I’m an entrepreneur, haha that’s not too broad is it? I focus on marketing consulting for established and start up companies. On top of that I’m a media buyer, and an angel investor. My clients used to be exclusively U.S. based but then I branched out into the Asian market and that means learning the basics of new languages, educating myself about new customs, and traveling to awesome places. But will people in Japan ever understand what an entrepreneur is or does or how he or she lives?
When I’m at home I work from my SOHO (very small office home office) but in the last few years problems have come up that can affect relationships because people don’t understand my work schedule and situation. I don’t keep a routine schedule, it’s not the standard Japanese way, and I don’t play by the rules of a normal work environment or a Japanese company (or any other).
Besides the fluctuation in my work hours, I think there are two main factors involved. One is called “Holiday Mode” and the other is called “In The Zone Mode” and it’s hard for people in my life to witness the transition from one to the other. I see a lot of confusion, jealousy for having too much play time, and anger for not having enough time. Here’s a quick breakdown…
Welcome to... HOLIDAY MODE!
Holiday Mode: Some days people see that I work only 1-2 hours giving me a lot of free time. My clients are taken care of, I need a break, and it’s the perfect time for me to take advantage of this. I have time to spend with my loved ones, time to explore, time to travel to visit family and friends, time to party, time to spend money and have fun. I go to sleep late, I wake up late. Holiday Mode usually lasts anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks with an occasional blip (once it lasted more than a month).
Welcome to... IN THE ZONE MODE!
In The Zone Mode: When I need to get things done I dedicate everything to my clients and projects. I enjoy what I do and I can easily get “IN THE ZONE!” with a full tank of energy and confidence. I’m no stranger to working 80 hours a week when I need to. My sleep schedule starts to become batches of 2-4 hours so my working hours can conform to other timezones. Some days I’m so busy that I work long stretches without stepping away for a meal or to answer non business related calls to my keitai (cell phone). I’m marketing, networking, researching, ad buying, having conference calls, among other things, and “In The Zone Mode” usually lasts 1-2 weeks at a time.
Regular Mode: This wasn’t mentioned as a problem because it’s not an issue This mode comes up once in a while and I can keep regular Japan time office hours.
My work structure goes in cycles. From Holiday Mode to In The Zone Mode to Holiday Mode to Regular Mode back to In The Zone and so on with little prediction of when things will change. My work schedule offers me my own time off but that time off usually doesn’t land on many national holidays.
Let’s face the facts… I wasn’t raised in an Asian or Japanese culture and I’m not a “salary man” that slaves away with a set schedule with certain days off. Over 7 years ago I left a six-figure income job to pursue my dream of owning a business that gives me freedom, time, and money. Sure it was a bumpy ride in the beginning but I pushed ahead and smoothed things out. Now I’m living abroad, enjoying what I do, and it feels like I’m making magic happen. I’ll hit the grind stone when I need to because I don’t want to end up being forced to go back to the U.S. or work for an unpleasant employer while possibly earning a lower salary than I’m worth. When I’m in the zone, I have to take full advantage of the situation and mental power because it’s a part of my life.
Increasing Business and Capital for Longevity
Here’s more details of the problems with people not understanding what it means to be an entrepreneur.
During Holiday Mode my woman and friends love it! Sure, why not? I’m a younger looking enthusiastic gaijin that seems like he’s on a permanent holiday with time and money to burn. A lot of fun times could be had! On the down side sometimes friends and family get jealous if they are a slave to the office. They go to sleep when I’m still out having fun or they wake up when I’m still sleeping or playing video games.
During In The Zone Mode my woman easily gets upset. She thinks I’m ignoring her, my personal schedule changes and all of a sudden I have no time for fun, and she doesn’t understand why I’m working so much and ignoring friends and family. People go to sleep while I’m still working, and people wake up to go to the office when I’m still working. In the home base I speak firmly, I speak briefly, when I say I’m going to eat out it means I’m leaving in 3 minutes with or without a companion, and this easily causes her to become emotional. (It feels like a woman having her period for a really long time!) Luckily I quickly learned to ignore things that negatively affect my In The Zone Mode and that means Holiday Mode will be more enjoyable because I won’t be carrying around any resentment.
In Japan I feel that people define one another too much based on what job you have, meaning ‘what you do‘ is ‘who you are‘. On the flip side, a lot of Japanese girls (and guys) see a job or work like this… a person works for a boss who tells them what to do, a person talks up or down to coworkers depending on status, a person does his or her task for a set amount of days per week, a person gets paid holidays, a person gets a paycheck and after a person puts in a lifetime of work that person retires with a nice pension, the end. That’s not usually how an entrepreneur works.
I feel that life needs to be prioritized especially when you work for yourself. Money = taking care of family. Do you love your family? Sure! Having a good job can cover that money issue, but if you run a business there’s more at stake The equation should look something like Work = money = family financial security = family understanding. But that understanding part isn’t so easy. Also an entrepreneur that works from home experiences many tough situations because his wife or girlfriend sees him all the time and might associate his work with “playing on the Internet” and start asking for help with household chores or help with something ‘really quick’. This would never happen in an office, and having somebody breaking your train of though to ask you these questions destroys productivity.
Because of the way of life Japan, I think it’s easy to become less manly and have less control of the family and finances. As an entrepreneur you need to really cowboy up and take control of the situation before it gets too deep into the dead zone of unhappiness, but at the same time don’t forget to understand and respect the culture of the country you’re living in.
Owning your own business, even one online with or without employees, you will most likely create a business forecast estimating your profits and losses. See profits? Work hard and make more. See losses? Work harder, and get back into the green zone. But make sure to take some time to enjoy life! Anyway, this is the end of my little rant and I wish all international entrepreneurs and foreigners working abroad the best of luck!
Here are some books worth reading that will help you improve your life and business.