• Middle-Aged Dog / New Tricks

Middle-Aged Dog / New Tricks

Posted by Steve Williams | Rare Thinking |

Business has a funny way of taking you places you’ve never been…geographically and otherwise. I recently traveled to Japan to strengthen a relationship with one of our oldest clients and discuss a new strategy for their international online presence. I was more profoundly impacted by the trip than I had expected.

A kilometer in brand new shoes
I spent 10 years building a business in an industry that changes the second you think you’ve got it down. And, while I’ve learned a lot about doing business and how to conduct myself in different environments, Japan required a shift in thinking. For starters you must be comfortable with long pauses. Never interrupt. And you embrace their process and hierarchy. The people they do business with are a direct reflection of their business culture.

Etiquette, even in the little things
Good thing I had done my homework prior to visiting: I was tested in the first few minutes of meeting. When exchanging business cards you MUST hold your card out in front of you with two hands while the other person receives it with two hands.  Stuffing someone’s card in your pocket or tossing it down on the table would be terribly disrespectful. I got a refresher in multiplication tables trying to figure out how many columns and rows to use when lining up the many, many cards.  The drinking out of cups and not bottles came to me later.

A hard-made friend is a friend for life
Tokyo is brand central – it’s Times Square times ten. The Billboards and advertisements are as plentiful as they are bright. But, this is all consumer marketing. The B2B sector in Japan is predominately relationship-based, and there’s little marketing or advertising in this space because people only do business with those whom they have an established rapport. It’s a lot like dating – you care more about alignment of values than the things they wear.

Humbled and grateful
I simply can’t express enough how kind and hospitable my Japanese hosts were. I was given the royal treatment, shown around beautiful Tokyo and provided with assistance while shopping for my wife and kids. I wanted for nothing!  A highlight of the trip was doing Karaoke in Tokyo and being showered with praise for my singing talents.  It seems my stage presence made up for my lack of talent (or lamenting) and the judges factored this quite heavily.  Who knows, if marketing is not my gig then I can always go on tour.

ありがとう - Arigato