Viewing job vacancy ads for Japanese companies in Germany, one oftentimes comes across the wording “Business Development” in the job description. One may have a vague idea of what “business development” means, but what does it mean exactly?

In this article, the specific tasks and skills required of the person in charge of business development will be summarized.

What is Business Development: Overview

In Japanese, the term “Business Development” has spilled over from English and is therefore written in katakana. Expected Business Development tasks in Japanese companies are generally the same as those expected in the West.

Regarding the salary one can expect, it is generally at the same level as the average salary for Business Development in Germany, which is at 64,900 euros per year (Stepstone).

However, this kind of salary can only be expected for people who are experienced, in mid-level positions, and in their 30s and 40s. If the applicant is a new hire and in their 20s, one can roughly expect a deduction of about 30-40% of that salary.

Now, the concrete job description of “Business development” is actually a quite loose notion, and what is expected of the position often varies from company to company. 

In most cases, when a job opening in Business Development is posted, it refers to one of the following two patterns. These patterns require different skill sets and techniques. 

  1. Development of new market(s)
  2. Expansion of existing market(s)

When it comes to new market development, it can be assumed that the company is planning to enter a new region or country with new services or goods. For example, if a German pharmaceutical manufacturer wants to enter the Chinese or Japanese market, they may be looking for a capable person to act as a project leader who can develop the market from scratch.

In such cases, extensive knowledge of the industry, the target region, and personal connections to these are required. Additionally, developing a brand new market requires substantial knowledge of commerce, such as marketing, data analysis, branding, trade, and management/administration. For example, one may need to be able to start a business in a particular country and have the vitality to achieve a turnover of 1 to 4 million Euros within 3 years.

On the other hand, if the company intends to focus on a market where they are already well-ventured and concentrate on expanding their business, the difficulty of entering the said market is somewhat reduced. The reason for this being since there already is a market foundation and the company has already formed an in-house team/s. However, the pressure on sales will be greater in this scenario than in the above-mentioned “Newmarket development”,  because the company cannot afford to fall below the sales figures it already had.

In any case, one can say that companies are looking for people who can independently develop business in a particular region or country, and who can work proactively at their own discretion.

  • Business Development is a type of job that can be called the culmination of business knowledge.
  • Knowledge and communication skills specific to the region and/or country in question are required.

Job description

Based on the explanation above, we will now take a look at the specific tasks expected of Business Development positions available at Japanese companies in Germany.

For example, if a German were to apply for this kind of position at a Japanese company, basically, the expected field/division/branch and position would be to support the business development of Japanese companies in Germany into the EU and DACH region.

Specifically (and to put it simply), this happens when a German company that has entered the market as a branch of the Japanese headquarters wants to develop new business in the DACH region and Europe. In this case, a Business Developer is most suitably a person who understands Japanese culture and language and can communicate with the Japanese headquarters.

When the company has had a successful development in this new market, it is not uncommon that the person with the Business Development position could be placed/promoted into a managerial position at the local office/company/branch office, leading to a visible road to success and prosperity, with an annual income easily exceeding 10 million euro. 

On the other hand, if that person is unable to produce results within two to three years, the market itself becomes unnecessary for the company, and there are many cases where the business is abandoned and the Business Development manager is fired. The position can thus be described as high-risk/high-return.

  • Linguistic and cultural knowledge of the market to be explored is essential.
  • Entrepreneurial skills are required as you often have to start a business from scratch.
  • High risk and high return compared to other positions.

Application requirements

Now, what are the requirements for applying for these Business Development positions? As mentioned above, it largely depends on which market the company wants to commit to in the first place, but at the very least, business-level German- and English (and depending on the case, perhaps Japanese) skills are a must.

Moreover,  a C1 to a native-level understanding of the language of the country you are committing to is also an important requirement for a Business Developer/Business Development Manager. Of course, one needs to be familiar not only with the language but also with the business practices and culture, etc. of the country.

Another important point is whether or not the applicant is familiar with the company’s segment. Furthermore, especially when it comes to exporting to new markets, in many cases, there are import regulations/restrictions, tariffs, and other issues. Whether you have this knowledge beforehand or have to research it from scratch, is quite important to both the companies and applicants.

Other than that, as mentioned above, since one is expected to start from scratch and to make sales of over 100 million yen within three years, extensive knowledge of entrepreneurial commerce is required. In addition to selling, if one is in a position to hire local staff such as assistants or salespeople, it is only natural that salaries, marketing expenses, operating profits, and office operating expenses, would be needed to be calculated. Therefore, knowledge within and of accounting, marketing, management, and human resources is also preferable to have.

  1. English at the business level (C1)
  2. Japanese, depending on the case, at C1 level 
  3. German (or other European languages depending on the target region) is required
  4. The cultural background of the target country or region
  5. Knowledge of commerce in general, and a managerial mindset

What kind of personality is best suited? 

matching positions

Applicants whose personalities allow them to think and act on their own are considered suitable for the position. Especially when it comes to new markets, since there are many areas where the company does not know which approach to undertake,
the business developer/business development manager has to proceed with market analysis and calculate what kind of investment or new product development is necessary, and present this to the management team. 

Therefore, as mentioned above, rather than being a salesperson, the job requires one to be able to build a bridgehead in a new market from zero and to increase sales by at least 100 million Euros/euro within a 3-year span.

In addition, since the Business developer/business development manager is committed to the new market, they will have to travel more frequently. In some cases, it may be possible to set up a new corporation in the target country and become the local branch manager.

  • Self-motivated type
  • Frequent business trips
  • Someone who can see things from a managerial perspective

What skills can be learned? 

Lastly,  let us take a look at what kind of skills can be developed by working in this kind of environment.

As previously mentioned, Business Development is a great field to hone one’s skills in commerce in general, especially from a management perspective. Once the business development manager/the person in charge of business development has a track record of successfully cultivating a market, their value in the job market will undoubtedly increase, as the skills would be highly valued even if they were to move to another company in the future.

As explained at the beginning of this article, the average salary for a Business Development position is 8 million yen, approximately 60,000 Euros /euro or more (which is thought of as a high salary), and if the person in question can produce results, they can enjoy an even higher salary.

Also, it is not uncommon for the Business development-experienced person to use that experience to start their own business or spin-off. For those who are considering this kind of independent economic activity in their futures, this career path could prove ideal.

For a complete list of positions available at Career Management, please see below.