On Toyota


Phil Stockbridge, Global Integration

Phil Stockbridge, Director, Global Integration on the cross cultural issues faced by businesses in the North of England when dealing with Asian companies like Toyota

Those who know me will know that I live in Burton in the north of England. Those that don’t can probably guess after a short look on line – my name is closely associated with Burton’s rugby club.

Some years ago, Toyota moved into the area.

I have been amazed at how little local businesses have been able to make of having this World class company on their doorstep.

Part of this is a cultural, and an understanding of ‘how to do business with the Japanese’ would almost certainly help. The language and more superficial ‘meet and greet’ aspects of British people working with Japanese people, and vice versa, are merely an external expression of cultural difference. (There are plenty of websites that offer details. Language schools usually offer a lot of help in this respect.)

Cultural difference runs deeper, and the chances of everyone within a geographic location behaving in exactly the same way is improbable – maybe even impossible.

In the UK, businesses tend to have a level of impatience. Within many Asian cultures, it usually takes more time to develop relationships and earn trust – often seeking long term relationships, rather than instant gratification.

Trust, and how it is awarded and rewarded, is a very tangible aspect of cultural difference.Different communication styles between Japanese and British cultures can contribute to misunderstanding, and understanding different attitudes and approaches to hierarchies can help businesses work together more efficiently.

Toyota has demonstrated an incredible level of patience and loyalty to the UK market, sometimes against the odds. Whilst they were drawn to the UK by pools of highly skilled labour in both IT and engineering, cost is everything for manufacturers:  costs in the UK are rising, and cheaper pools of labour can be found in other European countries.Yet whilst other car manufacturers have been and gone, Toyota still has a presence in the North of England..

That’s fantastic loyalty, and a very tangible product of Japanese culture being reflected in their approach to business. It would be nice to see them rewarded with both business success and local support.


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