Story of the Early Days of SECOM 01−10 (1961−1965)

"Story of the Early Days of SECOM" begins a while before SECOM's establishment of July 1962. In this section the history of SECOM is looked back to show how foundations of the company was built in the early days.

1. How SECOM was founded

Iida(right) and Toda at the early days of SECOM.

Makoto Iida graduated from Gakushuin University in 1956, and then started to help his family business called Okanaga Shoten (now “Okanaga”), a liquor distributer in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, as a salesman. Juichi Toda was a good friend with whom he would occasionally have a drink and discuss starting their own new business.

It was winter 1961, while Iida and Toda were having dinner with a friend who had just returned from a trip from Europe. Over delicious chicken pot, this friend explained that there are companies in Europe which turn security into business.

Iida and Toda immediately agreed that that was what they were looking for. It was the moment the idea for the very first security company in Japan was formed. The decision took less than 30 minutes.

2. The first office in Kudan, Tokyo is opened

The site of Chiyoda Kaikan, the preparatory office for the establishment of the company, was located at Kudan Minami, Chiyoda-ku. (The building was rebuilt. The Chiyoda Kaikan was 5 stories at the time.)

After the decision was made by Iida and Toda to start the very first security company in winter 1961, they immediately opened an office. It was located at Chiyoda Kaikan, 2-2-8 Kudan Minami, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. The office was right across the street from Yasukuni Shrine, nearby the Indian Embassy, which still exists today.

This office was primarily used to gather information and do a lot of planning. It was a place where Iida and Toda went through tons of difficulties and painstaking efforts which always accompany start-ups. According to them, nearby is Chidorigafuchi, well known for its beautiful display of sakura (cherry blossom) trees, and they still remember the sakura which they saw from the office windows during the spring of 1962. It was in July of that year, after countless painstaking efforts, “Nihon Keibi Hosho” was established.

3. “Nihon Keibi Hosho” is founded at ShibaKoen, Tokyo

SKF Building located at 1-9-1 Shiba Daimon, Minatoku. (The present building was rebuilt in 1976.)

On July 7th, Iida and Toda established “Nihon Keibi Hosho” (what is now today “SECOM”). The address was 2nd Floor, SKF Building 7-1 Shiba Koen, Minatoku, Tokyo (now 1-9-1 Shiba Daimon, Minatoku). Available capital was 4 million Yen, a mixture of their own funds and additional finance from a bank.

The name of the company was carefully chosen. “Keibi” means security, and since it was the first security business in Japan, “Nihon” meaning Japan, came first. “Hosho” can be illustrated in 2 different sets of Japanese characters, one meaning “compensate”and the other “secure”. The kanji meaning the latter was chosen but it was still a good choice because the sound itself could also mean “compensation”. Then recruitment started by means of advertising in the newspaper.

Then recruitment started by means of advertising in the newspaper. A new word for security guard called “Keimushi” was created, hinting on “Bengoshi” which means lawyer. Amazingly there were 400 applicants. 2 were chosen, and the business started with 5 persons.

4. The first contract

The company emblem, since the establishment, with the “owl” and “key”.(The current company emblem is “SECOM”.)

After the establishment on July 7th, Iida and Toda made several important decisions.

One of their decisions was to use the “owl” and “key” for the company symbol. The owl is known for its intelligence and is a nocturnal animal, as we all know. The key of course is the symbol of security. “VIGILAMUS DUM DORMITIS”, which is “We defend when the public rests” in Latin, came on top (the company symbol we use today has changed to “SECOM”, but the owl and key are still used on buttons and caps of security guards’ and female staff uniforms).

During the early days, Iida handled sales himself and visited numerous companies. However, although most of them were interested in what he was offering, none would actually sign up. Iida stubbornly asked for “3 months advance payment” and also stuck to his policy of not depending on his friends or his network. This was the reason why it took a while.

The first order came on 24th October 1962, almost 4 months after the establishment of the company, from a travel agent for manned patrol services. Iida kept telling himself, “A rolling stone gathers no moss. Sales need patience.” With that, he would continue to make his rounds over and over again, even visiting offices without an appointment, and the first order was a result of such painstaking efforts.

5. Office relocated to Kanda Ogawamachi, and first Static Guard Service commences

The head office at 1963.

The head office was relocated to 3-4 Kanda Ogawamachi, Tokyo, in April. One needed to take the elevator to the top floor, and then up a flight of stairs to the roof to get there. The office was small, merely 23 square meters, and the ceiling was low.

6. First Static Guard Service commences

The static guard service at Harumi International Convention Center in Tokyo.

