Four years after I was in charge of Latin America, especially Brazil, a problem arose in Venezuela.
Two years ago, a company appeared in Venezuela wanting to become a distributor of Toshiba medical devices. Toshiba signed an exclusive sales contract with the company and started the business.
The company was primarily a drug sales company in Venezuela.
This company was Medalfa.
As a contract at that time, it seemed that it was a promise to buy Toshiba medical equipment of XX billion yen or more in three years.
Medalfa bought an X-ray as promised.
However, when selling, they did not seem to fully explain to their customers, the hospital, that they could output rated X-rays if used under certain conditions.
However, the hospital that purchased it complained that it could not output the rated X-ray. An experienced distributor could explain it without any problems, but Medalfa’s sales staff and engineers couldn’t explain it to the customer well.
The Toshiba side, which received the complaint, did not attach much importance to it at first. Medalfa waited, but did not receive an appropriate solution from Toshiba.
So Medalfa got angry and began to make a fuss about taking the X-ray machine home.
At that time, the person in charge on the Toshiba side was Mr. Ogishima, who was a nice person.
Mr. Ogishima just said that the factory didn’t work even though he said so much.
First of all, Mr. Morinaga, who was the service manager of Brazil, flew to Venezuela.
As a result of talking with Doctors, Mr. Morinaga reported that there was a problem with Toshiba’s sales materials, so the distributor Medalfa came out bullishly that it was Toshiba’s responsibility.
After that, some people from the factory went to the agency to explain, but no good results were obtained.
Finally, my boss, the senior manager, told me to go to Venezuela.
Medalfa has been demanding 600 million yen from Toshiba for damages.
My role was to keep things calm, with as little money as possible. I, of course, had to have the complaining doctor settle gracefully.
I talked to Mr. Togashi, who came from a trading company.
I managed to conclude the story for less than 60 million yen. I asked if that was all right.
The senior manager replied.
“I leave it to you”
I prepared to go to Venezuela.
When I arrived at the airport in Caracas, Venezuela, Mr. Kinoshita from Toshiba Representative Office welcomed me.
Originally, he came only in relation to the heavy electric business, and had nothing to do with the medical equipment business.
He just came to pick me up for me, who was going to Caracas for the first time.
The next day, Mr. Kinoshita picked me up at the hotel by car and took me to Medalfa.
Medalfa was a six-story building in the suburbs.
The room we were guided to was the president’s room, and we were told to sit at the table there.
Shortly after, the president appeared at a desk far away.
The distance between us and the president is about 10 meters.
As soon as he sat down on the desk chair, without shaking hands, he started talking with a microphone.
“Mr. Sato, thank you for coming from Tokyo. Look out the window for a moment,” he said.
As I was told, I looked out.
Then I saw a graveyard along a low mountain.
Looking under the building, several guards with guns on their shoulders were walking around the building.
When I returned to the table, I heard a voice from the microphone again.
“Mr. Sato, this time you have to sleep in the graveyard if you don’t solve the problem …”
After this speech, I was introduced to a sales manager and chief engineer to talk to me.
We returned to Toshiba’s office and reported to the office manager. Then the office manager said.
“I’ve never seen such a guy. Mr. Sato, I think it’s dangerous to move alone in the future. That Medalfa company was originally from Italy and trades medicine, so it’s probably an Italian mafia.”
I didn’t want to involve Mr. Kinoshita, so I decided to go to Medalfa alone from the next day.
The next day, I managed to get to Medalfa by catching a taxi at the hotel and showing the driver a Medalfa business card.
The sales manager and chief manager introduced yesterday were waiting for my arrival and took me to the meeting room when I arrived.
Even though it was a conference room, there was only a blackboard in the room beside the warehouse.
Looking at them, I speculated that they would not have been given any authority. So I told them to tell the president exactly what I meant.
First of all, I decided to listen to them.
They said whatever they wanted, so I asked if Medalfa had any responsibility. Then they clearly answered, “No.”
I emphasized that this problem cannot be solved unless Medalfa and Toshiba convince the Doctors in the same position.
Therefore, I decided not to discuss the responsibility once, and talked about how to deal with Doctors.
And it turns out that especially the two Doctors are complaining strongly. We have identified the Doctors’ complaints.
So, I immediately reported the complaints of the Doctors to Tokyo.
The next day, there was no particular advice from Tokyo.
From this day, a quarrel began over the issue of responsibility. For the Medalfa guys, the responsibility was all about Toshiba. I argued that there was also a problem with the way the distributor sells.
And the next day, we decided to say hello to the two Doctors.
One was in a town called Maracaibo. Caracas and Maracaibo are both cities just below the equator, but Caracas is a cool town at an altitude of 1000 meters. On the other hand, Maracaibo faces the sea, so there were many palm trees. It was really hot.
I visited the Doctor in the town. When I handed over my business card, the Doctor knew I was in charge of Latin America and started speaking in Spanish.
I couldn’t speak Spanish yet, so I asked Doctor to speak English. At that time, I felt very humiliated.
I heard the complaint directly from the Doctor and understood it well.
The X-ray machine consists of a high-voltage generator, a controller, an X-ray tube, and a table.
However, the high-voltage current was suppressed by the controller so that the X-ray tube would not be overloaded by mistake. The X-ray image that Doctor wants needed to pass a higher voltage current. In short, the X-ray tube was too small.
According to Medalfa, there were 26 similar Doctors.
One X-ray tube costs 3 million yen, so it would cost about 100 million yen to replace all of them.
If I said this to Medalfa, Medalfa would have told Toshiba to pay for it all.
This was the point of bargaining. I started negotiations, thinking that if I offered Medalfa 50-50 of this cost, they would start negotiations with the Doctor because they didn’t want to pay.
They didn’t take a step back in this negotiation, so I kicked the table many times and went back to the hotel.
When I told Mr. Togashi of Tokyo, he said that he would come to Caracas three days later.
During this time, I was unable to eat.
Therefore, I could only eat fruit salad and watermelon juice during the day.
Mr. Togashi came to Caracas with the senior manager of the engineering department.
It was the strategy of Director Togashi who came with the senior manager of the engineering department.
When the two directors came, the president of Medalfa was reluctant to accept the proposal I had made.
I immediately made a memorandum and both signed. That night, the two senior managers and I were called to the president’s mansion. The president said the room was on the top floor of the condominium and was over 400 square meters in size.
There were many pictures that seemed to be expensive in the corridor.
Also, the president of Medalfa and Mr. Togashi talked happily.
When the meal was nearing its end, the senior manager thanked the president for inviting us to the meal and for helping us solve this problem. Then, the manager told the president that Sato would do all the final work. Immediately after that, the president said:
“Take me back with Sato. I’ve never seen such a stubborn person.”
And he laughed and asked me for a handshake.
The next day, when I went to see off the two senior managers at the airport,
“Mr. Sato, your stubbornness caused the president to break. Thank you.”
Then, three days later, I left Caracas for Mexico.
Inside the plane, my stomach was restored and I was able to eat in-flight meals.