Our Country Manager in Japan, Jean-Michel Mollier is the Founder and CEO of Cetanā®, an international development company based in Tōkyo. With more than 30 years of experience in Japan, he has a lot to share with Beeleev community on the business environment and business culture in this amazing country.
Cetanā® is an international development company based in Tokyo, Japan. They have successfully supported more than 500 companies and organizations in fields such as the Silver Economy, medical devices and equipment, disability, walking aids and sport in Japan, Korea and China through a network of dedicated experts. Cetana’s CEO, Jean – Michel has the answers to all your recurring questions when it comes to investing in Japan.
What are the cultural aspects to consider when setting-up a business in Japan?
To succeed in this increasingly competitive market, you first need to learn how to deal with time, communication, and distances:
1. Time is a key concern since it is a relative concept in Japan. When negotiating with a potential partner, they will ask you lots of questions, check everything in details and require high responsiveness, until they are satisfied. Surprisingly, when it is your turn to ask questions, prepare for long wait or no answer.
2. Communication can also be a challenge, even if your counterpart is fluent in English and very empathetic. This is mainly due to the particular structure of the Japanese language and its influence on the Japanese mind. Non verbal communication is more important in Japan than anywhere. To fully understand gestures (which in some circumstances has a strategic importance) may be tough without substantial experience.
3. Distances tend to hinder your communication. There is an 8-hour difference between Europe and Japan during the winter that requires proper arrangement. Plus, in times of crisis, physical distance may cause unwanted panic, doubt and misunderstanding between partners.
Is Japan entrepreneur-friendly?
Japan has a long history of insularity, so entrepreneurship is more a national concern than an international matter. However, recently, many SMEs led by young and dynamic managers are striving to expand their business abroad. There are private companies in Tokyo provide on demand data to identify potential partners for M&A operations. Little by little, Japan is transforming into an economy where entrepreneurs are open to new ways of doing business with more prompt and direct manner. Western entrepreneurs should be ready to initiate the conversation when establishing a relationship with Japanese partners.
What should every entrepreneur know before developing a business in Japan?
First, you need to assess the positioning of your offer. Then, be aware that entering the Japanese market is a long-term effort. It will require time, energy and patience. Once the project starts, never give up. Be in touch regularly with your partners: provide them with useful information, pay them a visit at least once a year, keep them motivated. Invest in your future by investing in their present.
What are the major sectors of the Japanese economy?
For me, thinking exclusively in terms of sectors will limit your potential and therefore, miss many opportunities. I recommend staying focused on some themes such as safety, ecology and performance. However, for those who are really attached to the sectorial approach, let’s say that transport, health, information technology, housing, equipments for the production and materials are among the most growing sectors.