Monday, October 22, 2007

Surfin' USA: Life’s a beach

I’m writing this at 6:30am on the beach at Waikiki. You will remember a few days ago I vented about The Wolf of Wall Street and now feel the need to bring back some harmony into my life. I haven’t been to Hawaii for about a decade, but when the kids were younger, it was a favorite holiday place. Honolulu gets a bad rap for just being a big Disney tourist town, but there’s nothing more glorious than watching the sunrise over Diamond Head. And you can’t beat watching the longboarders roll in at 5:00pm, sitting with a cold Miller High Life at Duke’s Barefoot Beach Bar. There is something deeply attractive about the Polynesian lifestyle and it’s easy to see their influence on New Zealand and on neighboring Samoa and Tonga. Grilled Mahi Mahi for lunch in Maui at one of the Wailea Resorts is enough to purge the taste of Wall Street excess from me. That special feeling of the sand between your toes just before sunset in a beach bar - magic. Perhaps my all time favorite is the bar at La Samanna in St. Martin where cold Heinekens in the barefoot bar are the perfect start to an evening. Nearby in the French restaurants cold white wines and great grilled fish are waiting to be enjoyed.

I was in Hawaii for the Toyota National Dealer Conference and went to Maui for the Lexus National Conference. We celebrated Toyota’s 50th birthday in the U.S. and it’s staggering to see how far this great company has come. 34 years ago they held their first ever U.S. Dealer Meeting in Honolulu with less than a 2% market share. Today Toyota is the biggest selling brand in the U.S. outselling Ford and Chevrolet and Lexus is the number one luxury car. They are now way ahead of BMW, Mercedes, Cadillac, etc. It is a tribute to kaizen, continuous improvement and to some great leadership. Toyota believe there is no best, only better. They are also committed to constant innovation on top of their foundation of quality, durability and reliability. All great stuff to muse about as the sand slips between your toes and a beer sits cool in your hand.