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A Matter of Trust

November 24, 1985

Regarding "Reflections on Doing Business With Japan" (John F. Lawrence, Oct. 27), the reason why some 95% of U.S. exports to Japan were initiated by Japanese, rather than Americans, is not simply because the United States won't sell what the Japanese want to buy. Rather, it is the failure of American producers to learn how to sell to the Japanese.

Several years ago, our company introduced and has successfully marketed a table baseball game in Japan. We found that the single most important factor that influence the decision of the Japanese to distribute our product was not sales or profit potential.

Instead, it was the social relationship built up over a number of months and contacts with the key executives of our Japanese distributor. Only by our acceptance of the Japanese way of business life, where social harmony, and not profit, is most often the primary goal of the parties, were we successful in convincing our Japanese associates of the opportunities offered by our product.

A well-known American commentator on Japanese life tells the story of going into a Japanese bank to rent a safe deposit box. Although he was willing to pay two years' rent in advance, the bank would not rent him a safe deposit box without an introduction from one of the bank's existing customers.

"It was a question of trust," the bank's representative explained.

Perhaps this is the lesson that America must learn before there is improvement in our trade balance with Japan and in our relationships with other world trading partners.

It is a matter of trust.


President, APBA Game Co., Beverly Hills

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