CEO, Japan Inc Communications KK
Writer of Terries Take
Terrie Lloyd is a 54-year dual-national of Australia and New Zealand, who has lived in Japan for 29 years. A "self-made man" in the truest sense, he formed his first company while in Japan on a working holiday visa at the age of 25. Since then, he has established another 18 companies of his own and many others for clients.
Lloyd has brought his investors 8 successful earn-outs: LINC Computer in Japan and Techman in Hong Kong sold to EDS in 1995, the Web division of LINC Media sold to Chinadotcom in 1999, Layer-8 Technologies spun out to ThetaMusic in 2003, DaiJob Software Inc. sold to Nikko Principal in 2004, DaiJob Inc. sold to Human Holdings in 2005, and Esphion Ltd. in New Zealand sold to Allot Communications Inc. of Israel in 2007.
In addition to Japan Inc Communications, Lloyd is the CEO and/or shareholder in a number of others. They include incubation firm, LINC Media, IT services supplier BiOS, Publisher Metropolis KK, inbound market research/consulting firm Japan Inc. Holdings, and software firm MetroWorks. Between them, these companies employ in excess of 140 staff and account for more than 30% of Japan's domestically produced English-language lifestyle media market.
Lloyd does a significant amount of public speaking for the US, Irish, Australian, and New Zealand governments and related industry bodies. As a long-time participant in the Japanese computer industry, he has been quoted by TIME, the Economist, Forbes, the Daily Telegraph (UK), US Public Radio, Bloomberg TV, Japan Times, Wired Online, and many other leading news sources. Lloyd is also active in the ACCJ (American Chamber of Commerce in Japan), the ANZCCJ (Australia New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan), JMEC (Japan Market Entry Competition), and many other trade related organizations in Japan.
We asked Terrie to comment on his time in Japan:
My name is Terrie Lloyd. I've lived and worked in Japan since March 5th, 1983. During that time I've seen a lot of changes in the way Japan works, and by virtue of marriage, children, divorce, more marriage and more children, have been through a few myself. This web site represents my interest in communicating Japan's changes to the public and how to turn them into business or personal opportunities to grow and thus become more established in this very unique country.
Probably the biggest change on an external level is that Japan is allowing more and more non-Japanese to penetrate the business world, not only as observers but also as active participants. Recent IPOs of companies founded and run by non-Japanese are testimony to the sea changes going on in this country. The of the more recent of these was the 2006 IPO of ValueCommerce, a company where not only the founder was a foreigner, but also the CEO, COO, and CTO were as well.
This is in stark contrast to when I first arrived in Japan. Back then, foreigners, with just a few exceptions, were allowed to be English teachers, senior directors of major foreign firms, headhunters, and basically little else. I feel that we are living in exciting times, and despite Japan's possible increasing xenophobia, I have always found that door is very easily opened -- providing you know how to do the opening.
Change Induced by Living in Japan:
Japan has a strong effect on non-Japanese deciding to settle here. I can't think of anyone who hasn't been shaped and influenced by the people, the system, and the attitudes of Japan. It's a densely populated country and it is very hard to hide away or not interact with others. Let's look at some of the changes that are likely to happen to you, as they did to me.
The first major challenge to live in Japan is learning how to communicate. For most people, when they first arrive here they can't speak the language and can't communicate at all -- it's like you have to revert back to being an infant, relying on those around you to provide food, transport, and shelter. However, in the hardship of experiencing total dependence, some magic also happens. You are forced to sit down as an adult and learn the way you did when you were a child (phrases, not logic), and you start to learn to listen -- something that many of us over-eager Westerners have forgotten how to do.
Another factor in learning the language is that you learn the meaning of humility. Indeed, there can't be anything much more humiliating than asking in halting words for help after you have taken the wrong train into the middle of the countryside and need to get back home. Despite the detours and roadblocks, learning the language will certainly help you grow emotionally.
As you learn the language, it is inevitable that you also learn the values of the culture. Phrases, proverbs, and the roots of different Kanji characters are tied to tradition and the embedded value systems that make up Japan. For example, the Japanese language has a very limited vocabulary for insulting other people -- I suppose because insulting someone used to quickly result in death or forced suicide! Instead, insults are a function of context. Likewise, there are few direct words indicating love, which in the old days indicated emotional weakness and vulnerability.
