starting business in Japan


Are you ready for business in Japan?

2.  preparing for business in Japan

In the previous section introducing starting business in Japan, I noted that "..a properly prepared entry into the Japanese market will generate substantial levels of revenue..". So just what does 'properly prepared' mean?

Maybe surprisingly, 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. I was on the executive team of one US company that did not have enough cash in the bank to make payroll in January and yet IPO'd in the US on October 16 the same year after some very successful deals with Japanese companies!

Neither does being 'properly prepared' mean having a 100% 'done' product that is ready to sell to the masses tomorrow. In the past 3 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.

"Japan should be #1 on your list of international priorities"

Lastly, being 'properly prepared' definitely does not mean having already succeeded in both the US and Europe with the implication that you are now 'finally ready for Japan'. Japanese companies 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. We at Venture Japan passionately believe that Japan should be #1 on your list of international priorities.

Being properly prepared, and one of the keys to consistently successful business in Japan (as elsewhere), is simply being able to deliver committed products and services on time. That means having enough well-founded confidence in your ability and your team's ability that you can make commitments to a Japanese customer or partner and guarantee being able to deliver on those commitments on the promised dates. If you don't have that confidence then irrespective of the depth of your corporate pockets you are not ready for business in Japan. Making a commitment and failing to deliver on it is the secret of failure in Japan even more so than it is in any other market!

So, you are fortunate to be part of a focused and committed team, you have absolute confidence in your company's ability to deliver and you want to start reaping the benefits of a successful Japanese market entry: so what is the first step to start doing business in Japan?

Try a call to JETRO. Japan's government funded Japan External Trade Organization may not always be the most effective or efficient source of practical commercial market-entry information (see the page on the problems with JETRO's Japan business advice) but they can provide initial Japanese office space in central Tokyo - for free.

3.  free Japanese office space in Tokyo >>

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