I often get emails out of the blue from people asking for help with business in Japan. They usually want an introduction or want information. I usually try to help them too.
In fact, I think I could give out an entire list of people who've I helped with their business in Japan and haven't asked them for anything in return. (I'm hoping that some of them might comment and give confirmation of that fact at the end of this blog.)
I'm the kind of guy that wants the economy to get better (funny, that!) and think that if I can help my friends or connections to make more money, and create jobs that benefit everyone, then where's the downside? I am sometimes offered monitary reward and, of course, am eager to accept it, but I think just about everyone I've helped can attest to the fact that I have never been pushy about money.
I think people should be honest and pay what they think is fair.
Until now, I've helped at least a good three dozen people (It's a two-way street). I made connections for them because I have a good reputation and vice versa. You don't live, as a foreigner in Japan, for nearly 30 years unless you build a reputation of someone who works hard and is trustworthy.
Ask any of the old-timers in Japan and they'll tell you the same thing: "About 97% of all foreigners in this country are undependable and shady. All the ones who have been here a long time and have a good reputation all know each other and trust each other." This reputation is as good as gold.
I use my reputation and trust to help people. I am not bragging but because of who I am and how I operate business, I think that's why I can call up the president or ranking executives of major Japanese and International corporations directly on the phone and make appointments with them; they know if I call, I am not wasting their time and that I have a reason or idea that has mutual profit potential.
Mutual profit potential? Those are the key words here. When the business idea is good for everyone all around, people listen. I never bring along business ideas that are one-way streets.
Of course, there have been a few who used me to get connections then dumped me. But that's OK. My connection, that I took over a decade - sometimes over two in many cases - to build are loyal to me and not to the people I introduced. I'll get my just rewards sooner or later. Long-term business partners take care of each other.
That's just the way it is.
The other day, I got another letter from a guy who runs a fishing magazine in the USA. He wanted me to basically work for him for free. It's OK. I get lots of those. But I thought, "What the heck? I'll see if I can find someone who this can be mutually beneficial with and introduce them."
I wish I hadn't done that.
The guy's name is Ben at Coastal Angler Magazine (I'll hide his last name because, well, you'll see why later). He seems confused. He is rude and certainly doesn't know how to write business letters. Ben, who began by asking me for help, started becoming rude as time went by and it was quite obvious, from his emails, that he seemed not to understand his own business. Finally, I became irritated at his bad attitude and asked him not to write to me anymore.
I think you'll find this exchange a great example on how to NOT do business in Japan - or anywhere else for that matter. Ben's mails will be in yellow. My responses in blue. And I will also add commentary between.
Here it is:
Coastal Angler Magazine is one of the largest
outdoor publications in North America, with a circulation base of 500,000
copies per month. There are countless Japanese manufacturers who seek to sell
their products to our readership, but we don't seem to be able to bring them in
as advertisers. I'm looking for a liaison that can rep our publication to the
Japanese marine (fishing) industry.
You seem to be an adman much like myself. Why
don't you visit our website at www.coastalanglermag.com and either let
me know if there's a direct fit or if you can advise us on finding an "on
the ground" Japanese representative. I assure you the potential advertiser
base is huge and that this will be a very lucrative endeavor for the right
person. By the way; do you like to fish?
Editor In Chief
Coastal Angler Magazine
The Angler Magazine
Well, he starts off nice enough. I like to fish. So I answered. This sounds like it could be a fun job for one of my Japanese friends who might need some business - in this day and age, who doesn't need some business? So I answered:
You kiddin’? Before I left the USA to move to
Japan, I went fishing 4 or 5 days a week, every week for 6 months (I was a
stock broker and had already earned my commissions for the next 6 months and,
since I was leaving, there was no reason to keep selling as I wouldn’t have
received the money.... So... Why not go fishing everyday?)
I was fishing off the rocks in my secret hole
along the California Coast about
15 minutes drive from Camarillo. It was a hairy climb down the rocks but the
fishing was awesome and there was never anyone else there (maybe it was too
dangerous and they were too smart and I was too fishing crazy!)... I got so
good at it that I knew just by the way the weather conditions (direction of
wind, temperature, tides, etc) were if I would catch a lot of fish or not (but,
you being a pro yourself, you already know that!)
I love fishing. I dream about
fishing.... In fact, I dreamt about trout fishing in Oregon last night
(seriously!) Here’s a humorous article I wrote on Lew Rockwell that mentions
how I had a major gout attack and could hardly walk, yet that didn’t deter me
from fishing: http://www.lewrockwell.com/rogers/rogers237.html
Interestingly enough, also last night I had
dinner with the biggest tuna dealer in the United States, David Leibowitz, and
advised him on selling his Tuna Jerky into Japan. His tuna are all line caught
so I suspect that, while a tad bit different, I’ll bet he has connections to
makers like Shimano and Daiwa.
