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owit & jetro on business in Japan

Tuesday 25 January, 2011

The Chicago chapter of the Organization of Women in Trade (OWIT) organized this event @ JETRO’s offices DOING BUSINESS IN JAPAN.  The Chief Executive Director of JETRO in Chicago, Tatsuhiro Shindo, who relocated from New York, welcomed us.

Next Kevin Kalb of the local JETRO office gave a tutorial on doing business in Japan:  jetro presentation – owit 1-19-11 kk Japan is about the size of California, but with little arable land.  Its population is declining so much that by 2030, 1/3 of the population will be 65 or older, which will put a burden on the health care system & workforce.  There is little immigration into Japan, but it is surmised that will have to change.  1/4 of all Japanese joint ventures & foreign direct investment in the US is in the midwest.  The Japanese are fascinated with robots & are even developing them to perform services these days.  However their services sectors are less developed, as is technology transfer, than in the U.S.  Japan is another land of engineers & their customer focus is very strong.  Japan was hit hard by the financial crisis, upping unemployment to 5% from it’s normal 3%.  Again re: the workforce, men boast an 80% employment rate, but women only a 60% employment rate because 2/3 of women leave the workforce after having their 1st child, which is double the rate in the US (1/3).    It’s important to establish trust & loyalty in long-term business relationships, which can take 7-8 years to get going.  It took 1 company 20 years to open a Japanese office.

Mark Mohr, EVP of DMG/Mori Sieki USA, the American subsidiary of a German/Japanese machine tool manufacturer, discussed cultural aspects of doing business in Japan.  Here’s his presentation:  Mohr – Culture of Doing Bus w Japan Mori Seiki came to the US in the 1980’s because at the time, US suppliers couldn’t deliver-some customers were expected to wait a year for delivery & customers didn’t accept that.  Now those US icons are gone.  Some Japanese companies have brought daily morning exercise to their subsidiaries in the US.  An advantage of the Japanese way of doing things is that people take responsibility for their actions & all workers are respcted. The Japanese “Never say die” attitude helps them “walk through walls.”  Don’t worry if you hear a lot of pregnant pauses when speaking with the Japanese-they’re just considering their response.

Tiffany Jespers, General Counsel of DMG/Mori Sieki USA, compared legal aspects of exporting from the U.S. & Japan.  Here’s her presentation:  Jaspers – Export Comparisons Additionally, METI has representatives in JETRO offices.  Internal controls are simply operating procedures, such as financial requirements, screening customers, acquiring customer information, & installing GPS to track locations of installed units as specified by METI for general licenses to export.  Sometimes rather then give a rejection, METI will just let an export license application hang in limbo & never be approved.

Q&A

differences between the Japanese & the Germans:

  • in a meeting, the Japanese will listen, then meet & decide later while the Germans will expect a decision
  • both are perfectionists, but achieve perfectionism differently:  the Germans will tell you what’s perfect, while the Japanese will ask
  • the Germans are aggressive & expect their way to happen;  the Japanese will listen how to get to the same end & get buy-in.
  • Both always see what can be improved, but differ in format.  The Japanese require an approval process for all $100+ purchases from the company president.
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