Business Consulting at Ginza Hub

Business Consulting at Ginza Hub

Originally published on April 6, 2016 – Ginza Hub isn’t just a cool space for people to relax and to work on their most important projects. We also provide first class business consulting, referrals and assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs. And with experienced web developers and designers on our team, there isn’t much (especially web-wise) that we can’t handle.

I’m Robert Millar, an Australian entrepreneur who owns and runs Ginza Hub. After more than 18 years as a successful business consultant, and over 27 years working in Japan, my passion now drives me to coaching people on the tools and strategies needed to succeed in business, and even personally applying those tools and strategies for them.

Having founded or bought, then built and sold, several successful offline and online businesses, such as Zeros And Ones Japan Limited and, I believe I have unique insight and experience with what really works and what really doesn’t work when you’re trying to start up and run a small business, especially in Japan.

Robert Millar
Click my photo to see the video

I offer my knowledge, experience and technical expertise to Ginza Hub members free of charge, and to non-members at an hourly rate. Examples of how I can help you include :

  • Ideas for starting up a new business
  • Analysis and validation of startup ideas
  • Business plans
  • Marketing strategies
  • Software tools (LivePlan, Trello, Mindomo, Jing, Google apps, ConvertKit, etc.)
  • CRM strategies
  • Social Media
  • Websites (WordPress)
  • SEO
  • E-commerce
  • Outsourcing
  • Interpretation (Japanese <> English)

I also offer a network of partners I can refer you to who excel in areas like Incorporating a Business, Web Development, Graphic Design, Photography, Translation, Tax and Accounting, Legal, and even Visa Services. These are all small business people who I trust and with whom I’ve worked personally.


So contact me via our Contact page or at and let me help you build the kind of efficient, effective, profitable business that I’ve been building for years.

Starting Your Own Business in Japan

Starting Your Own Business in Japan

Originally published on June 28, 2016 – On Saturday night I was interviewed on the popular 2.5 Oyaji’s YouTube show, which has an amazing combined subscriber total of 148,000 people. We discussed co-working spaces like Ginza Hub, my business consulting, my health coaching and even my martial arts. Just about all of the things I’m passionate about! It was really fun, and I look forward to the next chance to get in front of the camera with Hikosaemon and Victor again. Please check out the YouTube video below :

Malaysian Students Create 3 Startups In 15 Minutes At Ginza Hub

Malaysian Students Create 3 Startups In 15 Minutes At Ginza Hub

Robert Millar presenting BLast week I had the pleasure of mentoring a group of switched on young international business students from Monash University Malaysia, a branch campus of the Australian Monash University, right here at Ginza Hub. They were travelling to Vietnam and Japan to learn about local business environments, to visit various companies and their representatives, and to cover different areas of business from HR to franchising to manufacturing.

I imagined that these young Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and Bangladeshi students would be bored silly listening to executives from big Japanese corporations drone on about corporate economics and such, so I thought I’d shake things up a bit by asking them to create their own startups during my presentation, in just 15 minutes. And damn! They stepped up to the challenge and did just that! Here’s what happened…

Robert Millar presenting CI was given the topic of “local management style and its applicability in foreign ventures” so I laid the setting by welcoming everyone to Ginza Hub, Tokyo’s only everything-in-English co-working space, and presenting two of the major business models used in Japan, The Standard Business Model and The Lean Startup Model.

  • The Standard Business Model – Describes how an organisation creates, delivers and captures value, enabling both new and existing businesses to focus on operational, strategic and marketing efforts. It’s all about developing the relationships between customers, suppliers, partners, and stakeholders, and extending best-selling products. Very much old school Japan (and a bit of a yawn…)
  • The Lean Startup Model – An adaptation of the Standard Business Model which promises an actionable and entrepreneur-focused business. It focuses on problems, solutions, key metrics and competitive advantages. It deeply focuses on startup factors like uncertainty and risk by identifying a problem worth solving, by validating a solution in the marketplace via a Minimum Viable Product or “MVP”, by measuring key metrics, and by establishing a competitive advantage. It’s rapidly becoming the new face of Japan.

