Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Segmenting the customer and the USP (unique selling proposition)

I work as a consultant, but at heart I'm a marketer. With this blog I'm actually selling a product to you, dear reader, although I do not charge for it, nor do I receive any money from what I am doing here. My reward is some twisted form of sense of achievement when people read it and find it entertaining, disturbing or both.

When you want to market a product you think about the product and the customers you want to reach. I want to reach a certain segment of the market and make my blog popular in that segment. So what segment am I really targeting? A quick analysis of the contents in here shows that the following topics are brought up at some point or another:
* Life in Tokyo
* Japan Craziness
* Consulting
* Workplace Stupidity
* Patrick Swayze
* Serial Killers

So I want to reach the segment of the market that are interested in those subjects. There should be 2-3 worldwide I hopefully could reach.

However, something recently made me think. One person had fallen into my blog after doing a google on "male rape scenes". Maybe I am thinking the wrong way here, maybe that is a segment of the market that is untapped and has great potential? Perhaps that is the direction I should take this blog in? (The person doing the search was in Germany, which for some prejudice reason does not surprise me at all...)

I have some thinking to do now when I stake out the long-term strategic plan for this blog...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

That's when I reach for my revolver

It is that season again!
In my lovely company we have a evaluation system that's based on "360 degrees reviews" which means that you will get evaluated by all the people you have been working on the last 6 months higher and lower of you in the grand scale of things. The evaluations are also completely anonymous which means that this is the time when old crimes are settled and avenged. Now, I am not too worried about my own review since I have been such an extremely pleasant and entertaining person to work without that I hope that my incompetence is quickly forgotten and my ratings will be decent.

Likewise, I'm a pretty nice nice evaluator myself and unless someone has been blatantly incompetent or incapable of even the simplest things, I give pretty nice and good ratings., last six months you say?
Well, there have been some interesting incidents that nicely fits in that category. Word on the street is that not anyone who has worked with Mr. Chin has very good things to say about him and his work style (which mostly seem to consist of playing Bigfoot) so I would guess that he is in for quite a ride.
Here the fun never ends!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cry me a river

Before I joined the world of high intensity consulting; providing executives with the answers they need to get ahead in the world of business, I worked in a pretty ordinary corporate environment here in Tokyo. There are many differences between how my work environment looked and how it looks now, but there is especially one big difference that stands out.

There is a lot more crying at my current company.

In my previous job I think I witnessed one crying incident in the 6 years I spent there and that incident was unrelated to work as far as I could understand it. However in my current company there is a lot more crying going on. I think we can further segment the different types of crying that occurs in the office in the following segments:

1. Toilet Crying

2. Tired "I'm tired and I want to go home but still got a shitload to finish up" crying

3. Exhausted "I spent a weekend doing this and now you're just throwing it away" crying

4. "Someone said mean and hurtful things to me" crying

Toilet Crying can also be caused of one of the three later segments where the crying is deliberatly located to the safe environment of the toilet booth instead of out in the open.

Just in the recent couple of days, there have been incidents of the three later types of crying with one type 4 induced by Mr. Chin on one of the sweetest nicest female staff members (who sometimes wears a t-shirt with the text "I'm your c***") and also a type 3 on Ms. A induced by El Presidente.

However, there is one toilet crying incident that stands out and has become legend in the office. "The Mr. J Toilet Crying Incident". This legendary incident occured a good couple of months ago when there was a lot of turbulence and El Presidente was making efforts to remove Mr. J from the company. One of my beloved colleagues went to the bathroom to attend do his bodily needs, went in to the available booths and started to do his thing in a healthy and happy manner. However, from the booth next to the one he was enjoying the distinct sound of Mr. J flipping through paper was heard (believe me when I say that it's a very distinct sound) combined with sounds of crying. My colleague quickly finished up and evacuated the premises and not much later Mr. J emerged in the office again with red eyes, went in to his office and closed the door behind him without turning on the lights, sitting there in the dark (possibly eating peanuts).

So, why did he go to the bathroom and cry and not stay in his office where noone would notice anyway? Well, this is where the sad and funny part comes in. Mr. J was at this point so hounded by El Presidente with phone calls, e-mails and messages that the only safe haven he could find to get a minutes respite was the toilet...

Now, this is not very funny you say? Well, it's funny in a sad way...

As a conclusion, I have realized that if I'm to move up in the corporate ladder I need to make more people cry. Looking back now, I have managed to make very few people cry so far and that is something I really need to work on starting from tomorrow.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Googling nowhere, fast

One of the entertaining things of having a blog and checking activity related to the site is to see how people came across my modest little site. Now, recently there have been more random people finding this little oasis of peace through the all-knowing google.
Let me lay out some of the key search words that have been used and directed my lovely guests here:
Gacy Waste Plan - I like this one, hope he found what he was looking for...
Work related to road use in Tokyo - Maybe I should do a post on this?
Salaryman sex - Yeah, now we're talking!
Tokyo snobbish - I don't wanna know what this person was looking for...

