Starting in Japan – breaking in

by Gerhard Fasol

“Steely-eyed strategies…” (Lu Gerstner)

“Steely-eyed strategies: good strategies start with massive amounts of quantitative analysis – hard, difficult analysis that is blended with wisdom, insight, and risk taking…”
(Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., in the book “Who says elephants can’t dance”)

Japan is about 15% of the world economy, in many high-tech sectors Japan’s is about 30% of the world market. Especially for US high-tech companies, Japan is usually the first and most important foreign market.

Japan business strategy: what is your plan? what is your strategy? How to finance? you are looking for a partner?

Japan business strategy options: Spoilt for choice

YOU have many choices to build business in Japan:

  • take initiative, invest and build a valuable business in Japan, a subsidiary with brain power, feeding innovation back into your global operations
  • partner with a Japanese company which you entrust with control over your business in Japan
  • a full range of options depending on the competitive strength of your products, how unique your services are, and your financial strength



Rewards can be high, but building successful business in Japan is not easy – some of the most famous and largest global companies have failed and given up in Japan. Key challenges are:

  • Japan’s size needs major committment and investment. Success in Japan does not come cheap
  • Communications across the cultural devide. Language
  • Global priorities vs the specific needs of Japanese customers. Some of the largest corporations failed in Japan for this reason
  • Human resources: making the right choices are crucial. Do we hire top performers in Japan who don’t know much English and can’t communicate globally?
  • How do we listen to Japanese customers?
  • Do we really understand Japan’s market, and our customers?



  • speed: some very famous global companies lost out in Japan against faster executing competitors
  • investment: do you have the financial strength and the support by your investors and share holders to invest what it takes to win in Japan? Several very famous global companies had to give up in Japan because management underestimated the investment necessary to win in Japan
  • listening to Japanese customers: it’s almost unbelievable, but true. Some foreign companies get no-where in Japan for the simple reason that they do not listen enough to Japanese customers
  • (with our resources and experience, we can help you reduce risks)



  • Many global companies with great products and great execution, have their most successful and profitable business in Japan
  • Japan is in many fields among the most developed markets in the world, especially in telecommunications, but also in many other fields. Competing successfully in Japan is crucial for the global competitiveness of your company




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