How NOT to choose your country manager for Japan

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How NOT to choose your country manager for Japan

So many Gaishikei are failing in Japan. Sometimes for realistic reasons (market size, product specifications, …) but most of failures are coming from very basic and simple reasons: Human resources
Please find below the most common mistakes of corporate headquarters when choosing their country manager for Japan.

If he speaks good English he must be very good!

This is often happening not only for country managers but for sales peoples, sales managers and so on…
Come on! Those peoples are doing their business in Japan and while communication is important, the language only should not be a limiting factor. I saw extremely good sales peoples who had a limited command of English but still they delivered.

He is a very good salesman, so he will be our perfect country manager.

Many companies are promoting their top sales peoples as country manager, and many fail.
Why is that?
Managing a company as a representative director requires not only sales skills but management, finance, HR skills. You need to be a generalist and not a specialist.
But still many companies do the same mistake and finally we know how it ends up.

He is the top guy from the competition, so he will be our best asset

Yes maybe he know the trade, he know the customers. But if someone comes from competition so easily, he might leave for competition too.
As in the Godfather “Don Corleone: [to Michael] Listen, whoever comes to you with this Barzini meeting, he’s the traitor. Don’t forget that.”

Let’s become local!

Sometimes replacing your foreign country manager by a Japanese national is not the best choice. (it depends of course on the company and if it is in a startup phase or in a mature phase)
Think again twice who you want to have on your side (and not only on the customer’s side).
Those are only few examples. But believe me or not, it led to failure of many gaishikei in Japan.
One last advice, you will often find a “Japan expert” in the headquarter (someone who spent some years in Japan or “likes” Japan). Do not rely on them and please trust the boots on the ground (wether Japanese or foreign nationals).
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About gaishikeiman 33 Articles

French citizen in his forties living in Japan.
Almost 20 years working for foreign companies in Japan.
I have an engineering background with an extensive sales experience in highly regulated industries. I am currently the representative director and managing director for an European company’s subsidiary in Japan.
I have seen all the lows and highs of foreign companies in Japan since late 90ties.
Feel free to contact me wether you are looking for opportunities in Japan.

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