Students of Tokyo University Learn from Ark Technologies
• A group of students from Tokyo University in Japan visited the Ark Technologies in St. Charles on August 8. One of the students said a reason of his visit was that he wanted to learn firsthand experiences from a Japanese businessman who founded a company in the U.S. from scratch. “It is a rare opportunity which I cannot achieve as an individual,” he added.
• Miko Kabeshita, President and CEO of the Ark Technologies,
welcomed the group and spoke about the company.
• When Al Kabeshita founded Ark, he opened another company
Altak, which has mainly produced wire harnesses for headlights and tail
lamps. The company also locates in St. Charles and employs about 150 to
200 people. Miko Kabeshita is President.
• Referring to recent recalls of auto makers, Miko Kabeshita emphasized that Ark and Altak’s policy was zero defects, which was clearly stated in a written form, so that every employee understood the policy.
Entrepreneurship, Challenges, Hardships, and Success
• Founder Al Kabeshita said to the students, “Your hardworking do not necessarily make success in the business world. Good luck has to come with you. Although your efforts would bring you good luck, there are so many difficulties that you cannot break through with your efforts. You have to decide which direction you are going to make your efforts, input the factors around you, analyze them, and see them if they are going to fit your direction. These are very important steps to do your business.”
• Ark and Altak have advanced in the automobile industry,
established trust with customers and financial institutions, created jobs,
and contributed to local communities as bridges between Japan and the
• Al decided to found a manufacturing business when the company asked him to return to Japan after a 12 year stay in Chicago. As a trader, he knew the risk of intangible trading business and wanted to have a tangible business because his efforts would bear fruit in the future.
• In 1980 he founded Altak and a venture company “Riken
Spring” with Riken Hatsujo in Japan. Al installed computer-controlled
CNC spring machines while manual machines were prevailing in the spring
industry. The manufacturing business requires several years to make profits
because it needs machines, operators, quality products to find customers,
and has to establish trust among the customers. Riken Hatsujo, however,
could not wait and withdrew from the venture business.
• In the 1980s, Japanese auto makers began to build their factories in the U.S. to avoid trade conflicts. Although Japanese business system of “keiretsu” prevented him from supplying his springs to the makers, Ark was only the spring maker with CNC machines. Ark was chosen as a supplier; however, another challenge arose. He needed to expand the production capacity.
• Al said that financial arrangements were the most difficult task because no banks were willing to make loans for a lone businessman, who came from Japan. He searched any opportunity to obtain capital money and eventually the U.S. Government made a loan of $4.1 million. He could expand his factory and buy more CNC machines.
• “If you have good luck, bad luck also comes to you,” Al said. He had a heart surgery in 2001 followed by bad news that an investor asked him to buy all the stocks the investor had. He said, “This was a big shock again because a stockholder was withdrawing while Ark was growing fast.”
• Al overcame the shock, and Altak received “Manufacturer
of the Year” Award in 2003. In 2006, he authored and published a book
“Flying President’s American Dream”, which described his business career
and entrepreneurship. Al appointed Miko as President of Ark, and he became
Chairman to make sure the business would continue to the next generation.
• At a Q&A session, Al answered questions from the
• Michiko, who was in charge of the household, caring for three children, cooking, and everything else, said that desk work in the company was easier, but keeping a family in good shape was very tough. “However, fostering the next generation is very important, and women can do that,” she advised the students.
• Al also advised the students about the importance to
understand the cultural differences in a diverse society, different business
practices outside Japan, and having mobility to do business in the U.S.
As a pilot, Al frequently visited his customers by his airplane to solve
any problem they had.
Founder Al Kabeshita (R) speaks to the students of Tokyo University about his entrepreneurship, challenges, hardships, and success.
|Al Kabeshita, Chairman Emaritus, and his wife Michiko (L)||
Miko Kabeshita, President and CEO of the Ark Technologies