[FOUNTAIN]A sharp business acumen“Sharp” sometimes referred to a mechanical pencil, originating from Eversharp, invented in America in 1837. But the product often did not function properly. Contrary to its name, the Eversharp had to be sharpened.
It was a Japanese man named Tokuji Hayakawa who improved the old design and made the convenient model we use today. Formerly a technician specializing in making fountain pen parts, he developed a revolutionary mechanical pencil that exceeded the performance of the Eversharp in 1915. He named his invention “Sharp Pencil,” which became a synonym for a mechanical pencil.
His invention was recognized for its practical use, and Mr. Hayakawa received orders from abroad. He founded Hayakawa Metal Works, which thrived in the industry.
The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 completely destroyed the company. Starting from scratch, Mr. Hayakawa relocated to Osaka and founded an electronics company. He began to produce radios in 1925, which were an instant hit. He developed follow-up products, from Japan’s first television and microwave to the world’s first desktop calculator. He named his product lines Sharp, after his first invention.
In the1970s, he changed the name of the company to Sharp, which went on to become one of the major Japanese electronics brands. Sharp no longer makes sharp pencils, but it still gives out mechanical pencils made by a contractor as a souvenir.
Sharp is a dramatic case, but many other firms have successfully converted to a different industry. Wells Fargo, a U.S.-based bank boasting a superb credit rating, used to be a transportation company. It delivered mail, and transported gold from 1825, during the Gold Rush.
Now an international mobile device maker, Motorola made its name as a car radio maker in the 1930s. The company’s name was a combination of “motorcar” and “Victrola,” a famous audio brand. Originally, Motorola made a device to enable motorists to enjoy music while driving.
A successful transition often depends on the decisions of an insightful CEO. No company becomes an accidental success. The role of the CEO is crucial to the fate of the firm. Many Korean CEOs are eyeing politics. But they should ask themselves how much time and energy they have put into making decisions that determine the future of the company.
by Nahm Yoon-ho
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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