Students listeningThe students were clearly familiar with these two business models, judging by the looks on their faces, so I quickly moved on to the next phase.

I proposed the complication by explaining how a former Australian business of mine followed the Standard Business Model diligently, only to fail spectacularly because we never really identified a problem worth solving and certainly didn’t think about validating our solution in the marketplace pre-launch. I used a lot of big gestures for this, even a “mic drop” (using a whiteboard marker, ha!) along with some exaggerated facial expressions to show my true dismay at having lost that otherwise cool business, and the students started to warm to my story.

I then delivered the turning point by showing them the very different story of Ginza Hub’s complete success as a startup, sketched out on a huge sheet of paper which had startup guru Ash Maurya’s Lean Startup Canvas printed on it. I showed them that the creation and development of Ginza Hub had this time not followed the the Standard Business Model at all, but instead had followed the Lean Startup Model (which I’ve created a short course on here), complete with a genuine problem worth solving and real validation in the target marketplace via an MVP, and I believe I then had their full attention.

So, at that moment, I decided to release Surprise Number 1 :

Tia Haygood presenting 1I told the students not to simply take my word for it that the Lean Startup Model  really worked, but to take it from a young entrepreneur, who’s startup wasn’t even a year old, but who was amazingly just about to hit her first big revenue target. Enter Ginza Hub expert and superstar photographer, the lovely Tia Haygood.

Up to this point in the presentation, Tia had been quietly moving about the room taking photos and pretending to be a local photo journalist or some such. Then I called her up to the “stage” and asked her to map out her own business on another huge Lean Startup Canvas fixed to the whiteboard. Many of the students were leaning forward now, and seemed really impressed with Tia and how she was able to deftly describe how she stepped away from the comfort of regular employment to follow her startup dream, and how she was actually making that dream happen (just look at the photos in this post to see clear evidence of that!)Tia Haygood presenting 2

So, when Tia was finished with her presentation, I decided to release Surprise Number 2 :

I told the students that, given what they’d just learned from Tia and I, they had 15 minutes to create a startup of their own! Ha!

We divided them into 3 teams, each with big Lean Startup Canvases and whiteboard pens, and started the timer! I was truly amazed at the awesome collaboration and synergy (and panic!) that this exercise produced (Surprise Number 3, maybe?) And when the time ran out we had some really great ideas down on paper in a meaningful flow.

Student synergy 1Each team then selected a presenter or two to get up and pitch their startup idea to the entire crowd. We then voted for the best startup, which ended up being an offline phone application showing maps and places of interest in the Malaysian capital to help foreign tourists navigate that fair city without any phone network or WiFi access. Brilliant!

Student synergy 2Once all the chatting and laughing had died down, I concluded the presentation with the resolution and, of course, the point!

I suggested that the old, slow, over-complex Standard Business Model had had it’s time, and that as startups went from novelties to serious market movers in Japan, the Lean Startup Model would rapidly become the new standard in meaningful business. I then compelled each of the students present, as potential future business owners in our region, to consider adopting this standard too.

Brian at the helmAfter an intelligent and very thought-provoking Q&A session, we then all moved from the conference & event room upstairs to the Ginza Hub co-working area for a quick tour. There the students got to see real entrepreneurs building real businesses, plus we’d set up monitors at either end of the room displaying TopTia‘s photographic portfolio to underscore Tia’s remarkable journey.

A few of the students approached me there with really positive feedback about the presentation. And the faculty members gave me a wonderful plaque of appreciation, in gold leaf no less, which they’d brought all the way from Malaysia and which now sits in a place of honour at Ginza Hub for all to see.

Honestly, if my mentoring efforts here have encouraged even one of these students to forego his or her future life as a corporate drone and instead go forth as an educated and prepared entrepreneur, then it’ll have been more than worth my while… Rock on, younglings!

MIB in the house

* Big shout outs to MIB students Eugene (You’ll go far, this I know!), Davish (I actually liked your startup idea the best. Here’s a hint why!), Brian (first to market is usually the winner, right?) and lovely Mash who had such kind words after the event.

Ok, I’ll see you all in Tokyo again when you’re ready to launch! 😉

Ginza Hub Membership is Reaching Capacity

Ginza Hub Membership is Reaching Capacity
(but there’s still time to claim a seat!)

