Saturday, April 13, 2024

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BEYOND SIGHT! Doing Business with the Japanese (Part 1)

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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. The concept of “Kaizen” which means “change for the better” or “continuous improvement” has been adopted even by Westerners in their workplace. All of these beautiful philosophies of the Japanese are not just words. These are their guiding principles in doing business which I would call the “witnessing”  and are practiced in their daily life even outside the workplace.

On several occasions, I have the opportunity to meet the Japanese executives of Okada Manila as well as their Filipino executives and down to their staff. Their business philosophies of “Magokoro” and “Omotenashi” are not just bells and whistles to entice the people. They are manifested in how they treat their guests.  The word “Magokoro” means sincerity, and that sincerity means coming from a pure heart, and “Omotenashi” means to anticipate the guests’ needs. In short, that is being proactive than reactive, and nothing is more delightful and impressive when you have this kind of business philosophies and culture that would really awe a lot of people.

Watch the interview of THEPHILBIZNEWS with Okada Manila’s Chief Managing Director, Mr. Kenji Sugiyama highlighting Okada’s simple philosophies of embracing “Magokoro” and “Omotenashi”

While it is palpable that our current government administration has an open door and preference for China, they are not mindful that this would spook not only the Japanese investors but also other foreign investors. Japanese can work with anyone and any race. The gaijin concept has long ceased in their culture and has embraced the reality that integration will play a lot in this time of globalization.

I have always been in communication with my Japanese friends and they often share with me their dreams for the Philippines, which is a 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, the 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, the 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 were 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 the 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 circumstances beyond control, they are very understanding and forgiving. In short, they may be strict, but they are very reasonable and sensible.

Perhaps, being used to having small families as compared with the Filipinos, the Japanese have this concept of “Nakama” which is not typical in the Western workplace or Filipino workplace. So their tendency to be individualistic can be prevalent. But that individualistic concept should be not misconstrued as something negative or akin to the Filipino concept of “makasarili” (selfish), but rather on the social pattern that is more independent from the typical collective views with others.

However, the young group of the Japanese is very adaptable due to the prevalence of social media networking, globalization, and a grasp of reality that acculturation is empirical especially when collaborating with other cultures.

For the Japanese, even if you have accomplished your work for the day, remaining in the workplace or offering your help to your colleagues means a lot to them. Having worked in a Japanese company in the past and continuing to deal with a lot of 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 are 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.

Here is my interview with a Japanese businessman in Tokyo on how he and other Japanese businessmen view the Philippines as an investment hub. Of course, it is important for the government that while they want to invest in the Philippines, the government ought to have clear and investor-friendly policies similar to what our other ASEAN neighbors offer.

Watch the video:

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