Looking for New? It’s in another country

21 06 2007

Comments from yesterday’s post New is a requirement got me thinking about how living and working in another country moves your “comfort zone” and exposes you to lots of New.

There is a tendency to forget that this New soon becomes part of our routine and becomes integrated in our system of evaluation and processing of experiences.

Working internationally has been my biggest source of New for the past 30+ years in my personal and professional life.

It invigorates and challenges me.

It’s not always fun, or easy.

Living and working internationally has taught me:

  • Patience. It always takes more time than you think.
  • To listen before acting, reacting or responding.
  • To be humble. I don’t know it all, there is always something else to learn in order to understand.
  • To deal with frustration. When it’s not happening just the way you want it to, it means there is a different way to do it, find the alternative or live with the current situation, stop the whining and complaining.
  • New ways to solve problems. Not everyone culture approaches or attacks a problem the same way.
  • To analyze several solutions before making a final decision. What’s right at home may be 100% wrong in your current situation.
  • Most people are honest, fair and open, however being a strange face in a strange land brings out a certain criminal element that may find you irresistible (especially in the transportation sector).
  • People express themselves and their true feelings very differently, especially when it comes to solving conflicts.
  • Food ingredients and table manners are wildly different and can create physical and/or psychological reactions that were previously unknown to me.
  • There is no “right” way to live, solve problems or compete.
  • Politics and religion can be discussed, but should never be debated. Never.
  • Travel is not glamorous, restful, or easy. Takes a great deal of preparation, adaptation and improvisation to make it work.
  • Hospitality, manners and paying attention to detail are incredible important in making and maintaining relationships (host and guest).
  • Guides are important. These may be other business people, local residents, books or information about the people, place and culture. Learn, learn, learn and ask lots of questions, it pays off.
  • To be fair. Make deals and agreements as if you are going to be working with that company or individual for the next 20 years.
  • To see the “Big Picture”. Relationships, government policies, customs and cultural differences all interact and I begin to see larger issues being affected by my smaller decisions and preoccupations.

What about you?

What New did you confront, discover, embrace, enjoy or hate while living or working in another country?

Related Links

New is a requirement

International business tips

Cultural Misunderstanding- it can happen to you

Create great international business relationships

Great International Business Trip Results

16 Essential questions – the international business traveller’s quiz






Using positive reinforcement to win customer loyalty

22 02 2007

We respond positively to positive feedback, recognition, and reinforcement of our behaviour and activities at work or home.

We get angry or lose interest in an activity, goal or organization if we don’t receive this “pat on the head” or “cheer-leading” on a continual basis.

Our customers also need reinforcement and recognition in order to maintain their motivation and good feelings toward your company or products.

What are you doing to make sure they get it?

Does the customer feel like you are just “going through the motions”?

Does it feel real?

Are you really showing that you care?

What sets you apart from your competitors AFTER the sale?

Related Links

27 Great Leadership and Management Ideas

The power of something extra

What defines an exceptional leader





How to speed up business decisions in Mexico

13 11 2006

When doing business in Mexico, one of the fundamental complaints I hear from non-Mexican business people is the speed at which business in transacted.

They say there are 5 speeds to the Mexican economy, I believe they also apply to negotiations in Mexico.

1. Slow.

2. Slower.

3. Stalled.

4. Going in reverse.

5. Dead.

It can be quite frustrating, but it is part of Mexican business culture.

There are several options available that may help speed up the decision-making process in Mexico.

  • Make certain you are both working for the same goal. Write it down, discuss it, and determine that everyone is seeking the same thing. There should not be any hidden agendas.
  • Set fixed and specific dates when the data or information must be available or the decision will be made. Get personal commitments from the other participants. Don’t settle for vague answers, get them to agree in public to bring the specific data or make the decision on a specific date. Personal, not institutional responsibility.
  • Does everyone have all the information required to make the decision? Write down what is missing and assign responsible parties and dates for completion.
  • Follow-up with phone calls and written communication and verify that everything is running on schedule. You will have to dedicate more time to “motivating” or “prodding” than you are used to in your own country.
  • Don’t get angry. If there is no decision it is because of a reason you don’t understand or hasn’t been verbalized. Anger is seen as threatening, and not part of a good relationship, it will hurt you more than help you.
  • Be patient. It always takes longer than you think it will.
  • Keep up the communications, in fact increase them. Contact all the team members involved, try and discuss the project or decision informally (outside of the office or work environment).
  • It might be the money. When everything looks perfect, and still no decision, it might be due to money (or lack of it). Try and discuss this privately with the head decision-maker.
  • It might be the risk or control involved. Bring the subject out in the open and discuss the risks and control issues involved for both sides. This is best done informally with the team members, one on one.
  • It might be NO. Mexicans do not like to say no or give bad news in certain situations. They believe it is impolite, and many times will not respond or will allow the situation to continue until it fades away without a “yes or no” decision being made.

Related Links

Patience Chaos and doing business in Mexico

Doing Business in Mexico – cultural tips

How to negotiate with Mexican business people

How to do business in Mexico





Corruption, bribes, mordidas, tips – Doing business in Mexico

7 11 2006

There are perceptions and realities associated with bribery and corruption when doing business in Mexico.

Corruption, bribery, “mordidas” (translated as “bites”, but are actually bribes) and tips are part of Mexico and the foreigner’s perception of Mexico.

