Having gone over the mistakes you should take care to avoid making when hiring a Country Manager, we can now look at some character traits you should look for when screening a candidate. It is difficult to find the absolute best person as your Country Manager, but the person you need is someone who can drive your business successfully in Japan, and the following skills and character traits are crucial to this success.
A. The candidate is able to understand and apply both Japanese and Western thinking in their work
Understanding both Japanese and Western cultures is very important. The candidate should be sensitive to the needs of the Japanese market but also understand the culture and beliefs of their Western counterparts. The work of a Country Manager is bridging a foreign business and making it work in the Japanese market, so the candidate needs to be in touch with both sides of the spectrum.
B. Fluency in English is a big plus
However, be aware that you should not expect a native level of English. Fluency in the language is acceptable to communicate with the US team.
This trait is more difficult to find in Japan, but it’s important to hire somebody who takes the initiative and has a vision. The candidate should be able to prioritize well and take action on their own.
D. Strong business and personal network in Japan
Especially as a startup or at the early stages of global expansion, a strong network is a very helpful feature to have for a Country Manager.
E. Able to build trust from the very first day
This should be obvious, but the hiring entity and the Country Manager should be able to trust each other immediately, and you should have confidence in the Country Manager from the moment he or she begins working.
F. Reports bad news first, good news later
Many people tend to report good news first and then report bad news later, but often, reporting bad news too late can exacerbate the problem. You want to hire somebody who always addresses the problem head on and communicates directly about it. This can help the team solve the problem early to prevent it from getting worse.
G. Capable of developing business roadmaps, sales policies and strategies
Since these are key responsibilities of a Country Manager, it’s important to make sure the candidate is not only capable but excels in these areas.
H. Capable of sales, marketing and training
All of these are important skills the Country Manager should have. Sales and marketing for growing the business, but also training experience for growing the team.
I. Identifies problems and solves them
A good Country Manager can identify problems and solve them. In the interview, you should ask the candidate what kind of problems he or she has encountered in their previous work and how they solved it.
J. Team player – “Never put off until tomorrow what you can delegate today.”
Being a self-starter is good, but Country Managers should also be good at sharing and delegating responsibilities effectively instead of hoarding all the work and taking credit. There’s always a lot to do and prioritizing and delegating properly is key. Good Country Managers should be able to make the right decisions on whether he or she has to delegate internally or externally.
K. Capable of connecting with all levels of Japanese industry associations
Joining and connecting with members of Japanese industry associations can be a very effective way to support expansion into the Japanese market. This is another reason why the Country Manager needs to be someone who fits into Japanese culture and knows the market inside and out; they may not be native English speakers but as long as they’re fluent enough to communicate, knowledge of their local market has more weight.
Again, it’s very difficult to find someone who fits all of the above criteria, and if you ever meet a candidate and find that they don’t have everything stated above, do not write them off immediately. A candidate’s passion, ideas and vision may make up for the missing skills and experiences.
However, because finding the right Country Manager takes time and money, and you need to build a team and scale your business in Japan quickly, finding a partner in the meantime is a great way to enter the Japanese market smoothly while you take your time to find the right candidate.