Message from CEO
Operating a company in Japan is an interesting experience. While all the usual requirements are there, such as finding and managing people, creating and marketing products, and sourcing financing, you also have the overlay of Japanese business and consumer culture. Despite having world class assets and resources, many otherwise successful foreign companies have had expensive and frustrating experiences in Japan because they don't understand how to deal with these cultures. Indeed, the market is cluttered with foreign firms who have made what they think are all the right moves, only to wind up with second rate results — contributing ever more fodder to the image that Japan is one country that is just too hard to do business in. But if that was true, there would be no successful companies in Japan. Instead, Tokyo is home to the most Fortune 500 companies on the planet. What is needed is a trusted partner to help navigate the pitfalls, and I would like to propose you consider LINC Media to be that partner.
Understanding a country's business and consumer culture is always difficult and of course they are continually changing. However, by committing to the challenge of developing successful products and services for ourselves (not just for our customers), LINC Media has gone beyond the role of simple consultants to have actual "skin in the game." We have learned that success goes beyond mere marketing, and rather depends on the quality of the core values of the company, such as the following:
Trust and Familiarity
Japan is a nation which has for centuries had a dense population — leading to periods of intense conflict and competition. By necessity and habit, then, people are naturally wary of others and they prefer to do business with those they have known for a long time and have come to trust. This is why it is so important to long-term business success in Japan to be prepared to put in a lot of upfront time getting to know people, so that over the fullness of time they become familiar with you and learn to trust you. I think one of the most powerful phrases in Japanese business is "Hisashiburi desu ne?" (Good to see you after all this time). This connotes a feeling of warmth, commitment, and trust that will open doors to the deepest of discussions and the most profitable of deals.
If you don't have time to develop such a network, then use someone who does — like us, here at LINC Media.
"Gaman", or perseverance, is a concept which is well practiced in Japan. From the youngest age, Japanese are taught that the best things don't come easy and results have to be earned. Thus, showing to others that even a foreign company can practice this very quintessential Japanese trait qualifies that company to those around them as an entity worth staying with. This is useful, because every company has its setbacks — faulty products, employee mistakes, poorly considered communications, etc., and how you respond to these can either build up your image and reputation or wreck it.
Perseverance implies that what is important is to not try to refute negative events but instead to admit them with a sufficient intensity that you show you're willing to suffer appropriately to be given another chance and to do better next time. Through marketing, careful cultivation of company-wide values, and proven work processes, LINC Media helps its foreign clients not only fix problems but fix them in a way that engenders confidence that the foreign company is model citizen.
Thanks to the competitive nature of living and selling in Japan, one quickly learns that only the best products and services survive. The Japanese consumer has a huge range of choice and uses a wide range of information sources to make decisions — from magazines and TV to the web and blogs. This means that foreign firms not only have to be good at marketing, they also have to continually evolve their products and services to stay ahead of the competition. Luckily, LINC Media is structured in such a way that it has a broad range of resources capable of helping Clients both understand and work the Japanese media as well as innovate the actual products and services themselves. We provide outsourced engineers, designers, business managers, and other skilled team members to help Clients move quicker and more nimbly than they might do themselves.
As a stand-alone company, LINC Media is not a large business. Instead we are the representative face of a collection of smaller businesses ones that can come come together as a group to work on for larger projects when needed when the occasion requires it. Collectively we and our affiliates number more than around 130 employees and our FY2011 sales were in excess of JPY1bn. Surprisingly for a relatively small group company, we cover at least seven different business fields, and offer a Services Platform that resonates with a wide range of Clients, ranging from some of the world's largest banks to small one-person start-ups.
My passion in life is starting businesses and creating new opportunities for those businesses. I like the thrill of discovery and have created a ecosystem for growing companies — as evidenced by our build-and-sell business model. This passion is overlaid by my personal mission, which is to open up Japan. Of course I'm just one person, so to achieve this rather ambitious life mission, I have enlisted my colleagues and we are using the most powerful tools of change: information and finance to make a difference. By wielding these tools, by way of media and investment, we have been able to facilitate the increase of foreigner businesses entering Japan, foreign investors putting their money into Japanese start-ups, foreign technology enabling up-starts to shift entire industries, and of course foreigners themselves — who intermarry and create a new generation of tolerance and understanding.
The good news is that besides my own colleagues, there are plenty of other people, both foreigners and Japanese alike, who have the same mission as we do and who are willing to be co-opted to join in and effect change. Many of these collaborators are now our investors, suppliers, customers, and business partners, and each is busy at some level taking advantage of the unique LINC Media modular Services Platform to make those changes happen.