It’s a difficult subject to address because it involves ethical and moral decisions for the foreign visitor or business person. What is culturally OK in Mexico, may be seen as immoral and corrupt by an individual from another country.

Historically, corruption in Mexico is blamed upon the Spanish conquistadors. While corruption no doubt existed prior to the Spanish conquest, they certainly did institutionalize it in government and throughout the Mexican (and Latin American) culture.

Today corruption, bribery and tipping occur at all levels of Mexican society and at many different degrees. For one reason or another it has become part of daily life. Most of it involves small sums of money, and is thought of as tipping and not as a bribe.

In fact, to eliminate corruption in Mexico overnight is unrealistic and would probably result in chaos. As some Mexican observers have noted, “La mordida” is the grease that makes the system work.

All of the following might occur in Mexico. Which of the following are acts of corruption or bribery? Which are totally unethical, somewhat unethical, and no big deal? Which of these events occurs in your country ?

  • The garbage collectors come by every 2 weeks, rings the doorbell and ask for money for a soft drink, US $1 or $2.
  • While waiting in a long line, someone comes up to you and asks if you would like to avoid the line and be attended right away. It will cost US $ 5 to US $ 10, and save you 2 hours.
  • Your application for a permit/license has been in the government office for several weeks, and no one seems to be able to tell you what is wrong. The secretary asks if you would like to buy a raffle ticket for some organization. After buying the ticket the application suddenly appears.
  • You visit a local political leader and take him to dinner and a theater event to discuss your project.
  • At holiday time, you send gifts to politicians, suppliers and business associates.
  • Your daughter copies exam answers from another student at school.
  • The police stop you for a traffic violation (which may or may not have occurred). They suggest that for US $ 20 or $ 50 you can make it disappear, and you’ll be on your way in 5 minutes.
  • You need government agency approvals for your business project. In order to make sure everything is done correctly, you hire an official in the department as a consultant.
  • You require a zoning change on a piece of land, you invite a government official to participate as an investor in the project, or perhaps give him some shares.
  • Your son or daughter wants to get into a nightclub, the doorman says no. They give him US $ 5 and walk right in.
  • A city inspector finds code violations in your restaurant. A call to a family member, who knows someone, who knows someone, results in the violations being revoked.
  • A drug enforcement agent receives a phone call that tells him to choose between accepting USD $ 20,000 payment this year to let a drug shipment go by unharmed or to have his children shot.
  • Your immigration papers are not quite right. There is a document missing. You are able to convince the official (though words and tears) to “overlook” the situation, no money is exchanged.

Can you live and work in Mexico and not pay bribes? Yes. (I’m lived and worked in Mexico over the past 14 years and have never paid a “mordida” in my private or business life.)

Are bribes necessary for doing business in Mexico? I think it depends on the circumstances. Most business can be done without them. It depends on you, and your evaluation of the situation. There must be certain areas where influence peddling, and “mordidas” are an integral part of the business, and other areas where it’s not required in the least. This is not unique to Mexico.

All Mexican local, state and federal governments and government agencies are not corrupt. In fact, in the past 10 years there have been great advances in transparency in government, including guarantees for the time involved in processing applications and permissions.

Mexican federal public policy and local and state governments have been actively reducing and eliminating institutionalized corruption and penalizing government workers involved in illegal acts. There is still a long way to go before it’s completely eliminated, but there has been a noticeable change in many areas.

Mexico’s poverty, unequal distribution of wealth, history and culture make it difficult to eradicate corruption overnight. Mexico is a country with many laws, but they are not well enforced. It’s similar to the temptation one might feel on the lonely country road at 3:00 AM and confronting a red light…..do you stop…or run through it?

You should develop and hold firm to your own ethical and moral principals in order to live and do business in Mexico. If you don’t do it at home, why would you do it in Mexico?

Your company should have a clear policy about corruption and bribery, and hold to it when doing business in Mexico, or internationally.

If you have any personal experiences or observations about corruption, bribery, mordidas and doing business in Mexico, please write me or comment here.
Related Links

How to do business in Mexico, Parts 1 – 28

Tipping guidelines for Mexico

Doing Business in Mexico – cultural tips

World Corruption Perception Index – 2006

Patience chaos and doing business in Mexico





World Corruption Perception Index 2006 – Transparency International

7 11 2006

Interesting look at perceived corruption worldwide.

Transparency International has released their 2006 index of corruption perception on November 6, 2006.

Mexico lands at number 70 on the list, which puts it close to the middle of the pack out of a total of 163 countries.

Since 1995, Transparency International has published an annual Index of perception of corruption ordering the countries of the world according to “the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians“. The organization defines corruption as “the abuse of public office for private gain. ” – excerpt from Wikipedia Corruption Perception Index.

As this index is based on polls, the results are subjective and are less reliable for countries with fewer sources. Also, what is legally defined, or perceived, to be corruption differs between jurisdictions: a political donation legal in some jurisdiction may be illegal in another; a matter viewed as acceptable tipping in one country may be viewed as bribery in another. Thus the poll results must be understood quite specifically as measuring public perception rather than being an objective measure of corruption.

Statistics like this are necessarily imprecise; statistics from different years are not necessarily comparable.” – Wikipedia Corruption Perception Index.

Related Links

Internet Center for Corruption Research

Corruption Perception Index – 2006 (EXCEL)

Transparency International

Wikipedia





Foreign direct investment in Guanajuato, Mexico

6 11 2006

The State of Guanajuato, Mexico has over 572 companies with foreign capital registered and located in the state.