After almost 3 years in business, our Ginza Hub community of startups and entrepreneurs is quickly reaching maximum capacity. But if you’re interested in securing membership at Tokyo’s only Everything-in-English co-working space, you’re still in luck.

One of our busiest days ever
One of our busiest days ever

While we now proudly host 13 members here – people from all over the world with all sorts of different backgrounds working on all kinds of cool businesses – to keep the level of service high I intend to cap the total number of members to 18, meaning that we have 5 seats left.

We’ve already stopped advertising our hour hourly and daily drop-in services, because it just doesn’t make sense entertaining visitors who stop by for an hour or so and are then never seen again.

After all, Ginza Hub is such a cool space for people to think and to work on their most important projects. So I’d much rather help a young entrepreneur build his or her business than simply make a coffee for someone who’ll be gone forever a short while later, although great coffee is always a stand-out feature of Ginza Hub.

And this business model works very well, because we really do have a switched on community of positive, proactive people who are quick to lend their skills to help each other out. I couldn’t be more proud of Ginza Hub for this reason.

So, if working on your ideas in your kitchen or out of your local cafe is getting a bit old, or if you just want clean, quiet space to get things done, why don’t you stop by for a tasty coffee from our awesome Italian espresso machines, and see if Ginza Hub is a good fit for your needs. Just let me know ahead of time so that I can make sure I’m here for you.

Membership at Ginza Hub is ¥25,000 per month per person which includes 24/7 access (you get your own key), your own lockable storage, free use of our conference & event room, and use of our Ginza address for your business (we receive your mail for you.) Plus, of course, free WiFi, coffee, tea, water & snacks whenever you want, with no contracts and nothing to sign.

Contact me any time at and see directions how to get here on the Google Map at

Ginza Hub Experts

Ginza Hub Experts Community

We’re so fortunate at Ginza Hub to have great people creating new and interesting business every day, many of whom are Experts in areas like photography, graphic design, web development and even public speaking. They know exactly how to help other entrepreneurs too, having managed many of the same processes building their own businesses.

Hire An Expert page
Our Hire An Expert page

But there’s only so much these Experts can do inside the walls of Ginza Hub, so the next logical step was to create an online directory for them on to promote their skills outside of our cosy co-working space.

So now, from our Hire An Expert page, startups and other entrepreneurs can contact our Experts directly for any assistance they might need in starting or growing their business.

Such clients can also email me at to post a job notice for them in our growing Experts community’s private Facebook Group.

Experts Only Toolbox
Our Experts Only Toolbox

I actively promote our Experts, and in turn encourage them to promote each other. The result is a wide-reaching network of people with a diverse range of startup-focused skills all helping to promote each others’ businesses and furthering the startup community as a whole. It’s pretty awesome!

We also have a Become An Expert page where skilled entrepreneurs can sign up to join our Experts community. This is a subscription-based service, where for ¥29,700 a year new Experts will be featured in our Experts Directory, will have their website’s Google rankings improved via quality backlinks from, will gain access to our private Facebook Group where they’ll receive job notifications and can connect, collaborate and learn from like-minded Experts, will gain access to our special Experts Only Toolbox of online courses and resources for business success, and of course will be found by startups and small businesses seeking both virtual and in-person business support.

I’ve made joining our Ginza Hub Experts a paid subscription service because I want to keep the quality of our Experts high. Basically, if someone can’t afford to invest just ¥2,475 a month to have us promote and grow their business, then they probably aren’t a good fit for the group.

The way it all works is an entrepreneur will first gravitate to or be referred to our Become An Expert or Hire An Expert page. Then they’ll learn that they can easily gain more than the price of the subscription by joining us, hit the Join Now button and pay the first year of membership. I’ll then contact them to gather their details and learn how good a fit they are for the group.

I imagine that most people who complete payment will have a skillset that’ll be valuable for Ginza Hub clients and visitors, but if not then I’ll simply refund their money without fuss.

