The world is getting smaller. Even as the human population grows, technological advances make it possible to buy from, sell to and interact with people around the globe. Whether or not you have plans to expand your business internationally, it’s critical that you understand the big picture of your organization’s role in the world.
I recently spent several months in the United Kingdom learning just that. While overseas, I met with two dozen professionals in my areas of expertise. I enhanced my global competence, or my ability to understand how business works in different countries, and returned to the U.S. better armed to serve my clients. I recognized that in this area of globalization, I could no longer afford to be insular. And neither can you.
Fortunately, there are easy ways that you and your employees can boost your global outlook without traveling or launching a complex international operation. You can start by trying out some of the following tips.
Become a Student of Culture
Choose a country that interests you and learn about the daily lives of its citizens. Read the daily paper and popular novels, and watch TV shows online. Check out the social networks and see what people are talking about, leveraging a Web translator if you need to. The minutiae will tell you more about the culture than you would ever learn as a tourist.
Meet Owners in Other Markets
Are there businesses like yours overseas? If so, virtually introduce yourself to their management and talk about similarities and differences. What did their journeys look like compared to yours? What challenges and opportunities do they address on a regular basis, and are there ways you can help one another? You never know—what starts out as information gathering could turn into a valuable partnership.
Learn How Your Product or Service is Consumed Overseas
Interview international or multinational companies in your industry to assess the consumer profile in other countries. Pay attention to competitor organizations that do an effective job of "glocal" branding, meaning that they successfully adjust their product or service’s core message to suit a variety of cultures.
Solicit Feedback Online
A few weeks ago, a colleague told me the story of her 19-year-old son, a first-year medical student who wanted some feedback on a paper. He joined an online organization catering to medical students all over the world and, within a few hours, received ideas in 10 languages. If you want to know how your business will play in another country before making a substantial investment, thanks to the small digital universe, it’s easier than ever to ask.
Ask Your Clients About Their International Operations
Finally, organizations in the B2B space should make the move to better understand customers’ needs by inquiring about their activities outside U.S. borders. For example, how did your client make the decision to enter a particular market? What was involved? What foreign operations are flourishing the most, and why? Every employee can become a more well-rounded provider by asking the question, “How can my product or service assist my customer in managing a multicultural clientele?”
Read more articles on company culture.
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