How did you get your first order so quickly?  jap1


This success story of 1996 is worth learning from today


The same keys of commitment, contacts, quality and consistency will open the door today

Tokyo, Japan - Rainbow Bridge

Alan Group success with Japan...  jap2


Alan Mason founded the Alan Group in 1973, manufacturing precision components for a company in Liverpool. The business grew, coinciding with the first wave of mobile phones to become available in the late 1980s and 90s.

   Because the type of work required high precision, Alan was able to attract some very capable young people to his firm; people who, like him, were perfectionists. The company continued to grow, until it moved into manufacturing the components from the tooling it were making. By now, it had a large production facility in Horsham, West Sussex, working consistently to precision tooling tolerances of just two microns.

   Alan says he was always ambitious and knew where he wanted to take the company. “I was introduced to Peter Bacon of Electronics Link Asia (ELA), and also approached the Department of Trade and Industry, saying I was interested in expanding my business into other countries. It was here that I learnt that DTI was setting up an export mission programme for smaller UK companies  to explore possibilities in Japan,” he explains.



   “I was fortunate enough to join Peter Bacon on the second mission to visit Japan in 1994. He made a great introduction for us and explained clearly why we were there. I made a presentation to an audience of 20 senior people from Makita, followed by similar presentations to Nintendo, Sony and other well-known organisations.

   “Interest in our manufacturing capability was strong and swift. Sony became my first client in January 1995, followed within 12 months by Fuji Copian and Hochiki.”

   Winning this business was not quite as easy as it sounds, warns Alan. “The Japanese absolutely wouldn’t entertain you unless they have done a lot of homework on you before you arrive. Fuji admitted they had done these checks, but they were happy with what the found out,” he says.



Fuji’s research had thrown light on a specific manufacturing issue. In Japan, when you mould on a machine, certain components come out in a few seconds before the recycling is done. Alan explains that, by this time, his company was making 16 and 32 impression tools on connectors that had 5 micron limits. All 32 from a single impression had to be within those tolerances.

   “Fuji were not the only ones to do their homework,” says Alan. “I had also done mine, so I knew what tolerances we could guarantee for the specific components they needed. So I could answer their questions accurately and confidently.

   “When Fuji asked whether we could guarantee these tolerances for four impression moulding tools, we suggested they go for eight, which would reduce the unit price of the components. Although they were keen to do this, I had to sign a document there and then to take responsibility for the change, but it worked out fine and they were delighted with the considerable savings they were then able to make.



   Alan believes it was his early connection with ELA that provided the necessary support for his long-term success in Japan.  “If I hadn’t had met Peter Bacon at that time in my business life, I would not have finished up where I was. I know that, whatever my attributes and strengths were, I needed more polish – something I was able to get from the contact with Peter and from my early visits to Japan,” he says.

   “I like to think I understand the Japanese now. I also know that, whatever initial formalities and challenges there may be, they are superb partners when they come on board.

   “For anyone else who wants to deal with Japan, I would say that with professional support from a consultancy such as ELA, you will get to understand your potential export market much more quickly than if you try to go alone. You will also be confident that, if you have something to offer them, they will return that with confidence in you.

   “If you have something that they need and can convince then that you can supply them on the quality they need, they will certainly listen to you, regardless of whether you have 10 people or 100 people. If, as I did, you have a desire to succeed, then it takes a lot to set you back.



Commenting on the Alan’s success,, ELA’s Peter Bacon believes much of the Alan Group’s success can be attributed to the commitment and energy of Alan Mason himself.  “Sometimes, companies keen to export will send a representative across to get orders. But in this case, it was the CEO who was personally engaging the Japanese organisations himself, and showing he was serious about the initiative. It was noteworthy that Alan was willing to make the commitment needed when asked by Fuji, and this surely gave the confidence needed at the Japanese side to go ahead with them.

   “Bear in mind you will be tested by the Japanese in terms of the precision and quality, but if you have done your preparation and can prove that you deliver on your promises, then you can achieve what Alan achieved. Our expertise is in helping small companies like Alan’s to understand how to work with high level contacts and helping them progress from there, even if they can’t  quite match Alan’s record for achieving his first orders so quickly!”


Finally, said Alan “ I have to say that if I hadn’t met Peter and followed his ideas how to deal with the Japanese, I don’t think we would have had the great success we had as a result “

ELA's first client ... in 1996  jap3

These case studies recognise the successes of companies we know, something to learn and be inspired by, as you consider business in Japan.