feel and take action in a manner which always kept him moving towards his dream.
“When I started making motorcycles, the prophets of doom, some of them my friends, came to discourage me. ‘You’d be better off opening another garage, in the country or in Tokyo. You’ll make a lot of money. There are a lot of cars that need to be repaired in this country.’ I didn’t listen to them, and despite their pessimistic advice I created, on the 24th of September, 1948, next door to my research laboratory, the Honda Motor Company, which today is successful around the world.” – Soichiro Honda
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