[Outlook]It takes a rhino to beat a sandwich

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[Outlook]It takes a rhino to beat a sandwich

A rhino is a weird looking creature. It is heavier than a regular truck and its body is covered with thick skin. Its horns soar up as if to defy gravity. The creature is also far from pretty. When a rhino roams the plains it looks stupid and ungainly.
Paul Johnson, the renowned British journalist and historian, views the rhino from a different perspective. He wrote a column on the Rhino Principle in Forbes magazine in which he said “It’s the last of the antediluvian quadrupeds to carry a great weight of body armor.”
From the perspective of evolution theory, the rhino should have been long gone by now. The rhino is not aggressive and one wonders how it has survived in the jungle, but it has now been around for 10s of millions of years, even enduring the ice age.
Mr. Johnson focused on the simple-mindedness of the rhino. He maintains that it has been able to survive because, once a rhino sets a target, it devotes all its energy to hitting its goal.
In its resting state, a rhino moves very slowly, but when it faces a crisis and needs to charge it can run at speeds of more than 40 kilometers per hour. It is a mystery how a creature that weighs more than 3.5 tons can sprint so fast. When a rhino runs at full speed, beasts of prey such as lions or a tigers have no choice but to flee or be trampled.
The author stresses that the secret of the rhino’s survival can be applied in various ways to people’s lives.
He claims that troubled businesses need the Rhino Principle. He advises that if an entrepreneur has a vision, he or she should not crumble in the face of difficulties, but should charge right at them.
From the point of view of management, the Rhino Theory is about setting a goal and focusing upon it. As free markets have spread to the entire world, even a huge group of affiliates cannot dominate in every sector.
Instead of trying to become the leader of every field, each company should focus on its vision and strength and forget about the rest. Once a goal that guarantees survival has been set, a businessman should be prepared to sacrifice all others.
We can approach the question of “sandwiched Korea,” this year’s new issue among Korean businesses, using the Rhino Principle. China has become the “world’s factory” thanks to its low costs, and, now the country is armed with technology, it has become competitive even in fields that Korea has tried to make its own.
We believed that we were well in the lead when it came to industries like ship-building, automobiles and information technology, but China is now catching up at an alarming speed in these sectors as well.
Meanwhile, Japan has escaped from its lost decade. Thanks to its technology and financial strength, the country has begun to restore the companies that had been beaten back by Korean competitors.
These things have happened while Korea’s companies have lost motivation and failed to find new industries to provide growth for the next 10 or 20 years.
The Rhino Principle is helpful for Korean companies that are worried about their survival because they are sandwiched between Chinese and Japanese competitors, as if surrounded by beasts of prey.
Companies should set clear goals and aims and charge at them. They should have the courage to give up products that are unlikely to sell and are thus bound to fail in the future. They should use leftover resources to provide energy for new ventures. Businessmen should forget everything else and focus on survival, if that is the most important issue.
Mr. Johnson named Moses, Alexander the Great of Macedonia, and Caesar Augustus of ancient Rome as the rhinos of history. These figures never stopped charging until they reached their goals.
In the history of Korea’s economy, which is regarded as a major success story around the world, we can find numerous rhinos.
The construction of the highway that connects Seoul and Busan in the late 1960s, and the deceased Chairman of Samsung Lee Byung-chul’s investment in semiconductors are good examples. What would have happened if the highway or Samsung’s semiconductors had not existed or the projects had been discarded halfway?
The rhinos who are charging at this very moment in order to revive their troubled businesses are the hope of our sandwiched country. Let’s cheer for these rhinos and hope they hit their targets hard.

*The writer is a senior business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Sohn Byoung-soo
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