Let me look at this and get back to you over
the weekend when I have more time.
Well, so far, so good, right?
David has appeared on numerous covers in our
Boston edition. Where are you located? Have you seen our publication?
Editor In Chief
Coastal Angler Magazine
Wait a minute? "Where are you located?.. Have you seen our publication?" What? Isn't this the guy who wrote to me saying, "I'm looking for a liaison that can rep our publication to the Japanese marine (fishing) industry"? My address clearly states that I'm in Tokyo... What does he mean "Where are you located?"
Here I began to get a tad bit suspicious that this guy drinks too much. Nothing wrong with drinking. Nothing wrong with fishing and drinking; definitely something wrong with drinking and writing business correspondence though... Still... I ignored this bizarre part... (Like I wrote, "I love fishing!")
I'm in Tokyo. David lives about 35 minutes
away from me.
I haven't checked the
magazine yet... I will tomorrow...
My son and me on the cover of Coastal Angler Magazine. By the way, I asked David Leibowitz if he knew Ben and if he was ever on the cover of this magazine. David replied, "No!"
I am still in need of Asian sales
representation. I am certain that a strong market exists, I just need someone
there to go get the money. Let’s talk further to see if this project is of
interest to you.
Editor In Chief
Coastal Angler Magazine
Woah! Wait a minute! First off, initially, the guy wrote that, "I'm
looking for a liaison that can rep our publication to the Japanese marine
(fishing) industry (emphasis mine)….and either let me know if there's a direct fit or if you can
advise us on finding an "on the ground" Japanese representative." But now he says he wants "Asian sales representation"??? I wonder if this is one of those people who thinks that 'Tokyo is the capital city of China'? (Really, I have been asked that question many times).
Second, he wrote that he wanted a "Japanese representative." Now, I know that many people have a hard time with written English, but when I see "Japanese representative" that says to me, "A Japanese national to represent his company" not "Some guy (foreigner included) to represent his company in Japan." This is kind of a waste of my time, now. It seems there is a huge difference, to me, between a "Japanese representative" and a "Japan representative." If there are any third grade English teachers out there reading this, could you please confirm that?
Nevertheless, I ignored that part (again) and I had asked two of my friends who work at fishing magazines about it (hell, I don't know. They are Japanese. They work in the business, I figured they might know something). They gave me a very common sense answer that made me think, "Oh? I kind of thought so.... Sorry to bother you guys!"
I sent your materials to two friends that I
know that might be of assistance... The basic reply I got was that they said
the local businesses (Daiwa, Shimano, etc.) are de facto different businesses
than the ones operating in the west even though they
have the same names. I get the impression that what they mean is that
the US distribution of "Shimano" is actually a different
company in that it is a subsidiary. This means that the domestic side wouldn't set
aside a budget to advertise in a foreign magazine because sales there do not
Of course, I don't know the details, but I
reckon this is true.
For example, Shimano in Japan does all sorts
of stuff like sports bicycling, etc. You need to talk to the USA reps.
Wish I could be of more help.
I don't know. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought I was being polite and professional.
I am very familiar with Shimano. There are
100's of manufacturers there who do make US ad buys.
Sent from my iPhone
Ben seemed like he didn't like what I wrote and got a bit pushy and most definitely
rude. This is, after all, Japan and one doesn't write short and curt mails to
people they are asking favors of. Faux Pas Ben! I wonder why he can't see the contradiction
in what he wrote, "There are 100s of manufacturers there who do make US ad buys"?
Well, of course, for one, he is exaggerating... For two, if that were true and he knows
that, then why can't he make the sales himself? As Homer Simpson would say, "Doh!"
Still, once again, I tried to be polite...
Can you tell me the names of some of these
companies? I don't know.
I am under the impression that the Japanese
companies sell all their products to USA subsidiaries or they sell by a
"No return" policy. A no return policy would mean that some middleman
company buys these products and would handle the advertising.
I'm not arguing with you at all, just trying
to understand this situation...
Right after sending this email to Ben, I decided to call one of my friends directly at the fishing publication to get his two cents. Then I wrote back to Ben again... Basically my pal said, "Mike, think about it. Why would a business that is trying survive in the domestic market advertise overseas when there is already an overseas branch with a budget and sales team to handle that market? It's a jurisdiction issue."
I just talked to my friend, Hiroshi, who is an
executive at this publisher that is the biggest fishing/water sports magazine
He seems to think that what you are saying is
incorrect; that domestic manufacturers wouldn't advertise in the USA unless
they had representation in the USA... And if they had representation in the
USA, they'd let them handle it.
