Doing Business with the Japanese (Part 1)
Text and photo by Monsi A. Serrano
Japanese, by and large, are known to have very high ethical standards in terms of doing business and work. This patented and unparalleled standard they set for themselves remains true even if they do business outside their domain.
According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), in 2014 Japan was the largest investor in the Philippines, followed by The Netherlands and the US in the manufacturing industry.
After the very strong anti-Japanese sentiment in China in 2014, many Japanese investors moved to Thailand and the Philippines.
I have always been in communication with my Japanese friends and they often share with me their dreams for the Philippines, which is strong partnership with Japanese and Filipinos in business. The only wish that they have now is for the government to increase the equity of foreigners which is 40-60, forty to the foreigner and sixty to the local (Filipino) to 49-51 and if this foreign equity is increased, this would lead to more investors to the Philippines and that was the commitment of my Japanese friends to me. Remember, Japanese are not politicians. When they say something they do it, and when they fail to do so, it is a dishonor for them and their entire clan.
There is one thing that I always tell my friends when doing business with the Japanese, when the Japanese say yes, they mean it. For them their words are their commitment. So when you do business with them, they would rather lose money than lose their face, and that is how simple it is for them.
Japanese may be slow in making a decision, because they make a consensus decision. While they may be hierarchical, whatever decision is made is already considered cast in stone.
Friendship wise, Japanese are very loyal. In fact, their depth of friendship is oftentimes equated with “daisho” which literally means “big-little” and they’re inseparable like big brother and kid brother, or best friend. The notion of “gaijin” (outsider) used to be very strong, however, last year when The Philippine Business and News was in Japan for the Media Educational Workshop, one of the hot issues that was thrown to us for discussion was the Japanese preparing themselves for multi-cultural assimilation and integration that would inevitably disrupt the closely-knit Japanese culture.
While the Japanese have long been known for their solid formation in education, business and work ethics and their value of “haji,” which is equivalent to Filipino concept of “hiya” (or shame in English). So for the Japanese, it is like a mortal sin not to be able to fulfill your commitment. However, if this is due to unforeseen circumstance beyond your control, they are very understanding and forgiving. In short, they may be strict, but they are reasonable.
Perhaps, being used to having small families as compared with Filipinos, the Japanese have this strong concept of “Nakama”. It is very unlike the typical Western workplace or Filipino workplace and so their tendency to be individualistic is very strong. For the Japanese, even if you have accomplished your work for the day, remaining in the workplace or offering your help to your colleagues mean a lot to them. Having worked in a Japanese company in the past and continuing to deal with a lot Japanese companies and individuals as a consultant, it is interesting to note one of their valuable traits. When they work, they work hard and after fulfilling their duties, they want to have a mini-party with their colleagues.
Thus, dining and drinking among colleagues is very important. Perhaps, bonding together after work is one way for them to deepen their relationships and to relax out of the workplace. But there is one thing that is really interesting, even if they get home late, nobody reports to the office late.