Wake up call for the foreign B2B interiors products business in Japan

Foreign based commercial interiors products companies (B2B) in Japan are chronically seeking account managers and sales staffs. They will never succeed in hiring and retaining capable employee they seek, let alone prosper in satisfactory way unless they change they way they do business.

Why? Here’s a list of skill requirements for the candidate:

1. Good communications skill
2. Fluent in Japanese and strong (mostly) in English language
3. Enthusiastic
4. Keeps up with general business news and trends
5. Ability to understand and satisfy the needs of clients at these levels: enduser, client facility manager in Japan and headquarters (for foreign companies), client procurement manager in Japan and headqurters, architects and designers, sales dealers
6. Ability to follow the local objectives and goals and stay true to the global objectives and goals
7. Understand and execute the plans and strategies of bosses who come from outside of Japan with no clue about the system and people behavior in Japan
8. Ability to understand and work with the complicated products, manufacturing, ordering, global contracts system
9. Quickly learn all of there is to learn about the market, product, business, and teach it to a boss who just arrived in Japan, or who came from another industry

Of course the salary level is based on those at the commercial interiors products sales industry, which is remarkably low. But if someone was capable of doing 5 and 6, that person may well qualify to become a management consultant. If someone had reasonable ability in all of the above, that person may well qualify at partner level for a prestigeous global consulting company.

Practically all of foreign based commercial interiors products company fail to expand with healthy sales and profit growth in Japan, because most of people who manages Japan overlook the fact that back in their headquarter country, the sales rely heavily on the staff level people who make ends meet despite of all the problems that are so frequent that they accept it as norm, such as delay in production, wrong color, wrong quantity, wrong spec, etc. If all the production was done locally, then it might be a different story. But with most of production being done offshore, these problems can not be fixed especially with extra communication link in place. It’s amazing how managers brush this off as, oh, but only 1 out of 5 products are ordered to offshore site. Maybe they think clients will forgive them if only 20% of the products were not delivered and installed as promised in some way? Not in this age and day of six sigmas.

Good news is, anything can change for the better. Yes even in B2B interiors products industry. Who is going to be the first?

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