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In this article, we will provide details on the specific job description of a country manager, as well as the skills and experience that are important when looking for a country manager job in Japan and what to expect after assuming the position.

Many active sales managers in foreign companies are usually interested in working as country managers in the future. However, there is still limited information available on the internet regarding the actual job description and responsibilities of a country manager, the skills required, and the process for actually assuming the position. As such, many job seekers in Japan may have trouble finding the information they need.

In this article, we will provide details on the specific job description of a country manager, as well as the skills and experience that are important when looking for a country manager job in Japan and what to expect after assuming the position.


What is a country manager?

In a nutshell, a country manager represents a branch office in a country. The country manager manages all operations in a particular region, including recruiting, accounting, setting corporate strategy, and reporting globally. This essentially requires knowledge of all aspects in business operations, in addition to specialised knowledge and skills relating to the company's products and services as well as knowledge of the industry. The responsibilities and importance associated with a country manager within a global organisation vary from company to company and can somewhat depend on the structure of the organisation.


Country Manager job description and responsibilities

The specific responsibilities of a country manager include but not limited to:

  • Corporate strategy development and KPI management for Japanese services
  • Staffing and budget allocation
  • Shaping the work environment
  • Identifying issues and raising concerns from the perspective of Japanese services
  • Human resource development
  • Partnership with Japanese companies
  • Liaison between the head office and the Japanese branch offices
  • Any other work related to the Japanese business

The duties of a country manager may vary slightly depending on the industry and the size of the company, so check the application guidelines carefully when applying for a country manager job in Japan.


How to become a country manager?

In general, the hiring process for a country manager differs slightly depending on whether you are starting up a new office in Japan or expanding the size of your office in Japan. In the case of a Japan-based start-up, as in many cases, executive recruiters in Japan or in APAC would conduct headhunting via LinkedIn or other means including tapping onto their network. On the other hand, for companies that have already succeeded in expanding the scale of their Japan base, external recruitment often involves replacing the current country manager, and in many cases, these companies have already established partnerships with recruitment agencies in Japan. As such, the recruitment agency in Japan would spearhead the headhunting process.  

In both cases, LinkedIn has become one of the main method for both companies and recruitment agencies. Therefore, it is recommended that job seekers who are interested in applying for country manager jobs to update their LinkedIn profile on a regular basis. If possible, always ask your current and former supervisors and colleagues for letters of recommendation.


5 top tips to create an impressive LinkedIn profile


Skills and experience required for Country Manager jobs in Japan

Foreign companies often start a base company with the smallest team made up of a country manager, consultants, and presales. Therefore, the emphasis is often on having the skills and readiness to acquire clients and sell products or services on your own. Therefore, strong sales skills and a proven track record in both sales and management are major selling points during the hiring process.

In terms of sales and management performance, the growth rate of the organisations that you have managed is often a key factor in the hiring process. Specifically:

  • Target numbers
  • Achievement
  • Number of people in the organisation

The evaluation criteria is based on whether the growth rate of a company is maintained in double digits each year. In addition, since sales through partners are often more important than direct sales due to their efficiency, those who have experience in partner alliances in the Japanese market and those who have established strong connections with those in C-Suite or with decision-making power are often given priority in hiring.


How to be a successful Country Manager in Japan?

To be successful as a country manager in Japan, you will need the following:

  • Proficiency in English and the ability to connect with all levels of foreign industry associations
  • Good at developing business roadmaps, sales policies, and strategies
  • Able to sell, market, and train
  • Ability to identify and solve problems
  • Prioritise well and good time management
  • Able to share responsibilities effectively

In addition to the above, accuracy in terms of the goals you have set would be another necessary element for career advancement as a country manager in Japan. Especially during the first year or two after assuming a country manager job, head office often focuses on the accuracy of the goals set, and it is recommended to focus on setting and achieving goals via strategies rather than focusing on growth rates. Therefore, it can be said that you are more likely to be successful during this period if you lean more toward micromanagement.


Is it possible to become a Country Manager in Japan through internal promotion?

Although in many cases, country managers in Japan are selected and hired externally, it is possible for internal promotions too. One of the reasons country managers in Japan hire externally is because many companies in Japan do not have an administrative department to develop human resources. Especially in the case of smaller companies, the current president does not have the physical and time resources to train the next candidate. In fact, Japanese corporations that can actually train successors are mainly limited to those with 300 or more employees. For this reason, many companies select their country managers externally, even when they have internal personnel who could potentially become its country manager but had not been nurtured.

In addition, many companies that recruit new country managers are venture companies or Japanese subsidiaries which are start-ups. In these cases, it is easier for them to hire country managers in Japan externally. It is also often reported that country managers in Japan are hired externally so that they could bring along new clients.

More often than not, it becomes more difficult for current employees to speak up to the CEO even if they have suggestions on changing the policies or better ideas to grow the company once they’ve been with the company for too long. Therefore, if you are considering a promotion to a country manager at your current company, it may be worth checking with the company if this is a possibility as early as possible. This can also help to kickstart your journey either as a successor or to look at a job change.


Are you looking to apply for a Country Manager job in Japan or want to find out more?

As technology becomes increasingly central to transforming and sustaining organisations, good leadership is also required to enhance innovative functions and translate them into business success. And although country managers are highly skilled and experienced, the average age of country managers in Japan has been decreasing in recent years, which can be seen as a lower barrier to entry for those who have ambitions in becoming one.

Computer Futures is one of the largest and most experienced IT-focused recruitment agencies in Japan, focusing on connecting innovative companies with talented technology professionals for leadership roles such as CIO (Chief Innovation Officer), CTO (Chief Technology Officer), and CTIO (Chief Technology Innovation Officer). If you are interested finding out more about country manager jobs in Japan or in working with us, please feel free to contact us using the form below. You may also look at our available non-confidential job openings in Japan by clicking the button below.

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