President's Message at the 2011 New Employees' Initiation Ceremony
April 1, 2011
Good morning. I’m ITOCHU President and Chief Executive Officer Masahiro Okafuji.
In opening today’s initiation ceremony, I would like us to first pause to pay our respects to the many people who lost their lives in the 2011 Tohoku – Pacific Ocean Earthquake that struck on March 11. I also want to offer my deepest sympathies to the many people that are now struggling to cope with the harsh living conditions left in the wake of the disaster. The massive earthquake and tsunami, both larger than any in Japan’s recorded history, have not only brought untold damage to the Tohoku region, but have greatly impacted the entire country. The disaster has once again shown us in graphic detail the terrible power of nature, as well as the fragility of our social infrastructure, including the nuclear power plants that we have long believed were absolutely safe. It has also revealed how truly powerless humanity is to prevent these tragic events. It is in this context that those of you here today have gathered for your initiation ceremony. It is my hope that you will view this recent disaster as a harsh lesson for us all, and that you will mark this, the start of your lives as working adults, with a sense of humility and never with an air of entitlement.
Today, ITOCHU welcomes a total of 137 fresh new colleagues, including one who will join us in July; 112 in the managerial career track and 25 in clerical positions. According to a survey by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, as of February 1, 2011, the proportion of impending college graduates with job offers already in place was 77.4%. This figure is the lowest it has been since 2000. Looking just at ITOCHU, 8,919 people applied for the managerial career track position, meaning only 1 in 80 was successful. For the 878 who applied for our clerical position, only 1 in 35 was successful.
Right now, I am sure that many of you are overjoyed at having been hired, and are anxious to see what the future holds. There are also some who are no doubt uneasy at the prospect of becoming a “cog,” as it were, in that organization that we call a company. I must inform you, however, that your life here will be far from anything as simple as that. In a machine, a single broken tooth on the smallest cog can bring the entire thing to a grinding halt. But with an organization, even if an individual or two stops working, there will be no signs whatsoever that anything is amiss. In the best possible sense, what I want is for all of you to prove me wrong. If you’re simply a cog, then I want you to strive to be a cog the likes of which the world has never seen; one whose absence calls the ability of the entire organization to function into question. I want to use today’s initiation ceremony message to impress upon you once again two points to take to heart in becoming the most outstanding “cog” there ever was.
First, in whatever departments you join, I want you to strive to become recognized professionals in your particular area.
In your departments or fields of responsibility, I urge you to make becoming the No. 1 human resource or the one that others around you take notice of, your driving goal. When you’re the recognized best, people and information will gravitate to you, you’ll earn the trust of those around you, and you will find yourself moving rapidly in the right direction. I want you to avoid the kind of thinking that blows off mistakes because you view your job as largely unimportant. For a trading company, being proficient and a leader in a field, no matter which one, is the key to survival. Pouring yourself into whatever job you do, meeting challenges, and delivering results as a professional in your field, is the first critical step to becoming the kind of human resources that can thrive in any industry or department in the future.
My second point is to always start with YES foremost in mind.
This means wiring your thought process to always be a positive one. So, rather than thinking, “That’s not feasible” or “That’s impossible” in response to customer requests or advice from senior colleagues, first accept what is said, then consider how you can go about responding to it. Positive thinking is very important for businesspeople. This is the kind of response that makes a good impression on those you interact with, and can help to build smooth relationships with others. I urge you to embed the importance of starting from YES firmly in mind, and by all means make it a customary part of your life.
As of today, you are members of ITOCHU Corporation and part of its more than 150-year history. And you will join the rest of us in adding to that history in the years to come. ITOCHU has an infinite number of fields before it. Take confidence and pride in being selected and recruited into our ranks, keep the two points I discussed squarely in mind, and I look forward to seeing each of you reach your fullest potential.
In closing, I offer all of you a hearty and sincere welcome to ITOCHU Corporation.