A keen interest in the outdoors and experience establishing and managing companies across a wide range of industries gave Craig Meikle a unique base from which to start Meikle & Associates Realty. Now one of Niseko’s leading real estate firms, the company serves both local and international clients from a variety of backgrounds, and the unique location means Meikle hasn’t had to sacrifice his own active lifestyle for the sake of his business.
What is your background and why did you decide to start your business?
I first ventured to Japan back in 1996, when I spent my first winter in Hakuba chasing the money and the powder. At this time the exchange was around ¥50 to the kiwi dollar, so we were getting paid a lot of money making snow on Tsugaiki Ski Field. I then moved up to Niseko for the next three years (at a time when there were no gaijin here) and worked for NAC. The place was very quiet during this period for such an outgoing kiwi lad, so I moved down to Honshu for a stint in Minakami at Uncle Bear. It was around this time when I met my wife, who was a Chiba resident. I decided to move to Tokyo, where I started the wakeboard school Flying High on the Edogawa River and ran a restaurant at the marina. Having a family down in Tokyo can sometimes be quite demanding, so about four years ago I decided to sit my real estate license in New Zealand with the idea of moving back to Queenstown. I decided to make a quick trip north to Niseko one more time to say goodbye to my mates working there, and low and behold I am still here and running the company Meikle & Associates Realty.
What are the Japan-specific challenges your business faces?
Our business here is in a resort type of setting, and the majority of our clients are in or have something to do with the finance world, so we will always have the highs and lows in the market when these sectors are under pressure. This season has bounced back, with a good amount of transactions taking place compared to the previous season, which shows us that Niseko is really on the map in Asia not only as a winter destination, but also a year-round one. Global warming is naturally a huge factor in the ski industry as well, which can be seen down in Honshu with the seasons becoming shorter. Niseko tends to have its own little micro climate, so we are still blessed with a consistent snow fall.
Who or what gives you inspiration in business?
I get inspiration from my non-executive business partner in Hong Kong, who has been in banking for most of his life and has been in some high profile positions. He gives me great advice and has a real understanding of what my target customer audience wants. A lot of my friends also run or own their own businesses, so it is great to see these guys go through the ups and downs of business and keep moving forward.
What are the best and worst decisions you have made doing business in Japan?
My worst decision was getting into the café industry while also trying to run the wakeboard school. Luckily enough we got out of the hospitality game reasonably unscathed, but my advice to anyone getting into it is location, location, location, and to have someone with a lot of experience running or managing it. Moving to real estate in Niseko has created a special opportunity for us to meet fantastic people from throughout Asia and from all walks of life, whom I would never get to meet if I was not in this field of work. These people rely on me to give them good property advice, and from there we often become friends (Niseko is a small place). From this, new opportunities arise, which can either be taken or not.
What do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time in winter you will either find me snowmobiling in the backcountry with my friends or night skiing with my son. In summer we get to relax a little and hit the golf course twice a week, and I am even thinking of buying a boat again to use on weekends in Lake Toya, which is just 30 minutes away. It is amazing how many new friends you can make when you have a boat.