Preparation is the base for a great outcome.
Many of my Dutch clients are making a business trip to Japan this autumn and I have been asked for some advice. I would be pleased to give talks and workshops to set you ready with SENRYAKU (strategy). However, my time, your time is limited, I decided to write a short article with practical, strategic, straight forward tips, which you could read and implement easily during your preparation.
There is also another article that I suggest “4 rituals to make a smooth welcome for your Japanese business relations”. which I wrote for an Intercultural Business Consulting Company AKTEOS. These will apply for visiting as well.
JAPANESE CORE VALUE
Before the main contents, I would like to brief you with the value what drives the Japanese. The core value of Japanese society is "Harmony"(wa 和）. Harmony is what drives the Japanese people. It means that they would avoid anything that would destroy the harmony with the others. It is known that the Japanese always say Yes and no No. They are indirect and ambiguous not to make others forced with an idea. They are very suggestive. You can also see that in Japanese traditional art. It is a virtue. However, if you are coming from the west, it is a challenge to conduct business.
Below, there are 5 things that I suggest that you prepare.
Before your business trip to Japan, 5 things to prepare
1. MINDSET - YOU RUN A MARATHON AND NOT A SPRINT.
This is the first thing I'd like to tell you.
Doing business with a Japanese company is like running a marathon. Well, the Japanese is running a marathon! I do understand from my own experience that sometimes we are eager to do business, like a Sprinter, do in full speed and get a result. Yourself or your company have a goal to achieve in a certain time frame. You are also under pressure, as your department or the management board has granted an “ad-hoc budget” for your business trip with the condition that you need to prove the fruitful outcome.
Tempted for a SPRINT. But opt for a MARATHON mindset.
2. BE ON THE SAME PAGE. ADJUST THE PACE.
Like running a marathon together, try to keep the same pace. If you are running too fast, slow down a bit and help the other to run a bit faster.
For example, you could explain your company’s intention and what they want to achieve but you will break down the final goal into clusters of goals. So that it is not overwhelming to the Japanese side. The path could diversify but both parties are aware that they are on the same path towards the same goal.
You must communicate your intention and goal, but make sure you don’t push the Japanese counterparty away by pressuring for the result, or Yes/No answer on the spot.
3. "PRE-VISIT" MEETING. VIDEO CALL.
Preparation means “to be on the same page” as possible. It is very wise to set Pre-visit Meeting, video call. It helps to avoid ending up just shaking hands, having a nice meal together, drinking, singing Karaoke. (It is also a nice experience, though! )
Mostly you are communicating by email. But it would be beneficial, especially if it is the first time to meet. You will know their level of English, you will see their face. You can visit their office more at ease. Same to the Japanese side, they will see you in advance and they will know and they will feel at ease.
Be on the same page, establish the agenda together, rather than sending it out by email.
Make sure to study before, who are going to attend from which department, as well as their, position.
4. ORGANISATION CHART & YOUR POSITION.
Compare to Dutch organizations, Japanese organisation is hierarchical. Your position at the organisation matters and where you belong to. They will run an automatic analysis of your position at the organisation so that the “right” person from the Japanese organisation can be your main contact person. For example, if you are CEO, CEO will talk to you. If you are a Director of a department, you will get to talk to the person on the same level.
In your presentation of company introduction, it is wise to put the organization chart and explain about the department you belong to, and your responsibility, how the decision can be made.
5. FACT & FIGURES
As you may have already seen, the presentation made by the Japanese has full of information and facts. Reversely, that is what they also look for.
Company overview, when and how it is established, number of employees, annual revenue, locations and about your department. A story about the founder would be appreciated too.
Why do they want this information? Most Japanese companies are risk-averse, and most cases they opt to do business with a company with a long term vision than with a company which will be sold or closed in a year even though the financial advantage is guaranteed by doing business.
Gather the information and put one additional sheet on your presentation!
If you wish to know more about doing buisness with the Japanese, I am pleased to help you.
Please contact and make an appointment for consultation.