Right after graduating with a civil engineering degree from Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, I was granted the Vulcanus internship in Japan that allowed me a one-year experience with Asahi Chemical, in Atsugi. This internship started in the summer when the weather was shockingly hot and humid — so different from the cool, refreshing weather in Belgium. I then adapted myself to the weather and, more importantly, to all other aspects of Japan.
Around 60 B.C., Lucretius said, “Drops of rain make a hole in the stone, not by violence, but by oft falling.” Doing business and living in Japan (and Asia) is a long-term investment, where one becomes part of the village, interacting with its people and being accepted as a member. A culture is a system of values, and therefore, priorities. Understanding and playing by its rules is mandatory to succeed and sustain yourself.
Village Island, the company that I grew from nothing to a medium-sized business with a major presence and international recognition. The successes and the sustainability of this business are due to our team spirit and members who invested themselves truly and loyally to this adventure with passion and dedication. Village Island has diversified over all sectors of the broadcast industry, with a large number of references and repeat customers.
As director of the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BLCCJ) and as president of Village Island, my goal is to continue to serve the Japanese, Belgian, Luxembourgian and wider village around me. It is likely I will spend the rest of my life in Japan.
Japan is known as one of the most challenging markets in the world. Whether your business is a start-up, long-established or somewhere in between, you need to find out how to delight customers and maintain their confidence in you. This is a fascinating topic, and at the BLCCJ we like to organize seminars and panel discussions to explore and exchange ideas on this vast topic. So, as you’ve asked me, my advice is to join BLCCJ activities, share freely and open your eyes to the village in which we live together. One thing I’ve learned from my work experience is that customers are more important than suppliers, and I've seen many Westerners failing while going the opposite direction. That advice has been proven true many times.