Yoshito Hori speaks about leadership lessons with enthusiasm in a suit and tie

I produced this column by revising my tweets between November 17 to November 20, with an afterthought added at the end.

●Wednesday, November 17
1) I have just arrived at my hotel in Bangkok. The overnight flight, which left Haneda at 0:40 a.m., was unexpectedly comfortable. The new international terminal at Haneda was nicer than I had imagined, too. It was simple and functional. My tour of three Southeast Asian cities, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, begins today.

2) I taught a class at the Graduate School of Management, GLOBIS University, until 10 p.m. last night. I then went home, had a bath and said goodbye to my children. Despite all this, it was easy for me to catch the flight. And here I am in downtown Bangkok at 7 a.m. I can take a nap before my appointment at 10 a.m.

3) Basically, the main purpose of this trip is to pitch GLOBIS MBA programs. GLOBIS is taking part in the MBA Tour for the first time to prepare for its fulltime English-language MBA courses in 2012. The MBA Tour began in Tokyo, and is going on to cover Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Bangkok and Manila. My plan was to join the second half of the Tour, while also delivering speeches in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

4) In addition, I’m visiting investors, meeting high-profile business leaders with the aim of forming an advisory board, and discussing with the local media. This trip is also aimed at preparing for a “World Leaders’ Forum (WLF)” which we plan to stage in October 2011.

5) To put it another way, I’m inviting prospects to enroll in GLOBIS MBA programs, persuading investors to invest into GLOBIS Funds, asking leaders to join the GLOBIS Advisory Board , building relationships with the media, and talking people into speaking at the WLF. In short, it’s very much like a road show. To use another more casual expression, I’m “barnstorming.” Steady and repeated efforts like these will make GLOBIS the top business school in Asia.

6) I had tea with my Thai friend at my hotel from 11 a.m. and then ate lunch with the founder of one of the largest magazine publishers in Asia. Between these appointments, I decided to walk the streets of Bangkok on my own. I found traces of the unrest in April in the atrocious conditions of buildings. Still, half of the stores at ZEN and the Central World Plaza were still closed. Luckily, Isetan was open. I dropped by for my shopping expedition for some time.

7) In the evening, I had dinner with the chairman of one of the largest corporate groups in Thailand. The chairman is an extremely relaxed person. We had a lively conversation. We swapped opinions on many subjects, ranging from business to politics. I have visited Thailand more than ten times. But I have never met someone like him, who goes into such depth in telling me the country’s political conditions. Strangely, the political situation in Japan seemed quite good by comparison.

8) I feel the inevitable urge to enjoy the nightlife whenever I visit an Asian city (or any other city even outside of Asia). Unsurprisingly, I have many friends to go out with in each city. Generally speaking, the nightlife teaches me many things about a city such as culture, fashion, pastimes, and relationships. As usual, Bangkok’s night life was quite exciting.

●Thursday, November 18

9) I awoke to a wakeup call at 6 a.m. I was scheduled to leave for my next destination, Kuala Lumpur, that day. I opened the curtains and let in the morning sunlight. I took a shower, changed clothes, and did some light work. The sky was cloudy. I was in the center of Bangkok, but outside I could see the green track of a racecourse. What looked like a monorail car passed an elevated track before my eyes.

10) My taxi left the hotel in Bangkok and took an expressway straight to the city’s new airport. I received VIP treatment as I stepped out of the cab at an airport entrance for Thai Airways business-class passengers. I was able to pass through security and immigration checks on the fast track. I received a free massage at the rear of the business-class lounge. After enjoying the Thai massage, I boarded my flight.

11) Problems occurred at Kuala Lumpur airport. Our baggage took more than one hour to come out. To make matters worse, I could not call anyone with my cell phone because the battery was dead. After picking up my bag, I met my driver and contacted Tokyo using his cell phone. I ended up changing clothes in the car, because I had no time to check in at my hotel. I changed into a business suit, left my bag at the hotel, and drove straight to the conference venue.

12) Venture business representatives from India and ASEAN countries happened to be meeting in Kuala Lumpur on that day. I had been scheduled to deliver a speech at this gathering after a luncheon hosted by the Prime Minister of Malaysia. This speech was arranged as a result of my friend’s request, who asked me to speak at the meeting.

13) “Present Conditions of Japanese Venture Businesses and implications for ASEAN Countries and India” was the topic of my speech. The speech went quite well. After exchanging greetings with the audience who came up to me after the speech, I left the venue for my next appointment. I was hungry so that I stopped at a restaurant on the way. I met officials from a foundation that might offer a scholarship to students at the GLOBIS MBA program,. If all went well, it would be the first scholarship at our school. I went back to my hotel, checked my emails, and took part in the Dean’s Seminar, the main event on this trip, from 7 p.m.

14) A torrential downpour replete with thunderbolts began late in the afternoon. In spite of the rain, close to 30 people came to the Seminar. Traffic worsens in Kuala Lumpur when it rains. The venue for the Seminar was inaccessible by subway. I sympathized with the visitors, thinking, “Even I felt like skipping the event.” It was the very first Dean’s Seminar outside Japan. I completed my speech and answered questions from the floor in high spirits.

15) The reaction was quite good. People in the audience responded to the GLOBIS philosophy as I hoped. I thought we could transform GLOBIS, into one of the top schools in Asia by continuing these steady efforts like this through speeches and the MBA Tour. I felt we had achieved something significant, and began thinking that I would make more overseas visits. I returned to my hotel room, changed clothes, and went out again.

