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Russ Hannah

Director, Strategic Planning
Amway Japan

Date of birth: Oct. 2, 1968

Hometown: Brighton, England

Number of years in Japan (cumulative): 21 (as of April 2018)

Russ Hannah
Q1: What was your first encounter with Japan?

My family lived in Okayama Prefecture in the 60s, when my father was consulting on the construction of a new ship, being built by Mitsui Zosen. My mother was pregnant with me when they left, so my roots are in Japan! While I was growing up I heard many stories about the time my family spent in Japan, and decided to come here straight after graduating from university.

Q2: Please state your motto in life and why you have chosen it.

Be optimistic and try to achieve something, even if you think it’s not possible. Too often the status quo is not challenged because people believe that’s the only way it can be. I continue to believe that one day, when I ask for something that isn’t printed on the menu in a restaurant here in Japan, I’ll have it served to me.

Q3 : Over your career, what achievement are you the proudest of?

I’ve been fortunate enough to reach a level where I can provide the things I most want for my family — an international education for my children, a nice place to live and good family vacations.
At work, I try to create the best working environment and support the advancement of my team members. So I’m most proud when team members are promoted, or when there is positive feedback in employee opinion surveys.

Q4 : What are your goals during your time in Japan, your current position or in life?

My goal in my work is to maximize the success of our distributors. The success of the company follows the success of our distributors, and due to the nature of the Amway business, the success of one distribution leader is determined by, and influences the success of other distributors in their group. This in turn, supports the success of employees. One big, virtuous circle of people supporting each other's success.

Q5 : What wisdom, advice or tips can you give to people living and working in Japan?

Professionally, for expats coming on assignment to Japan, understand that interpretation and translation is a difficult task. In addition to the language being translated into English, there are so many cultural nuances that cannot accurately be communicated quickly with simultaneous translation. Take time to check with interpreters about the feeling or intention of what is being said, in addition to the quick translations you hear.
English capability is rapidly becoming essential in the global business environment, but ask yourself how long it would take you to be able to communicate all you want to say in that business meeting in Japanese. It’s a tough hurdle.
Outside work, there are plenty of things that are difficult for foreigners in Japan, but carefully weigh the balance of pros and cons with your constructive criticism. Change and progress is good, but be sensitive to culture and norms that have evolved over many centuries to form current Japanese society.

Last updated: Oct 1, 2018