What is it like doing business with a 100 year old company?

By IRA PRIGAT

Founder and President of Network in Motion Ltd.

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Seven of the ten oldest companies in the world are Japanese companies! (according to Wikipedia)
This means that when you are working with a Japanese company, especially a giant corporation, you will probably be working with an “well cooked” business practice, almost antique business with its own habits, its own business culture and its own set of rules to which you will have to adhere.

It is not trivial being around for so many years. A lot has changed since these companies were established. Technology is one of the fields that has changed the most and some of these old companies were here even before the invention of the Telephone, not to mention the Smartphones we are so accustomed to use.
And yet, these companies were able to overcome many obstacles and surpass many competitors. They had lived through difficult times including financial crises, wars, natural disasters and recessions. They evolved and adapted to the changing times and managed to not only keep their head above water but also to maintain their lead in their fields of business.

So what is it like doing business with a 100 years old Japanese company?

So what is it like doing business with a 100 years old Japanese company?

  1. Give them time to make decisions and trust the process.
    They know what they are doing – They have been here before you and will (probably) be here long after. Be patient.

  2. Respect their rules and protocols.
    These were built with a lot of effort and a lot of experience. Don’t try to change them but try to understand them.

  3. Trust is very important.
    An old well respected company will not trust you immediately. They have been around for a hundred years and they have seen (almost) everything. Unless you have a mitigator who can introduce you to these companies you will have to spend a lot of time on trust building.

Some of Japan 100 years old companies:

Itochu Corporation

The history of ITOCHU Corporation dates back to 1858 when the Company’s founder Chubei Itoh commenced linen trading operations. Since then, ITOCHU has evolved and grown over 150 years. With approximately 100 bases in 62 countries, ITOCHU, one of the leading sogo shosha (a mega trading firm), is engaging in domestic trading, import/export, and overseas trading of various products such as textile, machinery, metals, minerals, energy, chemicals, food, general products, realty, information and communications technology, and finance, as well as business investment in Japan and overseas. It’s 2020 annual revenues were ~$101 Bl.

Itochu corporation established its local representative office in Israel.

Terumo Corporation

Terumo is a global leader in medical technology and has been committed to “Contributing to Society through Healthcare” for nearly 100 years. Based in Tokyo and operating globally, Terumo employs more than 25,000 associates worldwide to provide innovative medical solutions in more than 160 countries and regions. The company started as a Japanese thermometer manufacturer, and has been supporting healthcare ever since. Now, its extensive business portfolio ranges from vascular intervention and cardio-surgical solutions, blood transfusion and cell therapy technology, to medical products essential for daily clinical practice such as transfusion systems, diabetes care, and peritoneal dialysis treatments. Its annual revenues in 2020 were ~$6.3 Bl. Terumo will celebrate its 100 anniversary in Sep 2021.
Terumo has signed strategic distribution agreement with 2 Israeli companies.

Dr. Shibasaburo Kitasato

The new Japanese 1000 Yen bill (2024) will feature Dr. Shibasaburo Kitasato. He is known for discovering plague bacteria and establishing tetanus serotherapy. He was also a member of the founders of Terumo with other scientists and doctors.

Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma

Established in 1678 by Tanabeya Gohei under the name Tanabe Seiyaku Ltd., who opened his 1st store, in Osaka for manufacturing and selling infusing medicine. The company expanded over the years and in 2001 it was spinned-off into Mitsubishi Chemical and in 2007 Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma was established. The company is ranked 5th in the world among the top 10 pharmaceutical firms, with revenues of ~$3.8 Bl, in 2019 and a YoY growth of more than 16%. The company sells drugs against disease like rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, chorn, type Ⅱ diabetes mellitus, anti depression, cerebral neuroprotectant, allergic disorders, vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, etc.
In 2017, Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma acquired Israeli company Neuroderm, for its Parkinson’s disease drag at $1.1 Bl. Since then positioned a Japanese management team in Israel.

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