A fitting location
We’re a subsidiary of American Honda Motor Company. Among other projects for the company, I had been working on the idea for the HondaJet for almost 30 years. When Honda approved commercialization of the plane in 2006, we built a campus next to the airport in Greensboro, N.C., to produce it.
We have an open office environment. My office, on the third floor of the main building, is fairly large and rather private.
A game, anyone?
I chose a Ping-Pong table as my conference table because it reminds me of my childhood passion. Growing up in Japan, I would play table tennis for six hours a day in junior high and high school. I wanted to be a pro. The game taught me perseverance, strategy, speed, consistency and the value of hard work.
I like the table’s flat surface, which is good for drawing my engineering ideas. We have two tables for playing in our break area.
Nature gazing and telling time
My office faces south and offers a view of trees and woods. I thought if I had something like a sundial in the courtyard, I could both check the time and enjoy the scenery, so I designed one and we installed it. It’s very accurate. Twice a year when the time changes, we move the numerals on the dial one position.
I keep my textbook on aircraft design theory from the University of Tokyo handy to refresh my memory when I need to. I like to exercise my brain. Theories give me different viewpoints; I try to keep a theoretical brain and a business brain.
Thanks from the troops
When the 50th HondaJet was coming off the production line, everyone who worked on it signed a photo of the plane, and they gave it to me as a gift.
I still have my original sketches of our business jet. The idea came to me in the middle of the night. I couldn’t find any paper, so I grabbed a calendar, tore the cover off and drew them on the back cover.
Inspired by a master
I’ve gotten inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches, which span not only engineering and mechanical drawings but also landscapes and anatomical drawings. They make me consider how people come up with new ideas.
I use a Pure Malt pen with blue, black, red and green ink for drawing. It’s partially made from recycled whiskey barrels. My engineers know my coding system: Red is an urgent or critical item. Green is for future ideas. Blue is for personal thoughts.
I’ve been using yellow legal pads since coming to the United States with Honda in 1986. I found my favorite brand, Tops Docket Gold legal pads, in 2001. I’ve used two every month to write action items and ideas. I still have every one, stored in my office, all with dates so I can look up any history.
A consultant to Honda who shared his experiences with me about aircraft design in the 1940s and 1950s became an early mentor. He introduced me to Diet Coke, which gave me energy to work until late at night. I’ve been drinking it ever since. I like the timeless design of the Coca-Cola logo.
Where it gets done
I spend a large part of the day walking the production floor. When I see the airplane I designed on the assembly line, it gives me energy to work harder.
A few years ago when I was having lunch at a nearby restaurant, the waiter assigned to me saw I was wearing a HondaJet shirt, but he didn’t know who I was. He told me he really wanted to work for the company and had moved from New York to try to get hired. I gave him the contact information for H.R. and was so moved by his story that I spoke to someone there. He now works on our production floor, and I’m happy to see him there. He now knows who I am.
This year we received the 2018 Foundation Award for Excellence from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for our accomplishments with the HondaJet. It made the rounds of each building on our campus before arriving at my office.
Photographic insights into how executives live and work.
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