Finally, my all time favorite so far:
ivy league consulting Tokyo - Wow, this guy used just the right keywords!

Now the right wing extremists are driving their black buses blasting out their war time classics on full volume outside my apartment, time to end this post!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Largest table by end-game wins!

Location: Company X boardroom in Osaka
Participants: Mr. Salaryman and Meg

One big part of the work we do here in my lovely company is to talk to different actors in the specific field we are working in. Just last week I was in Osaka where we had scheduled a meeting with a partner company of the company we are currently hired by. The short story of the current project is that we are looking in to how our client can support its Japanese partners better. In case you are getting my different projects mixed up, this is the one I'm working with Meg and Dr. Y. on. Thankfully it is not the project that this post refers to.

Anyway, it starts with me and Meg arriving at said company and getting shown into the boardroom of this considerably large Japanese company with a huge table. As we sat down on one side of the table it was probably 3 meters to the other side where our interviewees would be sitting. Forget about handing papers across the table, which would be a breach of Japanese etiquette anyway, no, giving documents required getting up and taking a long walk to the other side of the table. And we were hoping to conduct the discussions in a friendly intimate atmosphere, but those expectations were thrown out the window pretty quickly...

Now, with the focus of this project to find out how our client can support its partners, we were foolish enough to expect, if not open friendliness, at least basic courtesy. We were sorely mistaken. Granted, it was only one of our interview sessions that was met with open hostility. The following dialogue took place as our interviewees sat down. Feel free to act out the dialogue below with a close friend, lover or perhaps distant relative?

Japanese Salaryman X: (Confrontational) I don't understand why we have to have this discussions, we already submitted all our plans to the client! If you haven't looked at those plans, you will have no idea what questions to ask and this will just be a huge waste of our time and yours.

Mr. Salaryman: (Apologetic) I see, well at the moment that is perhaps a bit difficult since we are already here and would like to conduct the interview anyway since we believe that your opinions would be interesting to incorporate in our study...

Japanese Salaryman Y (the subordinate of Japanese Salaryman X): (Passive aggressive) Well, it will just be a waste of time if you don't look at the plan!

Mr. Salaryman: (Gently) I see, well maybe we can take a look at that plan when we get back to the office if the client agrees to it.

Japanese Salaryman X: (Matter-of-factly) No, that's not possible, that information is confidential so you are not allowed to see it!

If someone can please remind me why I'm doing is job again please?


Probably the worst work related Monday ever for me... The sheer stupidity we encountered today just makes me shudder... I wish I could dare to tell you all the details, but I cannot stand to relive this again. Unfortunately it will continue for another couple of days...

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Burnout Rehabilitation

Consulting is generally known for horrible hours, plenty of weekend work and generally intensive work environment. We have heard horror stories from some of our US offices of projects where people have been worked until 2-3am, going home for a 4-5 hours of sleep and then back to the office and pick up where they left sometimes going on at weeks on end.

Now, in our office things are pretty nice. Sure, we have our share of internal problems that we face, but generally we can leave the office at a reasonable hour and El Presidente seem to have a certain appreciation of the fact that people with a life outside the firm produces better results. Mr. J on the other hand was more of the old school type with very little regard for human life or personal circumstances (he will still get a more detailed post later on). But with him gone and Mr. K instead, things are getting pretty comfortable from this aspect. We regularly take 1.5-2 hour lunches when we have the chance and don't stay too late unless absolutely necessary. Now, we do actually have some pride in producing great work since there is a paying customer down the line, but smart management and elimination of busy- and nonsense-work can make both worlds possible.

Our office has actually been known as the office where people don't work hard or late... Something that we take some misdirected pride in.

We have also served as a burnout rehabilitiation office recently. One person from the Chicago office (if some people are unsure about where Chicago is located it might help if I mention that it is in the Chicago area where John Wayne Gacy operated and did his gigs as "Pogo the Clown" among other activities) got sent to our office for a 3 month transfer. Now, he's not a Japanese speaker so his activities naturally got a bit limited by this. For him the transfer was vacation with the long lunches and comparatively relaxed work hours. He quickly got into our rythm though and we were sad to see him return. He also sent out a farewell e-mail to the us in the office where he tried to advocate the good points of doing an exchange to his office. That was the comic highlight of that day.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

It's not even funny...

