Joe Fit Asia
My Management Philosophy is Simple.
Updated: May 15
Before launching into the management philosophy that took me years to develop, let me backtrack some 40 years to working with Kaiser Hawaii Kai Development Company. Yes, that Kaiser, as in Henry J. Kaiser, the American industrialist and founder of over 100 companies, including Kaiser Aluminum, Kaiser Steel, Kaiser Cement, and Gypsum.
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Kaiser because he passed away about three months before I started working part-time at the Hawaii Kai Recreation Center. I would have enjoyed meeting him very much.
Here's a little background on the great American Industrialists.
While I didn’t meet Mr. Kaiser, I was fortunate to have lived on the Kaiser Estate for almost one year. That’s a funny little story I will share with you at the end of the blog.
I have no idea what Kaiser’s management philosophy was, but I knew and worked for many of his senior vice presidents and the company president.
Based on how the senior management managed, I guessed he took no bullshit; you best have all your ducks in order, and don’t f**k up was always echoed throughout the office halls. That was how the top floor of the corporate office in Hawaii Kai operated. The fear of answering to the president in the corner office was constantly in your head. Having said that, I sat across from him twice and will argue that I was not wrong.
Occasion #1. I managed the Hawaii Kai Recreation Center, and on a Sunday, my day off, the president brought this family to the center. He told the part-time lifeguard to inform me that he wanted the center closed on a specific day so that he could have his daughter's birthday party. I never got the message. The president was unhappy when he showed up a few weeks later on a Sunday, and the center was packed. The next day at 10 am, I sat in his office with two senior vice presidents on both sides. All I wanted to say during the ass-chewing, you should have reserved the center through the proper channels.
Occasion #2. A few years later. I was in charge of four projects for Kaiser. One of them was the Hawaii Kai Beautification Project. We had our nursery farm for the Hawaii Kai project, which employed six men. After three months on the job, I discovered that the employees were selling plants to nursery companies outside of Hawaii Kai.
I reported my findings to my immediate boss. The next day, three nursery employees were in the president's office, and they got axed. Meanwhile, I waited downstairs in my office for the call to come up. I wasn’t expecting a thank you ceremony, but I wasn’t expecting an ass-chewing on why this happened under my watch. But that’s what happened. The stealing of company property had gone on for years before I took over the job.
I learned a lot about management when I worked for Kaiser. I was allowed to manage four projects, rebranding the Hawaii Kai Recreation Center into the Hawaii Kai Swim and Tennis Club. I led a team to develop and build the Hawaii Kai Preschool and worked with engineers, architects, interior designers, and school teachers. When I started, I was clueless. I didn’t know what I was doing, but the experience was worth a lot to me later, when I helped put together numerous gyms and sports clubs throughout Asia.
I have always been intrigued by the management style of companies. When I resigned from Kaiser in 1978 and started my company in Jakarta, Indonesia, I developed my management philosophy. I knew it wouldn’t be the hard-ass philosophy of Kaiser Hawaii Kai.
It took me a few years to develop a philosophy I liked, and I want to share that with you and where it is today.
I hope it was helpful to you. Please use it, if you would like.
Let me backtrack to my story of living on the Kaiser Estate because it has a funny ending.
I worked part-time at the Hawaii Kai Recreation Center for about eight months before taking on the position of Director of the Center, where I managed the center for about a year until I joined the Marine Corps. After my gig in the Corps, I returned to Hawaii and worked for Kaiser. About two weeks back on the job, I got a call from the secretary of one of the top senior vice presidents at about 11:50 am to come to the VPs office. On the short walk-up, I thought, wow, okay, at least it’s not the president's office. But I figured my ass must have been on the line for something. After all, that was the culture.
The secretary escorted me into the VP's office, and he said, Joe, I understand that you are looking for a place to rent. My reply was, yes, sir, I am. Come with me. Let me show you a place I think you will like. We got into his company car and headed to Portlock, a wealthy area nestled on the base of Kokohead Crater. My mind is racing away by now, and I think this is way over my pay level. We drive for a few minutes and stop in front of the gates of the Kaiser Estate. Now I think I must be getting a GIANT pay rise.
The gates open electronically, and we drive down into a basketball court cum parking area. By now, my mind is really spinning. We walk a short distance to the end of the building, which is a studio. Inside, everything is purple and pink (Kaiser pink). The VP opens the curtain electronically, and there is Diamond Head. He said to me, what do you think? Sir, this is impressive. Joe, it’s yours for $125 a month. I moved in that night, and for almost one year, I enjoyed the private man-made beach, the 16’ Hobie Cat, and the swimming pool at the main house. Surfing was minutes away on Maunalua Bay. And parties that I had, that I can’t tell you about.
All that ended about one year later. I went home for lunch and needed to use the bathroom. When you enter the studio, you do so through the laundry room and bathroom. I’m sitting on the throne when I hear a car come down the driveway. Who the heck is that? Next, I listen to footsteps, one of which is a woman wearing high heels. Next, I listen to a key inserted into the door, which opens it. I say hello, they say hello, and that’s how I met the Goldman brothers of Wall Street.
Less than a month later, I am out because they bought the estate for $1 million. The Goldmans sold it a few years later.
The 5.4-acre Portlock estate was later purchased by Kamehameha Schools and Japanese businessman Genshiro Kawamoto.
Updated 2017. The East Honolulu property, once on the market for $80 million, is owned by Fred and Annie Chan, the University of Hawaii graduates who made their fortune in the San Francisco Bay Area high-technology industry.
In closing, let me share with you a Haiku presentation about Leadership I compiled a few years ago called ‘Be the Leaders, Be the Example.’
Mahalo & Aloha,