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Entrepreneurial Flair Leads Maverick to Succeed in Style
Mr. Rick Roa
August 2004

Rick RoaBrooklyn has a tough image in the minds of many.
That hard edge shows through in Brooklyn-born entrepreneur Rick Roa and it is perhaps partly because of this that there are very few foreigners in Japan who can claim such bold exploits as he described at EA-Tokyo's August 3rd seminar.

Rick's 35 years in the Big Mikan have seen him working on some of the biggest events ever in Japan, bringing him into contact with many Ambassadors, models and ex-Prime Ministers, and jobs that many grown men would beg for including "Director of Licensee Efor Playboy, and the "International Manager for the Kano Sisters," whom he holds the highest respect and admiration for.

When he first flew into Japan in 1968, Rick saw steam rising from Mt. Fuji. There, he thought, was the ‘incense of Japan.'

Rick married a Japanese lady, and had his first son Justin. Like most fathers at this stage in life, he realized he needed money, fast. He started English teaching but soon found it wasn't enough. Rick's entrepreneurial spirit fired up and he began selling English classes to Japanese companies. This was the bubble economy and when a friend offered him a bartender job in a high-class Tokyo hostess club working among many beautiful women, he could hardly refuse. Rick mixed outrageously expensive drinks and enjoyed conversation with many of the big-spending middle and upper management of most of Tokyo's leading trading companies including Mitsubishi, Sumitomo and Mitsui. “The higher their rank, the more they spent and the more we charged for the service, ERick says. On average the club had 75-100 clients per night each spending over $1,000 each meaning the club was grossing the equivalent of over $20,000,000 a year.

Extraordinary Mobile Showroom - ‘The American Train in Japan'
In 1987 when the Japanese Government had privatized Japan National Railways, Nihon Kotsu Bunka Kyokai [Japan Transportation Culture Association] was looking for ideas to attract more customers to the newly formed East Japan Railway. Rick attended a meeting and casually suggested, “Why don't we have a train that promotes American products? ETwo weeks later Rick was invited in to discuss his idea for a mobile advertising vehicle called ‘The American Train in Japan.'

The concept called for an entire train that would promote American products available in Japan, Rick recalled. He inked the contract and soon had an office, staff, and an eleven-carriage train at his disposal which they dutifully painted in red, white and blue with a huge bald eagle on the front. Rick promised American company representatives that their best face would roll through Japan in a huge display of American quality. He flew to Coca-Cola's Atlanta headquarters and successfully convinced them to sign up to his promotion plan. After a whirlwind tour Stateside, Rick and his team had convinced American Express and many other huge companies to jump aboard the train. Transportation Minister Shintaro Ishihara (now Governor of Tokyo) and others cut the ribbon as the train rolled out of Tokyo on none other than the Fourth of July. It was a hit everywhere it went, and it went everywhere. “It was like a traveling fair with the best exhibits anyone had ever seen, ERick recalls.

In 1990, Rick was on a roll. He and his team decided to pull off something extraordinary ∁Estage an American Music Awards Concert series at the Yokohama Arena. After intense negotiations, they had Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Cindy Lauper, Gloria Estefan, Donna Summer, just to name a few, singing for their fans. The Music Awards were a huge success and a salute to all involved.

Networking Plays Major Role
Rick's extensive history in Japan has provided him with a wealth of experience. One of the most important lessons he has learnt about Japanese culture is the power of networking.

“In no place in the world that I have been to is networking so important as it is in Japan. If you keep at it, it will pay off in dividends and good personal relationships, Ehe says.

What personal characteristics have enabled him to do so many things? “Perceptiveness, aggressiveness and a very positive attitude, Ehe says. “Also, when making important decisions, you need to consider carefully, ‘Can I do this? Do I want to take the money and fail, or not take the money and succeed?' Ebr>
Rick has straightforward ideas about success, especially when choosing which ventures he will invest his time. “I don't like to fail ∁Eit is bad for your morale, especially if you fail with someone else's money, Ehe says with a laugh. “In Japan, failure isn't looked upon so lightly. You choose your own route and I have been fortunate to have taken the right routes. Ebr>
Were there any times when he thought he might fail and lose everything?
“There have been many times where I have been on the borderline, but it has been more on the positive than the negative side, Ehe says.

As a true entrepreneur, you should never try to use your own money, he advises. “If I have a project, I go to my potential sponsors and say. ‘I am here to build your dreams!' and convince them to use theirs. Ebr>
Rick in the past 10 years has re-married and his wife Machiko takes a priority in his life.

For more information, please see Rick's new book “American Maverick in Japan Ewritten by Tony Teora ( tony@tonyteora.com ) and available in large foreign bookstores.

Text: Jonathon Walsh
Jonathon Walsh is a professional Editor and Writer based in Tokyo, Japan, originally from New Zealand and currently working for the Japanese-English bilingual magazine Hiragana Times. He is also a regular contributing writer for Eye-Ai and J Select magazines and a growing number of websites. He has written & self-published four books and had over 170 articles published in nine different media in Japan.  

Jonathon is Director of Business Grow, an innovative company specializing in providing a wide range of top quality Editorial and Advertising services to Japanese and foreign organizations.

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