Here’s another hero of simplicity whose story is part of my new book, Think Simple.
One of the reasons I was excited to write another book was that it gave me the opportunity to look at the power of simplicity beyond the world of technology. I had conversations with a fascinating group of business leaders in different industries and countries.
In the process, I found inspiration in places I did not expect. One such place was the credit card business in South Korea.
Ted Chung is Vice Chairman and CEO of Hyundai Card, a financial division of the larger Hyundai Motor Group. He was brought into the company after leading the turnaround of a Hyundai factory in Mexico—and Hyundai Card was in serious need of a turnaround. Projections indicated it was about to lose more than a billion dollars that year.
Ted is not your typical corporate leader. He’s even less typical as a financial company leader, as he came to the job without deep experience in the industry.
But Ted knows a lot about running and inspiring a company, and he is a true believer in the power of simplicity.
I saw an interesting parallel between Ted’s experience and that of Steve Jobs. Both came into an organization that was in terrible financial condition and lacking in innovation, and both went about the business of simplification.
Steve had the ability to focus the company on a single mission, giving employees a true sense of direction. Product by product, we saw how that approach helped raise Apple from the dead.
Ted got the company back on track by doing the same. He created a single product—a new concept in credit cards—and mobilized the entire company behind it. That was Hyundai Card’s “front line,” as he put it.
Extreme focus is the essence of simplification.
Ted brought that same kind of focus to the company’s culture. Though it may seem odd for a credit card company, he instilled a love of design—and that became driving force in the company’s turnaround. Today, this can be seen everywhere from Hyundai Card’s product packaging to the chairs in the company cafeteria.
By embracing the principles of simplicity, Ted turned a billion-dollar loss into a billion-dollar profit.