Support in two directions: Saul H. Fleischman

Today it is “Interview Wednesday” again. Saul H. Fleischman has created his own company “OsakaBentures” with the focus on either supporting companies to gain better access to the Japanese market, or then the other way round Japanese companies to get a better foothold of the global market. His services are available not only to larger companies, but as well he knows to support smaller niche players. Saul definitely understands the challenge that companies naturally sense, when entrusting sensitive business information to an off-site contracted person. Moreover his company becomes even more attractive to hire, because he can offer services for only a few hours per week and therefore companies do not need the heavy first investment to make a difference related to Japan.

Sibylle Ito: What do you see as the top mistakes foreign companies do while trying to enter Japan?
Saul H. Fleischman : Many assume “people are people,” and expect to win market-share in Japan without changing their packaging. Easy solutions include colors, inner layers of packaging – since for Japan, particularly with food/beverage/body goods, Japanese may be more likely to re-purchase products that seem cleaner. As for colors, they mean different things in different countries, and one does well to at least ask Japan-side contacts for opinions.
Finally, for a favorite example of mine, let’s consider Swiss (sorry, Sibylle!) chocolate bars. They are some of the best in the world, and always have been – but they are huge, hard to display with similarly-priced and target-market chocolate bars in Japan, and again, they always have been. Pity, maybe we would see Lindt, etc. in more stores, and they would surely yield more profits by selling one or two smaller bars for the Japan-market.

SI: Is it really necessary to have in Japan a “Japanese style of sales channels”? Isn’t the distributor network going away slowly, but surely?
SF: Well, you don’t have a Japanese sales channel yourself (your company, I mean), you get distributed thoroughly and rapidly by choosing an active and plugged-in distributor, and when you negotiate with them, ascertain that your line will not wallow in the pages of a catalog, but rather will be actively marketed. I am one to stipulate this when I negotiate for Japanese manufacturers that are in a position to choose between several distribution partners per country or region.

SI: Where do you see for the Japanese side the main challenges of becoming successful internationally?
SF: They still are getting nowhere with English and making little headway with foreign culture sensitivity. Then again, this is why I have been so handy to Japanese firms that see opportunities for sourcing products to import or have produced overseas (OEM), or to market overseas: they need foreign businesspeople like you and I do work with “the other side.”

SI: You are focusing quite strongly on Social Media. Do you see it efficiently used with Japanese companies compared to abroad? Do you have a favorite Japanese company?
SF: In fact, I still consider myself a student of social media. I think most of us who are strong with it should take this stance, though few do. I am most critical of groups and companies that run media events and bother to organize a uStream channel and a Twitter tag for a major event – but then don’t bother with the many, who try to interact remotely. I know this frustration is shared by many – who are not fortunate enough to be available (and in Tokyo, London, San Francisco, etc.) for the events there. So, while I have many favorite non-Japanese information blogs/sites, such as readwriteweb, techcrunch, and then favorite SNS, like LinkedIn and the groups I have created and continue to build in LinkedIn, I have many “unfavorite” companies due to how they fail to engage and rather “broadcast” self-promotional information feeds.

Thank you so much Saul for sharing your insight. It seems to me although with all the multi-media we have become more and more interconnected, but the challenges seem to stay the same: Not recognizing the difference of the Japanese market or then the challenge of Japanese doing business in English. For sure I wish you only the best that more great Japanese products become known abroad and being selfish, hopefully more Swiss chocolate becomes available in Japan.

More info in regard to Saul H. Fleischman can be found at

or then his company or then the LinkedIN profile

English profile:

Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)

12 thoughts on “Support in two directions: Saul H. Fleischman

    • Dear Saul,

      thanks for coming back, plus furthermore expanding the idea of giving a voice to others by interviewing them.
      For sure I wish you only the best on all your adventures and will be back to read everything.

      Best regards,

      Sibylle Ito

  1. Many thanks for the kind words, Richard and Sibylle.
    I have stepped in and out of a wildly different array of industries, probably for no better reason that I am bilingual with American English as my mother tongue, know hands-on marketing, and don’t have the good sense to worry about being careful.
    I have said this and written this before, but I love what Sibylle does with the interviews, and suggest that many more of us should lend a hand, do more to support each others’ careers with networking (wish I could “tag” @goodpeoplejapan – Jason Ball – on this!) that incorporates PR. At the very least, as I try to do, more of us should comment on the blogs of our “core people” – before tweeting/sharing them.
    Anyone else doing that? Or, better yet, are you a KdL Web2.0 Social Media group member with a blog or published article – that I have not commented on and shared? Let @osakasaul know, please.

    • Dear Saul,

      thank you so much for your compliment.
      Let me point out why I had started with this blog earlier this year: Honestly I got tired of the many English or German language blogs related to Japan/Japanse culture found on the internet that were more or less complaining on how awful life in Japan is, how incomprehendable Japanese culture is or whatever possible related to Japan to nag about. As I am enjoying my life in Japan business wise and privately, I perceive Tokyo or then Japan as the right place for me to live. Consequently, if I am not content with lots of the information that I find published on the internet, instead of complaining like everyone else, I should start blogging myself. So this is the story how this blog started.
      Further why interviews: I am not a genius and cannot know everything about Japan. Additionally more than one viewpoint always helps. Therefore I started with the idea of having “Interview Wednesday”, giving a voice to others related to Japan.
      Please Saul do understand me right, I do not mind networking, but I believe a blog is not the right tool for it, moreover it would have no connection to the original idea why I had started with the blog in first place. For networking I believe the better tools are LinkedIN and Twitter.

      Wishing you all the best,

      Sibylle Ito

  2. Great interview and insights. It’s funny how to many of us long time “Japan watchers,” so much of what Saul says is “common sense,” but it’s not. That is, Saul’s insights are not as common as many of us may think they are. They’re common enough in our circles, but not to the neophytes. And that’s why saying these things over and over again, in as many forums and media, is important.


    • Dear Richard,

      thank you so much for your comment, because I had been concerned to become boring, because there is always a chance of repeating oneself when talking in regard to business in Japan. You are right, Saul’s insights are great and that is why I am very happy to have different people taking part in this blog.

      Best regards,

      Sibylle Ito

  3. Thank you for the comment. It is good to know employees are protected strictly. I remember that I was scolded by a employee of Migros (not sure) in Chur when I went into the store perhaps after 6:30.

    I guess there is no Karoshi in Switzerland.

    • Dear Andante,

      if there is something that I miss in Japan, I guess it would be Migros.
      About the opening times: In order to protect employees from too much work, it is legally set that department stores and similar places of sales have to close their store in the evening at 18:30 during the week, Saturday I believe at 16:00 and being closed on Sunday. Do note these rules are different from one canton to another (more info on wikipedia). At certain locations like airports, train stations and gasoline stands the opening hours are longer.

      All the best,

      Sibylle Ito

    • Dear Andante,

      thank you very much for your comment. I am cannot fully agree with you that everything is expensive in Switzerland. Honestly I spend less for good chocolate (prefer “non-brand” chocolate from Migros) in Switzerland than in Japan or then my rent now in Tokyo is higher than previously living close to Zurich. If you want to buy chocolate at the airport, isn’t Migros great (just beside the restaurant court outside, rather close to the check in)?

      Wishing you all the best,


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