Yes, even more from Made in Japan.
What can I say? A great businessman works hard to expand the business to many different nations, rising (briefly) to a megacorp status, definitely has a Traveller resonance to me.
We noted, or rather Tamon Maeda did, that during that early postwar period there was an acute shortage of stenographers because so many people had been pushed out of school and into war work. Until that shortage could be corrected, the courts of Japan were trying to cope with a small, overworked corps of court stenographers. With Maeda’s help, we were able to demonstrate our machine for the Japan Supreme Court, and we sold twenty machines almost instantly! Those people had no difficulty realizing how they could put our device to practical use; they saw the value in the tape recorder immediately; to them it was no toy.
You have to find the right customer, if you want to sell your goods at the right price.
When you are selling higher-tech goods to lower-tech systems, you can make even more money in maintenance contracts than in the initial sale. For example, say you sell fifty laptops (TL 9) to a TL 5 government (electricity is just coming online for factories and the big cities, and cars and telephones are for fancy rich people). IF those laptops are used right, this government can definitely outcompete her neighbours in war and peace: but you have to write the programs and scripts that meets her needs. And laptops break… the occasional mob might try to smash the evil off-world ghost-haunted work of aliens… or a seductress may lift one from her sleeping lover, and give it to an enemy government for a fresh new identity and a fat reward.
“You know, maybe you don’t really want to sell fifty laptops. How about just one, with a massive frame so it looks like a room-filling supercomputer, with lots of flashing lights and whirring gears, and some techpriests hired to do mystical sciency things to intimidate the locals?”
“I bet you can charge Big Bucks – maybe even get your own autonomous county, with a castle and a hundred or so soldiers – if you package it just right!”
“I always wanted to live the Noble life…”
The head of our research laboratories, Makoto Kikuchi, a leading expert in the semiconductor field, recalls that in those days the level of research and engineering in the United States was so high that “the voice of Bell Labs was like the voice of God.”
It’s hard to believe now, as the internet-powered distribution of knowledge beyond the grip of the gatekeepers – as well as the ongoing delegitimization of authority figures, secular and religious, political and cultural – has radically changed the world. But in traditional, authority-respecting Solomani cultures, a respected priesthood has an enormous amount of influence, and often real power.
Some worlds are basically outposts of the Imperial Catholic Church: others, run by the World Science Federation: it all depends on your preferred flavor of priest. The Vilani have nothing but scorn for original scientific research, seeing it as perverted, but they love their traditions and respect the hereditary priesthoods who have mastered the sacred ancient rituals.
(Yes, several Vilani corporations do have research labs… but they are kept out of the public eye, and preferably off of the many Vilani worlds that have strict laws against such deviant behaviour. Many simply outsource the research to Solomani or Mixed Vilani firms, so keeping their own hands free of such filth.
I should also point out the difference between original scientific research, and what the Vilani do approve of: making known techniques and tools more efficient and cost-effective. Applied engineering will always have a place in the Vilani heart!)
Court cases take a long time in Japan, and the case dragged on for four years, but we won.
And if you think that Japanese court cases drag on and on, just wait till you see a big-money Imperial court case! So many rules… injunctions… affidavits… subpoenas… jurisdictional disputes… examinations… hearings… certifications and verifications… all across multiple star-systems, as the months and years go by… and the lawyer’s fees mount and mount…
“You know, you could spend four billion credits, pushing this thing through the court system for the next decade. Or, you could spend 600 million credits, and let my boys re-write the facts on the ground and clear out these obstacles in a matter of weeks. It doesn’t take a University of Sylea MBA to figure out the right decision…”
Today [in 1986], over 99 percent of all Japanese homes have a color TV; more than 98 percent have electric refrigerators and washing machines; and the penetration rate for tape recorders and stereo systems is between 60 and 70 percent. But in 1958, the year after we produced our “pocketable” transistorized radio, only 1 percent of Japanese homes had a TV set, only 5 percent had a washing machine, and only two-tenths of one percent had an electric refrigerator.
All major tech level jumps have to start from somewhere. The main point is to be unsatisfied about where you are, and to have a goal of where you want to be.
