Return to site

"Yes! A Memoir of Modern Hawaii"

Walter A. Dods,  Jr.

Who is Walter A. Dods, Jr.?

Walter Dods was born in Honolulu just before Pearl Harbor, the first of seven children in a close-knit family that struggled to pay its bills. From those modest beginnings, Dods grew to play a role in the modern history of Hawaii. He helped to sustain a political dynasty through his work for the campaigns of Gov. George Ariyoshi and Sen. Dan Inouye. He built the state's largest and most successful business, First Hawaiian Bank/BancWest Corporation. His focus on community service and charitable fundraising has helped to support a society too often fractured by the divide between an immigrant, plantation past and the more modern forces of contemporary America.

 Dods is the Chairman of Matson, Inc., and was previously the Chairman of the Board of the First Hawaiian Bank in 2008. Dods also serves on the boards of Bancwest Corporation, Bank of the West, First Hawaiian Bank, Hawaiian Telcom, Pacific Guardian Life, Par Pacific Holdings Inc., Pohaku Pa'a, and Servco Pacific Inc. He also serves on several civic and community boards throughout the state, including Chaminade University of Honolulu. In 2004, Dods was awarded an imperial honor from the Government of Japan, the Order of the Rising Sun, with Gold and Silver Star. Dods is a graduate of St. Louis High School, and earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the Univeristy of Hawaii.

What did I learn?

I was given the great opportunity through the Shidler College of Business to attend the "Kipapa i ke Ala lecture series." It was a Q and A between the Executive Director of the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship Susan Yamada and the Chairman of Matson, Inc. Walter A. Dods, Jr. 

The highlights of the speaker series to me can be summed up into three points.

  1. You can do anything. 
    • ​Mr. Dods grew up in an immigrant family and early on in his life him and his family were extremely poor. His father worked hard and put him and all his siblings through private school. In private school he cared more about women and hotrods rather than his grades. He barely graduated and then dropped out of college a couple years later. 
    • Eventually he got his degree, but he worked his way up all the way to Chief Executive Officer of First Hawaiian Bank. Mr. Dods story is truly inspiring and amazing. It shows that with hard work, determination and timinganything is possible.
  2. Timing
    • Mr. Dods seemed like he was always in the right place at the right time at the right time, but he attributes that to "The harder you work, the luckier you are." 
    • In his career, he worked extremely hard from the Junior Commerce to his time at an insurance company, he always worked hard and took on stretch jobs. 
    • Stretch jobs were roles that Mr. Dods felt like he was not ready to do, but did them anyways. Through taking on these tasks, he was able to learn so much and grow that much faster. An important part of this is failure. There were times he would fail, but that was okay because failure is essential to learning. 
  3. 50% Community Service - 50% Professional Work
    • Ever since he was a child, Mr. Dods family implanted the values of giving back and helping the poor. Even though Mr. Dods family was poor, his father still made sure that the family gave back. This value has stood with Mr. Dods till today and he always strives to give back. 
    • That is why Mr. Dods believes that is important to give back just as much as you work. From going out and working in the community to holding positions on boards. It is important to make a positive impact on your community. 
    • "You don't do it because you think it's going to help your career, however, doing it will help your career" - Walter A. Dods
All in all, Mr. Dods life is quite the story and if you want to learn more about it, click here to purchase his autobiography "Yes! A Memoir of Modern Hawaii." I am currently reading it and it is great so far! I'm learning a lot about how business was done back in the day and how Mr. Dods impacted the way we do things in the present.



Full video of event:

  • Walter
    • In a company never forget that the obligations are to your…
      • Share holders
      • Employees
      • Communities
    • Corporate planning
      • He does not believe in corporate planning
        • World is changing too quickly now to have 5 year plans
      • Need a mobile young team who can move on a dime
        • Can be quicker than competitors
      • You need to be adaptable for change, change on the time
      • Business Plan
        • More the exercise of thinking through your business
      • Pivot - need to decide if you have to stick with your original plan
      • Worst thing is to hang on to an idea after things have changed and hope is not a strategy
    • How to bring employees with you when you're changing
      • Many people afraid of change, older people especially
      • World is changing dramatically w/ technology  the world is changing at ever increasing rates of speed
    • Ram Charan
      • Indian from Asia
      • Consultant who consultants from around the world
      • Technology
        • One of the rare areas of business, you can go from last place to first place over night
        • Tech. is a tool used right, it can be dramatic
    • Banking - Entrepreneurial attitude in banking
      • Entre. In banking
        • Even in most basic business, there are ways to innovate and do things better
        • It doesn't matter what business you are
        • Can be creative can be innovative
    • Art of the deal
      • Likes to do transactions with people respect and integrity
      • Deal with people you can trust
      • Walter likes win win deals
      • Never tries to take the last dollar in the deal
      • Each deal is a building block
      • Kept all management of every company they bought
      • Did not try to shred companies, brought together companies
    • Work life balance
      • Everyone in their own life and their own careers you need to determine what is balance for you
        • You have to determine for yourself what success looks like
          • A friend who was a teacher and was happy - Walter thinks he's still successful
    • Common sense, is not common
      • Commonsense is a quality that is underrated
      • Commonsense gets sharper by mistakes
    • Every time you take a new job, make sure it is a stretch job
      • Not sure if you can do it, but you take a challenge
      • Stretch jobs
      • Fear of failure
        • Failure is okay, learn from it
      • How do u weigh those decisions in life? - Susan
        • Since I'm Portuguese I didn't know I was supposed to be afraid
          • You have to develop courage
            • Courage very important
            • You need to make mistakes
            • Have to let your children fail
            • If you take away failure from students, you're hurting them
      • Get small victories first, then you can survive your mistakes
    • Observations and lessons you've learned that can help students
      • Local students
        • Consider somebody coming from anywhere who embraces and respects our culture
      • Local kids born in Hawaii were taught
        • You never raise your hand when you know the answer to the question - makes u show off
        • Don't speak out on anything - makes u an ass
        • Have to work at breaking out of the cycle of showing off, not showing off, letting people know you your stuff and to give you a chance
        • This is an impediment and a handicap, not a badge of honor
    • Quote
      • "You don't do it because you think it's going to help your career, however, doing it will help your career"
    • Political work
      • Walter is always at the right place at the right time
        • How do you explain your timing?
          • A: Harder you work the luckier you get
      • Walter CEO of First Hawaiian Bank
        • Encouraged all people to take two career paths
          • To be a good executive in any company, part of your growth needs to be external
            • Corporate Path
            • Community Service Path
          • If you do good, the benefits will come
    • Mentors
      • How do you find them? Did they find you?
        • Highly recommend it
        • Good executives or good community leaders
          • "Would you mind if I came and sought your opinion?"
            • The busier they are, the more time they will spend to find you
        • Easy to get mentorship if you have a connection
        • Working hard is a good way to get mentors
    • Grew up in Aina Haina
      • Father police officer for 40 years, borrowed $ to put children through private schools
      • Mother cashier
      • Values
        • Values I learned
          • Need to worry about poor people and help them
          • If you start at the bottom, you never forget where you came from
          • Treasured he did things the hard way
          • Junior Commerce
            • Leadership training organization
              • Learning Roberts Rules of Order helped him later on in life
      • Growing up, worked full time at several different jobs
      • Big into drag racing and girls
    • Chronology of the last 50 years of politics and business in Honolulu
    • Entrepreneurial Thinking
    • Father Scottish, Mom Portuguese
All Posts

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!

OKSubscriptions powered by Strikingly