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Denmark Surprise Entry in Japan Investment High Growth Top 20


Denmark is the surprise entry from Europe in the top 20 countries that have seen the biggest increase in Japanese subsidiaries over the past 5 years, according to Toyo Keizai.  As you might expect, Asia dominates, with Myanmar #1 – having nearly 100 subsidiaries (compared to 11 in 2011), then Cambodia (50 up from 23).

Turkey, which is usually counted as part of Europe or EMEA by Japanese multinationals is at #3, with double the number of Japanese subsidiaries – 92 compared to 46 in 2011.  Then Mexico at #4 with a near doubling from 281 to 541 subsidiaries and Vietnam at #5 also nearly doubling the number from 528 to 972 – overtaking Malaysia and South Korea.

The increased Japanese presence in Denmark looks a little less spectacular in comparison, a 41% rise, from 37 to 52.  Other countries in the Top 20 like Thailand already had 1,777 Japanese subsidiaries in 2011, growing to 2,412 by 2016.  Singapore now has 1,386 subsidiaries (30% increase on 5 years ago) and Indonesia has 1,218 Japanese subsidiaries, a 61% from 5 years’ ago.


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Bow, shake hands or poke someone in the eye?




When this month’s shinnenkai (New Year's parties) started, I found I had to snap back into remembering to bow properly, whilst negotiating my wine and canapés, as I exchanged akemashite omedetou with Japanese business acquaintances. It felt awkward at first but thanks to my time in a Japanese school, where we bowed every morning to the teacher, and had twice weekly outdoor assemblies where we rehearsed standing at ease, then standing to attention, then bowing - the proper way to bow is somewhat instinctive for me.


Non-Japanese bowing will almost certainly get it wrong

For most non-Japanese people, bowing correctly is a challenge, and in my opinion, we worry too much about it. Most Japanese people, when meeting with a foreign person, will expect to shake hands. I usually advise that a slight nod of the head or bend at the waist is a good cultural compromise when shaking hands with a Japanese person. If you have not been brought up to bow, and also had it drilled into you again at an induction course in a Japanese company, when you do try to do a full bow, you will almost certainly get it wrong. Bowing too deeply or for too long a time will result in your Japanese counterpart feeling obliged to dip down again for a further round of needless bowing.


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Nidec’s Nagamori-Ism Brings Profits And Productivity To German Acquisitions


Nidec acquired Geraete und Pumpenbau, a German pump manufacturer based in Thuringia in 2014.  The 1000 or so employees were worried about their job security as a result, according to Nikkei Business magazine.  Nagamori visited shortly after the acquisition and said “you are making a superb product.  We can sell this not just in Europe, but US and Asia,” he declared in Japanese, without an interpreter: “Let’s make GPM even bigger.”
Michael Grellmann COO of GPM, says that since joining Nidec Group, they have been able to reduce costs and double profitability thanks to thorough “progress management”.
Nidec started acquiring companies in 2010. mainly in North America and Europe.  They have now made 49 acquisitions, of which 24 are overseas.

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How Nidec Reduced Overtime by Improving Communication


Manufacturer of electric motors Nidec was famous for having hard working employees who didn’t care how many hours they put in.  The founder, Shigenobu Nagamori, himself said “I only take a holiday on New Year’s Day”.  Now, according to the Nikkei Business magazine, Nidec is undergoing a revolution where going home on time is the norm.

Nidec started a project last year to promote the better utilization of female employees.  Overtime working at Nidec’s headquarters had been on average 30 hours a month.  The first step was to get senior level managers to go home on time.  This immediately decreased overtime by 30%.


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European Pride + Global Standardization = Long Debates



The European senior management team of a business which had been newly acquired by a Japanese company complained to me about being treated as if Europe was one homogenous country, when in fact they only had offices in 5 very different countries in Europe, with a headquarters in Germany.  “It’s true, we know how to work with each other in Europe – after all Europeans have been living and working together for hundreds of years, but it seems strange that on paper we’re supposed to be a tri-regional structure of Europe, North America and Asia, and yet North America has only two employees and Asia has no regional headquarters, with Taiwan, China, Korea and Japan being managed separately”

This was just a small company, but actually I have seen similar situations in many other much larger Japanese multinationals.  It’s partly that Europeans are very sensitive to their status –and want to be treated on a par with other regional heads – and this means the European definition of regions, with Asia as one region.


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Why the British and the Japanese are Less Productive Than the Dutch



When I was visiting the Netherlands last week, one of the Japanese managers I met said his main concern was how to motivate his staff.  I hear this question often from Japanese managers working in Europe, and I always want to ask – what do you mean by motivation – what would it look like?


Usually a motivated employee is thought to be an employee who makes an effort and perseveres.  This is hard to measure objectively, and it is a worry amongst Europeans that Japanese managers evaluate employee motivation by how many hours employees are at their desk.  This is a justified concern, reinforced recently by a report I heard regarding a Japanese GM in Spain who was worrying why his Spanish staff were away from their desks far more than Japanese or even British staff.


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70% of Best Paid Directors in Japan are not Japanese


Japanese Presidents of listed companies usually receive remuneration around 10-20 times the average salary of other employees of their company – in contrast to US or UK top listed companies, where the multiples are more like >300 in the case of the US and >180 in the case of the UK.

So it’s no surprise that in order to attract non-Japanese directors, Japanese companies are having to fork out above the average sums.  According to Tokyo Shoko Research, 7 of the top 10 best paid directors are non-Japanese and around 20% of the top 100 best paid directors are non-Japanese.


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