Welcome to the October, 1998 edition TECHMANAGE newsletter. We have been blessed with so much work that September just slipped away before we could bring you another newsletter.
We'll be focusing on international business this issue and next. Telecommunications and the Internet have enabled just about everyone to "go global" and it seems that almost everyone HAS!
This issue we'll look at some important factors you need to consider to increase your efficiency and profitability in conducting transcontinental commerce.
Next month you'll read about actual cases on how some companies succeeded in finding strategic partners and other business matches at Osaka, Japan's annual, week-long international business convention (October 19-23). We'll also report on global consulting perspectives learned at the Institute of Management Consultant's annual Western Confab (October 25-27), and a few others.
In this issue:
This is an expanded version of parts of a talk I'm giving at the Fall John Marshall Law School/Chicago Bar Association Law Conference "Online Transactions, Finance and Commerce" on October 28. If you're interested in attending, please contact Henry Meier, Jr. Esq. at
for further information.
About 20 of my 25 years consulting have included overseas clients, starting with Japan (still there!), then various European countries and also China. Here are some things I have learned from my business experiences across more than one shining sea. This may appear pretty basic for large organizations and veteran exporters, so for these subscribers, please bear with me We'll start with:
These two technologies are at the opposite ends of the high- low tech spectrum I've come to rely upon in marketing, client communications and service, research, administration (including billing) and even "product" (i.e. report) delivery:
As a small service company, we aren't using heavy-duty software for data mining, extensive telecom networks or even video conferencing. (This is not so say these aren't important. They are...VITALLY important to large, multi- national corporations.) We'll be covering some software issues in a future issue.
For me, the Internet comes in two distinct flavors: E-mail and the World Wide Web. In this section, we'll cover leveraging your own Web site; we've covered Web-based research in a number of previous issues. You may find these and other related articles at our Web site by typing in the word "research" in the search engine found on every page.
Communications. We covered this in our January newsletter. Basically, you can keep in far closer, non-intrusive, contact with your overseas customers and prospects and they can avoid the dreaded voice mail telephone-tag and late- night return calls, than with any other communications medium.
Contracts. Far faster and cheaper than wasting fancy letterhead and international postage or faxes for drafts. Cover the basics, approve the language and then send out the original. I have also used ordinary, unsecured e-mail as virtual purchase orders and even contracts for long-term existing clients. DON'T do this, however, unless you understand the risks.
Collaboration. The REAL work starts once a business relationship takes place. Here is where you'll find real efficiency and cost-effectiveness in satisfying your overseas customers. We routinely exchange attached files with our international clients on research and analytical information. (We'll talk about software compatibility later)
Surveys. For high-return responses to a targeted audience, they can't be beat. E-mail surveys can be quite lengthy and allow for open-ended replies because they are easy for the respondents. All they need to do is hit the "reply" button and place X's in boxes and type in comments...as much as they wish. An inexpensive alternative to Web-based surveys, but not suited to large numbers of responses because of the extra steps needed to transfer them to a spreadsheet or database for analysis.
Marketing. Prospects usually become customers after multiple contacts...three, four, or perhaps as many as two-dozen. This newsletter is an example. And it allows us to share information with prospects and friends alike (none of you are enemies, are you?) with minimal distribution costs. The cost of fax or mail would be absolutely prohibitive, especially for global circulation!
Accessible to the general public worldwide. Using an e-mail link or a Guest Book, you can attract inquiries from international prospects who might be reluctant to send a fax or letter.
As an Extranet or Intranet. Via passwords and other security mechanisms, you can make portions of your site accessible to customers worldwide to simplify ordering, or to your suppliers, wherever they are, to check your inventory levels. Using Lotus Notes or other message sharing systems, you can collaborate with colleagues
The next Best Thing to Being There The multi-media approach to international communications works to everyone's advantage. For example, I'll send an e- mail with a suggested time that I'll call to discuss matters in detail. It's both a matter of courtesy as well as convenience and efficiency. Your overseas contact then has the option of being available when you call or let you know via e-mail of a preferred time.
Direct Line, Rather than Corporate Number Giving your overseas contacts your direct line demonstrates respect and your availability to them and enhances the personal aspect of your business relationships. It conveys a sensitivity to their costs and time delays in getting through your corporate switchboard to your personal number or voice mail.
