“Continuously cultivate your personal qualities.”

  • # Sumitomo’s Business Philosophy
  • # Human resources development
  • # Director-General
Masatsune Ogura (at center in the back) with Sumitomo executives in 1911. Kinkichi Nakada is to Ogura’s right. Tomoito Sumitomo (right) and Masaya Suzuki are in the foreground (photo courtesy of Sumitomo Historical Archives)

Masatsune Ogura, the sixth Director-General of Sumitomo, upon assuming office in 1930 urged the cohort of new employees to continuously cultivate their personal qualities. Ogura said, “As you are entering the world of business, you must understand that there is far more to business than moneymaking. You have to be a person of integrity, one who painstakingly cultivates his personal qualities.” Thus, Suzuki emphasized that to be an ethical person possessing integrity and probity is the precondition for becoming a worthy contender in the business world. Ogura encouraged people to embrace the lifelong challenge of self-improvement.

Upon graduating from university, Ogura joined the Ministry of Home Affairs. He aspired to do his utmost to serve the nation. However, his principal duties involved entertaining high-ranking officials. As a man inspired by a deep-seated moral seriousness, Ogura was repelled by such a life. It was at this junction that Masaya Suzuki, then manager of Besshi Mine, solicited Ogura’s services for Sumitomo. Having met Suzuki, the second Director-General Teigo Iba, and the 15th head of the Sumitomo family Tomoito, Ogura was impressed by their characters and decided to join Sumitomo. As he commented later, “Just as a family has its own traditions and style, a business enterprise has its own atmosphere and values, reflecting the attributes and stance of the head of the firm. The character of the leader informs the character of the enterprise. Sumitomo has indeed been fortunate over the years in that its leaders have been thoughtful individuals, all of whom have possessed great integrity.”

In his inauguration speech as Director-General, Ogura declared his determination to shoulder his responsibilities as the inheritor of the business philosophy nurtured by his distinguished predecessors and to serve not only for the benefit of Sumitomo but also for the nation. Upon retiring from his post as Director-General, he recalled, “When launching a new business, the ethics of the contemplated venture always took precedence over its projected profitability.” Such was Ogura’s respect for his forerunners that he always sought to be worthy of them by meticulously cultivating his own qualities as a business leader.

Masatsune Ogura
Ogura was born in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, in 1875. Upon graduating from Tokyo Imperial University in 1897, he joined the Ministry of Home Affairs. Ogura joined Sumitomo in 1999, invited to do so by Masaya Suzuki who solicited his services. Ogura was appointed manager of Sumitomo Head Office in 1913. He acquired the Konomai mine to exploit the gold deposits discovered at Monbetsu, Hokkaido, in 1917, and led the mine’s development into a highly successful enterprise, which benefited from the discovery of a major deposit in 1925. Ogura was appointed the sixth Director-General in 1930, and it was during his tenure that the smoke pollution at Shisakajima Smelter was definitively resolved in 1939. Upon his appointment as Minister of Internal Affairs in the second cabinet of Fumimaro Konoe in 1941, he resigned from his position as Sumitomo’s Director-General, and subsequently served as Minister of Finance in Konoe’s third cabinet, a position from which he resigned upon the establishment of Hideki Tojo’s cabinet. Ogura died in 1961 at the age of 87.