July 18, 2005

In for the Long Haul

When I speak at trade association conferences I usually don't hang around to hear industry executives give their talks. Too many of them end up being rants about how to make more money or eliminate the competition, something I'm sure the rank and file eat up, but not something that does much for someone from outside their industry.

I'm glad, however, that I stayed at a conference last week to listen to James Press, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S. His warm and open demeanor lacked all of the bombast you sometimes get at the podium and his remarks about Toyota's business philosophy revealed timeless principles and common sense often lacking in the boardroom.

But what was really worth hearing was the vision/dream Toyota has. Press said Toyota wants to make cars that...

-make the air cleaner whenver they are driven
-don't injure people when an accident occurs
-make drivers healthier as they drive because of biofeedback

And to realize this dream, Toyota invests heavily in short-term research and development that is likely to yield its real return only in the long haul. Here is a company that clearly has foresight into what would be desirable—not just for them as a company, but also for society as a whole—and a commitment to investing in it right now.

Wow! Sounds like a philosophy that will keep them very profitable for a very long time.

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