Being ‘properly prepared’ to start doing business in Japan does not necessarily mean (unless you are in a capital intensive industry) having huge cash reserves. One US company I worked with in the mid 1990s did not have enough cash in the bank to make payroll in January 1996 yet IPO’d in the US on October 16 the same year after some very successful deals with Japanese companies!

Neither does it mean having a 100% ‘done’ product that is ready to sell to the masses tomorrow. In the past 2½ years I have negotiated two opportunities with a major Japanese automotive manufacturer and one of its subsidiaries, worth a combined total of over $32m, for a software product that (though incredibly exciting) is not yet at the commercial release stage.

Lastly, being ‘properly prepared’ definitely does not mean having already succeeded in both the US and Europe; the implication being that you are now ‘finally ready for Japan’. Japanese companies of course succeeded in Japan long before they entered the US and European markets and I am convinced that any company that develops the discipline to first succeed in Japan will then succeed more consistently and profitably elsewhere. I firmly believe that Japan should be #1 on your list of international priorities.

Being properly prepared, and in fact the key to successful business in Japan, is being able to deliver on time, specifically the ability to deliver on commitments. In my experience, being properly prepared simply means to have enough well-founded confidence in your ability and that of your team that you can make commitments to a Japanese customer or partner and guarantee being able to deliver on those commitments on the promised dates. Making a commitment and failing to deliver on it is of course the secret to failure here as in any other market!