You might think the answer is a pretty obvious 'Yes', but I would challenge you and say a straightforward answer is not that easy in case of Japan.
The correct answer would rather be 'Yes and No'.
Speed is very important when doing business with Japan in terms of service or product delivery, but absolutely not when it comes to making decisions.
This is when things really slow down, and it can drive you nuts. Since there has to be agreement internally before anything can happen, all parties who may be impacted by the decision have to be consulted.
All that normally takes up a lot of time.
There is also the reluctance to take any risk, which starts slowing things down. Nobody wants to be criticized if things go wrong. The best way to avoid that from a Japanese viewpoint?
Don't do anything. It is sometimes better to hurry slowly.
Nobody gets rewarded for making a quick decision in this Japan, but plenty of people will suffer if things go wrong.
However, once the decision is made, then everyone expects things to roll out promptly. There are people down the food chain who want to know the situation status, how much progress has been made, if the milestones are going to be met, if the project will stay on budget, if there are any problems, if everything is on track, etc. They will be coming to you for those answers, and they expect to be told straight away.
They have calmly forgotten that they took a long time to make a decision, and are fully concentrated on making sure everything runs to plan and that there will be no issues which may make them look bad. They want confirmations, a lot of information, and as much data as they can get. This is all behavior driven by supreme risk reduction.
We in the West tend to operate in the opposite manner. We are very fast to make a decision, but we are rather casual in our execution speed. Japan, especially, moves quickly. The pace of life is fast.
In the city of Miami, FL where I am currently operating my business from, on the contrary, the pace is quite a bit slower.
I recall a meeting with a client, at which he was relating to his experience two decades ago with Japanese business partners.
He was a small business owner in the citrus export business, and had citrus fruits being shipped from Florida off to Japan for further processing.
He noted that he often received faxes from Japan which were stamped URGENT. Here were these Japanese buyers writing to him in English, and stamping URGENT on the documents, using a stamp written in English. He ironically noted that he had grown up in Miami, in an English/Spanish speaking environment, and had been in business for a number of years, but he did not possess any stamp with the word URGENT on it neither in English nor Spanish.
Dealing with Japanese buyers who have quite a different notion of urgency can get you tied up in knots pretty quickly.
The solution is to be fast with the turnaround. So, try to reply immediately. This gives the impression of urgency and a strong sense of support to the buyer side. You come across as someone they can trust, someone who understands their need for feedback so they can, in turn, inform others.
Dealing with Japan from the US but also Europe can be difficult, because of the time difference. Nevertheless, make a point to rapidly reply to enquiries if you want to establish a reputation for reliability. Even if it is just to confirm receipt of an email and that you will reply within 24hours.
Reduce the friction of dealing with you by reducing the time it takes to get answers or action.
I have helped several companies establish trustful business relationships with Japan, and might be able to do the same for you.
Erich Ahorner helps people enter the Japanese market and grow their businesses. He is an expert at helping people with market entry using online and offline methods and trying to break down necessary steps to make things simple to understand.
If you're interested in growing your business or entering a new market to and increase sales then definitely reach out and request a free strategy session today.