Selling innovative software to conservative Japanese businesses is never easy, but it’s particularly challenging in the cutthroat and low-margin restaurant industry.
Today, we sit down with Masao “TJ” Tejima and talk about how he brought OpenTable into Japan, and why it took him much longer than he had originally hoped.
It’s a wide-ranging and deep-diving discussion on how to identify which companies are most suitable for Japan market entry and TJ’s rather extreme approach to maintaining a consistent corporate culture between Japan and corporate headquarters.
We also take a look at some of the biggest mistakes Western companies make when hiring a Japan Country Manager and a few simple ways those mistakes can be avoided.
It’s a fascinating discussion, and I think you’ll really enjoy it
Why leave a company after a successful market entry?
How to build a product around a human network
Why you need to run market entry like a startup
OpenTable’s real business model and how is was adapted for Japan
How to sell new technology to traditional low-margin businesses
The danger of over-localization
Why the Japanese fast followers ran into problems
How to build a global culture at a Japanese subsidiary
The one type of Japanese General Manager foreign companies need to beware of
Masao’s official bio
Sports for Life is Masao’s latest project is running the Asia Pacific Corporate Games
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Disrupting Japan, episode 88.
Welcome to Disrupting Japan. Straight talk from the CEOs breaking into Japan.
I am Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.
Today, we’re going to be sitting down with Masao Tejima or « TJ » as his friends call him and I have to admit, that this interview did not exactly goes as planned. A few days beforehand, TJ and I agreed to sit down and talk about how he brought Open Table to Japan. And he used that experience as a jumping off point to give advice about how to bring in innovative software company to Japan and then sell to very conservative Japanese companies – and we did that.
And then in the next forty minutes, you’re going to be hearing all about it.
However, Open Table was not TJ’s first Japan market entry. He also brought in Macomedia and before that all this. And our simple talk, meandered him into ninety minutes history of desktop publishing in Japan and how he had to forge strategic alliances and corporate standards that allowed the technology to take route. I walked away with the makings of two amazing stories on tape.
So, here’s what we’re going to do. Today, we’re going to tell you the much more recent story of how Open Table entered the Japanese market. And a bit later, we’ll have TJ on again to give us the blueprint of the right technology can let you disrupt an entire industry in only a few years, even in Japan.
Today, we’re going to learn about how to identify what companies are most suitable for Japan market entry and talk about TJ’s rather extreme approach to maintaining a consistent corporate culture between Japan and corporate headquarters. We’ll talk about effective techniques for selling innovative software to conservative Japanese businesses and we’ll look at some of the biggest mistakes companies make in hiring their Japan Country Managers. But you know, TJ tells that story much better than I can.
So, let’s hear from our sponsor and get right to the interview.
Tim: So I am sitting here with TJ Tejima of well formerly, Japan CEO of Open Table. So, thanks for sitting down with me.
TJ: Thank you very much.
Tim: So before we get started with the history of this market entry and what went right and what went wrong, can you give us a brief explanation of what Open Table’s business model is?
TJ: It was 2000 or 2002, I was a General Manager of Macomedia which has Aldus, Adobe. I have to be in San Francisco because headquarter is in San …
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