This seems to make very much sense to me as I
know this is the same situation in other businesses due to tax laws in the two
I am willing to ask again for you, but I need
more specifics rather than "100's of manufacturers."
It's true. I know that. The big Japanese manufacturers have US subsidiaries for tax and other business reasons. Companies structure this way and territories fall under different jurisdictions. There is no reason why the, say, Japan branch of the company, who is only concerned with sales and profitability in Japan, would advertise to foreign countries... Sales in those foreign countries benefit the local subsidiary. Shimano World, for example, might annually set aside a budget for their US branch, but the US branch would have jurisdiction on how that budget is used. The Japanese branch would not. It's not like we're talking about some little family private company that is run out of someone's garage; Shimano is a publicly traded international corporation on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (Shimano Inc. Symbol: JSX:7309) and the US operation, a separate entity is, sold on US stock exchanges as: Shimano Inc. SHMDF.
Still, Ben won't have it. I guess it is understandable that a guy who works at a fishing magazine wouldn't have a clue as to how jurisdiction over territories works in international companies... Why should he? He knows how to edit print and tie a hook. He doesn't know jack about how big companies - especially big Japanese companies - work.
Yet, still being a nice guy (dumb guy?) I ask that he furnish me with leads on this "100s of manufacturers" as I don't work for free (nor am I interested in 'letting my fingers do the walking - for a few hours for no pay - in the Yellow Pages') and, if they do exist, then he should at least tell me who they are....
Ben then writes me a very dumb question that is a sort of challenge, I suppose:
Why then would these same manufacturers attend
expensive trade shows in the US.
Coastal Angler Magazine
Frankly speaking, I couldn't believe that Ben wrote this. Ben! Dude! I am merely relaying to you the opinion of someone who is in management at a fishing publication in Japan and has worked there for a very long time. The guy is an expert, I reckon. Why are you writing this stuff? You want me to go back and be as argumentative with him as you seem to be with me? Well, not in Japan, you don't.
I think or purpose here is that we want the guy's help and opinion and to not to get in a argument with him, no?
And what is this nonsense; "Why would these same manufacturers attend expensive trade shows in the US"???? Are you kidding me? Ben! Have you never worked at or with a manufacturer? Are you serious that you don't know why they attend trade shows?
They certainly don't do it for fun, you know. They do it as it is part and parcel of their business; they need to know what's going on in the market and what other manufacturers are doing and going to do. They go to see new products. Have you never been to a trade show? Hell, if not, no wonder you have a hard time selling advertising to these people; you don't bother to get to know them and understand what they want! I've been to lots of trade shows, maybe one hundred of them by now (I've even been to the big fishing trade show in Tokyo). I know why these people attend. It's obvious.
This really made me convinced that Ben is fishy (sorry for the pun) and may not have a clue as to what he's doing when it comes to sales (or human relations). Of course if you want to sell something to someone, you have to get to know them and understand what their needs are. It's called "Needs selling" and a very basic concept for any salesman: "Get to know the client. Understand their needs and sell them a solution for those needs." Ben doesn't understand his clients enough to know why they attend trade conventions?
Well, with that, I figure that I've wasted enough time with Ben... If his understanding of his own business - and business in general - is so rudimentary, then I can't help him. If he's going to be argumentative, I don't want to help him. I wrote:
You're kidding with that question, right?
Of course they attend these trade shows (like
all manufacturers in all businesses do - not just fishing related - because
they want to see what other manufacturers are doing. And, maybe, make business
connections! Pretty basic, stuff. Ben.)
It shouldn't come as any big news to you,
should it, that the Japanese have traditionally been accused of
copying (stealing) ideas.
I am surprised by two things, Ben;
1) If you know that the Japanese are coming to
these trade conventions? Then why the heck don't you guys approach them for
sales? Why are you asking me?
2) You are asking a stranger to help you (me)
but your arrogance and bad attitude are certainly a big minus for you.
No wonder you have a hard time getting
Please don't bother me anymore.
No problem dick head
Sent from my iPhone
Wow! He calls me "dick head"? WTF? I thought I was dealing with an adult, not Beavis and Butthead.
If I want to deal with these two I can go to that office whenever I want.
In his initial email to me, Ben wrote:
"There are countless Japanese manufacturers who seek to sell their products to our readership, but we don't seem to be able to bring them in as advertisers."
Is there any wonder why he can't bring them in as advertisers? Well, Ben, from my point of view, there's no surprise there. Hell, that Ben, with an attitude and lack of knowledge like that, has any advertisers at all at his magazine is a point of wonder
And there you have it, folks. Seriously is there any wonder why Ben's magazine can't get advertisers? Is there any wonder why he can't get any help selling his magazine? Nope. I hope that Ben has competent sales people because if they are depending on Ben, they are in trouble.
Is there a good lesson here for the rest of us? Yep.
