John Gaffney: Doing Business in Japan

Fantastic to see the imagery being put out by Expo 2025. We’re ramping up to help out and play our part in this world event, having secured the delivery of four major Type A Pavilions for the United States, Canada, Australia and the UK. Having worked in Japan delivering major events for a number of years now, ES GLOBAL including our Japanese subsidiary ES GLOBAL Japan KK, are well placed to help overseas companies navigate their way through the Japanese planning and building approvals process.

It’s often said that it is very challenging for overseas firms working in Japan, but, whilst there are challenges the main point is that it is ‘different’ to what many people are used to, in terms of delivering business outcomes. The key to getting things done is to get set up in the country, open an office, employ local staff, and gather round you a supply chain of local consultants and subcontractors, who you come to regard as partners and part of your business ‘family’. Note that building and maintaining relationships are a fundamental part of Japanese business culture. Companies in Japan look for and expect long term business relationships, noting that ES GLOBAL have worked with some of our local Japanese partners for circa 25 years, since the heady days of our rock and roll tours, providing stages for global artists appearing in Japan. In recent years, we have had to work doubly hard to ensure ES GLOBAL’s sustainable, modular venue structures comply with national and local building codes, so our network of local advisors and technical consultants is a crucial part of our Japanese ‘team’ .

Something to remember when doing business in Japan is that what may appear to be a barrier which is in front of you is actually a gate, you just need to find the key to unlock it. So when in business you may come up against someone who appears to be saying “No” to your proposals (usually in an unfailingly polite manner) is that what they may be saying is “No, you don’t have the right key, come back and try again when you have it”.

As a company we are currently cracking on with delivery of the pavilions we have been appointed on so far for Expo, and are fully engaged on finalising design and procurement. Exciting times!