Thursday, April 8, 2010

LinkedIn Conversations: What is Your Greatest Asset in International Business?

Each week I will start a different conversation in a LinkedIn group about a topic of use for small business owners.  I will post the responses to that conversation here in the blog with links to the contributors.  Often it is in the conversation that we get the solutions we need for our business.  Below is the first conversation:

What is your greatest asset in international business?

(From the International Business group on LinkedIn)

From Atacan Arica-

I would like to use couple of bullet points for this question. I would assume that people commenting after me will change the priority of my list with their own experiences...
1) Language abilities well enough to understand the minute details of proper wording & correct translation in the context.
2) Great understanding of the culture/country/history of the colleagues that you are dealing with. Understanding of their "National Pride" factor.
3) Understanding of the business customs and how it is conducted (office table or dinner table) as well as time management expectations-a New York minute is different than New Delhi minute.
4) Understanding of how the management decisions are made and who makes them. How do they say "no" to you or to your business endeavor. Different management styles (American, European or Eastern) will yield different results.
5) Finally: Patience.
Hope this helps.

Response from Ursula Pfahl-

Excellent list of attributes required for success in doing business internationally.

Response from Lionel Frey-

Well said. The cultural aspect cannot be understated. There are so many varying customs when it comes to things like even presenting a business card to friends in other countries that it really pays to make an effort in understanding those nuances even prior to beginning building relations in those markets. Recent experiences in both Brazil and India show marked differences in certain aspects, while some other aspects seem more universal.
A deeper understanding of those customs results in more trust built, which inevitably leads to stronger opportunities for business.

Response from Jay Banerjee-

All contributors correctly state the key factors. On how to ensure success and grow your business in the particular region depends (depending on the nature of the business), on having a trusted, dependable and well-respected local partner, or presence. Many failures and financial misadventures are attributable to either a lack of it or the determination to develop the local foothold over time, as a Global Company doing business locally. Would you agree?

Response from Eric Delarue-

To what Robert said, I would add
6/ Respect: Too often would-be exporters treat their overseas clients as second rate customer, i.e "we should do business the way we do it here in the U.S"
7/ Understanding that " I am interested " in China does NOT mean " I am interested" in Germany, i.e the ability to interpret the same business statement across various business cultures

Response from Atakan Arica-

I would agree with you that it is crucial to have a local trusted partner and It should be cultivated over time as you stated.
Market entry strategies (as well as exit strategies) will be different based on your product/service and usually needs to be modified for the local tastes/needs. A competent partner is certainly valuable to work with customization as well as creating the backbone infrastructure for the local human talent management for expanded operations. A steady pipeline of qualified personnel with the right management team will create the necessary sustainable operations and hopefully the profits as well. Local operators can also mitigate the political risk as well as the unfortunate corruption in certain environments.
My last paragraph sounds very cliche but I have met many successful & and smart operators that did not subscribed this simple plan & in return, they lost their sizable investments in foreign countries.

Response from Arthur Michael Devine-

My best asset is understanding people. This helps overcome all barriers.

Response from Marty Gofberg-

My best assets is the ability to communicate and help parties and stakeholders in conflict come to a equitable solution that is durable and long lasting. The tricky part is the turning those assets into viable business revenue,
Hence the reason for this social networking site and the ability to connect with so many potential consumers of dispute resolution services worldwide.
Please feel free to contact me if I can be of service.
Kindest regards to all !
Marty Gofberg

Response from Joe C. Burke-

I would add: a nonstop, proactive effort to understand the cultural and business practices of each country in which you would operate. Also, a concerted effort to learn how to pronounce and remember, names. It is a great insult to mispronounce someone's name in many cultures.

Response from B. Lee Jones-

Understanding...the people, their culture and their language. Being multi-lingual has always opened many doors for me in business.

Response from Dirk Seggelmann-

I believe to summarize, it comes down to exactly the two success factors that matter most in any business: Information and Communication
You need to not only be able to speak to people in their native language, but also be able to know what they truly understand when you say something. If you consider information not a product, but a human process of interpretation, I think you are on the right way to get inside the business and the people in the foreign country.
I know this might be a rather academic or philosophical rather than practical approach, I find it an important perspective nonetheless that should help you formulate the questions that you should be asking your future partners/customers in the foreign country.
Good luck,

Response from John Papathanassiou-

I like Lee Jones' response. It is straight to the point and accurate. I would have also included patience, lots of patience, as well.
In working the international marketplace, do not be rushed. Learn the ground rule well and quickly, because each country/region/territory has its own idiosyncrasies.

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