A cross-cultural business venture with Kellogg roots
By Amy Trang
Tadahiro Yoshida’s parting words to Francis Laurel on Kellogg graduation day were: “Let’s keep in touch. Maybe one day we can do business.”
The 1972 graduates, who struck up a friendship on the first day of business school, were heading in different directions. Yoshida was returning to Japan to run YKK Corp., his family’s business, while Laurel headed to Citibank in the Philippines.
Five years later, Yoshida followed through on those words when he was tasked with expanding the YKK Group outside Japan.
Yoshida called on Laurel to help scout potential partners in the Philippines. The Laurel family had extensive connections in the country, in part because of the grandfather and father’s positions as president of the country and ambassador to Japan, respectively. But the more time Yoshida spent with the Laurels, the more he realized that the perfect business partners were his hosts.
“If we were to do business in the Philippines, I felt that the partner should be Filipino and of impeccable integrity,” Yoshida says. “The Laurel family fit those requirements perfectly.”
Yoshida named Francis president of YKK Philippines, and the two have pursued their successful cross-cultural business venture for the past 30 years. YKK Philippines now manufactures buckles for bags and footwear in addition to zippers, and the YKK Group has expanded worldwide, adding architectural products and industrial machinery manufacturing. The partners have delivered superior quality and faster service to compete against their largest competitors.
The shared Kellogg background enables the partners to understand each other in a variety of situations, Yoshida says.
“The bond that keeps us together is that fact that we at one time were simple classmates in a foreign land,” Laurel says. “We struggled together and graduated together. That is the stuff that binds us.”