Top Interview (3/6)
What Kind of Company Should TOA Be?
- As a newly appointed company president, one of your roles is to speed growth. How is TOA approaching that effort?
I believe it’s important to capitalize on our strengths as a specialist manufacturer of sound and video components to create products unique to TOA and bring these to the market quickly. To that end, we must use our perspective and expertise to identify problems in sound and video areas that are usually overlooked. We must stay in daily and constant communication with our customers, not only listening carefully to their voices to hear what they need, but also going into the field to visit their sites and see real things for ourselves. We are then in a position to put our imaginations to work to suss out their hidden needs. It is, in another words, important to cultivate our powers of observation and insight when it comes to our customers and potential business opportunities.
We also must increase the speed with which we bring products to market. This will require once again reviewing our entire process from development to delivery. We need manufacturing that considers where and how products will be used, and which can thereby eliminate unnecessary workmanship and effort.
We must always be talking with customers, observing their actual worksites and what they’re really dealing with, while at the same time taking note of changes happening in the world in general. What do they need? What issues are they facing? What problems do they have? We must think about what we can do to overcome these, and then show our solutions to the world in concrete terms. I think good results will flow naturally if this process is carried out in a thorough-going manner.
- What changes to TOA’s business are happening as part of the move from “Product-Oriented to Service-Oriented” initiatives called for in the current mid-term plan?
Throughout our history, we’ve been very good at creating and manufacturing products that are well designed around our customers’ demands. Our megaphones and trumpet speakers, for example, once dominated the market, such that even today many people still have an image of TOA as that kind of company. Now, though, as customer needs continue to diversify, we need to change how we manufacture and how we sell. Namely, we need more people to understand our long-held self-identification as “a provider of sound, not equipment,” and based on that open up new markets for ourselves. This is the idea underlying the phrase “Product-Oriented to Service-Oriented.”
These days we’re seeing an expansion of “sharing economy” business models, and our own sound and video industry is no exception. For example, if the goal is to sound a siren in the event of an emergency, or to broadcast fixed announcements at specific times, it may not be necessary for each individual building to have its own set of equipment for handling these. Offering customers conditions that allow broadcasts to be initiated automatically simply by inputting information on required audio and broadcast times into a computer is just one concrete example of selling such customers something more akin to a “service” than mere “products.”
We also see many new business opportunities to be had by incorporating advancing technologies like artificial intelligence (“AI”) and the so-called “Internet of Things” (“IoT”).