The following information has been translated from an article dated November 6, 2006, published in the newspaper Correo, by Vicente Ruiz, Link.

49% of these foreign companies in Guanajuato are involved in manufacturing, and 29% are commercial operations which together represent an investment greater than 1,000,000,000 (one billion US dollars).

Due to changes in laws regarding foreign investment in Mexico (in 1993, 1995, 2001), 90% of all economic activities in Mexico are completely open to foreign participation and investment.

Mexico’s growing national economy, free trade agreements with 32 countries and geographic location provide great economic and logistics advantages to companies opening operations in Mexico.

In Guanajuato, 50% of all the foreign companies are located in the city of Leon (281), followed by Irapuato (71) Celaya (52), San Miguel Allende (31), Silao (26), San Francisco del Rincon (25), Guanajuato (19) and the rest (67) throughout the state.

Guanajuato occupies the first position for foreign investment of the all the Mexican states in the North-Central region.

Principal industries in Guanajuato that received direct foreign investment include:

  • The automotive industry received US $ 874.2 million
  • Processed food industry (concentrates, preserved products) received US $ 99.1 million
  • Manufacture of paper, cellulose and derivatives received US $ 18.9 million
  • Commerce of non-agricultural items received US $ 17.3 million
  • Chemical manufacturing received US $ 15.9 million
  • Clothing manufacturing received US $ 7.5 million
  • Textile manufacturing received US $ 5.2 million
  • Plastics manufacturing received US $ 5.4 million
  • Food products received US $ 4.8 million

Who has invested in the State of Guanajuato, Mexico:

Country…. Investment (Millions of US dollars)…… %

United States of America……..1’ 009, 214.00………..92.7

Holland………………23, 277.90………….2.1

Spain………………….18, 234.00………….1.7

Germany……………14, 267.30………….1.3

Denmark……………..4, 913.90………….0.5

Taiwan…………………4, 426.00………….0.4

Others………………..14, 549.60………….1.3

Total: USD $ 1’ 088, 882.70 (Millions)

Related Links

Aumenta inversion extrañjera en el Estado de Guanajuato: SE (Spanish)

Secretaria del Economia de Mexico (English)

State of Guanajuato webpage (English-Spanish)

Correo (Spanish)





Mexico manufacturing, US inventories and safety stock

21 10 2006

Manufacturers are returning to Mexico after “experimenting” in the Asia Pacific region. Some of the big reasons for this return are ; to reduce time to market, eliminate the financial costs of inventories in transit, lower the logistics costs, and to strengthen the supply chain by moving closer to just-in-time deliveries.

But moving to Mexico isn’t going to solve all the problems.

A September 2006 article in CFO magazine points out how US businesses are increasing safety stocks “just in case”. Delayed in the USA The article points out how supply chain disruptions are being provoked by an increasingly saturated US highway system and bottlenecks in deepwater ports and railyards.

The good news is that Mexico is close to the USA, a truckload of goods can leave any point in Mexico and arrive at the US destination in as little as 4-5 days. The railyards and new multimodal Interior Port in Guanajuato, Mexico allow manufacturers to establish production facilities in the interior of the country. Exporters can now clear customs and load the sealed container onto the rail-car at the new (2006) high capacity Customs port located in the geographic center of Mexico.

The bad news is that unless the US begins to upgrade their highway, port and rail facilities, supply chain managers in the US will be buying and storing higher levels of inventory to assure continuity of operations, “just in case”.

Related Links

Delayed in the USA – Supply Chain

Industrial and Business Parks in Mexico

AMPIP Mexican Association of Industrial and Business Parks





The future of our entry level workforce – gloomy

19 10 2006

Will our future entry level workforce be competitive and competent?

Are we ready to build a nation full of entrepreneurs and world class workers?

I highly recommend you read the study published by the The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management, entitled:

Are They Really Ready To Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce”

According to this study of 431 companies in the US, representing over 2 million employees in a variety of industries and geographic areas, the future is bleak.

“The future U.S. workforce is here—and it is woefully ill-prepared for the demands of today’s (and tomorrow’s) workplace.”

The basic skills and knowledge identified and considered to be very important elements for future employees include:

  • English Language (spoken)
  • Government/Economics
  • Reading Comprehension (in English)
  • Humanities/Arts
  • Writing in English (grammar, spelling, etc.)
  • Foreign Languages
  • Mathematics History/Geography
  • Science

The applied skills, which are increasing in importance as criteria for success in the future:

  • Critical Thinking/Problem Solving—Exercise sound reasoning and analytical thinking; use knowledge, facts, and data to solve workplace problems; apply math and science concepts to problem solving.
  • Oral Communications—Articulate thoughts, ideas clearly and effectively; have public speaking skills.
  • Written Communications—Write memos, letters and complex technical reports clearly and effectively.
  • Teamwork/Collaboration—Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers; be able to work with diverse teams, negotiate and manage conflicts.
  • Diversity—Learn from and work collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, races, ages, gender, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints.
  • Information Technology Application—Select and use appropriate technology to accomplish a given task, apply computing skills to problem-solving.
  • Leadership—Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals; use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others.
  • Creativity/Innovation—Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work; communicate new ideas to others; integrate knowledge across different disciplines.
  • Lifelong Learning/Self Direction—Be able to continuously acquire new knowledge and skills; monitor one’s own learning needs; be able to learn from one’s mistakes.
  • Professionalism/Work Ethic—Demonstrate personal accountability, effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, and time and workload management.
  • Ethics/Social Responsibility—Demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior; act responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind.

