Hosting the Service and Hospitality English Seminar

Hosting the Service and Hospitality English Seminar

Chameleons SeminarGinza Hub is very proud to be hosting hot startup ChameleonsService and Hospitality English Private Seminar this evening from 7pm.

Targeting the hotel, restaurant and retail industries in Tokyo, Chameleons aims to provide Japanese business owners and their front line employees with the language and presentation skills necessary to really take advantage of the rapidly growing number of non-Japanese speaking foreign tourists coming to this city in the lead up to the 2020 Olympics.

Chameleons’ owner Alex Fazel, who is still buzzing from his recent TEDx presentation success, explained to us recently :

“Imagine that you own a stylish restaurant, right in the path of all those hungry and enthusiastic tourists. Now imagine seeing your staff fumble and fail over the basic the conversational and body language skills needed to turn those tourists into paying customers. We have a simple but effective online and offline program to solve that, and that’s what we’ll be giving away at our seminar in Ginza this week.”

Alex Fazel

The event tonight was posted on Facebook, , and quickly sold out!

But you can contact Alex Fazel (in English, French or Japanese) at  if you’d like to perhaps participate as an observer tonight, if you’re interested in future Chameleons seminars, or if your Japanese service or hospitality business wants a share of the customers that this seminar could bring you.

Good luck Alex! 🙂

Mentoring at The Innovation Dojo (Part 1)

Mentoring at The Innovation Dojo (Part 1)

Robert Millar in a suitI’m now a startup mentor at the University Of New South Wales’ Innovation Dojo, a program in Sydney that prepares Australians to start up a business in Japan.

One of the founders of the program, Joshua Flannery, saw my recent Starting Your Own Business in Japan interview on the popular 2.5 Oyaji’s YouTube show here, and then followed up with me about potential collaboration.

I was thrilled to hear that my business skills and experience might be able to increase the success and reduce the risk for young Australians coming to Japan to launch a startup, just as I did decades ago.

Innovation Dojo is the nickname for the Japan Australia Entrepreneurship Initiative and, as shown on their website, is a new initiative that aims to connect Australian entrepreneurs with opportunities, potential partners and collaborators, investors and customers in Japan (and vice-versa.) They run events, seminars and training camps, provide a community platform and language support, and incubate startups that solve real world problems, while using lean startup methodology which I’ve been a big fan of for many years.

The result is something that I believe is very special, and I’m honored to be a part of the Innovation Dojo family. You can see my smiling mug in amongst the program’s 6 international mentors on the JAEI web page.

My role will be quite varied.

I’ll participate remotely in information nights at the university where I’ll introduce myself and explain why I’m part of the program.

During the actual program, I’ll dial in via Skype or similar to give short talks and conduct Q&A sessions on important topics for foreign entrepreneurs that are within my area of expertise.

There’ll be some sessions where the mentors who are physically in Sydney will roam around the lecture hall giving thoughts, opinions and insights and asking questions of the teams as those teams focus on the most urgent needs at the time. Teams will then be able to Skype call or live chat with me for advice on particular questions.

The plan is to fly the winning team from each program to Japan to meet potential partners, customers and possibly investors. As their “man on the ground” I’ll of course be able to create a significant advantage for any young startup who wishes to to avail my services here in Tokyo, from providing them a desk at my co-working space to assisting them to incorporate their businesses.

I also intend to fly to Sydney once a year to participate in events and give guest talks.

Again, I’m stoked to be an even stronger member of the startup community, and to extend my reach all the way back to my home country. After all, my main mission here in Tokyo is to help entrepreneurs to get started in Japan and then help them grow and develop, and so far I’ve been quite successful in doing that.

The Power of Switching from Text to Voice

The Power of Switching from Text to Voice

NOT Dragon Dictate!Ok, this would have to be my best productivity hack ever. Yes, ever.