The head office was relocated to 3-4 Kanda Ogawamachi, Tokyo, in April 1963. During the same month, the first order for static guard services was awarded. It was when patrolling service was doing well and the customer base had reached 2 digits.

The first static guard service customer was Harumi International Convention Center in Tokyo. There were no high-tech buildings there at that time, and automobiles were lazily displayed in the open when motor shows were occasionally organized. There was no guard house, so tents were brought in to provide round-the-clock services. The Convention Center was close to Tokyo Bay, and when services commenced in spring it was still very cold especially when it rained.

It was this year when Isetan Department Store awarded SECOM a static guard assignment and services were commissioned the same year.

7. Security for Tokyo Olympic Games is awarded

On duty at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

At the end of 1963, SECOM received an inquiry from the Organizing Committee of the Tokyo Olympic Games. They asked SECOM to provide security for the Olympic Village, which was still under construction at that time. Although it was a big and attractive job, Iida was anxious about the short contract period. It was necessary to dramatically increase staff to meet requirements, but there was uncertainty as to whether there would be enough jobs for all the staff after the Olympic Games.

On 10th December, the official contract was signed with the Organizing Committee. When services were executed, there were still around 400 houses (originating from the American Armed Forces) waiting to be demolished. There were a lot of unauthorized intrusions by thieves, children, and couples, making it a tough job. The area was so huge bicycles were brought in for patrolling.

On 10th October 1964, the Tokyo Olympic Games were officially launched, and the Closing Ceremony was fixed on the 24th. Later, SECOM would officially receive a note of gratitude from the Organizing Committee, since the company had successfully completed its duty without any untoward incidents during the Games. The Games certainly earned SECOM the public trust and motivated the company to the next level.

8. Head Office relocated for third time to Kurosawa Building

Kurosawa Building at 1964.

On March 1st 1964, the head office was relocated for the third time in 2 years. It was moved to 7th Floor, Kurosawa Building, 1-4 Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyodaku, Tokyo. Since the number of employees had dramatically increased due to the Olympic Games contract, the previous office became too small. The previous office was only 23 square meters, so only a single truck ride was required to relocate the entire office.

The new office was at a distance requiring a 7 minute walk from Ochanomizu Station, and only 5 minutes from the previous office. It faced Yasukuni-dori avenue, and the building was relatively tall in size. Since the previous place was so small, the new office seemed very big comparatively.

There were around 100 staff at that time. SECOM had provided security services for the Olympic Village during the Games, and this was when the business started to grow rapidly and the company entered the growth curve.

9. Development of SP Alarm

The first “SP Alarm” at 1966.

During the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, SECOM grew rapidly. It became a trigger for several decisions and policies to be implemented. “Four Awards” (now called “SECOM Taisho”), based on the “Four Philosophies”, were introduced for all employees. It was this year that a new grading system was implemented.

Further, in November 1964, research and development of SP Alarm (which was later available in the market in June 1966) was executed. Iida and Toda paid a visit to Shiba Denki Hachioji Factory and requested whether a prototype of SP Alarm could be developed (the name of the system at that time was temporarily “Remote-Monitoring-System”).

The reason behind the decision to start development of this system was because first, if the current business of patrolling and static guards grew it would be necessary to employ up to one hundred to two hundred thousand employees, which would not be easy to manage. Second, Japan was in the midst of vast economic growth and the cost of labor was increasing dramatically. Only a fraction of the market would be able to afford the service. Third, functions like sensing, monitoring and communication that could be made possible by machines should be automated, whereas functions like decision making, mobilization, and treatment should continue under human domain. In other words, it was a matter of respecting human dignity.

10. TV Series “The Guardman” on airs

With cast members of “The Guardman”. Iida(center right) and Mr. Ken Utsui (center left)

“The Guardman” was very popular. Iida is seen center right.

The Guardman”, a drama series produced by major TV station TBS, came on air for the first time in April 1965. SECOM was the model for the script because a TV producer had coincidently seen a SECOM security guard at the Imperial Hotel. Security guards in those days were rare. The series became a big hit, and contributed to spread the name of SECOM.

The original title was “Tokyo Yojinbo*”, but Iida complained that SECOM was no bodyguard. The word “Guardman” (which means security guard today), a Japanese-English word which did not exist at that time, was adopted and accordingly the title was changed.

Further, Iida requested that neither slang nor dirty language, nor womanizing, nor drinking be allowed in the aforesaid TV serial.

Ken Utsui starred in the drama series. “The Guardman” was full of originality, clean and had a brace of freshness, and enjoyed viewing ratings above 40%. The original televise schedule was extended, and it strongly influenced the public.

* “Yojinbo” means bodyguard in Japanese.