Overview: James Pratt has just been tasked with handling international clients. He needs to close a deal with Norio Tokunaka from PopWear that has already been thoroughly worked out with Michaelâ€™s predecessor, Roger Small. Michael is unaware of the need to establish a relationship with Norio before he discusses business. Norio becomes disenchanted and refuses to sign the deal.
James Pratt is the Director of Foreign Sales at Mustang Jeans, a U.S. company. After working at Mustang as a real estate attorney for six years, acquiring property for retail and manufacturing, Michael moved into sales at an executive level.
James is very much a no-nonsense straight-ahead kind of guy. He is friendly, but not big on small talk. He fits the stereotypical American businessman in many ways: informal, a little loud, all about money, very direct and forthright. Michaelâ€™s career has centered in national salesâ€”this is his first foray into international business. Mustang Jeans is reorganizing to increase efficiency. All managers are now assuming larger territories.
Norio Tukunaka has worked at PopWear, a large Japanese retail clothing chain for his entire career. He has also been working with American companies for many years, importing a variety of products. Most of these American companies are alliances that were formed by Norioâ€™s superiors, many years before. All of Norioâ€™s accounts are pre-existing accounts as opposed to newly created accounts. This year, PopWear is expanding its contemporary clothing line, which includes adding new suppliers and new brands.
In his current position as Vice President of Merchandising, Norio is responsible for expanding the contemporary clothing line, which includes adding new suppliers and brands for PopWearâ€™s 36 stores throughout Japan.
Norio has been working on a deal with Michaelâ€™s associate Roger Small for a very long time. Michael has just taken over this region. Rogerâ€™s report indicates that the Norio account is a done deal, with only logistics and details remaining. Michael and Norio are having their first meeting.
Scene Set-up: Norio arrives at Michaelâ€™s office after arriving from Japan.
Scene Location: Michaelâ€™s office at Mustang Jeans corporate headquarters in the U.S.
The Meeting – Summary: Michael spends less than a minute building rapport with Norio. He then begins to talk about signing the deal that had been previously worked out with Michaelâ€™s associate Roger. Norio wants to continue to talk about good Japanese food and seems insulted that Michael doesnâ€™t like eel. Michael continues to press for the deal but Norio is very evasive.
Michael then gets interrupted by his assistant notifying him of his next appointment. He apologizes to Norio about the short amount of time that he has to spend with him.
3 Days Later â€“ Norio comes back and Michael apologizes for the prior meeting. When asked to sign the deal again, Norio suggests that heâ€™s been talking to other companies in the past few days in New York. He doesnâ€™t commit to the deal and says heâ€™d enjoy hosting Michael in Japan and hopes they can maintain their relationship. He leaves before signing the deal to catch a plane.
Afterthoughts â€“ Summary: Michael notes his frustration with the interaction. He acknowledges that he should have waited for Norio to start talking about the deal first. He understands that Japanese businesspeople place a high priority on relationships but also points out that he didnâ€™t have a long time to devote to small talk when it was unclear whether Norio was going to sign the deal or not.
Using the Bonus Chapter Chapter C on Cross-Cultural Communication listed on Catalyst, answer the following eight questions. Please use your own judgment regarding the length of your answers.
1. How did the differences between Japanâ€™s and the United Statesâ€™ national cultural values affect communication between Norio and Michael? Use the reference material from â€œNational Cultural Valuesâ€ and â€œHofstedeâ€™s Model: Definitionsâ€ to support your answers.
2. What information should Michael have possessed before meeting with Norio?
3. Why is Norio acting somewhat evasive with his responses? What is Norio hinting [when he mentions that Roger likes sushi]?
4. What could Michael have done better in the second meeting to continue the business relationship?
5. How can business communicators effectively learn more about different cultures? Should business communicators memorize isolated facts (e.g., a cultureâ€™s typical greeting or attitude toward punctuality) or try to create a more holistic picture?
6. Besides broad cultural values and differences, what other main factors often vary between cultures and may have influenced the interaction between Michael and Norio?
7. Despite their many differences, do Michael and Norio share some common goals? If so, what are these goals and how might Michael have used some persuasive communication techniques to emphasize these shared goals?
8. What can business communicators do to enhance their cross-cultural communication skills?