The problem is that I never really learned to type properly – My typing technique is still very “hunt and peck”. The reason for this is because I always thought that dictation software to make the keyboard obsolete was just around the corner. In fact, some years ago I spent several hundred dollars on Dragon Dictate software, then owned by IBM, full of hopes that I could do away with my keyboard and spend my afternoons dictating emails to my computer. What a disappointment… Dragon Dictate was a real lemon, and could barely recognise even basic sentences… So I continued to hunt and peck on my keyboard, until last year.

Enter voice messages!

Voice messages replace chat

An example of a LINE chat
LINE in action

My business consulting and my health coaching clients know very well the power of voice messages. Because I bill them by the hour, one way to save them money is to mostly communicate with them via voice messages, which are quick and easy, rather than email, which is rather slow and time consuming. For this I ask them to use the super-simple LINE app on their phones, so that we can check in with each other briefly, as necessary, and maximise our time.

There are other useful communication apps for your phone, but only some of them facilitate voice messages along with textual messages.

Google Hangouts, for example, shows you when your recipient was last seen using the app, if they are online, and whether they are using their phone, tablet or computer, as well as how long ago they last messaged you. The app also has a very simple location share feature so that you & your recipient can find each other on a Goople map. But it doesn’t have a voice message feature.

Facebook Messenger shows you if your recipient has read your message or not, which is very helpful, and also allows voice messages, but only for 60 seconds at a time. This can be quite frustrating, and sometimes I find myself rambling along only to look down at my phone and see that the 60-second limit was reached a couple of minutes before…

I’ve tried a lot of communication apps for the phone, and LINE seems to be the best of them with most of the features that Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger has, but with unlimited voice messages. You just hold down the mic button, create your voice message for as long as you want, then release your finger to send the VM to your recipient. Very cool.

Voice messages replace Post-It notes

Netmemo in action
Netmemo in action

Another awesome productivity hack I’ve been using for years is sending voice messages to myself instead of typing or tapping out items on my to-do list or, god forbid, scribbling on Post-It notes.

But I’m not talking about fancy voice recognition software like Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana which try to understand your words and then transcribe them for you, often with inaccurate and hilarious results. I’m talking about capturing a short recording of your own voice as an MP3 file and then emailing that to you to listen to later and perhaps transcribe yourself.

I use Netmemo on my Android phone and Say it & Mail it on my iPad.

With Netmemo, I tap in the app to start it, I start speaking straight away because it automatically opens in record mode, then I hit the send button to send the voice clip to my own email inbox. Then later, when I have time, I listen to my list of voice clips and action any ones that I want to. This is great when I’m in a meeting with someone and I can just create and send myself a quick clip without breaking my own concentration or the flow of the conversation. Try doing that by pausing a meeting to pull out a notebook and scribble down notes, and watch how quickly the meeting stalls.

I can even set the software to email my Virtual Assistant in The Philippines, so that I can just grab my phone during a meeting and say something like, “Jon, please email me a list of all of the competitors for the Acme company ASAP”, and before the end of the meeting that list arrives in my email inbox. How cool is that!

Voice messages replace Contact forms

SpeakPipe in action on
SpeakPipe in action

People who visit or can now leave voice messages for me instead of using a contact form to send me text messages. I’m using a plugin on those sites called SpeakPipe which appears as a “Send us a Voicemail” button at the right edge of the screen (if you are looking at this blog post in your browser, then you can see the “Send us a Voicemail” button over on the right. Go on, give it a try!)

[EDIT: Actually, this feature wasn’t very popular, so I disabled it.]

Not only can visitors leave me a VM with this, but I can also respond to them with a VM if I wish, all online and from any device.

So there you have it – my best productivity hack ever!

Text still has it’s place, and will never be made completely obsolete (for example, blog posts remain textual and are still more popular than podcasts) but for quick and easy communication with others, and even with yourself, nothing beats a voice message that’s simple to create and deliver.

Try one of the apps I’ve mentioned in this post for just a week and then let me know here if you agree.