Excepts from the study:”Business leaders must take an active role in outlining the kinds of skills we need from our employees for our companies and economy to thrive.”

“As business leaders, we must also play a role in creating opportunities for young people to obtain the skills they need. Businesses can partner with schools and other organizations that work with young people to provide internships, job shadowing programs and summer jobs. Businesses can encourage their employees to serve as mentors and tutors. Businesses can invest in programs at the local and national level that have demonstrated their ability to improve outcomes for young people.
Finally, business leaders can use their expertise in innovation and management to help identify
new and creative solutions.”

We assume that our schools are producing graduates with fundamental business abilities, why isn’t it happening?

Are we going to accept that the training of the future workforce is in the hands of private business, and not the educational system?

What is the cost to business when new employees must be given remedial training, just to get them up to entry level?

What is your organization doing right now to ensure, or create talent for the future?

Read the study, pass it around the office and makes sure the boss and human resource people get copies.

This is no longer someone elses’s problem.

“ The numbers don’t bode well for the future—the future of our workforce. It is in our interest to help solve the problem. And business has the capacity to help solve the problem by partnering with education and community leaders to create opportunities for young people to practice the skills they need to be successful.” – Bill Shore, Director, U.S. Community Partners, GlaxoSmithKline

Related Links

The Conference Board: Are they really ready for work?

Are they really ready to work (PDF)

Most young people entering the US workforce lack critical skills essential for success

Young Workforce is “Ill-Prepared”





Illegal immigration – USA and Mexico

18 10 2006

Immigration control is a global challenge, and yet not one developed country has developed a good workable and acceptable legal immigration plan that eliminates illegal immigration.

There are political solutions, and then there are real solutions.

Immigration between nations occurs when there are marked differences in economic wealth or living conditions between two regions. In order to eliminate massive immigration, wealth (and it’s distribution) of the economically disadvantaged country must improve or the wealthier country must lose it’s wealth.

The long-term solution to immigration will be found in changing economic conditions, policies and the creation of opportunities in the disadvantaged country.

A short-term solution will be found by building walls and increasing border enforcement (This is effective where the border areas are limited and can be totally controlled).

The current immigration situation between Mexico and the US has become a political football, and it appears political solutions are all that matter.

It’s time for both countries to work and invest in real, long-term economic solutions to solve fundamental problems in order to help and protect both countries. The US is facing a problem, and Mexico should assist their neighbor in finding solutions.

The Mexican perspective:

  • There are many opportunities and jobs available that pay much better than in Mexico.
  • There are no jobs available in Mexico for the majority of immigrants.
  • Going to the US is a “rite of passage” for many Mexicans in certain areas. Most return to Mexico after 3 – 5 years.
  • Many cross the border illegally to meet family members already in the US, and have jobs waiting for them once they arrive. Most immigrants have jobs in the US.
  • Most of the immigrants come from rural areas in Mexico, with low levels of education.
  • Mexican immigrants in the US send enormous sums of money to support family members in Mexico. Petroleum sales bring Mexico the most foreign currency income, followed by money sent by Mexicans in the USA (not all illegal immigrants) to family in Mexico.
  • For many Mexican state governments, this injection of foreign capital is very important for maintaining local economies.
  • Crossing the border illegally is dangerous and life threatening, and in many cases expensive.
  • US employers are open and supportive to employing illegal immigrants, and in many cases provide false identification and protection to the workers.
  • The majority of the millions of illegal immigrants currently in the US are working, and spending money in the local US economies.
  • The legal immigration mechanisms available (visas) reject those who are economically disadvantaged (the ones with the highest need to immigrate).
  • Mexicans believe that the US has the sovereign right to restrict and control immigration.
  • They would like to see a realistic legal migration program created.
  • The immigrants in the US pay sales taxes, and they consume goods and services in the US.

The US perspective

  • Illegal immigration takes jobs away from US citizens.
  • Illegal immigrants use social, health and welfare services paid for by US taxpayers.
  • Illegal immigrants bring crime, drugs and violence to communities.
  • Illegal immigrants don’t speak English and don’t learn English, and are forcing communities to spend money on bilingual teachers and government programs.
  • Illegal immigration can be stopped by building a wall or by enforcing the border.
  • Illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes.
  • US agricultural businesses cannot survive with competitive prices if illegal workers are eliminated. Legal immigration will increase labor costs.
  • Elimination of illegal immigrants will cause substantial increases in the costs of food, restaurants, hotels, construction and certain consumer and industrial goods and services. Immigrant labor is needed to maintain the US economy.
  • The US Border Control has stated many times that the solution is in enforcing and penalizing US employers that hire illegal workers, not by penalizing and deporting the illegal immigrant.
  • The US government and state governments understand the economic situation and provide political solutions for voters, but understand that the total elimination of immigration would severely hurt the US economy. A legal immigration solution must be implemented.
  • There is a fundamental dilema. America is the land made of immigrants, and yet now must begin to control this immigration. Huge uncontrolled borders, wealth and opportunity, and willingness of employers to hire undocumented workers combine to make the US an attractive immigration destination.

