TJ Business Expert (3)



Doing Business in the U.S. and Japan

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TJ: Have you noticed any difference in the corporate cultures or management styles between Japanese- and American-owned companies?
LACHNER: Definitely. But I think it’s dangerous to classify all Japanese companies as the same. I think they are as diverse as American companies are. I spent five years at Sony before coming to Clarion. Of course, working for Sony I thought I was working for a Japanese company. Then I came to Clarion and I realized that Sony was a very different experience than it is at Clarion. Sony is a very Western Japanese company in their management, thinking and strategic planning, whereas Clarion is a more traditional Japanese company. Having only worked at two, I can’t generalize. But I can say that Clarion, as big as it is with 10,000 employees and $2 billion in sales, has a real family feel. It helps that almost all of the senior management in Japan have come through Clarion Corporation of America at some point in their career, so a lot of the folks in Clarion are well-known and liked here and do understand the American model.

Japan and Globalization

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Japan and Globalization
English: The Global Language of Business

Interview with Yukuo Takenaka

TJ: How important is it for Japan’s future that Japanese people learn to communicate in English?
TAKENAKA: Extremely important. As the Japanese birth rate is declining and the aging population is increasing, Japan cannot rely on domestic business alone in this shrinking market. Japanese companies must go outside and increase business on a global basis. In business and in most professions, English has become the preferred global language. Chances are that if you speak English, you will be able to find someone in any country who can communicate in English.

Language is a tool for communication. Japan’s problem is that they teach English not for the purpose of using the language as a communicative tool, but for the purpose of passing exams. Learning how to communicate conversationally in English is imperative. I believe the greatest benefit you will gain by learning English is the ability to communicate face-to-face. It is acceptable if you speak broken English, as long as you get the message across. With the current Japanese English education system, they may learn some fundamentals but on average they cannot communicate effectively.

TJ: How important is globalization?
TAKENAKA: Every country needs globalization. The best example of a country that has isolated itself is North Korea. People are starving. I am certain that if North Korea opens up, their lives will improve immeasurably. Why is China better off today than 30 or 40 years ago? Because they have become a part of the global business community. Japan recognized that they greatly improved after opening up the country as compared to the Tokugawa period of isolation.

Focusing on Japan’s Strengths

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TJ: What has made the Japanese automobile and electronics industries so successful in the U.S.?
TAKENAKA: Japan had its heyday in the decades following World War II. There was a shortage of quality products and the Japanese were very good at making products. They came in and supplied the world. The timing was right in terms of the world’s needs, the environment and Japan’s capabilities. You didn’t have to negotiate hard. You didn’t have to do a lot of sales and marketing. There was a lack of quality products being manufactured and people simply had wants and needs. The Japanese were excellent at manufacturing. Trading? Not so good. Marketing? Not so good. But you didn’t have to do a lot of that back then.

TJ: Is Japan going to continue to be a manufacturing country?
TAKENAKA: I think they have to. You have to focus on your strengths. If you only focus on your weaknesses, you’re going to become weak. The Japanese have an excellent skill set and commitment that suits manufacturing.

Let’s take a look at televisions. The Japanese used to be excellent at manufacturing TVs. But they stopped thinking about what the customer wanted. Konosuke Matsushita once said, “The customer is God.” In the old days, they really believed the customer was God, so they were always trying to figure out, “What does the customer want? What does the customer need?” They would find out so they could make good products that met their needs. Well, as you get more successful (this happened in America, too), you start to get cocky. They are still using the same words, “The customer is God.” Before they really believed it. But now it is only words. This is a common mistake with successful companies. They start imposing what they think their customers need on their customers.


Staff Continued



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