Read "My Pigeon Way Story"
“A way to overcome times when work isn’t going well.”
I want to tell you about my experience during the negotiation for our new line of breast pumps. This year, I was entrusted with a large project. I was afraid of failing, so I thought it would be best to first continue with the way things had been done up to that point. However, things did not go well, and I got trapped in a negative chain reaction in which my disappointment led me to rapidly lose my motivation.
Just when as I was hoping for something which could motivate me to turn things around, a new line of products came out. When attending an information session at the company, I saw our new breast pumps and thought they were superb. However, as was to be expected, they were more expensive than the previous versions. Price increases are something that retailers most want to avoid, and the company I was in charge of was very strict about prices, so I predicted that negotiations would be tough. However, I was hoping this might be the chance I had been looking for to get back on my feet again, and I thought carefully about what would be necessary to succeed. The answer that came to me was, “Make them understand how impressed you felt.”
To prepare for the negotiations, I did as much research as I could about things such as the customers who would use the products, the conditions at the stores where the products would be sold, the way the products would be used, and similar products sold by other companies. Negotiations normally last for around 30 minutes, but I received a 2-hour block of time for this negotiation. To the negotiation, I brought the products from our company which were currently on the market, the products made by our rivals, and our new versions. I spent an hour to explain our new products and the current market conditions. Once my explanation had finished, I told everyone the suggested retail prices. In response, the buyers present at the negotiations said, “These are great products, and we want to sell them at those prices.”
What I learned from that experience was that work goes well when you are passionate and when you understand your customer’s perspective when making proposals. To put it another way, when things are not going well, I learned that the solution is to return the Action Principles and Values of the Pigeon Way.
In order to obtain our goal of increasing growth and profitability as we came up with new health and elder care products during the sixth medium-term business plan, we based our endeavor on the fundamental Pigeon Way Value of “Passion,” and I would like to tell you about my experience.
For two and a half years, I organized health and elder care workshops and, in coordination with the Research and Development Division, I was involved in product planning. In order to come up with solutions to the problems people at nursing facilities were experiencing, I placed emphasis on seriously considering things from the perspective of the nursing facility employees, and came up with four general areas around which to organize our project planning.
We have three products which are designed for nursing homes. The first is our “Wheelchair series.” As the level of care which patients need increases, it can be difficult for them to maintain their posture, but our wheelchairs are able to help patients maintain their posture. Even if the level of care which patients need changes, they can still use the chairs, making them particularly useful equipment for nursing homes. The second product is our “Table with panels with separately adjustable height,” which makes it easier for people of various physiques and different posture to eat together, while also reducing the amount of help staff have to give during mealtime. The third product is our “Anal cleansing and moisturizing liquid,” which cleanses, moisturizes, and protects skin.
The fourth is a product designed for at-home nursing care. “The cleaning care series, created in collaboration with nurses” contributes to the cleanliness of patients receiving at-home nursing care. Patient’s bodies can be cleaned simply, and the series is designed so that it can be used by anyone. We are also aiming to release other products for sale at the same time, such as a mobile cart that can be used at nursing homes for changing adult diapers.
Looking back on all of the hard work put into the process of planning and development, the thing which most supported our effort was the fundamental Pigeon Way value of “Passion.” We maintained the drive to keep working until our product plan was made into a reality, and we were continually trying to devise ways to ensure that we ended up with great results. Whatever the area we were planning products for, difficult problems frequently arose. However, every time a problem occurred, we were able to overcome it by making use of the wisdom of the members in our division and the people in charge of product development. For example, we were simultaneously trying to balance adding functions that would add value to the product with keeping costs down. When at the stage of product conceptualization, we made adjustments when outside observers’ assessments were not what we had expected.