Opportunities and possible solutions

If we agree that the illegal immigration problem is a consequence of economic situations and differences in the distribution of wealth, then the following ideas are possible solutions. None of them are easy, all of them have costs, but they are the only real long-term solutions to the immigration situation.

  • US government and businesses coordinate with the Mexican government and business sector to invest in economic development projects in the areas in Mexico with the highest degree of poverty and immigration.
  • The Mexican government must aggressively work and invest in order to improve opportunities and wealth in their country, especially for the economically disadvantaged.
  • US businesses push for immigration reform that allows for temporary workers and legal immigration. The program would increase costs to the US employers, and the workers would be paying taxes.
  • US government makes laws and enforces them against US employers that hire illegal immigrants.
  • US government finds a method to legalize current immigrants that have been and are working in the US.

Related Links

Observations on illegal immigration in the US, possible solutions

How to do business in Mexico, Parts 1 – 28

Official government websites of the Mexican States

The definitive dialing guide for calling Mexico

Top States in Mexico for for doing business – World Bank Report 2007





Lessons in international business – negotiations

17 10 2006

Observations on how to create trust, effective meetings and excellent negotiations with overseas customers, suppliers and partners.

  • Whenever you are involved in international negotiations or global meetings keep in mind that you might be working with the same person for the next 10 – 20 years.
  • Negotiations should be open and straightforward.  Hidden agendas will eventually be discovered and make the next meeting very difficult.
  • Negotiations should involve creating value for both parties.
  • Meetings are important moments where trust is being built and confirmed.  Be honest and clear about your desires.
  • Never agree to something you cannot deliver or perform.
  • Listen, understand and evaluate what your partner is requesting.   What are they saying, and what does it mean.
  • Be certain of what you are negotiating and agreeing to.  If not 100% sure, stop and request clarification.
  • Prepare for the meeting several weeks before it happens.  Refresh and add information weekly.  When you reach the meeting, you will be in control of the information and feel comfortable during the talks.
  • At the end of the meeting, write down the most important points or agreements, with names and dates, and have it signed by those present.  This little tip will save lots of time and trouble for everyone involved.
  • Any agreement must have 100% follow-through.  If for any reason problems arise in the follow-through, immediately contact and communicate the situation to your partner.

Related Links

How to negotiate with Mexican business people

Great international business trip results





Great International Business Trip Results

16 10 2006

In any international relationship communication and understanding are critical for success.

Problems created by; language, stereotypes, misinformation, lack of information, and cultural misunderstandings combine with normal business problems to create a complicated scenario for anyone involved in international relationships and global business.

Prepare your international meetings and business presentations using the following questions as a guide to organize your ideas and focus on actions that will produce positive results for everyone involved.

6 Questions – Create Great International Business Trip Results

  1. What does this organization know about me, my company and my country?
  2. What do they think they know about me?
  3. What can I tell them that they do not know?
  4. What do I know about my international partner, culture and country?
  5. What do I think I know about this business, culture and country?
  6. What can they tell me that I do not know?

1. What does this organization know about me and my company. When you walk in the room an opinion has already been formed about you, your organization, and your ability to perform in the future. These ideas are based upon facts, information and past experience.

  • What has been the history of our relationship in their country?
  • Who has been involved in our mutual business, and why?
  • What promises have been made and kept by both?
  • What promises have been made and not delivered upon?
  • What have the major problems and success been in the past?
  • Press and media, our organizations promotional material.

2. What do they think they know about me. Clarifying the unknowns or presumed realities in a relationship is crucial to success. These ideas may be very damaging and limit your ability to trust one another. What stereotypical behaviour can you avoid or prevent? What can you clarify or refute through information or actions?

  • Behaviour and reacts based upon past experience with your organization.
  • Rumour and innuendo, press and media reports.
  • Negotiation styles.
  • Business objectives.
  • Behaviour, goals and methods of doing business based upon country and cultural stereotypes.

3. What can I tell them that they do not know. Today’s business world requires trust, information and solutions. Reinforcing your need to work with your international partner, providing important information or solutions, and clarifying misunderstandings can only help the relationship.

  • Clarify or destroy cultural stereotypes.
  • Clarify business objectives and why they are important in order to reach these objectives.
  • Provide solutions and alternatives to existing situations and challenges.
  • Provide information of value for their business and strategy.
  • Clearly identify current or potential business problems.
  • Predict and have answers ready for their questions.

4. What do I know about my International partner, culture and country? What do I know is true and not innuendo or interpretation? The numbers, facts, information, agreements and past performance history of the business. Information about the country and the business culture.

5. What do I think I know about this business, culture and country? What preconceived ideas and stereotypes are you working with? What are you assuming and what has been proven?

6. What can they tell me that I do not know? What questions do you need to ask in order to verify information or create plans. What pieces of your information puzzle are missing? This is the time to get your questions answered, what are they?

Related Links

Cultural misunderstanding it can happen to you

Stereotypes and global business

Create great international business relationships

16 Essential questions – the international business traveller’s quiz

Lessons in international business





The New Mercenaries – Outsourcing

13 10 2006

Mercenary, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary: Motivated solely by a desire for monetary or material gain. One who serves or works merely for monetary gain; a hireling.”

Using this definition, and forgetting the military connotations of the word (warrior for hire). The term mercenaries can be used to describe outsourcing suppliers and organizations.

Our outsourcing mercenaries are individuals or organizations that are motivated solely by monetary gain and do not share our organizations philosophies, ideals and interests.

