By Thomas F. Schwartz
When historians mention Herbert Hoover’s influence abroad, most cite his humanitarian efforts with food and emergency relief. Less studied is the influence of his writings such as American Individualism which was translated into many languages and his work as Secretary of Commerce and President. The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum received a corporate history, 100-Year History of the Toyo Seiken Group. Normally, such books are beyond the collecting scope of the library. But this particular company has unique ties between its founder Tatsunosuke Takasaki and Herbert Hoover. Takasaki founded a canning company in 1917 and spent time in the United States. In the 1920s, he corresponded with Herbert Hoover as Commerce Secretary and became interested in the transformational work being done by Hoover. Hoover’s election to the presidency occurred right before a global economic depression. Japan, like many countries, abandoned the gold standard decreasing the value of their currency and making their products cheaper for export. The 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act imposed high tariffs on foreign goods threatening the increased sales of Japanese canned goods to the United States.
According to the corporate history:
“Tatsunosuke Takasaki believed that it was essential to inspire the entire workforce to join forces through confirming a shared philosophy. To this end, he published a booklet titled Toyo Seikan’s Missions in 1933, which included Our Fundamental Principles and Work Rules for Our Employees. The following are excerpts from the booklet.
Our Fundamental Principles
3. Our fundamental principles, which are based on the previous statements edited under the title of ‘Mr. Herbert Hoover and Our Company’s Policy’ and opinions collected on the statements, are summarized as follows:
A. Our objective is to bring happiness to mankind.
B. The purpose of our business is not just to gain profit. Profit is a result of our hard work and not our main aim.
C. Each of us must incorporate a sense of service in our work. Exercise this sense collaboratively and strive to ensure the prosperity of our business partners in the same way as we would for ourselves.
We will uphold the above three principles for all our activities.
Work Rules for Our Employees
4. The following are Work Rules for Our Employees:
A. Toyo Seikan is a mutual packing factory for all customers who require packaging. Our employees must be loyal to the customers we serve.
B. Our products must be better in quality, lower in price and must be supplied more quickly than those of other companies. We should not think that we are just selling our products, but we must rather think that we are sending off our beloved children that we raised with our utmost care.
C. To be satisfied with only a small success is to take a step backwards. Our first duty must be at all times to work without losing our youthful vitality and courage.”
Rarely are the ideas of an outside individual such as Herbert Hoover so openly acknowledged by a corporation. Typically, ideas are seen as in the public domain and quietly appropriated into corporate thinking. It is interesting to note that in the late 1980s, American corporations heavily relied upon Japanese models of productivity and labor relations to emulate success.