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  • Curtis Mackenzie

2020 in Review

- By Chris Ellis

Assisting NEW FRAME KK clients during Covid.

2020 has been a difficult year for most companies in Japan and globally. While some industries have benefited from the virus, such as IT Networking (especially companies that set up teleworking), Personal Protection Equipment, and online shopping, many of our clients have had to face shrinking sales and heavily reduced profitability.

Business consultants have also had a difficult time, as budgets have been slashed but in the case of New Frame KK, we have been encouraging our clients to invest in corporate reorganization, business development, marketing, and financial planning. By facing the difficulties of Covid-19 head-on and being proactive, our clients have set themselves up for success in post-covid 2021.

Here are some Projects completed with our clients in 2020.

Business Contracts Negotiations and Consulting - Recruitment Agency Client.

As many of our clients were facing the prospect of no face-to-face sales meetings during the shutdown, and for many no sales or heavily-reduced sales or revenues, we have been advising our clients that this is the time to work with their suppliers and business partners to realign their contracts and negotiate better conditions. One example we can share is a recruiting client that had had 120-day payment terms for successful placements. Waiting for a candidate to complete their probationary period before being paid is not uncommon in the recruiting business, but it generally comes from recruiters agreeing to terms with 2nd rate clients that they do not expect to form good long term relationships with. We reviewed the entire range of contracts that our client had, and helped them to re-negotiate to 30-day payment terms, and significantly better conditions. How did we do this? We did it by explaining to their clients that “their” terms were not-competitive and if they were serious about long-term contracts and relationships, and they needed to be on parity with their key competitors. Finding good staff during Covid was and is extremely difficult, especially with the logistical challenges of meeting face to face and negotiations. By taking this long-term approach our client not only strengthened their relationships with their business partners, but they guaranteed that in 2021 they are the ‘go-to’ recruiting firm for when hiring beings.

Staffing Contract Reviews and Negotiations - Language Services Provider.

During 2020, many of our clients had to significantly reduce the size of their workforce. This is not only stressful because you have to let people go during a pandemic, but also the legal and ethical issues that you must face. One of our clients, a large educational company with over 100 staff took this challenge face on and asked New Frame KK to completely review their employment contracts. Working with our Labour Law partners, we overhauled all the employment contracts and ensured that they were compliant with regulations regarding Covid-19 and up-to-date with modern hiring practices. Now, not only are their staff much happier with the terms of their contract, but they also have a clear understanding of what happens if they or their family members get sick and how the company deals with quarantine or medical issues.

Unpaid Invoices & Fees - Recruitment Agency.

One of the most significant issues our clients faced in 2020 was unpaid invoices and fees. Some of these were due to bankruptcy, but the majority of cases were simply due to miscommunication issues and a lack of understanding of both parties. Working as negotiators, we were in almost all cases, able to come to an agreement with both parties and ensure that payments were made. We did this by explaining to the payee that they were under obligation to pay our clients, but by negotiating and not just sending threatening emails both parties came to amicable agreements. In almost all cases we avoided costly legal arbitration and saved the business relationship, often strengthening it. This is a very tricky and stressful issue for business owners, as they understand that Covid-19 has put everyone in a difficult position, but bills need to be paid. Using a 3rd party to do this is highly advantageous and avoids legal issues, reputational issues, and the ending of the business relationship.

Accounting and Financial Consulting Assistance - Hospitality Services Client.

In our over 40 years of combined experience working in Japan, no other time has caused such introspection of business owner’s financial position. On numerous occasions, we were asked to help review our client’s financial situation and make them aware of areas that can be scaled back, and what was vital to their survival. This process was eye-opening for many companies and business owners, as they had never had to review everything they spend (business costs) or supplier contracts. It was also evident that after our review, they were not using best practices for accounting and financial management, and with our help, they changed accounting firms and advisors. Complacency is common in stable businesses, especially in Japan where there is a sense of continuity between old business partnerships, but Covid-19 forced many owners to reconsider these agreements and modernize their accounting practices. For some of our clients, this greatly reduced the stress of declining revenues and saved their company from bankruptcy.

Branding & Marketing Consulting - Retail Outlet Client

For many of our clients, the reduced activity due to Covid-19 was a time of introspection and review. Under our guidance, we reviewed the positioning, branding, and all marketing communication of our clients and re-aligned it to the 2020 and 2021 business environments. The messages and brand communication that our clients were relying on were not only out of date, but they also did not work during a shutdown and significantly, they were not cost-effective. As Covid-19 changed how people interacted with each other and how they discovered business opportunities (no conferences or trade shows for example), our clients had to change their marketing strategy. One example of this was going back to paper-based direct marketing, which involved personalized brochures for purchasing managers. Getting a personal message during Covid-19, in writing, proved to be very effective for our clients who were relying on email mass marketing campaigns. Another client changed their entire branding strategy to a more solutions-based communication and marketing image, which focused on solving their customer’s problems rather than just supplying them with technology. These changed in marking and branding strategies not only improved our client’s image but also allowed them to calculate a better ROI on marketing spend, letting them focus their marketing budget on the most effective tactics.

Other projects this year have included:

Hiring Strategies Consultation - Advertising Agency Client.

Worked with the client to review their salary and benefit offers, consulted on relevant market data and the hiring process.

Staff Termination Dispute Resolution - Recruitment Agency Client.

Helped resolve the termination terms and conditions.

Partnership Agreement Negotiation - IT Startup Firm Client.

Advised on several potential agreement options, pros and cons.

M&A Consultation Sell Side - Recruitment Agency Client.

Helped secure a minority share investment from an overseas investor into Japan.

2020 was a very challenging and stressful period for everyone, but especially for business owners and senior management. Extremely difficult decisions had to be made, but for our clients who took this challenge head-on and decided to re-focus, re-invest, and re-position, it was a time of growth and positive change.

If your company needs assistance or advice with contract issues, accounting or finance, negotiations, labor issues, or branding and marketing, please do not hesitate to contact us at for more information and a free consultation.

Chris Ellis - Linkedin

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