It was when a project to build a people mover system at San Francisco International Airport was put to international bid that Gino and Kato together launched full-fledged networking & outreaching for the project. Sumitomo had undertaken railway car business in the United States for more than 40 years via Sumitomo Co. of America, and was well versed in U.S. business practice and bidding & contracting know-how. It had also built significant networks with American companies. Thanks to these business capabilities, Sumitomo was successful in winning the people mover project. I burst into tears when I found out our company won the bid in the home of people movers,’’ said Kato.
But the euphoria did not last long. In those days, American sentiment toward Japanese companies was not so positive, a throwback to the bubble era, when Japanese companies partook in fervent trade wars with their American counterparts. Riding that sentiment, Sumitomo’s competitors staged numerous negative campaigns against Sumitomo and were able to nullify the initial bid, resulting in another round being held. Consequently, the initial receipt of the order placed with Sumitomo evaporated with all rights to the project snatched by a Sumitomo competitor.
Based on the lessons of the failed San Francisco International Airport bid, Mr Kato’s team immediately resumed networking & outreaching in a bid to clinch a deal in the next auction. Jewelle Yamada, for example, said the team took preemptive steps and launched a public relations campaign in order to inform and gain support among the local community and local lawmakers. The team thus went on to establish strong collaborative relations with these people, she said. The team also formed partnerships with officials of electrical contractors, lawyers, business consultants and other local people who were familiar with Miami's business environment. In addition, the team worked diligently at being competitive in costs and were finally awarded the project because in the end they offered the most competitive bid. As Mr Kato described, his team took part in the bid with a strong belief that its strong efforts would be finally rewarded. To the delight of all concerned, the Sumitomo team won the order to build the Miami International Airport’s transit system.
Since winning the order for the Miami project in November 1999, our team worked steadily with completion initially scheduled for June 2004. However, due to delays in the construction of the North Terminal, we were forced to delay construction for a full seven years. “Even during the suspended period, we kept in close cooperation with airport authorities and devoted ourselves to using the allotted time and budget efficiently,’’ recalled Hisaki Isshiki, who led the team along with Mr Antoniello and Mr Kato. Despite our efforts, one local television station which addressed the delayed construction came to us to cover it and told us that the delay was effectively a waste of taxpayer money and Sumitomo was to partly blame for the problem. We judged this as an accusation not backed by any substantive evidence.
In order to change the perception on which their TV program was being produced, we responded to their questions one by one while maintaining a sincere attitude. Our efforts to change their perception were finally rewarded: the TV program did not criticize Sumitomo at all. “Our team acted sincerely in an attempt to get the project completed while maintaining harmonious teamwork involving Japanese and U.S. parties and mobilizing Sumitomo's comprehensive business power under the slogan of harmonious relationship. We are convinced that our efforts were well understood by Americans,’’ said Mr Kato.
Top of page