01 Journal: How visible/transparent are you to your professional peers/competitors?
Park: I am a firm believer in sharing and receiving best practices within the industry—I have great confidence in the competitiveness of our company. I also believe transparency is critical to empowering and motivating our employees. I try to be as transparent as possible by establishing internal systems to share information. We are constantly striving to overcome communication bottlenecks.
02 Journal: What was your most recent, big mistake?
Park: We recently hired a manager for one of our overseas branches. My initial impression was very positive—the manager possessed a good pedigree, and came off impressively during the hiring process. I was very confident about the hire. However, we ran into a number of problems resulting from the branch staff’s growing discontent with his managerial skills. Ignoring the staff’s concerns, and relying on my initial impressions as a good long-term choice, I kept the manager in place. Upon bringing the manager to Japan from the overseas branch, I quickly realized first hand that our staff was correct in their judgment and ultimately we had to let the manager go. It provided me with an extremely valuable reminder that I must take into account when I am not on the ground: placing more value on localized intelligence.
03 Journal: What percentage of decisions do you base more on logic than emotion?
Park: I would estimate that it’s about 70 percent. Improving my decision-making ability is a constant and iterative process. This business is about people, and I believe we wouldn’t have seen the success we have were it not for the emotional, passionate desire to serve people. In our infancy it was a small, startup environment and many decisions were made purely on this passion. However, as I and the organization grow, we become more astute as to the logic behind good decision making and so logic plays much more of a role than before. However, again, this business is about a passion for serving people and we must never lose sight of that.
04 Journal: When you are away from your office, do you ever worry what is happening in your absence?
Park: No. We have offices in Seoul and Tokyo. In Korea, I am focused on Korea, and in Tokyo I am focused on Tokyo. Worrying expends also a lot of negative energy that could be spent on solving other issues. I really believe in empowering my staff to be effective decision makers in my absence.
05 Journal: What are your top three strengths?
Park: 1) Delegating: I strive to find good people that I can trust and delegate workload to. A focus on training and building skill sets has been paramount to our organizational growth, in fact most of my workload involves training our staff. I can then delegate and once we set a course of action, entrust my staff to complete our mission successfully. 2) Positive attitude: We are in the business of serving people, and always maintaining a positive attitude is critical. 3) Driven : I have always been very goal-oriented and driven to work towards achieving those goals. I view the hospitality business to chiefly be a problem solving business. I am always striving to stay on top of problems and not let them simmer.
06 Journal: How do you take personal responsibility when you get things wrong?
Park: I assume full responsibility for anything that happens at Suji’s. Ultimately, as head of the organization my staff must trust that they have my full support, which in turn creates an environment for outside-of-the-box thinking. I can be very tough, but at the end of the day by taking full responsibility for the negative outcomes and giving credit for the good ones, it motivates my staff to perform above expectations.
07 Journal: If you were stripped of your current professional position, what would be your next move?
Park: I cannot think of anything I would rather do than run Suji’s. This is my passion.