It's a great lesson in how NOT to be a good salesman and it's a great lesson in "How to NOT Win Friends and Influence People."
1st NOTE: I placed Ben's name and contact here as a favor to him. Hopefully some fishing manufacturer will see this and contact Ben for advertising. If Ben does get any ads from this, I get 18% commission, the Japan standard rate for selling advertising. - Signed "dick head"
2nd NOTE: I really did ask David Leibowitz if he knew Ben and if he was ever on the cover of this magazine. This is David's real reply:
"Hustlers and Ho's"
"Pimps - The real life"
"Makkin and Jacking"
"12 inch plus"
"bald is best"
But not "bass fishing jerk off" it's a scam
that guy sounds like a real winner. thanks for the warning! i think you hit it on the nail when you mentioned about drinking and writing. crikey!
It would have been better to figure out the guy was a jerk earlier in the process. Thank goodness you didn't actually do business with him or introduce him to anyone who would try to do business with this disreputable person.
Where does this attitude come from? There's way too many people who think and act like he does, especially in the USA.
Usually they don't bother to respond to emails or return phone calls. If you try to put money in their hands, they're too lazy or incompetent to follow through.
If he talks to you, a complete stranger, that way when he is asking a favor, imagine how he treats his own workers? ...After you told him what your friend said, he stopped writing, "Dear..." You should have dropped him immediately right then... Only a low grade amateur doesn't write proper business salutations emails...
I know that guy and he is a dirtbag doing business from the bottom of the barrel
that guy is a first hand scumbag - worst of the worst when it comes to tacky, outdated ad salesmen. He holds no real skill except the ability to confuse FAT WHITE RICH FISHERMAN that they can be magazine publishers also. And guess what 50 of those losers actually bought a franchise from him so now he has 50 more assholes writing him checks and selling his lies along side of him. Oh and his sloppy and trashy girlfriend ain't no picnic either. STAY AWAY from this guy he is a true scumbag.
I know Ben Martin personally - and yes, he is a drunk and a scam artist.
Yes, he is! I also know him personally. He and his sidekick are both drunks. You should hear about how they scammed the original owner Rodney out of his own magazine. He belongs in prison.
Have to agree, this guy is a liar and dirtbag snake oil salesman who has a bunch of good people fooled with his sivler tongue. His reputation in the business is in the pits and now he and his girlfriend have taken over. If he knew what people really thought of him he would crawl back in the gutter he came from. One of these days his lies will catch up with him and unforturnatley a bunch of good people will go down with him.
Well, first of all, as a current co-publisher (franchisee owner), we are not "fat white rich fishermen" and we're not "assholes" as one above has stated. We are good honest hard working entrepreneurs that unfortunately bought into a lie. The franchisees are now seeing this guy Ben for what he is and now many of the franchises are for sale(maybe all 50 something if you asked them),as most are losing money or barely breaking even. Wish I had seen this before I bought!
Ha! I have worked with Ben B for a few years doing freelance writing and editing. Interestingly, I have always had a hard time getting him to pay me. This last time, though, I have begged for payment for work done. BEGGED. I invoiced 7 weeks ago for work completed on time accepted, and my emails go unanswered and my requests for payment are completely ignored. Finally texted him yesterday, and he responded that it's going to take a long time to research my invoice (implying that I fabricated work done and padded the costs). Yet it's been SEVEN WEEKS already. The worst part is he knows this is my livelihood and I am a stay at home mom of three kids who makes ends meet by freelancing. And he is literally refusing to pay me for work I have completed.
If anyone is looking for an update on this scam artist, here we are nearing the end of 2016 and we are uncovering more and more lies with each passing day. This guy is a crook. The only reason this magazine is still in business is because he is making his living reselling defunct franchises to newbies who should have googled this scum bags name. He's a real salesman when it comes to signing up new franchisees. But selling ads, that's a different story. He shells his cheap ads all over town then decides he needed to take a bigger slice of the pie leaving the franchisee with barely enough to cover printing. Which, by the way, he doesn't even pay his printers. He switches printers every year or so because he runs up a huge bill and the leaves them holding the bag.
The irony here is that I stumbled on this blog while doing a search of Ben M on google as I prepare my lawyer to sue Coastal Angler for taking away my franchise after 2 years because of a past due invoice for $2100 that is 14 days late for printing. I find it ironic that Ben M is quick to pull the trigger on a struggling franchisee for a 14 day lapse in payment but seems to be guilty of not paying his own bills. Of course the reason our bill is late is because we are forced to pay our print bill BEFORE we receive our magazines and our advertisers will not pay their bills until after they receive the magazines (and who can blame them for that)?
If you are lucky enough to read this before you purchase anything from this guy... YOUR WELCOME...
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