The Japanese have a remarkable work ethic, and their humility and loyalty to ancient beliefs and traditions holds fast. There’s a perfect amalgamation of culture and commerce. The trick isn’t so much the consideration of both, but the informing of one by the other, so they become the same thing. In Japan, doing business is about family – and family is about conducting yourself in business.
It’s all about breaking boundaries, and the Japanese have pulled down the fence between culture and business using the following five principles:
- Traditional values have a place in business
The Japanese’ strong sense of honour and loyalty plays out in business in terms of their respect for long-standing relationships and partnerships with suppliers. While this might seem conservative, it’s created some of the most successful dynasties of Japanese business.
- Space can be found, if sought
The premium on space in Japan is something you can only experience for yourself. The face-masks the Japanese wear on trains are often misconstrued as a desire to remain clean, but they’re actually a way of respecting those around them. If you have a cold, you can’t put your hand over your mouth when you cough because there simply isn’t enough space to do so. Yet everywhere you look, tradition and culture inform the layout of the city and empower the uniqueness of the people.
- Small gestures have a big impact
Protocol is extremely important in Japanese business. A business card isn’t a set of contact details, but a mark of honour. If you want to rent an apartment in a Japanese city, the first questions the landlord will ask you are where you work, how long you’ve been with that company, what its revenues and prospects are and what your position is in the firm. Where you live is informed by the business you’re involved in because that says something about the type of person you are.
- A humanist business can go into any kind of industry
In Japan, every brand or company name immediately calls to mind a set of values, a lengthy and hard-won history of success and a long line of proud people. These are the factors that determine whether customers will buy its products or not. The culture of the business informs the buying decision. As a result, any kind of business is possible for a Japanese organisation.
- Polite culture has morphed into compelling customer service
You’re greeted as soon as you walk into a Japanese store or restaurant. The culture of politeness is something that sets Japanese retail apart. The shopping experience is a personal one and it’s not the buying that concludes the deal, but the engagement with a shop’s personnel. That is something redolent of culture, not commerce.
Read Justine Cullinan’s fascinating story in the July issue of Sawubona, titled: Japan’s Culture-Commerce Interface. You can download the latest issue of Sawubona here, for free. Follow the author @shoeshanista