Because I tend to dabble in writing, put off doing a lot of stuff while I over think it and, until recently, had way too many hobbies, the handful of business ideas I’ve had usually end up filed away somewhere until someone else does them. However back in the early aughts, a year or so after I moved to Tokyo, I attempted to start a small side business. This is miraculous enough, but that I attempted to exploit connections to do it is also a small miracle.
Not much else about the endeavor was miraculous.
What happened is I learned that teachers in Tokyo were going to be forced to attend “Four Skills” training. (Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening) and the company I work for was planning on competing for the contract. My mad idea was that such things would probably happen in other prefectures and if I could get organized enough, I might be able to get similar courses started in Niigata. The teachers could then tell the government: see, we already did that.
I contacted a friend from Niigata who besides being a good Japanese English Teacher, was also very well connected in the prefectural education department. I pitched the idea to her and we started working on the preliminaries. I put together fliers and the curriculum (in my free time, of course, not on company time) and she was going to contact her contacts in both the prefectural and regional education departments and get back to me.
She didn’t get back to me. I sent her a copy of the fliers and information and waited. I didn’t want to be too pushy partly because I knew she was usually rather busy. After a few weeks I received a letter dripping with, well, nervous breakdown.
I won’t get into details but let’s just say, as a rule, it’s a bad omen when your future business partner begins decrying money and materialism in what is supposed to be commentary on future business propaganda materials. I called her and it’s the second time in my life I’ve spoken to a person who was so upset her voice had changed. (The first was a good friend who wasn’t having a good time in her first year of teaching in my hometown.)
I was able to determine that my future former business partner had encountered some direct verbal bullying and had suffered a whisper campaign that had pretty much freaked her out and more or less caused her to burn her bridges with her prefectural connections.
The business never happened, as I suddenly found myself without any contacts in the prefecture. Luckily it only cost me some postage, a couple phone calls, some time and some printer ink. I realize that I should have immediately gone to Niigata and said “take me to its leaders” rather than letting things get put off. Although I have my moments, I don’t know if I could have pulled that off, but at least it would have been an active mistake and perhaps left me with a few contacts of my own. (If that makes sense.) I also realize that I needed to be more aggressive in pushing my business partner.
I did end up teaching a lot of the four skills classes when my company got the contract. (Those will require another post to describe. Preview: huffing and sighing, “Fuck you,” and “I’m sorry you misunderstood.”)
Also, for the record, my curriculum was better.