The Art of Exploiting Cross-Cultural Opportunities

It was a hot summer, I was in my early 20’s and had just arrived to Bangkok from Tokyo. I was going to be in Thailand for at least a few years, and had received word from a friend that a friend running a financial services company was looking to staff up. Interested, I got in touch with them.

Enter ‘YM’.

YM was Japanese, born and raised in the states but fluent in both languages, and owner of this financial services company. She was in her early 30’s, beautiful, confident, and obviously very ambitious.

I was scheduled to meet her on a weekday afternoon at her office in Silom, and walked into the office just as she returned from a meeting with a client. I was struck by how young she was when I saw her coming through the door. She greeted me with a strong British accent (I am still confused about this to this day), and let me into her office. The office was small and simple, barely big enough for the 2 of us.

After some small talk, she got to the meat of what her business was. When she talked, her cadence was flawless and I was immediately hypnotized by the way she communicated what she wanted to say so effectively. I didn’t fully understand the big picture that day, but understood enough to know she was essentially a ‘financial planner’ and my job was to prospect for new clients via cold calling.

To her, the objective was clear and I was just one of the pieces of the puzzle. Using her bi-cultural background, she would take what she knew of the Western world (finance), and target the Japanese manufacturers in Thailand (there are many!) that no other westerners could access due to language barrier. Using nothing but sheer wit, she would single-handedly go on to game the executives of large Japanese companies and add them one by one to her list of clientele.

Slowly but surely she grew her business into one of the largest offshore financial service providers in Bangkok targeting only the Japanese community, getting ‘rich as fuck’ in the process. She went on to expand her business to Vietnam and other markets shortly after, and the rest is history. It all began with an open-minded entrepreneur having a vision and ready to jump at opportunity. What she did was simple, but nobody else was doing it.

YM still remains a source of inspiration for me today. She has taught me immensely about confidence and effective communication, and remains one of my mentors I can most closely relate to. Although she is no longer in that business, she made a fortune doing something unique, which is the dream of all entrepreneurs. She didn’t make an app, new social media platform, or any new piece of technology, but simply took what she knew and applied it in foreign territory.