What is it like for a French man to be President of a Japanese company? — From “Moshi moshi, Japan?”, 19 June. 2015

What did a French man find when he was a president of a Japanese company in the aerospace industry for 8 years?

At the age of 29 years old, Patrice was appointed to be the president of a Japanese company, that had been just acquired by a French company. Though he spoke Japanese already, he still had a number of findings in the Japanese business culture.

The Japanese are uniform. When
The Japanese are uniform. When “No necktie” is recommended, all do the same. (Tokyo)
  • A long time to sell to major Japanese companies

Our major clients are well-established and large Japanese companies. They were conservative and didn’t trust us as quick as European and American clients did. The Japanese clients asked us requested us various data and samples, that even included confidential information.

The CEO and factory managers of my parent company didn’t understand such Japanese business culture. My role was to educate them. To do so, I brought them to to meetings with Japanese customers.

  • What was a clue to success?

It is important to show commitment to clients. In my case, I always visited the customers with the Director of Sales of my company, rather than staying in the office. I did sals myself. This worked to the clients. In addition, the attitude of customers were softer to me than they were to my Japanese staff.

  • Very high quality requirements

Quality requirements of Japanese clients are much higher than the one by European and American companies. For example, even a smallest scratch on your product is unacceptable for the Japanese, even though it has nothing to do with its functions. This is because the Japanese are concerned about the root cause.

You must have a system in place to be prepared for a case something wrong happens. It is another way to show your commitment.

  • How to assess the satisfaction of Japanese customers

The Japanese customers do not complain, hence you can be profitable at a small scale. In contrast, the French complain and the Americans, cheat the system. For the Japanese, you must get a feel of dissatisfaction or satisfaction. If you don’t feel their dissatisfaction, the Japanese customers may just disappear.

  • How to manage the Japanese staff

I was 23 years old when I entered the company and became the president when I was 29. I spoke Japanese and my young colleagues took me around. I even participated in “Settai”, a dinner with clients. These experience helped me to manage the staff.

Japanese staff wait for a boss to tell them to do A, B, C, …. In addition, a close follow-up is needed. In contrast, the Europeans are independent and they take initiatives. You can let them go. The French needs much motivation but not being told.

  • Strong resistance to the change

In recruitment, I found that many people were afraid of working in a foreign-owned company, We offered high salary but it didn’t work well. We could hire only those who worked in other foreign companies before.

Japanese people are highly uniform in their working habit. A strong leadership counts to make any change.

Forthcoming meetings — “Moshi moshi, Japan?” will meet again in the autumn 2015. Planned dates are, 23 October, 20 November and 3 December. Will keep you posted.

Wish to know how to succeed in business with Japan?

Please ask Yoshiko KURISAKI for more –> yoshiko,kurisaki@gmail.com

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Author: Yoshiko KURISAKI (栗崎由子)

I am Yoshiko Kurisaki, Japanese, executive consultant specializing in cross-cultural management between Europe and Japan. Being based in Geneva, I travel between Europe and Japan. Culture may be a stop factor in business. That said, if you go beyond that, culture is a vaIuable source of inspirations and innovation. I help European businesses to turn cultural barriers to innovation.   栗崎由子(くりさき よしこ)、ダイバーシティ マネジメント コンサルタント。二十余年間欧州の国際ビジネスのまっただ中で仕事をしてきました。その経験を生かし、日欧企業むけにビジネスにひそむ異文化間コミュニケーションギャップを解消し、国籍、文化、性別など人々の違いを資源に変えることのできるマインドセットを育てるための研修やコンサルティングを行なっています。文化の違いは”面倒なこと”ではなく新しい価値を生み出す源泉です。日本人の良さを国際ビジネスに生かしながら、違いを資源に変えて価値を創造しましょう。ジュネーブ在住で、日本とスイスを往復しています。

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