So, the million dollar question – Are you an entrepreneur who has what it takes to become a Ginza Hub Expert? Can you afford to invest ¥2,475 in your business for the opportunity to gain a lot more than that? If so, check out the company you’ll keep, then sign up on our Become An Expert page or shoot me an email at if you have any questions.

Ginza Hub Joins Loop’s Network Of Co-working Spaces

Ginza Hub Joins Loop’s Network Of Co-working Spaces

Co-working spaces are a hot topic, and every week or so I get an email from some new startup who wants me to join their new and “exclusive” list of carefully selected work spaces. I signed Ginza Hub up for a few of them, like LiquidSpace, ShareDesk and Coworker, but pretty much never see any visitors from such aggregate sites, so now days I usually just say no thank you.

Then Joel Peters, Partner Community Manager at Loop, reached out to me with what I think is a brilliant idea.

As their website states, “Loop is the ‘Priority Pass’ of collaborative working. We’ve partnered with the best co-working spaces globally to give our citizens a platform to work and travel anywhere they want. One citizenship, a world of opportunities.”

You see, Loop wants to create a global network of co-working spaces, a community if you will, starting in Asia (which, of course, is where Ginza Hub is.) For $30 a month, users can access Loop’s network of partner spaces and book meeting rooms and hot desks on a pay-as-you-go basis through the company’s app. Ok, sounds fairly standard so far, but get this – Existing members of partner co-working spaces in Loop’s network automatically become Loop members for free. That means that my Ginza Hub members can book one desk per month at any and every partner location without being charged a cent. And that’s 80 locations in 22 countries!

So I called Joel in Singapore and he walked me through the simple process of providing text and image content for Loop to create a profile for Ginza Hub, in return for a special promo code that my members & I can use to access Loop’s partner co-working spaces for free.

I’ve now signed myself up with the promo code and installed the app on my phone and it all works perfectly.

So now there is yet another reason to become a monthly member at Ginza Hub – free workspace for a day at any of 80 co-working spaces around the world. Yeay!

(If you’re already a Ginza Hub member, just email or text me for the promo code.)

The Biggest Challenges Facing Foreign Entrepreneurs In Japan

The Biggest Challenges Facing Foreign Entrepreneurs In Japan

Entrepreneur Challenges
3 years ago today, I posted a passionate reply to a question posted on that asked, “What are the biggest challenges facing foreign entrepreneurs who plan to launch startups in Japan?”

Some of the answers to that question included, lack of venture capitalists, lack of raw startup talent, lack of exit strategies (M&As and IPOs), finding a co-founder and, my favourite, not being Japanese (Hmmm…) Well, it’s now 3 years later and I feel that such answers are just as misguided now as they were then. The challenges facing foreign entrepreneurs who plan to launch startups in Japan are really not any different from those of entrepreneurs who plan to launch startups anywhere else!

To worry about things like getting venture capital and launching an IPO before you’ve even launched a Minimum Viable Product or before you’ve determined that you actually have customers who are willing to pay you is just dreaming. After all, a lot of startups fail before then even get their product or service out the door!

You can see the original question on Quora at the link here, with my full response 3rd from the top (until someone votes it up or down), but below are some of the points I was trying to make.

When I re-launced my software company in Japan in July of 2013, I achieved pretty good success with minimal issues, and here’s why :

Things We Did :

Onboarded Japanese translators, sales and support staff. Although I’d been in Japan for over 20 years and was bi-cultural, I hired a Japanese PA to work closely with me. The rest I hired through, some local and some overseas, but all Japanese.
Connected our translators with our developers. We made the decision to localise Qhub instead of building a pure Japanese version, as it made no sense to build something from scratch without proof that our target audience was willing to spend money on it.
Measured everything. We set up various analytics and measurements to make sure that we really were doing what we set out to do, and we made changes based on solid feedback numbers and not on gut feeling (which was hard at times…)
Marketed locally and internationally. After I was convinced we had a product that the Japanese market would accept, we did local and international press releases, social media campaigns, and I even got up and did a live presentation on stage at The Pink Cow in Tokyo.