In learning these values, you start to realize that this society is very, very dependent on familiarity and that this comes from frequent human interaction -- especially face-to-face interaction. I believe that this is why some areas of business development can be so slow in Japan. It is an emotionally "wet" culture and things such as integrity and empathy are highly valued. If you can project these values, you can penetrate larger organizations and negotiate deals that would otherwise be impossible for the average foreigner.
Many people ask me if it is really necessary to learn the language to live in Japan. My response is that the only real exception is if you are an expatriate executive and you know that your stay is pretty much limited to 3-5 years -- oh, AND you work for a company that is willing to provide you with a cocoon of bilingual supporters. For these people, possibly as many as 20,000 families in Tokyo at any particular time, there is the English-speaking Tokyo American Club, English-speaking supermarkets and stores, foreign schools, and English-language car navigation systems that reduce the challenge of figuring out the traffic route from a downtown apartment to a downtown office building.
But most of us are not expats and we need to learn how to communicate. In doing so we create an environment in which we can personally thrive and allow opportunities to grow. Examples of this happening can range from the simple act of someone inviting you to their home for dinner (not something Japanese normally do with each other), an acquaintance helping you find a job, or a close friend offering to be your personal guarantor (hosho-nin) for a home loan.
My personal life lessons have been a function of raw enthusiasm being molded into an understanding of how the world works. As a result, I've very much become a strong believer of "what goes around comes around" and to give before expecting to get. No doubt I could have learned these lessons elsewhere, but learning to live in crowded, habit-based Japan, there is a relentless "polishing" effect that requires you to either get in the groove or to give up and move somewhere else easier to live. Certainly living in Japan is not easy, although it can be comfortable.
One of my more recent lessons was that of perseverance, or "gaman". In the years I've been in Japan, I've seen the economy go through 3 very distinct boom-bust cycles, and the last one, which we are still emerging from was personally very testing. But despite the negative comments and occasional desertion of supporters, I drew on my internal resources as well as friends around me, built up over my stay in Japan, and decided to stick in there. Sure enough, no negative cycle lasts forever and although we've had a hard time, both the company and I have come out the other end intact and stronger for the experience.
So I now practice a fusion of eastern and western philosophy, believing in active determination of one's own life, yet accepting that none of us can stand alone and that you need to go with the flow sometimes to survive. But whether you're Japanese or not, one thing which unlocks the door to success is information. Thus, back in the early 1990's after some preliminary success with my first computer business (LINC Computer), I decided to embark on a program of discovering the nuts and bolts of how business and personal relationships are done in Japan, and re-communicating that knowledge back out to the English-speaking world at large.
Japan is often seen by foreigners as a black hole of information, a situation which is bewildering to the average Japanese because they are overloaded with information about foreign countries and markets. I believe the dearth of English-language information here is because Japan has never easily accepted foreign influences, preferring instead when they're at the tipping point to completely change their own society and to ensure that they are the change agents. Thus, foreigners and foreign business have been unable to "colonize" Japan and historically this has kept the number of foreigners able to understand and participate in the Japanese markets to a precious few.
However, this situation is now changing, thanks to Japan's close call with a banking system meltdown in the late 1990's and the subsequent opening of the financial industry to foreigners. This coupled with an aging society and thus increasing demand for temporary foreign workers, is creating some major ground shifts in the Japanese economy. I see myself as a potential change agent and I want to hasten along the internationalization of Japan by leveraging finance and technology. Thus, my life mission is helping outsiders, and particularly investors and tech firms, understand how Japan works, how (traditional) Japanese think, and how to get stuff done here.
Outlets for this desire to make information available lead me to publishing a business magazine, Japan Inc; a free paper called Metropolis, which I purchased from a talented and dedicated couple named Mary and Mark Devlin; and a personal email newsletter (do we call them all blogs these days?) called Terrie's Take. In my spare time (??!) I write other columns and articles for various newspapers, magazines, and websites. Lastly, I'm working on a cook book for foreigners about how to conduct a divorce with a Japanese mate.
Information isn't much good if isn't complete or up-to-date. And the mere act of posting it for a few months causes both problems to arise. My way around this, is to offer to answer every email sent to me that falls within my sphere(s) of expertise. If you have a question after reading some of the materials presented herein, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.