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Patience, quality & respect: this is how you do business in Japan

Sep 12, 2019 12:47:04 PM. By: High Tech Campus

Japan has been a leader in technological innovation for years. For example in life science, energy and micro- and nanoelectronics. Due to emerging economies in China, Korea and other Asian countries, Japan is forced to broaden their expertise to stay ahead in the game. Because of this, they are starting new partnerships with like-minded, foreign companies. But what must be taken into account in order to successfully establish a collaboration with a Japanese company?

This article has been written by our guest editor Evi Snoeijen.

Quality above quantity
Japan is a country that works very precisely and research has shown that it is a true quality country. They will always prioritize the delivery of high quality and expect to receive this back as well. A company that has experienced this is Signify. Roel Janssen, Global Director of City Farming at Signify, says: “When we had to convince a Japanese company of our products, we first had to do five to six rounds of tests to show that we have a product that really works. Afterwards, they’ve also tested it themselves. But when you convince them, then you’ll have a strong partner that you can collaborate with.”

Way of working
“Their decision-making process takes quite some time. Things are not arranged in a few months.” says Edwin Zonder, working at the Brabant Development Agency (BOM) for foreign investment in East and Southeast Asia. Why does it take so much time? Well, because decisions are made based on Ringi and Nmwashi, what means that all involved people have to give a sign of approval, regardless whether it is a large or small decision.

Hans Kuijpers, Director of Investment Projects for the Americas and Northeast Asia, recognizes this: “Some Japanese projects I did lasted for six or seven years. If you compare it to the United States: American projects often last less than two years.”

Once in a collaboration with a Japanese company you’ll have their faith. They are focused on long-term relationships and objectives, and are therefore good and trustworthy partners. In summary, if you want to collaborate with a Japanese company, it is essential to be patient and to respect that such processes require more time than we are usually used to.

How to communicate
So, now we know how they work and what they would like to see, but how do you convey a message that leads to success? As everyone knows, the spoken language is different, as well as the cultural differences.
Michel Min, current Global Marketing Manager at Omron, has seen this gone wrong multiple times:
“I’ve seen it dozen of times, that a consultant tries to sell something to a Japanese company in almost a childish way, because of the language barrier. My advice is that if you want to have a productive conversation with Japanese people, the communication still has to be of high quality. Maybe with less words and more visual aspects, but please do not simplify it.”

Japanese companies are also flattered if there is Japanese interaction as well, in addition to the English language. For example, it can be helpful to deliver introductions and announcements in Japanese.
Offensive strategies and bossy behavior is not appreciated by the Japanese. They prefer knowledge and details. So they know they are being taken seriously. Keep in mind that despite our cultural differences, every Japanese company will be interested in a valuable partnership.

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