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Nicolas Villeger

Founder, Managing Director

Date of birth: April 5, 1972

Hometown: Biarritz, France

Number of years in Japan (cumulative): 24 (as of March 2020)

Nicolas Villeger
Q1: What was your first encounter with Japan?

I was eager to build a first working experience abroad after graduating, and the LVMH Group came up with a 16-month mission in Tokyo, to work on new skincare marketing projects. At that time, Japan sounded like the other side of the world, but I grabbed the opportunity to discover this unique market, landed in July 1996 and never left. I still remember vividly the blasting heat and humidity of that first Japanese summer!

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

“If you don’t fail, you are likely not trying hard enough.” Those are words I heard from Elon Musk during my time at Tesla, and they really resonate as true entrepreneurial spirit. It’s about constant curiosity, dissecting problems to the core and refusing complacency. I enjoy solving problems and there are many engineering methodologies that I apply to business management. I don’t really use the “shо̄ganai” (it can’t be helped) expression often.

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

As I have always worked in full immersion with Japanese teams, I think coaching and mentoring many young Japanese executives is what I have enjoyed the most. It’s powerful to see how different cultures can learn from each other. There is a lot of energy in Japan’s younger generations, and giving them more self-confidence in a globalized world is something I want to continue to do.

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

After more than 20 years working for large international corporations, I would like, through my newly founded company, Tradentry, to encourage more businesses to venture into Japan and even more so, support Japanese brands to dare expanding abroad. I have had many executive roles that constantly required acting as a bridge between different cultures, beliefs and corporate visions; with the right dose of perseverance, field work and humility, you can make strides out of your own home market.

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

Don’t judge things around you too quickly. Japan is a complex, multi-layered country that does not open up so easily. Frustration can be around the corner, but it is possible to transform and improve many things here as long as you show respect, composure and stay away from comparing things with your home country, which is likely to be irrelevant and unconvincing. Learning to better grasp the language will definitely set you apart and help build trust. Last, understanding that the art of the deal is different here — it is first about creating relationships and lasting values.

Last updated: Mar 24, 2020