By Julia A. Wilson, Founder and CEO
As American voters continue to vet Republican and Democratic presidential candidates by listening to their primary stump speeches and viewing televised debates in this election year, one subject that has sparked widely differing candidate opinions is on foreign policy and how to best conduct business and compete in a global economy.
While candidates’ opinions range from enthusiastic free-market global engagement to plans to renegotiate major international trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership or engage in near global isolationism, two absolute truths have emerged. One, countries must aggressively re-educate themselves if they hope to compete — or they will perish in the new global economy. And two, fast and ever-changing technological advancements have rendered traditional Industrial Age business methodologies and paradigms not only arcane, but nearly irrelevant.
“Going Global” successfully is not just based on having solid American business acumen and technical know-how. Like any strong and enduring personal or professional relationship, successful global partnerships must be built upon common goals, mutual trust and respect among vetted potential local partners, open communication and collaboration.
As the CEO & founder of Wilson Global Communications, our business’s expertise and existence is built upon and anchored in a global perspective. Below are my “Top 3 Musts” designed to better inform American business owners and entrepreneurs of how to successfully go global — and to replace any reluctance with curiosity, vital information and enthusiasm.
3 Top ‘Musts’ in Going Global
Don’t assume you know groups of people based on media reports. Western media may not be balanced in coverage of people and news events in far-away lands. To truly understand other countries, their people and cultures, you must travel there. So travel globally but do it with an open mind. Be equally open to learning as much as you’re inclined to teach.
Do Your Homework
Before you visit the country in which you believe you and your business may fit, learn about the people, their needs, their interests and the business environment. Then, make sure your products or services are “value-added,” that they conform to your new customers’ needs, wants and expectations.
Show Respect for Local Cultures
Make an attempt to learn basic greetings in the country’s language. Surf the Internet or practice phonetics with audio tools such as Rosetta Stone. Study the culture and its historical sites, its heroes and sheroes, cuisine, art and music. Learn that culture’s ways of doing business. Do you bow or not bow? Do you present your business card with one hand and immediately put it away? Or, do you use both hands and study the card before placing it in your jacket pocket or handbag – as done in China? What are the cultural taboos? Do you sit facing someone showing the bottom of your shoes — which in some cultures, suggests that you think they are dirt?
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.