Leaders March 2011

Building Business Partnerships

People occasionally ask me what the benefits are of BCCJ membership and receiving ACUMEN. Well, apart from the obvious merits of networking, events, information and influence, let me give you a prime example of a modest start-up that partnered with an established global giant, all thanks to the Chamber and its monthly magazine.

When the Japan director of a major household name, renowned for innovation and quality, saw an ACUMEN feature in late 2010 about a foreign maker of premium items that had just set up a Tokyo branch and joined the BCCJ, he immediately saw potential synergy with a product he had just launched. Being a big supporter of ACUMEN and knowing that its publisher, Custom Media, helps foreign businesses enter and expand in Japan, he asked me to set up a meeting between us.
Although both firms thrive on innovation and quality, at first glance you might wonder what common ground they could possibly share, other than their strong British roots.

Both target quality-conscious consumers happy to pay extra for quirky, useful or latest products, and both industries are traditionally known for strong brand loyalty. While one firm had successfully challenged a market long dominated by domestic corporations, the other was just entering a similarly tough arena of established brands.
I joined their first meeting and soon both parties had found several potential areas to exploit—including health, events, marketing, product samples and blogging. Wishing them luck, I offered all the support I could through the pages of ACUMEN and by spreading the word. They shook hands on what steps to take next and we all left smiling.

Green and pleasant
Following our well-received scoop in the last issue on the recently appointed EU ambassador to Japan, it is again our pleasure to feature the first interview of Tokyo’s new envoy to the UK. Mr Hayashi is clearly an anglophile. From a 1970s homestay in Folkestone to pursuing much of his career in the UK, he seems to be well into British culture. So who better to compare the two national characters?

I found his linking British weather to the people’s virtues quite intriguing. And for a Japanese to say the British are more patient and pragmatic is also a first for me. The diplomat that he is, if his biggest complaint is he can’t enjoy everything he wants to do in the UK because there are so many things to do, then it really must be a green and pleasant land.