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THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Tokyo Japan

Jun 27, 2018

Longevity In Business In Japan


Longevity means a lot in Japan.  People who are risk averse like the fact your company has been around for a long time. They know there is a certain degree of track record there.  They sense you are stable, predictable, credible, reliable – all indicators that you are a low risk choice of business partner.  If you are a new entrant how does that work for you?  You have no track record, no credibility, nothing to reduce the risk of having you as a potential supplier.


Your firm may be new to Japan, but perhaps you have an established track record in your own country. I previously ran an Australian bank here in Japan and that company had been around for 150 plus years.  We leveraged that track record here in Japan to establish the levels of trust we needed.  That was our longevity to satisfy Japanese buyers.


In the case of Dale Carnegie Training, we always talk about the fact that we started 106 years ago in New York and 55 years ago in Japan.  We do this to show we are reliable and they can be confident about doing business with us, if we are a new supplier for them.  We are showing we have stood the test of time.


Also don’t forget about yourself.  If you have been with the same company for many years, don’t neglect to mention that because it will be appreciated.  It shows consistency, loyalty, stability to the Japanese buyer.  Japan is a not a country of job hopping to get to the top like in most Western countries.  We are bouncing around from job to job trying to step up our careers.  Here in Japan, they go up the escalator and over time they will get to the top.  Slow and steady wins the race here. So your steady career will look very familiar to them and it will correspond with what they think is a normal career progression.


In my case I have been with Dale Carnegie Japan for ten years and I don’t miss the chance to mention and highlight that.  It shows commitment and again stability.  Japanese companies want to have long term relationships with people they can trust. Being a known factor is a big help in getting business done here.  If I have been ten years with Dale Carnegie already, they know that I am not going anywhere and I will continue to be that known factor for them.


On the flip side of longevity is the fact that Japanese people love the new.  When a new shopping mall opens here in Tokyo, the place is rushed with consumers going to check it out.  They swarm there like bees.  After a few months another new location will open up and they will fly off and swarm there. This fascination with the new is a bit tricky and counterpoints longevity.  So here in Japan we have a dual task. Highlight our stability and longevity but also be seen to be coming out with something new as well.  That is very important if you want to be seen as relevant.  We are a 106 years old company, but we have to make a big effort to be innovating and releasing new Thought Leadership all the time.  There is no resting on your laurels in Japan. 


That is why I release three podcasts a week – The Leadership Japan Series, The Sales Japan Series , The Presentations japan Series - why I have my own YouTube TV Show, The Cutting Edge Japan Business Show, why I publish two daily blogs one in English and one in Japanese everyday on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  That is also why we have over 700 free videos on our Japan Dale Carnegie TV YouTube channel.  We have to show we are fresh, current, innovative as well as stable over time.  What can you do to show you have something new for the buyers?  There is a strong demand here for new things and if you don’t satisfy that demand, your competitor most likely will do so.


Another tricky part of longevity here is keeping your contacts going.  Large Japanese companies have a generalist model of executive development.  You are an employee for life and over your career, they will rotate you through all the sections of the company, so that you have a good appreciation of how the business works.  The issue with this system though is come April 1stevery year the staff moves take place.  The person you have been dealing with and with whom you have built a solid relationship of trust, gets moved to a new job.  Now there is a new person who may not know you and may want to do their own thing or use their own trusted suppliers instead of you.  You are now out.


This means that you have to keep in touch with companies.  You can anticipate the changes will be made in April, so well before that you need to check in on your contact and find out what is likely to happen. Are they going to stay or will they be moved.  If they are going to leave, then you want them to introduce you to their successor and try and weld the relationship firmly with the new person.  Even if they have already made the move to another division, still get them to introduce you to their successor where ever possible. This will considerably smooth the transition glide path.


We are juggling a lot of balls in the air here, aren’t we.  We have to have longevity but we also have to be constantly reinventing ourselves to have something new and then they move our champion and we have to start the whole process over again.  This is why you need to have a high degree of farming going on here rather than constantly hunting for new clients.  We establish a solid base of business and then we just top that up and expand that with new business.  What you don’t want is a lot of buyer turnover.  Having to replace existing clients all the time is very tough, expensive and time consuming.  That means we have to carefully manage our longevity in Japan.