Japanese Business Culture
Understanding Japanese business culture is essential for companies that want to successfully tap into this market. Professional interactions are heavily influenced by this society's values and respecting them is a key component to a successful business relationship.
Relationships Come First
In Japan, developing a personal relationship with a prospect comes first. Only after people get to know and trust each other does the discussion turn to business matters. In Western culture, developing a good relationship is part of doing business, but a decision about whether to enter into a professional relationship is made more quickly.
Age Is Revered
Older people are considered wise in Japanese culture, and younger people defer to a more senior member of a group. A meeting which includes one or more senior executives has a better chance of eventually leading to an agreement or a sale.
Consensus Is Needed to Make a Decision
The pace of business in Japan will likely seem slow to a Westerner. Decisions are reached as a group and there must be a consensus before proceeding.
Eye Contact Considered Rude
In Western business culture, looking someone straight in the eye is considered a desirable trait. In Japanese business culture, this same gesture is seen as hostile and holding another person's gaze should be avoided.
Gifts Part of Conducting Business
In Japan, giving gifts is an expected part of conducting business. A small, wrapped gift should be presented to key contacts as part of the process of developing business relationships. Western businesspeople are encouraged to do favors for people they encounter, since a business favor will always be returned.
Keep Interactions Low Key
This culture appreciates people who conduct themselves in a humble and modest manner. The Western way of promoting oneself and drawing attention to accomplishments is considered childish and embarassing.
Dressing Well Is Important
Dressing neatly and conservatively is important when doing business in Japan, since a person will be judged on his or her attire. A suit and tie are appropriate for men. Female executives do not wear slacks for work; a skirt or dress with a jacket should be worn instead.
Business Cards in Japanese Business Culture
Business cards are an integral part of doing business in Japan. They are exchanged before the start of a meeting. The recipient holds the card with both hands and reads it out loud before placing it on the table or in a cardholder so it can be referred to during the meeting. Placing a business card into one's pocket immediately is considered disrespectful.
People who conduct themselves in an ethical and respectul manner and who appreciate the Japanese corporate culture will be able to establish mutually-beneficial relationships with companies in that country.