Soichiro Honda rode "rough shot "over convectional Japanese business practises to build a global empire.
He was born near Hamamatsu Japan in 1906. He helped his father repair bicycles in his blacksmith workshop as a child.
His mother designed a loom to produce intricate designs, so it would seem that innovation was in the blood.
Perhaps these traits led him to forge his own family seal so he could prevent his family seeing his school reports. He made a replica stamp from a bicycle pedal. This deception was only discovered after he started producing stamps for his classmates.
His father made him kneel in the corner of his workshop as punishment. This was not for being dishonest but for not realising that he needed to make a mirror image to make the stamps look authentic.
When the young Soichiro saw his first motor car driving through his village , he knew his destiny.
He left school at 15 and went to work in auto repair shop in Tokyo. His spare time was taken up building his own racing car.
Without any technical training Honda tried and failed to produce piston rings for Toyota.
These failed attempts helped shape his philosophy. He often said that "Success is 99 percent failure".
He revaluated his view on education and studied furiously to obtain the necessary technical "edge" for his rings. Before he had said "If theory promoted creativity, then all teachers would be inventors".
Soichiro Honda was almost killed during a motor rally in the suburbs of Tokyo in 1936. After convalescing for three months both Honda and his brother quit racing.
Production went in to "overdrive" with the advent of WW2. Honda provided rings for Toyota and many aircraft makers.
Business was brisk until an American air aid destroyed most of the Honda factory in 1945. This and a devastating earthquake not long after persuaded Soichirio to sell the remnants of his shattered firm to Toyota.
With all hope seemly lost for Japan Soichiro bought a whiskey making still and took an a year off to evaluate his life with a few select friends.
The spirit of innovation returned in 1946 when Honda fitted a small generator engine to a bicycle to create the first Honda motorcycle. The post war "cash strapped" Japanese loved these cheap machines and 1500 were swiftly sold.
The first completely Honda made bike was the 1949 "Honda Dream". Soichiro gave up drinking
sake and slept in his workshop until he perfected his two stroke design.
The process of "trial and error" was the basis of Hondas successful philosophy. Along with Henry Ford he wasn't too concerned what you knew, but what you could do! He felt that too much formal education inhibited original thought.
Soichiro Hondas mind was a "world wind of ideas , often with little thought of the financial implications. Takeo Fujisawa was hired in the late 1940s to oversea money matters. This allowed Honda to focus on the engineering side of the business.
On a tour of Europe in the 1950s Fujisawa persuaded Honda to develop a cheap user friendly
scooter that they could sell worldwide. The result was the legendary "Honda Super Cub". Strangely one of the design require the rider to be able to ride one handed to aid deliveries.
Becoming the worlds largest motorcycle manufacturer wasn't enough for the ever energetic Soichiro. His lifelong dream was to produce motorcars.
In typical fashion he defied advise from others and threw himself into becoming a major player in the risky venture of car production. Nothing would stop him .When an important foreign client lost his dentures in his toilet, he climbed in to the cess pit and retrieved them himself. This was all part of the company philosophy of equality.
Honda was shunned by the traditional Japanese business community. He refused to limit production during the oil crisis of the early 1970s.He grabbed this opportunity to claim a major slice of the market.
He promoted people on the basis of ability and not seniority. His appreciation of failure in the design process allowed his staff to be innovative.
Both Honda and Fujisawa keenly cultivated young talent to take over the company when the retired. Both agreed not to force their children in to managing the firm. Their foresight payed dividends as the company they founded from a wooden shed in 1949 still leads the world.