Francis Oda, chairman of Group 70 International, has been heading his architectural firm for more than 30 years. He’s been recognized with more than 37 design awards, nationally and internationally. In this interview, he offers advice to those starting out or trying to get ahead.
What was the biggest lesson you learned at your first job?
Work for someone you want to be like. Getting a mentor early is important. Gather mentors as you go.
What was the turning point in your career?
Working for myself. I have done so since 27 years old and have been able to learn the “hard way,” but also discover ways to achieve goals.
What’s a lesson you learned as a child that you still use today?
Share! Do not hold onto things but always share with others.
When starting a new job, who should you get to know first?
The administrative assistants. They hold the key to access.
What’s the most important business lesson you have learned?
In leading you must serve. Becoming the head of a company just means that you get to serve everyone. Enjoy it!
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made and what did you learn from it?
Not saying “no” in various situations. When the gut says “no” but ambition wants to say “yes,” just say “no.” It’s a powerful and liberating word.
Do you have any regrets?
Japanese have a saying, “shikata ga nai,” meaning it can’t be helped. Live in the present, the past is past, whether positive or negative. Don’t live in past glories or miseries. The present offers enough challenges and opportunities.