An autocracy may be required to make a business 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 Conde House was with an autocratic leadership style, which, I’m sure, made the company survive and thrive. I don’t think the leadership style was what he intended. He was a master craftsman and furniture designer of frantic passion, and the passion drove forward everything including himself autocratically. In the furniture industry in Japan, he is a legend. There are many anecdotes about him, but let me narrow down and share two of them.
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 trading with Conde House. 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.
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, but it was his frantic passion that could lead the company higher. Conde House 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 340000. From the perspective of a man who always dreams of being an entrepreneur, I can’t help but admire even his shadow.
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.