Things We Did Not :

Go out and hire a bunch of full-time employees which is the always the greatest source of time and money expenditure for any startup. Having created, managed and successfully sold an outsourcing agency in Japan the past, I knew a thing or two about outsourcing, so we went that route instead.
Look for venture capital. That may happen one day, but until you’re truly rockin’ it, bootstrapping is always the way to go!
Try to get our product exactly right. Yes, Japanese buyers are demanding and exacting, but unless they care about your product at all, that really doesn’t matter. So we launched a “good enough” version of Qhub, while keeping our team ready to act on any feedback that came to us.

The Results?

We had a mature SaaS product that is still popular in the US and the UK, and which was growing in popularity in Japan before I sold it.
We had a core team of Japanese staff, all outsourced, who provided first class translation for us, and support for our Japanese customers.
We said goodbye to outsourced team members we no longer needed, and because we were all friends I still have access to them for other projects in the future.

So, again, the challenges facing foreign entrepreneurs who plan to launch startups in Japan are really not that big and are really no different from anywhere else in the early stages.

Start by outsourcing great talent, don’t try to get your product perfect, and measure everything.

Ginza Hub Launches Startup-focused Online Educational Courses

Ginza Hub Launches Startup-focused Online Educational Courses

Courses at Ginza Hub
Finally, I launched Ginza Hub’s new online educational tutorials at

I put so much work into this that I can hardly believe the launch date finally arrived.

And wow! What a great launch!

Last night from 10 pm till midnight I did my 2nd live interview on the popular 2.5 Oyaji’s YouTube show, which has an amazing combined subscriber total of about 148,000 people.

The last 2.5 Oyajis show I was on in June generated a lot of questions from viewers about How To Start Your Own Business in Japan, and I now actually have several clients in Japan and overseas from that show who’ve hired me on an hourly basis to help them do just that!

So on last night’s show I took that lead and drilled down into the exact steps involved in busting out and starting your own business in Japan, which are :

1. Define the problem worth solving
2. Get your visa for doing business in Japan
3. Register your business in Japan
4. Launch your minimum viable product (MVP)

But perhaps more importantly, I launched Ginza Hub’s new online educational courses during the show, which starts with a free online tutorial further detailing the 4 steps listed above. There’s now a whole new Courses and Resources section of the web site which you can access right from the home page.

So please, go to and check out our new and ever-growing library of free and paid courses and resources that help startups succeed, especially in Japan. Whether you’re building a small business, or you’re an expert in your niche who supports small business, you’ll want to check some of these out.

And I’d love to hear your feedback about this exciting new direction that we’re headed into.

Oh, and below you can also checkout the somewhat tongue-in-cheek 2.5 Oyajis show we did last night to see what it’s all about (best to start the video from about 07:17)

How to start a business in Japan

Hunting Down Good Coffee At The Tokyo Coffee Festival

Hunting Down Good Coffee At The Tokyo Coffee Festival

Handmade drip coffeeLast weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the The Tokyo Coffee Festival at the Farmers’ Market on the grounds of the United Nations University in Shibuya. My mission was to find, sample and buy some great coffee for my members and visitors at Ginza Hub, and to maybe even set up coffee partner to keep good beans flowing to our co-working space long after the festival was over.

But first of all, was it absolutely necessary to walk around a crowded event, tripping over people, just as they tripped over my rolling carry bag, fighting my way from stall to busy stall?

Hell no.

Cafe LuLu from TaiwanBut I am a certified barista and I am Australian and I do love real coffee (not that swill they serve at fast food outlets) so it was definitely worth my while.

Be sure to read the 7 reasons why coffee is good for you over on our sister site,, to get a better education about this incredible beverage.

Anyway, off I went on my Hunt Down Good Coffee mission!

The first stall I stopped at was Cafe LuLu from Taiwan. There they crafted a very nice cup of drip coffee for me, and the lady I spoke to went to great lengths to describe the coffee and the origins of the cafe. It was all very nice…

Catching the aromaBut the coffee itself just seemed a bit… weak, and I knew that some of my die-hard double-shot espresso loving members at Ginza Hub wouldn’t really be impressed, so I moved on…

I downed my cup of LuLu Cafe coffee pretty quickly (to get in the mood, you see) then bought a 5-pack of little sample cups so that I didn’t have to stand there and drink a full cup of coffee at each tasting. It was actually a good system and allowed people to sample a lot of different coffees without getting over-caffeinated (although some people clearly were.)

