Hello! I am Alfredo from Kuraken.
I just came back to Japan from Mexico, and during the quarantine I must comply with, I have been thinking about the opening of the company to the world.
Probably I should start by saying that one of the things that I have liked about Kuraken since the beginning was its vision of the company immersed in a globalized world and its intention to grow and strive in it. As a foreigner living in Japan, this is a big thing.
Whoever has experienced working in a Japanese company may have felt that many people's views can be rigid when it comes to comparing Japan to the rest of the world. And this might be especially true in the construction industry. And indeed, I do not blame anyone for this. In many respects, Japan thinks and acts differently from others, especially from a western point of view. Not to go far in history, one just has to look at how Japan has dealt with the covid-19 pandemic. Mask wearing, for example, is almost universally applied, and it is difficult for many Japanese to understand why in the western world this became a political issue (again, I don't blame anyone). Furthermore, closing borders to new foreign entrants is a policy highly approved by Japanese society, even if some economic sectors struggle due to this policy (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/12/06/national/kishida-arrivals-ban-support/).
Thus, Japan and Japanese companies have views and ways of doing things that are not always compatible with how things are done or seen elsewhere. Notwithstanding all the discrepancies and incompatibilities we may find, many Japanese companies strive and succeed in probably every country of the world. How have those companies achieved that level of success in different contexts and environments? Well, that is a question that deserves a much deeper study, for sure, but for now, I want to explore some ideas from my personal experience, which comes from the time when I worked in a Japanese company established in Mexico, in the state of Guanajuato. It was a car parts maker, and I worked closely with many persons, from companies' presidents to banks chairpersons, politicians, managers, contractors, and general staff. It was a very intercultural experience, with many Japanese, Mexicans, and foreign contractors working together in all kinds of matters and construction projects.
The first point I would raise is that the company I worked for and others I worked with didn't go alone on an overseas journey. The whole industry moved together, and they had a fixed demand that covered the investment and the risks they took establishing there. As a relatively small construction company, Kuraken can not move with "a whole industry," but establishing possible clients and contacts in advance may be a good start to have at least an income and, more importantly, to gain experience in the local market. Another critical issue was that these Japanese companies hired local companies that helped them establish in Mexico. Since laws and regulations are different in every country (sometimes in every state or region in a country), it is necessary to hire local knowledge during the first stages of establishing a branch company abroad. This knowledge is invaluable to the company, and it usually comes with a reasonable price tag.
Besides these initial and obvious matters, I believe that dealing with and overcoming cultural and language barriers is the cornerstone of any successful company abroad. I think this because I saw different kinds of relationships among different types of persons, with different personalities and treats. Some of those relationships were good and cordial, sometimes even friendly; others were terrible and explosive. The nature of these relationships heavily marked the behavior and the results that each team or department delivered in time. This is obvious if one considers the importance of good communication (and human relations) in large construction projects. And I think one does not need to be an expert in the regional culture or speak other languages perfectly to have good work relationships. Rather, the key might lay in traits that can be learned and polished, such as patience, tolerance, openness, and the will to learn other ways of doing and thinking. Even if we do not choose to do or to think that way, understanding how things are in other places will mark the difference between success and failure.
Many other considerations are worth exploring, but summarizing, I would say that the first steps to open the company to the world include assessing potential demand, getting local knowledge support, and gaining a reasonable understanding of the local working culture and customs. In some sense, it is not quite different from what Kuraken has been doing as a contractor of foreign companies in Japan. As a local company, Kuraken has worked hard to know well the potential demand in Japan from foreign companies; it has vast experience operating in Japan; and we are striving to understand better the working culture and customs of our foreign clients. If we adequately apply this experience and energy, I risk saying that a successful overseas venture lies in the future for this company.