July 15, 10

International: Cultural Shifts

Businesses increasingly face competition in their domestic markets, considering the alternative to turn to international markets to ensure long-term growth. The questions that managers ask themselves are abundant: What target markets, what products and services, what adaptations to bring their compliance with the standards and laws of foreign markets, what logistical use and at what cost, what Incoterms (FOB, CIF, …), how to prospect, which contracts with customers, how to hedge against the risks? Much anxiety issues, particularly for SMEs less familiar with international markets.

While the world is vast but the options are not always many, if only because of the resources required to cover several markets at once. A structured approach becomes necessary to avoid duplication of effort. Often compared the development of a new international market to create a company … The definition of an export strategy in line with the strategic direction of the company, will target the most markets receptive to the offer of the company with a winning position. The company will then endeavor to set up the appropriate structure, that is to say, processes and human resources to achieve its goals.

The design of the strategy and its operationalization require consideration of the cultural aspect which is not limited to the mastery of the language of the target country. Quebecers and French were often surprised … .It is essential to understand the culture and business practices that are not written rules. Examples of negotiations failed because this aspect has been neglected abound. Markets were won by challenger technologically but have managed to avoid the “cultural gaps.”

Field observations confirm the strong impact of the face posture to interlocutors from different cultures.

North African exporters in international exhibitions met the North American visitors that they were able to “do everything” to meet the demands of their customers without providing tangible evidence that they were able to do so. This material into usual in this culture to show to the other party a sincere desire was viewed negatively by a culture requiring facts and figures to support claims and promises.

In the other direction, the North American companies are prospecting the Arab countries strengthened in the excellence of their products, convinced to get orders from the first meetings to immediate profitability … assuming that they were able to perform with the right decision makers. They simply ignored the fact that building a lasting business relationship begins with the establishment of mutual trust.

African companies sent their estimates to European importers within more than a month, thus ruining every chance to be considered reliable partners. Clearly, the perception of time is not the same …

This ethnocentric view that is often expressed as “it’s like that at home” can be a handicap to international expansion, at least when it is not low cultural distance markets, such as Canada and the USA for example.

It is unfortunate that a company that has put the necessary resources into the development of a strategy and preparing its prospection rate it invisible on, and sometimes fatal. The development of intercultural competences of teams would guard effectively against the risk