Some of you people probably read and like Dilbert, a lot of people do. You read the strips and laugh a little because of similarities that has happened to you in work sometime, but usually the strips are exaggerated compared to what you experienced.

...this exact thing happened to my team in our previous project. Not "something like it" or "almost like it", exactly this happened to us. Our job satisfaction wasn't that great to begin with either...

Sunday, June 3, 2007

"Pain doesn't hurt"

A lot of difficult things going on in my personal life at the moment which makes you reflect over the past and things that you have done. So far I have come to one crystal clear relevation and it is very simple. "Some of the best times in my life has been spent watching the movie Roadhouse". I have always tried to stick to the rules as laid out by Patrick Swayze in that movie "All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it's absolutely necessary. And three, be nice." and since I do not own a bar the second point holds slightly less relevance to me. But I always make sure to expect the unexpected even when unexpected things are not expected, but it they do come along I already expected them.

Now, I know that some people would argue that Next of Kin was the pinnacle of Patrick Swayze's career and although that movie is by no means a bad movie I would argue that Roadhouse packs more of a punch. Granted, the overall concept of Next of Kin is hard to beat, but Roadhouse has everything you could want to ask of a movie including two funny fat guys (one evil and one good), a typical 80's sex-scene and great lines.
Now, with this relevation sorted out, the question that needs to be answered is; how do I apply this new found knowledge? Well, in order to get my life in order again I would say that the best course of action for me is to watch the movie again and then maybe everything else will just fall into place!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Happiness, Japanese-California style

Ok, early on I kinda decided that I wouldn't talk too much about personal stuff in this blog and I aim to stick to that although this post is a little borderline since it's really not that funny or bizarre in any way. But what the hell!

You see, today I attended Luke's wedding here in Tokyo and I had a great time and was actually surprised of the amount of happiness I felt on behalf of Luke when I saw him and his (now) wife. Since I know that he sometimes observes this blog (at least he goes through the notions of pretending to finding it entertaining when I tell him I posted something new and relevant to our work) I can also extend my congratulations here as well. Even though nothing is certain in life and things can take unexpected turns you can't predict and neither can or should prepare for (you can spend excessive amounts on insurances though it that's your thing), I felt that this was a special occassion and felt honored to have been invited and got to be a part of that (not to mention that the bride looked smashing). Also, the food and wine was excellent, so all in all I had a great time in a really pleasant atmosphere. Luke has been a great support for me, both in work and also helped me out with more personal things as well so he deserves all good things that are coming to him. That he's a good listener has already been document here.

From my lovely little firm, me, the boy, Meg and another person that has yet to be introduced (but deserves an introduction at some stage) were invited and we were surprised to see that we actually got really nice seats just in front of the bride and groom's seats since I was expecting that we would be placed outside the toilet or even inside it in worst case. The Boy also got recruited as the MC for the wedding ceremony which he actually managed to get through without any too serious screwups. All in all, today has been a good day so far.

So, what's the catch? Well, there's always a catch, isn't there? The catch in this case is actually not related to Luke or the actual wedding ceremony as much as it's related to how weddings are conducted here in Japan, and this wedding reception was done very much in a Japanese style. "Well, what does that mean?" you ask. Luckily I'm here to explain it to you.

Since this wedding was not a religious ceremony, at least I could avoid all the traditional and cultural trapdoors that could make me make a fool out of myself even more than usual. However, for a Japanese wedding normal "wedding presents" are not the custom, instead cash gifts are the usual thing and there's strict rules for how this is conducted. If you are a subordinate you need to give 10,000JPY (about $100), friend or same level in work you need to give 30,000JPY and if you are in a superior position you need to pay up 50,000JPY. Not only that, these bills also need to be fresh from the money press and not old used ones so just taking them out of your wallet isn't good enough. No, you need to go to the bank and get this! If this wasn't enough of a hassel to deal with, you also need to get a proper envelope for this occassion which actually isn't as easy as it seems. Fortunately the Boy could guide me on how to do this properly. I actually feel a little bad since I only gave 30,000JPY when I should have given 50,000, but this was not a strategic money management decision as much as it was due to ignorance.

So, ok, you're paying up a not insignificant amount of money for this, but what do you get in return? Well, first of all you obviously get to participate in the wedding ceremony with the drinks, food and that kinda stuff, but there's also the complex Japanese gift giving tradition to deal with. That means that you also get a present in return for you giving the gift and participating in the ceremony. I was actually partially dissapointed at the gift for this wedding since it wasn't a towel... In Japan you get a lot of towels... But it was actually a nice gift of sweets and two nice wine glasses fitting Luke's fetish for good wines.

Now I just need someone to use the glasses together with.
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