The taste and simplicity of high quality sushi has long been revered as an art form. In fact, sushi masters are often called Shokunin – meaning ‘artisan’ in Japanese. Aside from the non-traditional and trendy exploding volcano rolls (or whatever they’re called) found in American spin-offs, true sushi is simply rice and fish. The pairing of each, and the order in which consumed, creates a complete, symphonic meal. The best sushi is a combination of the best rice, with the best fish, with the best preparation, created as simply as possible and paired artfully.
Many people and rating organizations (including Michelin) consider Jiro Ono to be the best sushi Shokunin in the world. In the recent documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi (reviews here), the viewer gets an in-depth look at what it takes to make the best sushi in the world. In the stunning. mouth-watering, and inspirational film, one can also gleam five valuable lessons for business:
1. Love Your Path
Certainly there are days or times when you might not love what you are doing, but if you love the path that you are on, it is easy to wade through troubled waters. But don’t expect love at first sight. Jiro loves making sushi, but he says that it is the job of the individual to fall in love with their work. This takes time and commitment, but it is essential to performance.
2. Be Passionate
All great businessmen and leaders, like Jiro, have a passion for performance and outcomes. Passion is the fuel that drives people to tirelessly dedicate themselves to tasks, improvements, and progress. Ultimately, passion is the keystone to tenacity and achievement. If you are not passionate about your work, you have two choices: Become passionate, or find new work.
3. Have the Best Partners
From employees to suppliers, having the best partners is essential. Jiro shares how sushi is 95% done by the time he makes it in front of his customers. Therefore it is essential that all his partners play a vital role in delivering the best sushi in the world. Everything starts with getting the top quality ingredients from top-quality partners. He get’s tuna from one partner that specializes in tune, rice from one person that specializes in rice, shrimp from one person that specializes in shrimp, and so on. If it’s not quality to start with, his partners won’t give it to him, which in turn benefits them all by ensuring that only the best of the best is served.
Jiro also has the best employees. Or rather, he makes them the best. He trains them tirelessly and motivates them to always be better. And more importantly, teaches them how to always seek to innovate and improve on their own.
4. Never Stop Improving
Jiro, at 85 years old, is the best sushi chef in the world. And yet, he proudly states that he is not perfect and there is always room for improvement. Jiro was nine years old when he left his home, and he has only done one thing since then: keep improving. Even after he received an award from Japan declaring him as a national treasure, he returned to work the same day to further improve his skills.
5. Create a Holistic Experience
Jiro serves sushi one by one to every customer that sits in his tiny, 11 seat restaurant. Jiro has made it his responsibility to ensure that all patrons finish eating at the same time, so he makes bigger sushi for bigger people and smaller sushi for smaller people, adjusting on the fly. He also noticed which hand people use to eat their sushi, and then places each piece on the plate accordingly to make it easier to pick up. Everything from seating arrangement to portion size is handled in the background by Jiro and his staff so that customers can focus on the one thing they came to do: eat the best sushi in the world.
Upon watching this movie, one can’t help but wonder, would the world be better off if businessmen considered themselves to be Shokunin – artists – like Jiro?