If you are visiting our website because you are interested in working for LINC Media, I would like to communicate our company values through the following key words, which represent core skills and attitudes. I hope that these will give you some idea of the professionalism and power of motivation that are contributing to make our business successful in Japan.
- Language. You can't sell a concept a product or a service to someone unless you can convey the value that the thing you're selling embodies. Often the value is something intangible (e.g., a brand or a lifestyle) and so the quality of communication becomes even more important. It is surprising therefore, that the quality of bilingual language skills in our fields is relatively low amongst our larger Japanese competitors. This has created a really viable niche for LINC Media, and language will always be one of our strong points. At least 70% of our staff are relatively fluent in both English and Japanese, and the overall number who can handle at least basic communication in both languages is nearer 95%. I'm proud of the fact that LINC Media is a melting pot of cultures and we have staff speaking Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin, Mongolian, French, German, Malaysian, Hindi, and a number of other languages besides.
- Leadership. The real contribution by any manager is to inspire his/her colleagues to reach for previously unimaginable goals and to feel good about it. This is a difficult process, but one that is made easier if the leader actually believes in the business and the company mission. As CEO and Founder, I urge my own managers to live and breathe their life work, and to understand that in LINC Media our promotion system is based on performance not seniority. Those managers who do get this message are able to pass to their employees a sense of confidence and imagination that lets them create solutions for clients that more constrained staff are unable to achieve. My goal in LINC Media is to ensure that each leader is not bottlenecked by the person above, and to distribute responsibility and reward across the entire business chain.
- Entrepreneurship. Right from the start, new employees realize that LINC Media is not a regular company — in that we have an extraordinary number of talented people who one day want to become entrepreneurs. Because I personally am not trying to build a 30-year company, but instead have developed an incubation system which will yield 5-6 waves of companies over the same period, this removes the feeling that many founders suffer of feeling threatened by the thought of their employees/colleagues eventually wanting to go out and set up their own companies. Indeed, LINC Media operates almost like a business school, where talented people can come get paid to learn how to start-up, run, and eventually sell a business. And to make sure there is a graduation at the end of the "schooling", I ensure that at least 2-3 managers in each viably independent business gets a chance to become a shareholder. So far I've had 6 earn-outs since 1995, and have had more than 15 managers involved as shareholders as we did each sale. With this money, some of these people have indeed gone on to start up their own businesses.
- Respect. Actually this word is part of our company motto. I am a very strong believer in mutual respect for one's stakeholders: our customers, vendors, employees, and shareholders. I personally work hard to communicate with each group and to ensure that they are looked after and their expectations met. In Japan, a nation noted for its focus on detail and personal relationships, managing this human network is not an easy task. My way of dealing with such time/emotional demands is two-fold. Firstly I try to ensure that my value system, that of respecting your contributors and supporters, is communicated to everyone in the company, so that every Client interaction is accompanied by a tangible demonstration of respect for that Client — good quality service, responsiveness, a helpful volume of useful information, competitive pricing, on-time delivery, etc. Secondly, I make sure that the buck stops with me if things go wrong. When we issue problem escalation charts to Clients looking for service and support, my name, email, and phone number are listed above the division manager as the final point of contact. Of course, the idea is that my colleagues respect me enough that they ensure that Clients don't have to use my personal contact details — but the thing is that I am there for the Client if they need me.
- Making a Profit. This phrase is the second part of our company motto. It may not sound particularly inspirational, in fact, it sounds a bit selfish. However, I posit that it is a fundamental responsibility of a company to stay in business and to provide the means with which to help not only the shareholders, but also the employees and their families, so as to enrich the lives of everyone who comes in contact with it. Now, perhaps I've been in Japan too long, but it seems to me that companies who do take care of their people do better in the long run. As we have witnessed in recent economic events, staff who feel good about the company are more likely to make special sacrifices or demonstrate loyalty when the going gets tough. I see "making a profit" as a key to the successful implementation of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and to move the company up out of a daily struggle to something better and more esteem oriented.
I'd like to close this message by encouraging job seekers, investors, and potential Clients alike to try the LINC Media experience. We are a sincere, hardworking, and intelligent team of bilinguals who want to open up Japan and make living and working here easier for non-Japanese. I am personally deeply involved in the business, and I encourage you to take me at my word about being part of the escalation chain. If in trying to make contact with the various parts of our company and our group affiliates you want more information or are not satisfied with what we did for you, I am happy for you to contact me directly. My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org, and I undertake to answer all email.