Managing for Creativity in Japan Talking with Foreign Executives in Japan

Personal Relationships

“First of all you don’t have those personal relationships so you need get out socialising. You need to do the Japanese thing. You need to go out in the evening and you need to drink. You need to drink and you need to go to karaoke. You need to do whatever it takes to get that personal trust before you even start talking about the business. I think that once that starts you get a nucleus, and the network spreads and they tell their friends that you can be trusted, that you are a person that they can do business with, and then you start to get more contacts. So you have to behave, and obviously you have to act with high integrity and be honest and assume you are under scrutiny all the time.”

“I’ve had to do the five nights a week and use the weekends on the golf. I have managed to build relationships to the point where I’ve been to clients’ children’s weddings. That was the ultimate, to earn that kind of trust and respect. If you can get that, I think that there is huge potential for your company and that person or group of people working here. At the end of the day the Japanese, like most Asians, fear a loss of face and personal embarrassment. They don’t want to take a risk with somebody that they don’t know. Every purchase is a risk and we are talking about high value components in our case and they don’t want to take a risk with someone they don’t know and isn’t going to help out their friend when something goes wrong. They want someone who’s not just going to refer to the contract and say “it’s not specified here”. They want someone who is flexible, and can work outside the contract and fix it for them without their boss knowing.

I think that’s what you have to do here. I’m not saying that we give everything away but we respect the personal relationships and we make sure that the people who put the trust in us don’t regret it later.”

This post is part of a series of excerpts from interviews with foreign executives in Japan, focusing on creativity. Excerpts have been edited for confidentiality.
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