Friday, October 26, 2007

Nova's bankrupt

Well, it was to be expected. Nova Corp's going to shut down for a month while they try to find a sponsor to get them out of hock. Unfortunately, that means that the teachers, like my roommate, won't get paid for the work they did in September, nor for the work they've done so far in October. Their pay was delayed from the 15th to last Thursday, but it still didn't come through.

To hear Mike tell it, it's been rampant lawlessness there. Teachers just decide they don't feel like being there and leave, many of them have taken emergency leave and said, "until I get paid, I'm not coming back."

It all started a while ago when Nova got busted for deceptive advertising and strong-arm sales tactics. That got them a 6-month moratorium on signing new students. Their business model was always based on expansion, and their corporate structure was always too top-heavy, which meant they couldn't consolidate their gains in the marketplace. In addition, as part of their court settlement, they had to increase hiring of new teachers. Unfortunately, by the time they got it ramped up, it was September and they were in severe financial trouble. So now they had all sorts of financial problems. Like I said earlier, some teachers had been evicted from their company-run apartments, the Japanese staff was last paid in August, and now they're going to shut down all schools for a month.

The really sad part is that if the teachers pulled together, went to work and did their best, the students would probably stay happy and resign with the company, giving them new revenue. The problem with this is that Nova has never given its employees any reason to feel any loyalty towards it. They were notoriously micro-managing, they'd take any opportunity to take advantage of the teachers and the people who got promoted were the ones who could either kiss ass or stab others in the back best. The ideal area manager would be one who could do both. This sort of corporate environment never made me feel any sort of loyalty to them whatsoever.

While maybe they could've pulled out of it reduced in size but intact, like the clusterf*ck in Iraq, you can't really expect the fools who got themselves in the current situation to extricate themselves with any semblance of competency.

So Nova lied to and coerced students, and exploited foreign teachers who have little to no idea of how to operate in this culture. I guess you reap what you sow.

One interesting side effect I've discussed with a few people is what will happen to the general job market for English teachers here. Right now, there are 5000 people suddenly dumped into a small job market sector looking for work. Many of the ones who don't have ties to Japan and live in Nova housing will probably wind up leaving. The motivated ones are the guys who've been here 10 or 15 years, have families and a mortgage to pay. Right now it's nigh impossible to find a job. But many people are betting that after a few months, when people who are trying to stay despite not having a home or much in the way of resources start giving up and heading home, the job market will swing to the other direction. One niche Nova served very well was as a gateway for foreigners to come to Japan. Many of them would do like me: work for your first year (if that) with Nova to finish your contract, then look for other employment. Many jobs here require you to currently live in the country and have a valid work visa. Without this gateway, if no other major company steps in, there could be a severe shortage of teachers. This might not be all that bad, because the recent glut has led to a general stagnation of wages, which really sucks for most of us.

Keep your eyes on this story, it's only going to get more interesting. There are some unconfirmed rumors I want to see about, then I'll write more.

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