As a college student in the late 1990s, professors, parents, and even summertime employers were encouraging me and my peers to prepare for the global economy. “The world is changing,” they warned, to which I thought, “Hasn’t the economy always been global?”
International business is nothing new. Since the beginning of civilization, tribes and later territories and countries have traded and engaged in business interactions, linking their economies together. The difference may be the method of interaction. Instead of physically forcing a country or company into a business relationship, a more cooperative attitude is promoted. Stress is placed upon executives and employees working within a culture instead of forcing the natives into submission.
As borders continue to fade in the face of the emerging new global economy, businesses are recruiting and promoting executives with experience outside of the company’s home country. Multinational corporations have been involved in global business for decades and have made a conscious effort to diversify their executive teams in recent decades. They seek an executive team with extensive experience in leadership positions in countries all over the world including China, India, the Middle East, and Latin America. Companies including IBM
have recruited senior level executives with experience in the Asia Pacific region including China and Japan. Global business continues to increase in complexity; recruiting executives and managers with international experience may become imperative to a company’s success.
Corporations continue to expand their operations into emerging markets in hopes of establishing a presence while the region develops economically. As Wal-Mart
builds a stronger presence in the global market, they have begun to recruit executives and managers with experience working outside of the United States. Many key executives have experience working in the Asia Pacific region and various parts of Central and South America.
THE SUCCESSFUL GLOBAL EXECUTIVE
Successful global executives have experience working within foreign cultures. Though they may not have in-depth knowledge of every culture, people with international experience often have the ability to observe and act within the confines of the culture with which they are working. Theyare fluent in the language and can effectively communicate with people of other cultures to the point where they can network and motivate peers and consumers with ease. They are also able to mimic the business style of the locals, creating lasting business relationships with decision-makers and business people in related industries in the region.
Although some global business leaders have a natural inclination for international business, others had a crash course in working with foreign cultures. Many were transferred to a foreign office of their company and experienced severe culture shock until they found their footing in the global sphere. Direct immersion into foreign cultures will become more common as more companies expand into and permeate foreign markets.
Culture shock is most prevalent in businesspeople operating in cultures dramatically different from their own. Many contrast the risk-taking, independence driven American business style with the cooperative Asian business style. Not taking into account the idiosyncrasies of the host culture can lead to misunderstandings between the corporation and their local associates. However, in most situations, listening and observational skills are essential to surmounting any cultural hurdles one may face.
The experiences with foreign cultures that managers and executives accrued while they were working up the ranks offer them a unique perspective in international business later on when they are in positions of authority. Many division presidents of large multinational corporations have held managerial positions in foreign countries. The division presidents of global pharmaceutical corporation Bristol-Myers Squibb
have extensive global experience, often beyond the region in which they are located.
Companies seeking to position themselves as a competitive global company in the international business climate must hire executives with extensive global business experience. Business leaders well-versed in cross-cultural interaction have the tools to create strong business relationships and meet any cultural challenges that come their way.
Many companies interested in finding such managers and executives need look no further than the employees in their foreign offices. Businesses seeking to expand their global positioning should look for current and potential executives and managers who have spent a significant amount of time in the target region, have an in-depth knowledge of the culture, and/or are fluent in the language.
The economic woes of the last few years have renewed an interest in international business among current students and working professionals in pursuit of an MBA. As a result, more potential managers and executives are entering or repositioning themselves in the business world with valuable international business experience that can benefit any company. Through the acquisition of qualified, world-wise employees at the junior level, businesses will have their pick of experienced managers and executives within the next decade.