The parent company, Weaver Pharmaceutical, had extensive international operations and was one of the largest U.S. drug firms. Its competitive position depended heavily on research and development (R&D). Sales activity in Japan started in the early 1930s when Yamazaki Pharmaceutical, a major producer of drugs and chemicals in Japan, began distributing Weaver's products. World War II disrupted sales, but Weaver resumed exporting to Japan in 1948 and subsequently captured a substantial market share. To prepare for increasingly keen competition from Japanese producers, Weaver and Yamazaki established in 1954 a jointly owned and operated manufacturing subsidiary to produce part of Weaver's product line.
Through the combined effort of both parent companies, the subsidiary soon began manufacturing sufficiently broad lines of products to fill the general demands of the Japanese market. Imports from the United States were limited to highly specialized items. The company conducted substantial R&D on its own, coordinated through a joint committee representing both Weaver and Yamazaki to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts. The subsidiary turned out many new products, some of which were marketed successfully in the United States and elsewhere. Weaver's management considered the Japanese operation to be one of its most successful international ventures and felt that the company's future prospects were promising, especially given the steady improvement in Japan's standard of living.
The subsidiary was headed by Shozo Suzuki who, as executive vice president of Yamazaki and president of several other subsidiaries, limited his participation in Weaver-Yamazaki to determining basic policies. Daily operations were managed by Prescott, assisted by Higgins and several Japanese directors. Although several other Americans were assigned to the venture, they were concerned with R&D and held no overall management responsibilities.
Weaver Pharmaceutical had a policy of moving U.S. personnel from one foreign post to another with occasional tours in the home-office international division. Each such assignment generally lasted for three to five years. There were a limited number of expatriates, so company personnel policy was flexible enough to allow an employee to stay in a country for an indefinite time if desired. A few expatriates had stayed in one foreign post for over ten years.
Prescott replaced the former general manager, who had been in Japan for six years. An experienced international businessman who had spent most of his 25-year career at Weaver abroad, he had served in India, the Philippines, and Mexico, with several years in the home-office international division. He was delighted to be challenged with expanding Japanese operations. Two years later, he was pleased with the company's progress and felt a sense of accomplishment in having developed a smoothly functioning organization.
Born in a small Midwestern town, Higgins entered his state university after high school. Midway through college, however, he joined the army. Because he had shown an interest in languages in college, he was able to attend the Army Language School for intensive training in Japanese. Fifteen months later, he was assigned as an interpreter and translator in Tokyo and subsequently took more courses in Japanese language, literature, and history. He made many Japanese friends, fell in love with Japan, and vowed to return there. After five years in the army, Higgins returned to college. Because he wanted to use Japanese as a means rather than an end in itself, he finished his college work in management, graduating with honors, and then...