Preparing for business in Japan

Preparing for business in Japan

In the previous section introducing starting business in Japan, we noted that “…a properly prepared entry into the Japanese market will generate substantial levels of revenue…”; but just what does ‘properly prepared’ mean?

Maybe surprisingly, being properly prepared to start business in Japan does not necessarily mean having huge cash reserves  (unless you are in a capital-intensive industry). I was the Japanese subsidiary President of a US software vendor that did not have enough cash in the bank to make payroll in January, but IPO’d in the US in October the same year after some very successful deals with Japanese companies!

Neither, depending on industry, does being properly prepared necessarily mean having a ‘100% done’ product that is ready to sell to the masses tomorrow. I once negotiated an opportunity worth a combined total of over US$32million with a major Japanese automotive manufacturer and one of its subsidiaries. The opportunity was for a 3D CAD software product which, while incredibly exciting, the customer accepted was not at commercial release stage and agreed to jointly develop.

Lastly, being properly prepared definitely does not mean having already succeeded in both the US and Europe; the implication being that your company is ‘…at last ready for Japan’. Japanese companies obviously succeeded in Japan long before they entered the US and European markets. I strongly believe that just as with Toyota, Yamaha, Sony, Nikon and the rest, any company with the discipline needed to first succeed in Japan will then succeed more consistently and profitably elsewhere. Make Japan #1 on your company’s list of international priorities!

Being properly prepared, and one of the keys to consistently successful business in Japan, is simply being able to deliver quality products and services on time with excellent customer support. That means having such confidence in 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 company’s corporate pockets, it is not ready for business in Japan. Making a commitment, then failing to deliver on it, is the secret of failure in Japan even more so than in other markets.

So, you are fortunately part of a focused and committed team, you have absolute confidence in the team’s ability to deliver and you want to start reaping the benefits of a successful Japanese market entry. What is the first step to starting business in Japan? Try a call to JETRO.

Japan’s government-funded Japan External Trade Organization (“JETRO”) may not always be the most effective or efficient source of practical commercial market entry information, but it can offer you temporary Japanese office space in central Tokyo for free.

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