The Uninvited Guest - Part Two

The Uninvited Guest - Part Two

If you're living outside of Tokyo, your best bet of getting a job as
an "uninvited guest" is going to be with a smaller firm wanting to
export/import. In 2004, there are many mid-to-large sized firms
reevaluating their foreign strategies and deciding to develop
overseas markets for themselves. If you're lucky, you might wind
up in a company that is on the leading edge of success.

I've had several friends who joined start-ups, and were delighted
to find after a couple of years that they were traveling overseas on
the behalf of the company, negotiating deals and/or finding new
products, services, and tie-ups. Companies capable of this kind of
trajectory are typically smaller manufacturing and trading firms
where a younger member of the family has taken over from Dad,
computer technology (especially wireless and Internet) firms, and
companies with know how or patented processes - particularly in
materials and biotechnology.

So how is it that you never see these positions advertised?

Small companies typically think small and are simply not organized
for the recruiting process on an institutional level. Instead they
try to save money on a search by asking for staff through friends or
family. So, you need to be either a friend or a "family member" to
get in. Remember also that in small firms run by entrepreneurs, the
need for a person is as close (far) as the next business opportunity.
Therefore, if you are trying to carve out an opportunity for
yourself, then you have two tasks: geting the attention and then the
trust of the CEO, and coming up with new initiatives for the

For those of us who are non-Japanese, the most logical way to get
the attention of a CEO is to come up with a new business
opportunity that is so compelling the CEO can't ignore it. While it
is true that smaller company CEOs like new ideas, just charging in
with a new idea will either scare them off or encourage them to
steal your idea. Instead, you need to create a bond with the CEO,
and make yourself "safe" in their personal space. This means easing
yourself into a relationship over a matter of months and making
yourself useful at the same time.

Of course, just as with larger companies, you need to meet your
target CEO first. I recommend attending functions and meetings in
your local area held by the local Chamber of Commerce. You can get
into the Chamber of Commerce by hanging out your shingle as a
trade consultant (i.e., getting a business card - you don't need a
registered company to start with) and simply start attending the
meetings. Your job at these meetings is to become known as a
friendly and helpful person, someone to be trusted. You'll know
when you reach this status, because suddenly someone inside the
chamber will take a shine to you and start introducing you to other
CEOs. Once you're at this stage, you're ready for the next stage in
the process - approaching your target CEOs.

I find the best way to engage a CEO in a non-threatening way is to
take the CEO out for a drink. You're a foreigner - at the very least,
it's something different for them to do. Then, as the conversation
moves from who you are and your background, you ask the CEO for
some "advice" for your consulting business. Draw them into the
topic of business. One thing will lead to another, and eventually
you'll start talking about his or her business. Probe slowly and
carefully, perhaps over several meetings. But during the course of
these encounters, do some private research and try to bring some
ideas to the attention of the CEO. If they're the kind of person you'd
want to work for/with, then they'll warm up as they start really
noticing some of the more interesting business initiatives and you
will be able to suggest some form of collaboration.

The best way to do that private research is to offer the CEO some
real business opportunity. There is nothing quite as compelling as
real money in the bank! Although a little risky, in that you're not an
official representative of the company (so you have to identify
yourself as an independent consultant), you can start making phone
calls to overseas companies that might be useful partners. In this
era of IP telephony, the calls needn't cost you much, and you never
know your luck. If you are able to find some opportunities, I
guarantee that a request to join the company in some (initially)
less impactful way will be successful and then you can work
towards becoming a real member of the team. At this point, it is
probably just a matter of time - employing people is the Japanese

Terrie Lloyd is the founder of DaiJob, Inc. He also writes a weekly
newsletter for entrepreneurs and business people about business
and political opportunities in Japan. You can find the newsletter at
For further contact with Terrie, email him at