In addition, because our workshops for health and elder care were a new experiment, at the start, it was unclear how roles would be shared in product planning, resulting in confusion. As a result, the thoughts of each division often could not be clearly understood. However, discussions were arranged, and problems were solved one-by-one. Thinking back on it, I could come up with endless examples of the difficulties we faced. However, we did not give up, we stayed focused, and we kept making plans. Finally, in October of 2018, we managed to make it to the step of publicly announcing the products’ release. More than anything else, we had “Passion.” Driven by our passion, we followed the five Action Principles and were able to keep moving forward.
I would like to tell you about how I implemented the Action Principle, “Keep sight of consumers,” while developing “Kokoa,” a table having panels with individually adjustable height that is targeted toward nursing homes.
At nursing homes, the dining area gives residents a precious chance to communicate with each other, and meals are strongly connected to their satisfaction with their nursing facility and to their quality of life, so supporting their dining experience is extremely important.
During the planning and development of the product, we held a workshop with people from the company involved with our health and elder care products. During a discussion there about products we currently offer, we learned both that the number of inquiries about our wheelchairs had increased and that we had received a number of inquiries regarding whether we offered a table with adjustable height, so we met with representatives from nursing and healthcare. There, we discovered that at that time, most nursing homes were using 4-legged tables in their dining areas. Residents of having a variety of physiques and in varying physical condition who had to use a wheelchair would eat at those tables while seated in their wheelchairs, but because of their posture, they often could not completely see all of the food on the tray placed on the table in front of them. As a result, they frequently unintentionally left food on their plates. Another problem which came up at the meeting was the fact that in small dining areas, the legs of these tables made it difficult for residents in wheelchairs to access them.
After considering all of the ideas for solving these problems that were raised at our health and elder care workshop, we came up with the solution of creating a table with one leg and four panels with individually adjustable height. Such a table had not previously existed anywhere and was a completely new concept. Because the table had individually adjustable panels, people with different needs would all be able to use the table together, and the table’s one leg in the center would make it easily accessible. I constantly keep the Action Principle, “Keep sight of consumers,” in mind, and the development of the table was the product of this principle’s implementation. During the development of the product, we looked for a manufacturer we could work with. After putting a lot of effort into our search, we found a manufacturer who could meet Pigeon’s quality standards while allowing us to offer the product to nursing homes at an affordable price, and we developed a new supply chain. In addition, we conveyed our passion for the product to the manufacturer, who worked in very close collaboration with us and offered ideas about mechanisms for the product’s functions. Furthermore, we received feedback from nursing homes which tried our prototype, and we were told that the product will have a significant positive impact on residents’ experience at meals. In 2019, as we complete the final stretch before bringing the product to market, we will continue to work with representatives from the health and elder care community whom we met during the workshop.
I would like to report one experience related to our sales activities in India which our salespeople and I had.
We had recognized an untapped sales potential in one of the states in India, but we had been unable to capture the market. This was because we had been struggling to find a suitable and reliable distributor to be in charge of the area. One day, a sales manager introduced me to a potential distributor. They were not a modernized company by any standard - they had built their business through their good personalities and a lot of legwork. They understood our strategies and suggested they would be committed to the sales of our core products (e.g. nursing bottles, nipples, breast pumps), so we decided to do business with them.
Immediately after starting to work together, I had an opportunity to talk with the owner and president of the distributor. During the meeting, I enthusiastically explained our desire to help change child-rearing in India through our products. The staff at the distributor embraced our goal, and the two parties firmly agreed to work together to expand the business. After that, the distributor was as passionate about success as we were, and they soon started showing solid results, achieving one promised sales goal after another.
This, in turn, stimulated our salespeople in a positive way. Despite their past struggles in the area, they started, as if by magic, getting orders. They told me that after listening to the conversation between the owner of the distributor and me during the meeting, they decided that they would focus on doing whatever they could do to help us achieve success. As a result, both the distributor and our salespeople achieved remarkable results in the fiscal year, and both were commended for their outstanding work. It is also true that many distributors in India are merely interested in making profits through selling products in large quantities and at low prices, and when their activities are no longer profitable, they quickly stop. However, this distributor’s focus on long-term success and their responding to passion with passion were very encouraging. Experiences like this serve as opportunities to boost the motivation of our salespeople and of distributors in the other states.
