Chapter 15 Facing Problems (Part 1)
It's been over a month since the visit of the Mexican ambassador and ministers.
The expansion of Taco Max was incredibly fast.
The time it took to expand the factory and go through the licensing process had become surprisingly short.
President Kim Young-Sam, who had just begun his term, needed some visible achievements in diplomacy with other countries besides the usual alliance with the United States and Japan.
This was because the previous administration under President Roh Tae-woo had shown impressive results with the cooperation between Korea and Russia in the North.
So President Kim Young-Sam paid attention to Yi Geon and Taco Max as a link to achieve visible diplomatic results.
This led to active licensing procedures by public officials.
“Is it July 2nd already? Has it been a month? Sang-il, is it really a month?”
“Yeah, it's been a month, and now we've expanded our territory not only in Gangseo but also in Gangbuk.”
“Sang-du, what's our production capacity?”
“Even though we've increased it to 70,000 per day, it's still not enough.”
With 70,000 tacos a day, production had increased tenfold in just a month.
But Yi Geon's goal was still far from being met.
“You're saying that with only five districts?”
“Yeah, 70,000 is nowhere near enough.”
Sang-du was also ambitious, but production couldn't keep up with demand.
Yi Geon was starting to feel the limitations of a non-professional manpower pool.
Stabilizing QC while increasing production was not an easy task.
Experienced leaders at the level of assistant manager were needed, as well as a QC team and a production team composed of experts with related degrees.
But Sang-du, Sang-il, and Dong-pal were not just idling around.
They were doing their best, even exhausting themselves.
So, before the construction of a 150,000-taco factory, they temporarily added four more production facilities.
They were trying their best to increase taco production as quickly as possible.
Producing about 70,000 tacos a day at a total of five locations, they generated a staggering daily revenue of 35 million won.
Yi Geon's goal was to sell at least 300,000 tacos by the end of the year.
If the expansion of the taco production line was delayed, there was a high probability that the market would be flooded with copycat products due to Korea's tendency to follow trends.
Yi Geon had experienced this several times in his past life.
As a result, Yi Geon was doing his best to increase production by reducing study time and working together with the directors.
“Hey~ Directors, how have you been?”
“Oh, Ja-hoon! Have you arrived? Please, have a seat here.”
Yi Geon spread his arms toward a sofa located on one side of the circle room.
Ja-hoon took a seat without hesitation.
This circle room, the size of two classrooms, was acquired after the visit of the Mexican minister that day.
The chairman himself ordered the creation of a startup department, and they were given this room.
Yi Geon could also handle some work within the school without having to go to the company, so it was a win-win for everyone.
“Hahaha, I heard you've been incredibly busy with the monthly settlement.
I hope I'm not intruding.”
“No, not at all.
“I heard that you're expanding beyond Hwagok-dong to cover the entire western and northern parts of Seoul.”
“Haha, yes, that's true.
But with a daily capacity of 70,000 tacos, it's just like dipping our toes in the water.”
“Still, that must bring in a lot of profit, right?”
“Yes, we calculated that the net profit for this month alone would be 165 million won.”
“Wow, a company that hasn't even been around for three months making a net profit of 165 million won?”
“Yes, 165 million won.”
Each time Ja-hoon met Yi Geon, he felt like another piece of common sense was being overturned.
The first month's profit was already astounding, but this month's profit exceeded expectations.
With 165 million won, one could buy a 34-pyong (~112 sqm; ~1210 sqft) apartment with a Han River view in Gangnam's Banpo area – even a royal suite.
And there were still two weeks left before the vacation.
If they could secure additional production capacity before the end of the vacation, the profit for the next month would easily exceed 200 million won.
Ja-hoon couldn't believe the growth chart that Yi Geon had prepared.
'The company's growth rate is insane…'
What's more surprising was that even with daily production exceeding 70,000 tacos, they still maintained the same taste quality and hygiene standards.
Yi Geon's promise to maintain proper QC was not empty words.
However, there was a noticeable increase in creaking movements.
If the information reported by one department head was a problem, then:
“I heard there's a problem within the company these days.”
“Well, it's a minor issue.”
“Is it a lack of manpower?”
“Yes, I guess so.
Since we're a startup, after all.”
Ja-hoon deeply sympathized with the problem Yi Geon was facing.
Manpower shortage is a chronic issue for small and medium-sized enterprises experiencing sudden explosive growth.
It's difficult to find and nurture suitable talents even with many supporters.
“True, most people would prefer large or mid-sized companies over a startup with an uncertain future.
Job evaluations and performance rewards are more reliable in large companies.
Since your profits have increased, why not raise the interview fees and nurture talent within the company?”
It was a fundamental solution for the time.