16) I had dinner that night with a very successful businessman in Malaysia who is a mentor of mine. He is also an investor in the GLOBIS Fund. It was my first visit to his house in ten years. After sipping wine and munching on tempura by a swimming pool in the garden, we moved to the dining room where we had soup and the main dish for the evening. After many hours, I left his house after midnight.

17) I don’t know whether it was because of my nature as a “fun loving person” or out of curiosity, but I still wanted to go out for fun after the long hectic day. Moving from one city to another two days in a row exhausted me, but I visited two clubs for a drink, relaxed in a massage, and returned to my hotel past 3 a.m.

●Friday, November 19

18) I woke up at 8 a.m., made a tweet and checked out of my hotel to travel to Singapore. Kuala Lumpur airport is some distance from the heart of the city. After arriving in Singapore, I checked in to a hotel and went straight to visit an investor. From his new office, I could see Singapore’s new casino. The building surprised me with its unusual design. I heard admission is free for foreigners like me, but Singaporeans must pay 100 dollars to enter. In spite of the rule, local people were said to account for the majority of visitors. I went back to my hotel after the meeting.

19) My next appointment was pushed back from 5:30 p.m and I finally met the Asian representative for the U.S. economic magazine Forbes at my hotel at 8 p.m.. We went to the American Club. Traffic congestion in Singapore seems to me to be getting worse each year. We had a friendly conversation over a Chinese dinner. I tried a dish called “wasabi shrimp,” and found it to be delicious. After dinner, I rented a car and went on a “sightseeing” drive around Singapore to check on the city’s nightlife.

20) The first place I visited was a Japanese pub. As it was not exciting, I soon moved to my next destination, Clarke Quay, which was like a big mall of nightlife establishments, such as discos, clubs, and bars. The place seemed somehow artificial, in the same way that Tokyo Disneyland or other theme parks appear. Still, the area was thronged with people.

21) I visited several clubs at Clarke Quay. Groups of young people were enjoying live music played by a house band over drinks, which seemed to be a basic pattern. The air inside the clubs was very clean because the space for smokers was partitioned. There seemed to be many tourists there. By any measure, Clarke Quay was huge. I had never visited such a manufactured artificial entertainment district before.

22) Moving to another section of the complex, I walked into a club called Zouk. Inside, I discovered it was divided into three or four smaller clubs. After paying a cover charge, I could move freely among them. Zouk seemed to be a Singaporean club on the cutting edge. Its customers were very neat and well-mannered. After a while, I moved to a club for Westerners. I ended up staying at this last stop for a long time.

●Saturday, November 20
23) After waking up, I had brunch with a consultant I had met at a CEO conference in Sydney. This consultant had written a book called Asian Brand. I invited him to the “World Leaders’ Forum” GLOBIS will present in October 2011. Then, it was finally time for the Dean’s Seminar, my main event in Singapore. It looked like we were going to be in for another thunderstorm. I wanted to meet as many people as possible on this valuable occasion.

My speech went well. Many enthusiastic MBA candidates came to the Seminar in spite of the rain. To my surprise, virtually no participant was from Singapore. There were MBA candidates from France, former Eastern bloc nations in Europe, and nearby countries and regions in Asia such as China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Malaysia. I also found a participant who had come all the way from Perth, Western Australia, just to listen to my speech.

Two GLOBIS students, one a Singaporean resident and the other a GMBA alumnus who lives in Jakarta, dropped by during my speech. I was delighted, and decided to have tea with them afterward. Without them telling me, I felt the changes that had occurred in Singapore.

Three countries I visited on this tour, namely, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, were the first area that I was responsible for at the Plant Export Department, where I was assigned after joining Sumitomo Corporation. They were also the first countries in Asia I visited privately, back in 1987, in my second year with Sumitomo. After that first trip, I traveled to these three countries in quick succession on business. In Bangkok, I used to stay at the Montien Hotel, and would frequently visit the nearby Patpong and Thaniya streets in search of fun. In Kuala Lumpur, I stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel, and often went to the “Turf” club in a two-story wooden building that was located in a corner of a nearby racecourse. An urban complex called KLCC now stands at the site where that racetrack was situated. The Twin Towers rise into the sky in the center of this complex.

It seems like a different era when I think about how things were 23 years ago. Singapore has gone through some obvious changes, too. The Singaporean government adopted a new policy of bringing in intellectuals and affluent people as immigrants several years ago. Real estate prices went up and traffic jams increased as a result. It depends on the hour, but hailing a cab has become nearly impossible. The Singaporean government is focusing on university education, too. Singapore is attracting students from nearby countries with initiatives to invite foreign universities to set up a campus. Young and distinguished people seem to be gathering in the city-state, partly as a result of these efforts. The nightlife has changed completely, too. Singapore used to offer no place to go for fun. It was an extremely boring place to visit. But it has a “Disneyland” of nightlife establishments today.

It was no coincidence that I chose these three cities for my first participation in the Dean’s Seminar as GLOBIS president. I chose them partly because I was familiar with the area from my time at Sumitomo. But more importantly, I chose these cities because I felt I could find many excellent students for GLOBIS in this region.

GLOBIS will start offering fulltime MBA programs in English in September 2012. We plan to spend more than one year on promotional activities and will do our best to attract many outstanding students. Our enrollment target for the programs is minimum 20 students. We plan to keep the ratio of Japanese students in these programs to 25% or less. I received a positive response on this tour, so I have grown confident on this.

I could proudly say that a new GLOBIS journey toward the number one position in Asia has just started with this first short trip.

November 24, 2010
Yoshito Hori
Completed on a flight back to Japan

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