We are hiring mercenaries to manufacture our goods, “do the dirty work”, buy time and help us compete better (and win) against the competition.

Are we weighing the long term risks of this outsourcing strategy?

Beyond the current short term cost benefits, have we identified the long-term strategic and control risks to our organizations by embracing outsourcing?

There are inherent dangers and advantages to using mercenaries. What can history tell us of mercenaries and the long term results of depending upon them?

Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince (a book about the strategy of power and control), wrote that mercenaries were not loyal, dangerous and even useless: “He who holds his State by means of mercenary troops can never be solidly or securely seated. For such troops are disunited, ambitious, insubordinate, treacherous, insolent among friends, cowardly before foes, and without fear of God or faith with man. Whenever they are attacked defeat follows; so that in peace you are plundered by them, in war by your enemies. And this because they have no tie or motive to keep them in the field beyond their paltry pay.”

The decline of the Roman Empire has been linked to the use and dependence upon mercenaries. The failure to control them, and their infiltration into positions of command and control inside the government.

Mercenaries

  • Historically tend to overthrow the power or control they do not like.
  • Adopt strategies to protect themselves from danger and risk.
  • If talented, will seek to increase their power, and if incompetent will ruin their employer.
  • Have no loyalty to the employers ideals, goals or objectives.
  • Are marked by their materialism.
  • Create their own agendas and goals
  • Their first priority is to themselves and self preservation.

Using (outsourcing) mercenaries can be positive when:

  • There is total control and agreement regarding training, quality, standards, and continual improvement.
  • The competition has access to equal or reduced resources in order to hire mercenaries.
  • There are clear short term objectives and goals, at which point the contract is finished and/or renegotiated.
  • There is clear recognition that their intervention is specialized, unique and required to create an advantage for swift campaigns or to solve specific problems.

Mercenaries and outsourcing become a risk or hazard to your organization when:

  • Mercenaries reach a level of importance and power, where their absence will provoke or contribute directly to your failure.
  • They understand your entire process or have access to your “secrets”.
  • When the competition can pay more for their services than you can.
  • Objectives are not clear, and contracts are not specific.
  • Quality standards fall, or the organization accepts below standard levels of work or products.
  • Mercenaries are relied upon to provide long term stability or to reach long term goals for your organization.
  • You forget that mercenaries respond to power and money, and not on providing quality “soldiering”.
  • You believe that by hiring mercenaries you have eliminated risk from your operations.

What risk factors and changes occur in our organization when we relinquish control over the entire process by using outsourcing mercenaries?

What happens when our outsourcing “partner” says no or begins to work for the competion?

Are we outsourcing because everyone else is, or are there fundamental long term strategic and economic reasons that support the decision?

Related Links

The Dangers of Outsourcing and What You Can Do About It

Reining in Outsourcing Risk





Global competitiveness 2006 – Mexico and China

11 10 2006

The Global Competitiveness Report 2006 – 2007 (Link), released by the World Economic Forum on September 26, 2006 has some statistics and rankings of interest if your organization is expanding into new international markets.

Based upon a mix of economic factors, information and the opinions of international business leaders, the report lists how competitive nations are in relation to one another, and compares this to last years ranking.

Mexico has clicked up a notch from 59 in 2005 to 58 in 2006.

  • Mexico’s ranking has remained broadly stable, moving up one place to 58. The country’s somewhat uneven performance over the various pillars of the GCI is shown by relatively high scores for health and primary education, goods’ market efficiency and selected components of technological readiness, e.g., FDI and technology transfer, no doubt reflecting the close links of the Mexican market to the US in the context of NAFTA. However, this is offset by the same institutional weaknesses as are prevalent in the rest of Latin America.”

China is the big surprise, dropping 6 points this year (48 in 2005, 54 in 2006).

  • “On the positive side, China’s buoyant growth rates coupled with low inflation, one of the highest savings rates in the world and manageable levels of public debt have boosted China’s ranking on the macroeconomy pillar of the GCI to 6th place – an excellent result. However, a number of structural weaknesses need to be addressed, including in the largely state-controlled banking sector. Levels of financial intermediation are low and the state has had to intervene from time to time to mitigate the adverse effects of a large, non-performing loan portfolio. China has low penetration rates for the latest technologies (mobile telephones, Internet, personal computers), and secondary and tertiary school enrollment rates are still low by international standards. By far the most worrisome development is a marked drop in the quality of the institutional environment, as witnessed by the steep fall in rankings from 60 to 80 in 2006, with poor results across all 15 institutional indicators, and spanning both public and private institutions.”

Related Links

World Economic Forum

Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness

U.S. tops world competitiveness index 2006





What can we learn from the piracy business model

10 10 2006

Here is a interesting way to view, prepare for and compete against businesses copying and pirating your content or products.

Piracy is a business model. Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, announced during a keynote address at MIPCOM. While her focus was on the pirating of media content, the same message applies for manufactured goods.

“It exists to serve a need in the market….. Pirates compete the same way we do – through quality, price and availability. We don’t like the model but we realize it’s competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward.

What’s so amazing about this?

Taking the piracy is a business model approach allows us to analyze the business model and how it is acting or reacting to the economic fundamentals in the market.

Instead of locking up our company secrets and seeking punishments for the pirates, we can analyze why and where our “competition” is taking advantage of us in order to strengthen and modify our business model.

None of this changes the actual situation. But it might change business strategies and planning when you realize they are competitors and they are here to stay.

