Akio Morita - Sony and the Walkman

The story of Akio Morita...

👋 Hi friends,

In todays post, I dive into the Journey of Akio Morita the Founder of Sony.

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Let’s dive in, shall we…

Akio Morita was a Japanese businessman and co-founder of Sony Corp. Along with Masaru Buka Buka was 38 years old and Morita was 25 when they started the company founded just after World War Two and based in Nagoya, Japan.

They established the company with an initial capital of just three hundred and fifty dollars in a bombed out a shop that had been abandoned. Japan at the time was known for making low-quality products, and Morita was determined to reverse that stigma. They often cite him as the man who increased the value of the words Made in Japan.

Supported by innovative product launches like the Walkman, Sony became the first Japanese company to ever be listed on the New York Exchange and have revenues in the trillions of dollars. Morita helped put his country back on the map while building his own reputation across the world. In 1998, a Harris survey revealed that Sony was ranked the number one brand name by American consumers ahead of Coca-Cola and General Electric.

Here are some action items that we can take away from this story.

Action 1:

Trust your gut. There is never enough information to make a decision that you can be 100 percent sure of. By the time the information becomes fully available, it will be too late. Either someone else would have scooped the idea from you or the window of opportunity will have closed. As entrepreneurs, we have to trust your gut when deciding using the best information that we have available.

In 1978 Sony developed the prototype product that would allow people to listen to cassette tapes while they were on long flights. They put the project on hold as market research showed that no consumer would buy a tape recorder that did not record and that earphones would hold the product back as they saw it to be irritating and potentially associated with hearing loss.

Despite the advice given to him by his marketing department, Morita chose instead to trust his gut. He told Sony staff that they were going to create a worldwide culture of headphone wearers. And in 1979 Sony released the Walkman. It sold over three hundred and thirty million units.

Morita then gave the following advice for business owners:

Carefully watch how people live, get an intuitive sense of what they want and then go with it. Don’t do market research.

Action 2:

Find a good company name and product name. The names you choose for your company and products are how people remember you by. If they're too hard to pronounce, difficult to spell, and difficult to recall, then you lose out on the opportunity of having customers talk about you to their friends and coming back as repeat buyers. Sony's original company name was Tokyo Tucson Coco kabuki Keisha, long and difficult to remember in English.

The company decided it would need to change its name to better serve the North American market. Trying to find a new name, Morita found that soon as is the Latin word for sound. He thought its meaning was appropriate considering their industry.

However, he didn't think that it was catchy enough. Morita combined stoners with Sonny, a nickname that had become popular amongst American kids. Merida thought Sonny would help portray the image of the company as a youthful one with lots of energy and a bright future ahead.

With that, they formed the Sony Corporation. Similarly, when Sony first released the Walkman Sony's U.S. division considered the name “Walkman” to be improper English and changed the product to the sound for the American market.

Other divisions also began using different names until Morita put its foot down and insisted that everyone use the same name. Walkman became such a success that is listed as a word in almost every major dictionary.

Action 3:

Look after your people. If you're building a company beyond yourself, you'll quickly realize how important it is to have the right people in place and to look after them. Money is important to them. But don't forget that people want to feel appreciated, challenged, and be a part of a team that's working on important problems.

The most important mission for a manager is to develop a healthy relationship with his employees to create a family feeling within the corporation. A feeling that employees and managers share the same fate. We will try to create conditions where persons could come together in a spirit of teamwork and exercise to the heart's desire.

The technological capacity I believe people work for satisfaction. I believe it is a big mistake to think that money is the only way to compensate a person for his work. People need money, but they also want to be happy in their work and proud of it.

Akio Morita was born into a family that had been in the Saki brewing business for over 15 generations from his childhood. They had always assumed that Morita would continue the family tradition of making Saki. They had groomed him to take over the family business.

By the age of 10 his father made him attend all the company's board meetings and just a few years Morita had become an expert on everything from monitoring the brewing process to testing the quality. But while Morita was learning the ins and outs of the family business, so too did he discover that his interest was not in Saki after all!

Morita realized that he was not destined to keep the family tradition alive much after the disappointment of his father and followed his genuine passion for mathematics and physics which led him to founding Sony. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Trust your gut.

  • Your company name counts.

  • Look after your people.

As always, thanks so much for reading.