The Story of Our Founder: A Furniture Craftsman with a Frantic Passion


Autocracy was the need of the times

An autocracy may be necessary in the very first phase of a business to make it take off in the harsh market battles. Especially new comers in the market are always exposed to kill-or-be-killed situations. They don’t have time to make decisions after democratic consultation. The founder of CondeHouse was with an autocratic leadership style, and that made the company survive and thrive, I’m sure. I don’t think the leadership style was what he intended. He was a master craftsman and furniture designer of frantic passion. It is the passion that drove forward everything including himself autocratically. In the furniture industry in Japan, he is a legend. There are many anecdotes about him, but today, let me narrow down and share two of them.

The dawn of the Japanese furniture industry

I believe his biggest achievement is a revolution in the furniture distribution. Before the revolution, furniture wholesalers had substantial control over everything such as pricing, product planning, etc. He rebelled against the system and started selling directly to retailers, which soon caused a furor, of course. Some wholesalers put pressure on other companies to stop doing business with CondeHouse. Even though being cornered into a financial crisis, he didn’t give up. Finally, the tide turned, and now, most of the furniture wholesalers withdrew from the market. He led off the restoration of sovereignty for furniture manufacturers.

A black and white image. There are some chairs, and our founder and a designer sit next to each other.

He bet on chairs

As I wrote before, we Japanese people started using chairs just about 150 years ago. Even when he established the company, chairs were not so popular. The main product of the furniture market at that time was a Japanese classic-style chest of drawers. Here again, he was against the tide and decided to focus on the production of dining chairs and tables. His foresight determined the fate of the company and established a firm position in the Japanese market as a top brand of dining chairs.

Strong light creates thick shadow. I heard many people had left the company due to interpersonal conflicts with him, his frantic passion was necessary to lead the company higher at that time. CondeHouse is a company of about 300 employees. If group companies and employee family members are included, the company can be said to be a system to support the lives of more than 1000 people in this small city with a population of about 330000. From the perspective of a man like me who always dreams of being an entrepreneur, I can’t help but admire even his shadow.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.