What are the advantages of being a pirate, and the disadvantages?

Why are there opportunities for them? What should I be doing that I’m not?

How can I change my organization to take back the market from the pirates?

Once weaknesses in the piracy business model are identified they can be exploited. When strengths are discovered, they can be integrated into our own business model.

The fight against piracy should begin with a focused analysis of the market environment, existing business models and new strategies on how to adapt to the changing market conditions and exploit them to your advantage.

We can stop focusing on the individual “pirates” and their control or capture, and move toward competing intelligently against them.

Related Links

The easy way

The power of something extra

Netribution – Disney Co-Chair recognizes ‘piracy is a business model’

Boing Boing – Disney exec: Piracy is just a business model

@MIPCOM Piracy is a business model


 





Lessons in international business

10 10 2006

The most difficult part of doing business overseas will occur when you have to explain your country’s politics and culture, and provide answers on why you do things the way you do.

Related Links

Cultural misunderstanding it can happen to you

Stereotypes and global business

International business traveller, ambassador, explorer, map-maker





The easy way

9 10 2006

Despite all the attention on the power of marketing in order to create and maintain a successful product and business, there are still many organizations and people who don’t want to, or don’t know how to market their products.

They want others to buy their product because they are less expensive than the competition.

It’s the easiest way to sell, requires no planning, no marketing, no effort on the part of the salespeople or the organization. Quick short term results.

Everyone is in the market with the same goods, all screaming and shouting for the customers attention. The customer finds the seller by accident or luck, and proceeds to bargain and negotiate for the lowest price in the market. Very colorful.

It shows a lack of responsibility, lack of marketing, and lack of imagination on the part of the seller.

The owners say: “We need more profit, cut costs and sell more”.

The sales managers say: “We can sell more, but the product is a commodity, what can we do, cut the costs and we can corner the market”.

Production says: “We’ll cut costs, get cheaper raw materials and tweak the design”.

Buyers tell suppliers: “We can try your raw materials or products and see if the market accepts that price, but you have to give me a better price if you want me to buy more”.

Salespeople tell the sales manager: “I don’t know if I can meet that sales quota, it’s not up to me, it’s up to the market to decide”.

Salespeople tell the customer: “We’re cheaper than the competition, buy now”.

The competition is doing the same thing you are.

The customer faced with similar products and lack of information says: “Give me the one that costs less”.

Where was the marketer during all this?

What should they have been doing and saying to the organization and the customer?

If your product isn’t distinct, different or better than the competition. If you are not educating your customer about the advantages of your products and services. You will never have to the chance to market your products.

You will only be able to offer them for sale.

Related Links

Seth’s Blog: Cheaper

The power of something extra

Sales and marketing terrorism





The power of something extra

5 10 2006

Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more that what they expect to get.” – Nelson Boswell

What defines an exceptional leader, a great manager, a super business, or remarkable experience? Something extra.

There are two words (one French and the other Spanish) that convey and represent the concept of something extra, lagniappe and pilon.

Lagniappe (hear it) is the word commonly used in Southern Louisiana and Mississippi. It’s defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as an extra or unexpected gift or benefit.

Pilon is the Spanish word used in the southern US and Mexico to describe a gratuity given by tradesmen to customers settling their accounts, it’s something extra, and not expected.

Incorporating something extra in our actions, results and as a business philosophy can be incredibly powerful.

Something extra:

  • forces creativity and innovation.
  • demands clear understanding what is expected of us by others.
  • focuses our attention of adding value, and not on cutting costs.
  • is positive.
  • is rewarded with good will and positive reactions.
  • will lead to continual improvement.
  • is fundamental to continued success.

Something extra is all about the little things and details.

Something extra is not just something “free”, it must arrive without anticipation, unexpectedly in order for it to be special and make an impact.

Something extra allows you to surprise the customer.

Something extra will make think about your results and expectations. It will make the difference between simple compliance and outstanding results.

Something extra will make you and your results different from all the others.

Embracing something extra and applying it on a daily basis, will make you great.

Giving something extra is not a difficult task. It’s all about applying small acts of innovation and creativity to your results, especially for routine and day-to-day tasks.

The power of something extra can change your life, your products, your processes and how others perceive you.

“If you want to be creative in your company, your career, your life, all it takes is one easy step… the extra one. When you encounter a familiar plan, you just ask one question: What ELSE could we do?” Dale Dauten

Related Links

Motivation – Heroic moments

What defines an exceptional leader





Customer driven or customer ignorant

5 10 2006

“When people talk about successful retailers and those that are not so successful, the customer determines at the end of the day who is successful and for what reason.” – Gerry Harvey

Talking about it or Doing it.

  • There are organizations that talk about serving the customer.
  • There are organizations that do what customers want.

Enemy or Friend

  • There are organizations that perceive and react to the customer as an adversary.
  • There are organizations that listen to, seek out and embrace the customer and the customers ideas.

Products or Solutions

  • There are organizations that create products and services because they can, and hope that the customer will find them.
  • There are organizations that innovate and create better products and solutions for the customer.

Now take the word “organizations” and replace it with “governments”.

“This may seem simple, but you need to give customers what they want, not what you think they want. And, if you do this, people will keep coming back.” – John Ilhan

Related Links

There are no new management and leadership ideas

 





20 ideas – how to avoid major problems with your export business

29 09 2006

Exporting is an extremely difficult process as compared to selling in the local or national market. Exporting is not easy, and it’s not inexpensive. It takes planning and requires people that are open, flexible, problem-solvers, and quick at adapting to new situations.

