I returned recently from a business trip to Japan. It is a country that I have come to like very much. I enjoy the food, the culture and perhaps above all the respect shown for people. I especially appreciate the kindness and respect I receive, no matter where I happen to be in the country. There are some people who have gone very far out of their way to help me, as I attempt to create more business opportunities for companies in my region of Atlantic Canada. My business, Sunset Trading Company, is a small company that focuses on assisting Atlantic Canadian businesses who wish to seek marketing opportunities in Japan.
As I sat one morning, gazing out the window of my hotel in Tokyo, I had some quiet time to reflect on my being in this foreign land. I was there doing things that I would never have dreamt earlier in my life were ever possible. Believe me, I have come from very humble beginnings, with a modest education but with a heart and head full of dreams. I started out in forest management and grew to love the forest so much that I felt I wanted to find the most valuable uses for every tree in the forest. This lead me to marketing of wood products, locally at first, and then to international markets. I had some early connections to Japan and I never forgot those connections. As my career advanced, I had an opportunity to finally visit Japan to promote wood products from my region. I became hooked on this fascinating and beautiful country. So, late in life I felt I just had to start-up my own business and focus only on Japan as a market.
I feel that I have been so fortunate in my life. It has been, and still is, an amazing journey. But remembering my humble beginnings makes me take note of those around me. To me, the smallest things are the biggest things. As I sat that morning gazing out the window I was actually in the hotel restaurant. A lady came to pour my coffee refill. She had no expectation of being noticed and was probably meant to be as “unnoticed” as possible. However, I noticed. As I notice many of the people who are in the positions that are meant to be almost unseen. But with out these dedicated individuals my trip would not be as pleasant. To me, the lady who served me coffee is as important as the hotel manager. Every task, no matter how small it may seem, is important and needs to be done by someone. Without people performing the so-called smaller tasks, things would never get done. It struck me in such a profound way that morning of just how important each of these people are to my comfort and success in Japan. As I left the restaurant that morning I stopped and personally thanked each of the people who had made my stay so memorable. I hope that they appreciated that I had noticed them and deeply appreciated their hospitality.
I wondered also if I would ever have another opportunity to return to Japan. At this point, I truly do not know. Only if I have some success in creating new business will I be able to afford to return. So now, only time and more hard work from home to follow-up on the contacts I had made will tell the tale. Will we be able to bridge the gaps between the Canadian producers and the Japanese importers? Will we be able to put the right products, at the right price, with the right scheduling and with all the many necessary adjustments to suit a Japanese buyers? At this point I can only say “Perhaps”. I have a lot of work to do with the Canadian companies to help them understand exactly what is required to make the possibility of sales a reality. The interest is there, but there are many conditions to be met.
Since I have returned, I have had more opportunity to reflect on how blessed I am to be able to do the work I am doing. From my humble beginnings and background, to be in face to face discussions with executives of some small and large Japanese importers is truly amazing! Some days I feel I am living in a dream. What effect will my success have back in my region? If orders do develop then products will have to be made and shipped. Flooring, cabinets, stairways, bricks and more will have to be made. Sweaters and slippers and maybe some food products may find a market in Japan and have to be made or prepared by hands in Atlantic Canada or beyond. People working in small business to make all these things will be needed. It is hard for me to imagine the effect that my work may have on the lives of others. And when those floors and cabinets and stairways are being manufactured they will require wood from this area. Trees will be harvested, trucked, sawn and manufactured into beautiful finished products. Some of these trees which are turned into lumber and then into a finished product could be my trees, straight out of Watts Tree Farm. This brings me full circle, right back to the place I love the most, the woodlot.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have had in life. For the people I have met through business but now call friend. For the many people I have yet to meet but I look forward to meeting. And to the many people I may never meet but I hope my work touches their lives in a positive way. Will I ever return to Japan? I don’t know. But if I do it means there is some success and many of the things I had mentioned above will continue to happen. My life is richer for having had this opportunity to visit Japan and for meeting some truly wonderful people.
Until next time, keep safe and well.
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