“I tried interviewing experienced applicants for a 50,000 won fee, but it was difficult to find someone who met my minimum standards.”
Even though a 50,000 won interview fee for a 15 to 20-minute interview was quite a lot of money compared to the prices at that time, Yi Geon couldn't find a single suitable candidate even after investing millions of won in interview fees.
There were a few people he liked, but they all considered Taco Max as a mere part-time job to earn interview fees and completely ignored the company.
It was both a crushing blow to his pride and a rather frustrating experience.
“It's a difficult situation.
If it had connections in finance, I could help to some extent.
But to be honest, when it comes to high-level talent in the food industry, it's beyond my capabilities.
I should be helping you more, but I feel sorry that I can't.”
The help you've given me so far has already been a tremendous source of strength.”
In particular, one manager has been a great help.
He graduated with a degree in business administration and had experience investing and conducting due diligence in various companies.
This manager could understand and utilize a company's core points better than most CEOs.
However, relying solely on this manager posed many problems for leading Taco Max into the future.
We needed marketing experts, high-level designers to handle products and identity, production managers, mechanical engineering specialists, and food sanitation experts.
As the company grew, the need for core professionals seemed to grow without limits.
On top of that, we needed top-level business experts who could propose new strategies through fusion.
But if they were that level, they'd be firmly bound to major companies like Ohsung, who wouldn't let them go.
“We'll definitely need more professional talent, especially since our additional production factory is struggling without a food sanitation expert right now.”
Yi Geon felt a bit overwhelmed by the thought.
“Excluding the major companies, most high-level experts in that field are currently civil servants working for the Food and Drug Administration.
They wouldn't leave their stable jobs and multiple privileges for a small company like ours.”
“Of course, if a civil servant from that side joined our company, we would benefit from their connections.”
“I think I can bring in a food sanitation expert.”
“Yes, luckily, I have some connections with the Food and Drug Administration.
I might be able to bring in a retired civil servant with decent abilities.
Age doesn't matter, does it?”
“Of course not.
Our company only works five days a week and has flexible working hours.
If the pay is reasonable, they would be satisfied.
Plus, you know our company's culture – it's a flat organization.
Age doesn't matter, even if they are a grandparent.”
“I know, it's like the Silicon Valley vibe with the flat organization.
I initially thought it would fail and worried, but it's going well.”
“Thank you anyway.”
Yi Geon felt a weight lifted off his chest.
Phew~ I can finally bring in one expert, but at best, that only slightly alleviates the shortage in one of the many areas we need help in.
It's so hard to find people these days.
Even though there are more than enough people, it's still difficult to find the right ones.
It's all because the economy is doing extremely well.
From the previous presidents, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, to the current president, Kim Young-Sam, they couldn't have imagined this crazy economic boom lasting until 2030.
In short, it's a world where job seekers have the upper hand.
Companies are even giving out interview fees, visiting universities to look for talent.
Back when they would roll out the red carpet just to get people to join their company.
'If people from the 2020s and 2030s time-leaped here, they'd probably be so annoyed they'd flip.'
In 1993, it was a world where job seekers had the upper hand.
Concepts like interns or irregular workers, akin to company slaves, were unimaginable.
Everyone who joined a company became a regular employee.
Even if they barely graduated from college, major companies would take them in.
So among those college graduates, top-level talents were highly sought after, and job seekers who looked down on big corporations like Hyundai, Ohsung, and Samsung were common.
No wonder the streets are filled with carefree people not suffering from anxiety disorders.
'Now that I think about it, it's such a stark contrast.'
In the 2030s, the expressions on people's faces on the streets were mostly gloomy, except for a small minority of popular ones.
But in 1993, most people's faces were like a flower garden.
1993 might be a flower garden for job seekers, but for company owners like Yi Geon who were leading growth, it was nothing short of a nightmare.
'I need to attract high-quality talent somehow.
To do that, I need a decent office space, a captivating company identity, and so much more to do.
For now, I have to move our office to Gangnam, even if it's a stretch.'
Yi Geon decided to modify the plan, prioritizing the relocation of the headquarters to Gangnam over factory construction.
He also focused on building the company identity, organizational culture, and key driving forces for fusion innovation.
“Ja-hoon, I'm thinking of prioritizing temporary production facility expansion over completing the factory.
And I want to move our headquarters to Gangnam.”
And I want to designate two weekdays as holidays, so we can work at the Gangnam headquarters for three weekdays plus Saturdays and Sundays, focusing on executive meetings and work.”
Ja-hoon felt uneasy about Yi Geon's radical actions.
It wasn't that the company couldn't afford it, but sometimes when a company suddenly prospers, the owner tends to show off.
Yi Geon seemed to fit that stereotype perfectly.
It brought to mind a fitting saying: “The curse of the Tower of Babel.”
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