A smart organization that desires to export their products will invest time and money building the proper administrative and sales structure before they begin operations.

20 ideas – how to avoid major problems with your export business

1. Say no to customers. When you can’t do it, say no upfront, before you make an agreement.

2. Create an export strategy before you begin to export. Don’t get sucked into exporting by “accident”.

3. Samples should be equal in quality to the actual production that will be shipped.

4. Make everything perfectly clear with customers. Don’t assume anything, don’t work with suppositions.

5. Learn and understand the business culture of your export market and customers before you begin.

6. Provide detailed price lists and price quotations to the customer. Understand your Incoterms (if you don’t know what these are, stop know and click here)

7. Contemplate what problems might possibly arise (internal and external) that could affect shipment or delivery. Prepare alternatives or take preventive action.

8. Understand that there is a learning curve that affects the organizations ability and performance when exporting to new markets. Calculate the time this will require, and it’s cost.

9. Write down and sign all agreements with the customer (dates, specifications, changes, time, everything). Verify everything with an email or fax if unable to physically sign the agreements and changes.

10. Use caution about exclusivity agreements. Everyone wants exclusivity, will that exclusivity support your entire export production? Will it limit your ability to grow?

11. Develop a quality control system throughout the company.

12. Never send poor quality products, especially in order to meet a shipping deadline.

13. Research the transportation, temperature and climatic conditions that the product will be subject to prior to arrival at the export destination.

14. Create an export price strategy. Know where you are going, and how you want to get there, your costs and required profit margins before you begin to quote prices.

15. Clearly define the costs of production and separate them from the costs of the sales required for exports. Give the sales department a base price to build upon, and make sure they clearly identify the costs related to sales and promotion in the export markets.

16. Always have at least 2 customers in the export market. This will provide protection and stability for your production and for the customers in the export market.

17. Customers who provide the research, development and design for the product may bring samples to you. Assist in the development and manufacture of the samples. Your production know-how (turning ideas into product) is fundamental and important for all involved.

18. Research and investigate fashion, trends and tendencies. In order to survive, you have to create, not pirate and copy.

19. Quality complaints and suggestions must be addressed and implemented immediately. This has to be part of the understanding of every worker, from production to sales to executive suite.

20. Discipline, planning and order. Production planning, raw material purchasing decisions, financing, infrastructure investment, human resources, sales and marketing all must be planned and coordinated, at all times.

Added Oct. 1, 2006 – Bonus legal reminder:  Know the law of the country to which you are exporting concerning:  retention of documents for litigation, product quality and manufacturing and product safety before you begin sales and shipping.  Understand your responsibility and liability for recalls, retrofitting, refunds or destruction of the product.  Learn about your legal responsibility and relationship with brokers, agents and distributors and your products.

Related Links

7 tips for doing business internationally

Maquila and Maquiladoras in Mexico

Why you should pay attention to free trade treaties

Mexico and international free trade treaties





Maquiladoras in Mexico

28 09 2006

An Internet search for the definition of the terms maquila and maquiladora will turn up quite a variety of ideas and interpretations.

The maquiladoras have created quite an emotional and political reaction on both sides of the US and Mexico border. They have been accused of stealing jobs from the US, promoting sub-standard working conditions, lowering wages, exploiting workers, and not contributing to the Mexican economy.

Despite the controversy, the maquiladoras are growing and thriving in Mexico. They offer attractive benefits to organizations that are seeking competitive production and assembly costs, skilled labor and Mexico’s proximity to the US market. Recently many transnational organizations that moved manufacturing operations to China in the 1990’s have moved back to Mexico due to cost and logistic advantages.

Maquila and Maquiladoras – definitions and activities

  • The term maquila comes from the Spanish term that refers to the portion paid (in grain, flour or oil) to a miller for milling a farmer’s grain.
  • Maquiladoras are legal entities under Mexican law, with special tax privileges, they provide service, assembly or manufacturing operations.
  • Maquiladoras are able to import raw materials or semi-processed materials from foreign countries, in order to service, process or assemble them in Mexico, and then export the finished product back to that country. These activities take place without the collection or payment of import, export or V.A.T. (value added tax) taxes.
  • The maquiladora program was created by Mexico in order for foreign organizations to take advantage of low labor costs in Mexico (primarily the USA), and to provide employment to Mexican workers in Mexico. Initially the maquila operations were located close to the US border. Currently maquila operations can be found throughout Mexico.
  • Maquiladoras can be 100% foreign owned, 100% Mexican owned, or a joint venture between Mexican nationals and foreign investors.
  • Maquiladoras are also known as twin plants, in-bond industries, export assembly plants and offshoring.
  • The maquiladoras in Mexico suffered from a crisis of plant closings in the 1990’s and early 2000’s as many companies moved operations to China. Since 2004, Mexico has seen a resurgence of the maquiladoras.

  • Check with your attorneys and accountants in Mexico about the specific benefits of the maquila program. As of September 2006, there were important legal changes (simplification and consolidation of government compliance and monitoring programs) that will affect current and future maquiladoras.

Related Links

Why you should pay attention to free trade treaties

Industrial and business parks in Mexico


Official government websites of the 32 Mexican states

Maquila and Maquiladoras in Mexico