First Step Japan

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Japanese Business Timeline

Foreign firms dealing with Japanese companies for the first time are often surprised by the time it takes to make decisions in Japan. Japanese interlocutors considering a partnership or even a simple transaction will bombard the potential supplier or partner with a surprising number of questions and will even ask the same questions a few times. One may think that they are checking for consistency but the reason is simpler. The internal consensus building is a very important component of the company’s decision making process, and naturally, the bigger the company, the greater the number of employee being consulted, and the longer it takes to go through the process. However, the positive side of this process is that once the process is completed, all players are on board, all angles have been studied, an implementation plan has been put in place, and the machine is ready to roll full steam ahead. It also means that once a decision is made, it is very difficult to change it. This lengthy process also has the advantage of providing an opportunity for both sides to take an in-depth look into the potential partner’s organization and allows for the building of relationships between interlocutors. In contrast, businesses from other cultures will make a decision to embark on a partnership more quickly, only to discover obstacles later that make the transaction less profitable and less pleasant for both parties. As a rule of thumb, if you are still receiving questions from a Japanese potential partner, it means that the company is allocating resources to study your offering and thus, is interested in completing a transaction. After all, who has time and resources to allocate to a project or product they have no intention to pursue?  First Step’s word of advice; Do not give up yet! Confidence and persistence is key to do business successfully in Japan!

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