An Oldie and Still Valuable Article

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JAL’s CEO takes bus to work and eats at the cafeteria (even when the press aren’t following him)

“We in Japan learned during the bubble economy that businesses who pursue money first fail. The business world has lost sight of this basic tenet of business ethics.”

Every couple of days here in Minneapolis, Northwest CEO Doug Steenland is on the television telling the thousands on Northwest employees living in the Twin Cities not to worry about losing their jobs after the merger with Delta is completed. Judging by the number of strikes and employee complaints NW has experienced over the past few years, I’d say no one takes him too seriously. If you you headed a company that performed so poorly and you still made Steenland’s salary (before perks), you wouldn’t be worried about anything or anyone.

Perhaps top execs at US airlines could learn something from JAL CEO Haruka Nishimatsu. After major lay-offs three years ago, Nishimatsu cut all his perks and then slashed his salary. In 2007, he made $90,000. A tidy sum, but much less than many of JAL’s pilots make. He takes public transit to work and eats lunch next to the plebes in the cafeteria.

Perhaps you could chalk up Nishimatsu’s approach to cultural differences between the US and Japan. But his explanation of the rational behind cutting his own perks and salary makes perfect sense to me.

“We in Japan learned during the bubble economy that businesses who pursue money first fail. The business world has lost sight of this basic tenet of business ethics.” 

Is this ethical approach working? JAL is faring reasonably well. Compared to US airlines, it is quite successful. So you can be ethical and successful? Amazing.


*Article written by by Josh Lew on Dec 11, 2008 + image (header)
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