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Firms get tips on doing business with Japan

October 22, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Patience could very well have been the title of a Wednesday workshop for Tri-State business owners interested in doing business in Japan.

"Patience, patience, patience. I can't stress enough patience," said Chris McElroy, vice president of international sales for Action Products Inc. in Hagerstown.

"Japan is by far the most interesting and challenging of all the countries," McElroy told the 20 participants at the international trade workshop at Hagerstown Community College.

"It's all protocol," she said.

To succeed, U.S. business owners need to learn about Japanese culture, from how women are supposed to sit to having business cards printed in Japanese, business officials said.

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Action Products has exported its soft synthetic rubber products to Japan for about 10 years. The firm had $300,000 in sales to Japan during its last fiscal year, a number that could increase by up to 30 percent this year if sales stay on track, owner Ben McElroy said.

McElroy said he started exporting mostly medical goods such as pads and positioners that prevent bedsores to Japan after attending two international trade shows.

Action Products uses a trading company to sell its products to Japanese firms, he said.

The export business was doing so well that the owner of the trading company Action started out with sold his firm to start one that sells only Action's products, McElroy said.

Working through a trading company or agent rather than approaching Japanese businesses directly is something Chip Rockwell, Fil-Tec Inc.'s product manager, said he wants to explore after attending the workshop.

Rockwell said Fil-Tec, in Cavetown, already exports a little to Japan and company officials are interested in doing more. The firm supplies industrial sewing threads and high-temperature gaskets to a Japanese air filtration firm.

Fil-Tec officials want to expand in that niche as well as to supply parts for cables to the Japanese telecommunication industry, he said.

Alan Sullivan, managing director for VoTiV Systems in Hagerstown, said he wants to provide technical assistance to Japanese companies that want to be registered on the Internet.

Sullivan said the workshop reinforced what he had already learned and gave him new insights into working with Japan.

The workshop, sponsored by HCC's Technical Innovation Center, was part of an ongoing series organized by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber's International Trade Council was approached by a representative of the Japanese Development Bank to set up the workshop, said Council Chairwoman Ann Marie Brigido.

The bank can offer financing and information to Washington County firms that want to expand their operations and sales into Japan, said Teiji Unoki, the bank's deputy chief representative.

The chamber will host an international trade reception at the Quad State Business Expo at HCC on Nov. 12. Embassy representatives from United States trading partners have been invited, Brigido said.

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