International business traveler – ambassador, explorer, map-maker

The critical roles played by international business traveler.

International business travelers play an incredibly important role as ambassadors, explorers and “map-makers” inside their organizations and with their overseas contacts.

Ambassadors, Explorers, and “Map-Makers”

Ambassador of your country and culture. During your trip your actions and reactions are being watched by others. They are trying to confirm, deny or create stereotypes of your country.  Everything including your inter-personal skills, business negotiation skills and manners, the way you dress and eat, your choice of hotels, table manners, social skills, and the ability to make small-talk and conversation will be watched, examined and commented upon after you leave.  Keep this idea clear at all time during your trip, it is important.

Ambassador of your company. Prepare and bring all materials required for the negotiations and business interactions.  Project an aura of professionalism, a willingness to learn and share, and honesty.   Create relationships with a long-term vision.  You may be promoted or leave the organization some day, but your international contacts will continue to do business with your company.

Ambassador of you. International business is all about relationships, and your behaviour and attitudes are critically important as the liaison and trusted representative.  Make promises you can keep, follow-through on the projects and projects.  Project honesty and a concern for doing business and maintaining relationships.   Your actions should focus on creating a climate of trust and open communication.  Don’t try to be someone you are not.

Explorer. The international business traveller, technicians, and sales and business development executives have the added responsibility of verifying existing information, establishing new contacts that will be beneficial in the future, and discovering new ideas and opportunities.  It requires an inquisitive character, a bit of courage and a spirit of adventure.

Map-Maker.   Often neglected by organizations is the cultural, political and personal information gathered by international business people.  This information (or data), should be gathered, filtered and consolidated, and available to the organization after every overseas trip.   “Maps” should be made for future consultation and reference.  The map-making role requires the separation of the facts from interpretation, personal anecdotes and opinions. This information becomes the foundation for all future strategic and operating decisions.

Original post August 21, 2006

Cultural misunderstanding – the deal breaker

Expansion into international markets and working with other cultures can created unforeseen headaches and avoidable problems for companies who enter foreign markets without sufficient cultural information and know how.

Many companies of all sizes have encountered communication and cultural problems in international projects.  Many times these problems occur due to oversight, or the impact of a culture and customs on the business were not taken seriously.

Virtually all organizations seeking to export or participate in international markets face steep learning curves about culture, customs and manners. Mistakes are made, at times very costly mistakes.

Making the wrong decisions, miscommunications, offending decision-makers or neglecting the fine points of initial negotiations can often bring a prompt end to an overseas business opportunity or deal.

The lesson to be learned is to invest some time and money to prepare, to understand your international markets and the culture where you will be doing business.

It’s not enough to understand your brand and current customers. Never underestimate any cultural factor, and never assume that your model, project or way of life will be embraced fully and without reservations.

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International business traveler – ambassador, explorer, map-maker

16 Essential Questions – International Business Traveller’s Quiz

Every international business traveler should be able to answer these questions about their destination before getting on the plane.

  1. What is the size of the country; population and area?
  2. What are the top 3 or 5 cities, and why?
  3. Who is the President?
  4. What are the main political parties?
  5. What are the official languages?
  6. What is the ethnic makeup of the country?
  7. What is the climate and weather throughout the year?
  8. What are some of the important geographic features (rivers, mountains, lakes)?
  9. What are the major religions?
  10. What countries are neighbors?
  11. What is the currency and exchange rate?
  12. What are the countries biggest industries; national and export?
  13. Who are your competitors, and how long have they been established in the country?
  14. What are 3 significant issues affecting your industry in this country?
  15. What are 3 significant national issues that are in the news in the last 2 weeks?
  16. What national holidays or events will be celebrated during your visit

If you can’t answer every question.   Set aside an hour, fire up the Internet, and do your homework.

It may be the most important hour you spend preparing for the trip.

16 Essential Questions – International Business Traveler’s Quiz

Original post June 6, 2007

Difference between a global, transnational, international and multinational company

We tend to read the following terms and think they refer to any company doing business in another country.

* Multinational
* International
* Transnational
* Global

Andrew Hines over at BNET has brief and clear definitions of each of these terms,  Get your international business terms right.

Each term is distinct and has a specific meaning which define the scope and degree of interaction with their operations outside of their “home” country.

* International companies are importers and exporters, they have no investment outside of their home country.

* Multinational companies have investment in other countries, but do not have coordinated product offerings in each country. More focused on adapting their products and service to each individual local market.

* Global companies have invested and are present in many countries. They market their products through the use of the same coordinated image/brand in all markets. Generally one corporate office that is responsible for global strategy. Emphasis on volume, cost management and efficiency.

* Transnational companies are much more complex organizations. They have invested in foreign operations, have a central corporate facility but give decision-making, R&D and marketing powers to each individual foreign market.

Andrew’s advice is:  if in doubt about the right term to use, try the generic term “international business”.

Related Links

Get your international business terms right

Difference between a global, transnational, international and multinational company

Original post June 18, 2007

7 essential tips for doing business overseas

Lee’s list of 7 quick and essential tips for doing business overseas.

1.  It is always easier to sell in your town, state, or country than to export or sell internationally.  Understand that it will always be that way.

2.  Don’t do it alone.   Always get local “guide(s)” to work with you.  This can take the form of a consultant, agent, distributor or sales force.

3.  You will always feel that the customer in the international market got the better deal.

4.  No matter how well you think you understand the country and culture….there is always something important that you missed.

5.  Be humble… humble……be humble

6.  Listen before you start to sell.  My first 3 trips to China consisted of meeting and listening to potential customers before opening up the discussion to sales.

7.  Make a concerted effort to build and nurture personal networks and relationships.  Learn about the country, culture and politics.

Original post May 16, 2006  (Link)