From March through October 2017, as a legal staff member, I was part of the process of the acquisition of a joint venture by a subsidiary. To be more precise, I verified agreements and legal documents such as stock purchase agreements, joint venture agreements, and articles of incorporation. At that time, I did not have a lot of experience in corporate reorganization. Furthermore, this was an international acquisition. Therefore, I was a bit anxious about working on the project. During the project, I always reminded myself to act with integrity. I knew that I would need to support the entire procedure of the corporate reorganization without causing any delays or making any mistakes. I often felt at a loss, as I was not familiar with the laws of the country where the company was located or with long agreements written in English. In addition, I came across unfamiliar terms related to stock trading schemes. Whenever encountering such a setback, I overcame it by taking the following measures: 1. I went over documentation such as agreements repeatedly. 2. I looked up and tried to clarify anything that was unclear to me by myself. 3. In the case where I was unable to figure it out by myself, I humbly sought the assistance of the employees of the subsidiary, the staff in Pigeon’s accounting and finance division, and Pigeon’s corporate lawyer.
As the negotiations I was involved in were for a very important contract related to corporate reorganization, there were times when they did not proceed smoothly. When difficulties arose, I first talked to employees of the subsidiary and clarified what was non-negotiable for them. I then presented proposals to the person in charge of the negotiations with the other party involved in the joint venture. I focused on coming up with ideas that could logically convince the other party they would end up with a “win-win” situation, allowing for a return to smooth negotiations. I felt very relieved to hear from the person in charge that the process was successfully completed in October. I believe that this acquisition process was an opportunity for me to embody, as a legal staff member, one of the Action Principles of the Pigeon Way: “Global collaboration among competent individuals.”
As part of annual hiring activities for new university graduates, I participate in on-campus seminars at about 30 universities. I have the opportunity to meet with more than 1,000 students. These activities are extremely important for having students become interested in Pigeon and apply for employment at our company.
At these on-campus seminars, I always focus on "talking with students for as long as necessary to provide satisfaction." I believe that this approach embodies the "Integrity" which is one of the fundamental values of the Pigeon Way.
Around December, after finishing one such on-campus seminar, I received a question from a female university student. It seems that the young woman had developed an interest in Pigeon after listening to the corporate information session held on that day. While talking, the young woman began discussing the uneasiness that she felt during her job search. "Pigeon is a global corporation, so I assume that English is a required skill," she said. "I'm not very good at English..." Upon talking more with the young woman, I learned that she puts great effort into her research and club activities. I explained that Pigeon does not focus exclusively on foreign language ability when screening candidates; rather, our company strives to evaluate the character of each individual. Finally, since she lacked confidence in her language ability, I advised the young woman not to engage in vain attempts to impress corporations which only consider language ability or place excessive focus on language ability when screening candidates. Instead, I recommended that she apply to corporations that would recognize her outstanding qualities and achievements. All of the sudden, the young woman's eyes were filled with tears. It seems that she had been overwhelmed with uneasiness upon starting her job search, and that my advice had given her great courage. I left the venue filled with the hope that the young woman would find satisfaction in her search for employment.
Four months later, I was approached by a female student after finishing a corporate information session. I recognized that student as the young woman whom I had met at the on-campus seminar conducted the previous December.
"When I spoke with you at the on-campus seminar, I was confused about how I should proceed with my job search," she said. "But, thanks to your advice, I found my own direction for seeking employment and gained confidence. Even if I don't make the final screening for Pigeon, I just wanted the opportunity to express my gratitude face-to-face. That's why I participated in today's session."
Unlike last time, it was now me who was on the verge of tears. I managed to suppress my emotions and thank the young woman. At that moment, I felt a great sense of accomplishment and pride at how my working in hiring brought courage to another person.