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How to Succeed as an Entrepreneur in Japan
Mr. Naota Hamaguchi, JCI Inc

October 2004

Naota Hamaguchi - JCI IncOn October 5, 2004, Mr. Naota Hamaguchi, CEO and President of JCI, Inc. presented EA-Tokyo with an invaluable report on “How to Succeed as an Entrepreneur in Japan. EHe provided the following indispensable and practical advice based on his experience of having assisted over 1,000 Japanese and non-Japanese organizations to establish business alliances around the world.

First, how can you succeed as an entrepreneur?
No company will ever succeed if there is no one ready to lead the group and get everyone to work together. Thus, there is a need for a strong and creative leader. However, personal qualities such as passion, charisma and good relationship management are not the only attributes that count in a CEO; they should also have a balance of a clear sense of vision and a mission that can be shared with other members of the company.

With this need for a good leader comes the need for a strong management team. This team should compromise specific team leaders with specific field expertise. Key positions Hamaguchi highlighted were the CEO, the Chief Financial Officer who handles the accounting, financial and tax office matters, the Chief Technology Officer for technology and system expertise, and a Chief Operating Officer for operations management.

How do you choose a strong management team?
There are certain factors to watch out for in selecting and recruiting management team members ∁Ea person possessing qualities such as being an energetic and challenging spirit with a positive thinking attitude is a good start; having some experience in business management is a plus, and having a wide array of close friends in and outside the business' industry will provide a significant advantage!

This brings us right to our next point, which is the need for networking. The company's human network compromises people from all aspects in business. From bankers to lawyers, consultants and analysts, magazine reporters to NPO officials ∁Eworking hard to establish a human network by introducing and keeping them in your home network will help you form a strong board that will be mutually beneficial for you, them, and your business.

Hamaguchi underlined the value of creating an Advisory Board. Often made up of successful business people, Advisory Boards can provide credibility, experience, and access to a larger network.

When is the right time to start a business?
When considering starting a business, Hamaguchi recommends the business model be evaluated according to the following key points:
•  Uniqueness
•  Profitability
•  Competitiveness
•  Marketability
•  Market Size
•  Potential for Growth
•  Japanese culture, customs and practices
Timing, of course, is also an important factor. When is the best time to enter the market?

It is important to first study the history and trends of the industry you are about to enter. By trying to predict and forecast the future direction of the industry, entrepreneurs can gauge how they may have to adjust their strategic plan.

Maintaining a good strategic plan usually involves making constant revisions to reflect adjustments in the market and changing circumstances. Hamaguchi emphasized the importance of action, action, action, and noted that even the most well written business plans always differ from the final result.

Cash Flow Management
One of the most important aspects to keep in mind when managing your business is that cash is to a business what blood is to the human body. Without cash, you have no business! Hamaguchi stated it is critical to have someone (either inside or outside the business, full-time or part-time CFO) who can manage cash flow and fund raising in both the short and long terms.

IR & Reporting
To maintain strong relations with investors, Hamaguchi recommends maintaining good communication with investors, supporters and potential investors on at least a quarterly basis.

Reporting can, but should not be limited to,
•  Financial and operations
•  Plans
•  New business developments

Understanding Japanese culture and business customs
Finally, to be able to do business in another country, you have to understand their customs and practices. Always be aware that you will always face Japanese culture or custom related-issues while running your business. Then, overcoming them one by one will help you grow your business, and stay in business.  

Text: Eden Dy

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