Anyway, the next stall I stopped at was called Yeti Fazenda Coffee from Shiga Prefecture. It was staffed by a few young Japanese guys who really seemed to love their work, gesturing and bantering and tossing stuff about.

Yeti Fazenda CoffeeSo I asked them to hit me up with a sample of their best beans and bam! Found one! The beans were from Brazil, and created a strong but not overpowering taste that I really liked.

Nice one, Yetis!

So I bought two 200 gram bags and a post card with their contact details on it so that I could contact them about a regular supply should our members at Ginza Hub deem them worthy of our patronage.

They were definitely a contender though, even though they were only the second suppliers I’d sampled.

Next I stopped by the stall of Vietnamese coffee maker Banh Mi, which was a little blue truck of some kind. Not because I was particularly interested in that style of coffee but because the young Vietnamese guy hawking customers loudly outside pretty much dragged me over!

For those who don’t know, Vietnamese coffee is (at least in Australia where we have a large and vibrant Vietnamese community) usually made with milk and sugar, which is not my cup of tea, so to speak.

But the young man was adamant that I hadn’t tasted real Vietnamese coffee until I’d tasted his Vietnamese coffee, so I took a sample and gave it a try… It was god awful… So sugary sweet!Banh Mi Coffee

It must have showed on my face because just then a guy at the same stall popped his head out of the truck and told me that I should try the same coffee without milk. I said no thanks, but he insisted, in perfect English! Apparently he was Vietnamese-American and from Seattle. He was super nice, and told me about a “pop-up” cafe that they’d be showcasing in various parts of Tokyo to promote their special coffee.

I took a few swigs of their chocolatey, non-milk-but-still-pretty-sugary coffee, then smiled and bid them farewell.

Next I sampled a blend of beans from Kenya, Guatemala and El Salvador by Rokumei Coffee of Nara Prefecture. I usually go for pure, single-bean coffees instead of blends, but Nara is my most favourite place in Japan, so I gave their coffee a try and it was actually very nice. I grabbed a couple of 250 gram bags, and their business card, and moved on.

Single Origin RoastersI then stumbled upon Single Origin Roasters from Sydney!

As I mentioned earlier, Aussies love great coffee, so I thought I’d better give these guys a try.

A nice Japanese lass with a strong Aussie accent explained the 3 types of beans they were selling, and was very excited to tell me that they’d be opening a hip cafe in Tokyo very soon. And as an Australian, I had to go there!

I sampled their Sumatran coffee and was suitably impressed with the strong, almost herbal taste.

Best Sumatran Coffee EverI was equally impressed with the packaging which clearly spelled out the taste qualities and the roasting details in both English and Japanese and proclaimed, “Hands down, this is the most delicious Sumatran coffee we’ve ever tasted… Teamed with a unique drying method & expert processing, this coffee is the goods all the way!”

How could I refuse! I grabbed two 250 gram bags and was one happy camper!

In spite of all the caffeination, I was starting to get tired of walking through the growing crowd, so I thought I’d visit one more coffee stall and then call it a day.

Purple bandanna grooverNear the Australian coffee stall I just visited was another cool one with this groovy looking bald Japanese dude in a purple bandanna and beard. So I thought ok, let’s give him shot (no pun intended) at the title.

His company was selling Ethiopian coffee and also Kenyan coffee, so I asked for a sample of each one to compare.

The Ethiopian coffee was quite strange, with overtones of fruit and berries, so I didn’t finish it. Not nice at all, though not indicative of other, richer Ethiopian coffee I’ve had in the past. But the Kenyan coffee, although still a bit light and fruity, wasn’t bad at all. The purple bandanna dude was very talkative and really appreciative of my feedback, so I bough a couple of bags of the Kenyan variety and went in my way.

And that pretty much completed my Hunt Down Good Coffee mission.

A great cup of coffeeBack at Ginza Hub the following week, I set up each of our two Italian espresso machines with different beans and asked our members to rate each type of coffee on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 5 stars being awesome.

