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Canada Timber

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I. Identification of Problems
The problems outlined in this case centers around a lack of communication and preparedness for cross- cultural business. Neither Canada Timber nor Bonsai adequately showed much respect to the other’s culture. Foretelling what was to come, problems quickly ensued before the meeting took place as both companies differed in preparedness to meet for a potential partnership.

Canada Timber’s role in the problems identified are Tim’s inadequate selection of members to represent Canada Timber, an improper response to a customary greeting, Tim’s informal mannerisms toward Bonsai company president, a lack of appreciation for Japanese city and its inhabitants, a lack of business materials, an unprofitable sales approach, and an overzealous approach to close a deal with Bonsai. Bonsai’s contribution to the problems identified include a preliminary excess of faxes sent to Canada Timber, questionable negotiation tactics, and a disregard for Canada’s time and resources when delaying business to make a decision. Overall, a lack of cross cultural business communication displayed from both companies led to the majority of problems identified in this analysis.

II. Analysis and Evaluation
Although both companies failed to address and appreciate each other’s cultural differences, the burden ultimately fell on Canada Timber since this company was invited to Japan for consideration to be a major supplier to Bonsai, a Japanese furniture manufacturer. This analysis will bring attention to some of the problems addressed in the case analysis, and systematically evaluate why those issues were so detrimental in a successful business meeting.

Customary Acknowledgments
The Japanese culture prides itself on the welcoming of visitors, customarily. Salutations are often paired with a handshake or a bow to express gratitude. When greeted with a bow, it is noted that the greeting is extended in the highest regard to show respect, a unique identifier of Japanese people. If the Japanese host is culturally sensitive, the host will know this traditional greeting is uncustomary in many cultures, mostly to Westerners (Rodgers, 2014). If the visitor demonstrates proper acknowledgement (usually a bow in return), the Japanese believe that the visitor will express a genuine effort in doing successful business together.

Japanese Business Etiquette
Unlike many cultures, the Japanese business etiquette is very distinct. Oddly enough, one of many problems identified in this week’s case analysis was the accepting of business cards, which has its own appropriate procedure. “When receiving a business card, thank the other person and offer a quick bow. Take the card with both hands and hold it by the top two corners; examine it closely with respect. Avoid covering the person’s name on the card with your finger” (Rodgers, 2014). With that being noted, as thorough as that may be, there is no excuse for Tim’s acceptance of the Japanese business cards. “Tim, exhausted from the flight, took the business cards from each Bonsai representative and quickly stuffed them into his pocket” (Rarick, & Angriawan, 2011) . In Tim’s defense, business etiquette in America (as it relates to the customs of business cards) is not as rigid as those practiced in Japan. An adequate amount of time should be allocated when receiving a business card, no matter the region. Tim has no excuse in his actions, as they are just rude and unprofessional. Although there were no remarks included in the case study describing the responses of the Japanese to Tim’s actions, it is safe to assume that the Bonsai representatives were offended by his gesture.


To address the issues presented to Tim and possibly salvage the potential joint venture Tim should spend as much of his free time doing some personal research on the business etiquette in Japan. He failed to prepare prior to traveling to Japan and it is putting the venture at risk. Tim first step is to repair the rapport that has been damaged in the previous meeting. Tim and his team is schedule to leave but he needs to stay and savage this deal. Tim’s research should begin with becoming familiar with customary acknowledgements and proper business etiquette.

As a sign of goodwill and acknowledgement that he made some errors but is interested in correcting them and moving forward, Tim can present a small token or gift to his host. This gift should reflect something significant from his hometown, something that has a story behind it. Japanese appreciate small gifts or tokens from their guests. This offering is often reciprocated by the host. Tim offering a gift at this point will be seen as a type of “peace offering” and will be accepted as such. Gift giving in Japan is not seen as bribery as it may be in the U.S. business environment. It is not a mandatory custom but does carry non-verbal cues. In the Japanese business culture, it is seen as facilitating human relations. (Otsubo.1986)

The chain of command or the hierarchy is very important in developing relationships in Japan. Tim made a mistake in not having the senior management of his company at the meeting to meet with the senior management of Bosai. Tim will have his senior management team at the next meeting. In a high context culture status shows respect. Tim made a major mistake with the business cards. This error was due to his taking for granted to that the practices of American businesses is universal. Tim should immediately take the time to research the importance of proper business card etiquette in Japan. When Tim researches the ritual behind the business card, he will find that the exchange of business cards in Japan signifies the beginning of business.

The card should provide the name and credentials of the giver and when presented, it says through non-verbal means, that the giver is interested in proceeding with business. As Tim would find out who was going to attend the next meeting he will have his company’s counterpart at future meetings as well. As a general rule, the highest ranking person from the host side (Mr. Kusushi) will sit at the head of the table. Then, the rest of the senior management team will take their seats starting from the seats closest to him and working to the other end of the table. Those of higher status sit closest to the “head honcho”.

Japan is a “high-context” culture. Being high-context, it is important for Tim to realize that the relationships that he will form will only come about through developing trust. The trust can only be developed through demonstration of interest and willingness to learn and respect the culture. Non-verbal cues play a major role in Japanese culture. Because much of what the people do, is based upon tradition, they do not do a lot of explaining, therefore it is the responsibility of the “new-comer” to make the effort to become familiar with the norms so they do not inadvertently offend their Japanese host. As opposed to American business culture where it is important to be very explicit in your intentions and act on what is said, in Japan, indirect messages are presented as normal conversation. To address this while he is in Japan, Tim can present his ideas and then allow the host to either take action or avoid the ideas. As part of this process, Tim should make sure that he does not take offense to any actions or lack of actions by the Japanese.

Otsubo M. A Guide to Japanese Business Practices. California Management Review [serial online]. Spring86 1986;28(3):28-42. Available from: Business Source Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 23, 2014.


Rarick, Charles & Angriawan, Arifin. 2011. International Management: Cases and Exercises.

Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.

Rodger, Greg. 2014. Japaneses Business Etiquette: A Step-by-Step Guide to Successful Business

Interactions. Retrieved from:


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