Despite rising affluence in Japan in the late fifties, we had a great deal of difficulty raising money and had to rely on friends and introductions by friends to people who might become investors. In this regard, we were lucky to have a board of advisors who had real stature. They could get us introductions to potential investors that we could not arrange on our own.
Powerful and wealthy friends – especially those with megacorporate, Imperial military, and aristocratic ties – are worth their weight in gold. The right word at the right time can change absolutely everything for the better… and the wrong word at the wrong time can get you a bad case of the deads.
The people at Bulova liked the radio very much and their purchasing officer said very casually, “We definitely want some of these. E will take one hundred thousand units.” … We began to talk details, my mind working very fast, when he told me that there was one condition: we would have to put the Bulova name on the radios.
That stopped me…. After thinking it over and over, I decided that I had to say no, we would not produce radios under another name. When I returned to call on the man from Bulova he didn’t seem to take me seriously at first. He was convinced I would accept. When I would not budge, he got short with e.
“Our company name is a famous brand name that has taken over fifty years to establish, “ he said. “Nobody has ever heard of your brand name. Why not take advantage of ours?”
I understood what he was saying, but I had my own view. “Fifty years ago,” I said, “your brand name must have been just as unknown as our name is today. I am here with a new product, and I am now taking the first step for the next fifty years of my company. Fifty years from now I promise you that our name will be just as famous as your company name is today.”
I never regretted the decision not to take what is called an original equipment maker (OEM) order because the decision gave me added confidence and pride…I said it then and I have said it often since: it was the best decision I ever made.
There will come a time in every Traveller’s life that they will be given a great, profitable, glorious offer… on one condition.
Get ready for that offer by practicing saying the word ‘no’, good and often.
Incidentally, this is why Japan at least had some decades of glory – and may even regain them, if they ever start having children again – which OEM China will never have. You simply must put in the decades of quality work, under your own banner, if you want to get to the top. There are no short-cuts.
[The opposing party] wanted a big settlement – three hundred thousand dollars to break the contract – and as we resisted they gradually came down a bit in their demand. At more than one point I was ready to settle…. but [my agent] Ed Rosiny was not ready to settle, and I went along with his judgment. H dais “Give me one more day and I’ll get it down to one hundred thousand dollars.” Sure enough, he managed to bring the settlement down to seventy-five thousand dollars. I asked him how much his fee was and he said, “Twenty-five thousands. I’ll take my fee out of their money!” I got to like him even more.
Just remember that this was in the late 50s, when casual racism was built right into the system, and Rosiny was working for some Jap company, from an ex-enemy nation that the US nuked not that long ago.
It can be hard for PCs find their ‘Rosiny’ on a given Solomani-dominated world, but it isn’t impossible. Big bucks helps, of course, but often something more is needed to get the top-tier talent you want.
Most Japanese businessmen who visited the United States in those days tended to be clannish and learned about the country from the other Japanese businessmen who had preceded them. But it doesn’t take much analysis to seethe inadvisability of this approach. Despite a couple of years of living in a foreign country, these Japanese businessmen were still strangers; following their advise was like the blind leading the blind.
The PCs who reside on a foreign world – especially the xenophobic worlds of the Six Subsectors – will be strongly tempted to hide in comfortable expat enclaves. This will work right until the anti-foreigner riots (or anti-infidel, or other unexpected revolt) kicks in. But if you mix with the locals (and take the lumps you are sure to get), and learn the language, you get to know what’s really going on – and perhaps have an early warning heads-up when trouble starts to draw close.
Working on that showroom and trying to absorb the rhythm of American life [in NYC], it struck me that if I were really to understand what life was like in America, and if we were going to be successful as a company in the giant American market, we would have to do more than establish our company in American soil. I would have to move my family to the United States and experience the life of an American.
Hard-core market analysis, if I may say so myself. With the Traveller equivalent, the PCs are trying to get their budding interstellar business into a strange new high-pop/high-tech world, where the money is big… and so are the dangers, violent and indirect.
Incidentally, Akio Morita’s wife Yoshiko did a great job adapting to life in the US, despite not speaking a word of English at first. Perhaps the PC’s wife will be just as adaptable… but maybe not.