So far, the Brazilian coffee is winning with an average of 4 stars, with the Kenyan coffee coming next and the Sumatran coffee in last place.

We are yet to try the blend of Kenyan, Guatemala and El Salvador beans by Rokumei Coffee from Nara Prefecture, but it looks like the Yeti boys’ Brazilian coffee might just be the winner. If so, I’ll call them and set up a stream of delicious coffee beans delivered from their roasting factory in Shiga right into Ginza Hub.

So, if you haven’t already, why don’t you stop by Ginza Hub for one of our tasty, professionally made coffees and then give us a star rating over on our Facebook page! 😉

A big shout out to TopTia Photography for taking these awesome photos! Thanks, Tia!

Why Web Designers Usually Can’t Help You

Why Web Designers Usually Can’t Help You

Frustrated?In my role as a business consultant, I see this sort of thing all the time – An entrepreneur needs a new website, or a re-vamp of an old website, and so hires a web designer to create one.

Then, after investing thousands of dollars and months of development, usually involving endless back-and-forth emails with the web designer, the entrepreneur finally launches the new website to the world, to the sound of… crickets chirping… Because nobody cares, and in fact nobody even knows!

It’s every entrepreneur’s nightmare, and it happens all too frequently.

The reason for this is simple – Most web designers simply don’t understand marketing. How could they? It’s just not their area of skill.

They usually know how to make a website look pretty, and they might even know how to get a shopping cart like Paypal to work, but rarely do they have the marketing knowledge required to create a website that actually converts visitors into paying clients.

But don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of good web designers out there and I’ve employed quite a few of them, especially when I owned and operated And many of them are really great people who have impressive technical skills, but sadly that doesn’t translate into the skills needed to get you more clients. And that’s what’s important.

After more than 15 years as a successful business consultant, and over 24 years working here in Japan, I now know a thing or two about web design and the online strategies needed to succeed in business, and I apply those tools and strategies for my clients every day. I know what really works, and what really doesn’t work, when you’re trying to start up and run a small business. And a big part of that is attracting great clients online via your strongest marketing tool, you guessed it, your website.

For example, the company Potters Receptions employed me to re-design their website with an eye to increasing visitor traffic and therefore increasing wedding bookings for them. The site was pretty woeful when I took it over, and the web designer seemed to have been unaware of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines as some basic rules were being overlooked, like not keyword stuffing and like differentiating the meta descriptions for different pages. This meant that Google was not ranking Potter’s website very highly in the search results, which of course meant that potential clients weren’t finding it. This wasn’t the fault of the web designer – he simply wasn’t trained in search engine optimisation (SEO).

I kicked off the re-vamp of the site by establishing a baseline, and recorded just 750 visitors a month finding the site via search engine. Worse still, the site’s best keyword (the part of a web page’s meta data that helps search engines match the page to a search query) ranked in 27th place, way down at the bottom of the 2nd page of Google search results for that word. The rest of the site’s keywords ranked on the 4th, 5th, 7th, and 12th pages of Google search results… No wonder potential customers weren’t finding them!

By observing Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and applying sound search engine optimisation techniques, I soon lifted the site to the first page of Google search results, with one of Potter’s main keywords ranking in 7th place. I also increased the total number of visitors to the site to 2400 a month, 1200 of them from organic searches, which was double the total visits the site was achieving when I first took it over. I also increased another key metric – time on page. This meant that the new visitors coming to the site were actually looking for the sort of content provided there, and were spending more time consuming that content.

The owners of Potters were suitably impressed, and the increased meaningful traffic to their website likely resulted in the increased wedding bookings that they were aiming for.

So, if you’re frustrated with NOT having your website bring you new clients, or if you’re perhaps too embarrassed about your current site to even tell people about it, then my team and I would love to help.

Imagine a beautiful, easy-to-find, client-attracting website that communicates your personality, your ‘brand’ and gives visitors a clear call to action. If you want such a website, just contact me with your ideas and I’ll make it happen.

“Hi Robert, just wanted to send a follow up to inform you how pleased I am with my product that you and Omar provided me with.”
– Corey Freeman, President of FreeClubFinder and yet another satisfied client

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, at the link here, 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.