Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Sushi Economy

I have been reading a book called “The Sushi Economy.” It’s a very interesting look at the evolution of sushi and the globalization of this modern delicacy. What really caught my attention is how the global market for the highly revered bluefin tuna began. In the United States the only market for bluefin tuna was making cat food. Once served to our pets, it is now considered a delicacy that can be found in restaurants across America.

The transformation of the tuna market began when Japan Airlines (JAL) searched out cargo that could fill empty cargo holds on return flights from the U.S. At this point, Japan was exporting many goods to the U.S. and JAL handled most of the shipping overseas, but was not importing goods back into Japan to fill the planes on return flights. JAL figured that, if they were making the trip already, they should find cargo to increase the profitability of each flight. This task was assigned to one man known for his ability to find solutions to unusual problems and his lack of willingness to be told no. Searching various markets and industries, he discovered that there was more demand than supply for fresh tuna in the Japanese markets. He began a search to see if he could find a supply of the fish in the United States to import back into Japan. The answer? Alaska. His search was far from over, however. Now he was faced with how to convince the Alaskan fishermen that there was a market other than cat food for tuna and they could actually make a profit catching the fish. There was also the issue of getting the fish to market while it was fresh enough to be useful and receive maximum prices. It took many trials and failures over the space of a couple of years, but he finally did it. Singlehandedly, he created a new market in the U.S. for tuna exports that eventually played a major role in the evolution of a product that has exploded in popularity and demand.

Maybe you’re asking yourself after reading all this, what any of this has to do with marketing or business? Here’s the deal – every company has an empty cargo hold somewhere waiting to be filled. All it takes is one person who won’t give up or give in, to find it and fill it.

• What is the one service that you are not marketing to its fullest that could be what skyrockets your company to the forefront of its industry?
• Do you have an employee with untapped potential who could be your next star salesperson with a little attention?

The empty hold is there, you just have to figure out how to fill it. Tuna used to be used for cat food and is now sold for hundreds a pound. One determined man transformed empty cargo holds into a thriving global economy. What are you waiting for? Go find your empty hold and transform something.

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