FEATURED MEMBER - Roland Wels & Nik Kamke
Interview - May 2005
Roland Wels & Nik Kamke
Profile - Nik Kamke:
Nik comes from Lucerne, Switzerland, where he gathered 15 years of experience in display construction. His career there ended as the manager who was trusted the whole operation by the president.
Always interested in Asia, he went after the opportunity of a classified ad, where a German display company was looking for an experienced project manager to help their affiliated partner company in Tokyo. For 2 years he served various Japanese exhibitors on trade shows in Europe, before he moved to Japan in 2001.
Nik studied Japanese within the ETP-program and became than project manager at Fair Concept International. After 3 years he decided to try entrepreneurship
Profile - Roland Wels:
Roland was born in Munich, Germany. He worked in shop fitting and the exhibition industry in Germany, before he moved to Japan in 1994.
With only little preparation classes for Japanese in Germany, the language came “by doing E
As project manager in Fair Concept International, Roland was mainly in charge of foreign clients and exhibition projects abroad. The company developed to a 10-person operation within 8 years. Being involved nearly from the start, Roland became partner and so learned some entrepreneurial skills along the way. Wanting to be more than a partner, he decided to found his own company.
Profile -Welkam Ltd.:
welkam Ltd. was established by Roland Wels and Jan-Nicholas Kamke on Dec 17, 2004.
welkam is truly international in handling conventions, exhibitions and trade show displays, including branding-, marketing- and construction issues.
30 years of experience is what welkam combines in the interior and event industry. 20 countries with many more sites visited for international events.
With this experience, language abilities and worldwide network of partners, welkam will also make sure, that your project will be done within a given budget, in a state of the art quality and in a timely fashion.
Their worldwide services include:
- Design and construction of displays - custom made and in modular systems
- Audio - video production and setting
- During show time services including booth and stage staff
- Graphic design and production of printed materials such as panels and pamphlets
Interview with Roland & Nik:
1. When did you start your first business? What was it? What lessons did you take away from that experience?
Nik: In the display company, I worked for in Switzerland, I was employed, but actually was running it together with my boss. During that time I learned much about customer satisfaction and motivating my coworkers. It all comes down to being fair and supportive in both directions. Only motivated staff will help create a successful project - and only such better-than-average performances will keep the customers happy and come again. Which in turn makes the coworkers happy and motivated to go even further the next time.
Roland: As a partner in my former employment, I learned a lot about business relations the Japanese way. In our service orientated industry I found Japan way ahead of Europe, when it comes to "going the extra mile". And that you benefit from being open to everybody, even your competitors, as they might turn into your clients some day.
2. What are some of the challenges you have faced in starting your business and how did you overcome them?
One challenge was to convince business partners and clients, that going independent actually brings opportunities. We are communicating this in word and deed - and find, that it is gradually understood more and more. We are happy, that we are now among other contacts cooperating successfully with our former employer and their clients.
We established several channels throughout Japan and will keep trying to expand as well as challenging to introduce our products to the world market. I promised myself to check my everyday plan for a year, and then I went over each plan everyday whether I accomplished it or not. I also found that it is very important to be positive in any situation, and to have great entusiam for any action.
3. How did you form your business? (Yugen Kaisha, Kabushiki Kaisha, etc.) How long did the start-up process take?
We chose the Yugen Kaisha option because we heard, that the Japanese government is trying to equalize the status in future legislation anyway. The reputation of a company comes more from success than from legal status. We have not felt any need to upgrade to Kabushiki Kaisha, but will be checking this possibility ever so often again in the future. Thanks to the flexibility and great help of our scrivener (TokyoKaikei, Mr. Nakata) the incorporation process only took 3 weeks..
4. Where do you see your business in 5 years?
You would be surprised to see, how big this publicly little known display industry is. And with the world coming closer and closer to form the "global village", we see a lot of opportunities. Markets become more international and will definitely need people like us, who can translate ideas and make them happen - not only with language, but with the whole culture differences. We will push forward, that we will grow to be able to hire more staff and thus become viable partners for even more interesting projects.
5. Do you see yourself as an entrepreneur? Why?
We hope, that we will prove in a few years looking back, that we took some good entrepreneur decisions. To think long term and work on a structure that one day turns out to be a successful company is one reason. The other is, that it feels very good to be our own boss. It feels even better, since we are two, who can look at issues from different sides. It is a great thing to have a second opinion and to work out decisions with another person, who we respect very much personally and professionally.
6. What is your definition of an entrepreneur?
Someone, who takes fate into his(her) own hands, has a vision and keeps going after it.
7. What piece of advice would you give to a person wanting to start his or her own business in Japan?
Just do it! It seems, that Japan especially is an environment, which supports businesses. If you can provide a good product or service and have an idea to implement it, the Japanese marketplace will sure reward you.
8. Can you recommend any resources such as books, websites, or support centers for entrepreneurs in Japan?
We recently found the following books interesting:
The e-myth revisited, Think & grow rich, How to win friends & Influence people
We visit the following websites regularly: www.ea-tokyo.com, www.itvjapan.com and read newsletters: Terrie's take, www.lifecoach.com, www.naphill.org, http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/SmallBizJapan/
9. Who are your mentors in business?
We talk to many people, like clients and partner companies, because they know us and we learn from everybody's opinions. Family and significant others are always inspiring and motivating - thank you so much for listening and the advice!
10. What makes you happy?
When we can make other people happy!