Your direct number is particularly important if your organization's main number is a series of menu options. Have you ever struggled to decide which number to press? I certainly have! Think of the difficulties this presents to people whose primary language is other than English. What's worse is when your international caller cannot get out of a loop to get to a human being. This has happened to me several times when I've reached someone's voice mail only to discover that I couldn't get back to the main menu without re-dialing. Falling in love with the siren song of technology can lure you right onto the rocks of global market failure.
This is the philosophy of giving away (or pricing very low) an "entrance" product to increase your income. There have been many variations on this particular theme, from the classic story of Gillette's promoting their razors just so they could sell lots of high-profit razor blades and pen makers who want to sell you their brand of refills.
Today's savvy software companies let you download their software for a free 30-day trial in the hopes you'll buy it (and keep upgrading). Giving away your technology, even if it's for a limited-trial offer. How many CD-ROMS have YOU received from AOL?
Technology companies realize that the best way to gets their technology standardized faster is to distribute it far and wide. Sun's strategy for opening its Java source code to programmers and Netscape's giving away its browser both focus on the building loyalty for their far more profitable products.
Now I don't know this for sure, but it seems logical to me that the farther away a potential customer is located, the more likely it is that the prospect would take you up on a free offer to see what you're all about, rather than risking plunking down even a modest payment for a competing product that may or may not be suitable.
Consulting firms do this routinely by posting white papers and links to targeted external sites, offering e-mailed newsletters and updates on their activities. We do too.
A long time ago I needed to replace some hosiery in Japan and wanted to purchase a U.S. brand because I stood taller than probably 95% of the Japanese women (no longer the case with the subsequent generation) and their domestic, non-stretch brands simply would not fit. Not finding any western labels, I approached the sales clerk and asked for the only brand I could thing of, L'Eggs, which I translated as "tamago pantystocking" or literally "egg pantyhose". Well, what a curious look I got! Then, using probably the only egg-related English word she knew, asked, "scramble?"
Things went from bad to worse when I tried to explain that the egg was the package in which the pantyhose were encased. Oh well. ;-)
When words fail, try pantomime and creative gestures. I once had a Portugese client in, and his interpreter needed to excuse himself for about 15 minutes to make an important telephone call. What to do? We probably had a dozen words in common between us, and I certainly didn't relish the thought of us staring at each other across the conference table. Leaving him alone to look at the pictures in Business Week didn't appeal to me either.
Aha! The world map on the wall. I got up and pointed to Chicago and then moved my finger to Portugal with a quizzical look. He got the idea and pointed to his city. I nodded in appreciation and moved back to the United States, where I pointed to our Rocky Mountains (fortunately the map showed a lot of topographical detail) and made skiing motions, and clasping my hands to my chest, indicating my enjoyment of the sport. He nodded, pointed to the Portugese shoreline and made swimming motions. We were having such a great time, I was almost sorry that the interpreter returned so quickly. (He was mighty relieved, I might add, that we were NOT staring at each other across the table!)
The concept of globalization challenges all of us, whether it knowingly touches our lives or whether we have not given it any thought at all. Of the 10 professionals to whom I posed this question, one third had not given this topic any thought. Each of the others had a ready answer:
In the end, our point of view determines how we see the world. We can thank globalization for cheap consumer goods from Japan, southeast Asia, and other parts of the world. Without it, instant communication with friends in other countries would only be a dream; instead we can visit our friends in distant parts of the globe within the span of a few hours. The media bombard us with messages and meanings about globalization, which resonate with our understanding of the concept. It spells euphoria and unlimited potential for some, destitution, fear of survival, hopelessness and despair for others. Globalization is a medium which touches nearly every aspect of contemporary live in the ëcivilized' world. We consume products whose familiar names mask that their components have been manufactured in distant lands. For consumers, product selection is rich, colorful and reasonably priced. Buying only American-made products is not a realistic option for the average consumer; a full complement of American-made products for day-to-day living is simply not available.
Globalization is the engine of trade and of explosive economic prosperity in the US and, conversely of devastating economic malaise in Southeast Asia. This extreme polarity finds expression in uncertainty about the future and in volatile financial markets.
Historically, the victor's perspective of conventional wars has been reflected in history books. At present, economic victors are putting their spin on the definition of globalization, while ascribing fault, such as crony- capitalism in southeast Asia, to the losers. For now, the argument of the victorious stands. Their worldview is shaped and disseminated. And yet, sooner or later, it will be replaced by the next argument, equally compelling, equally buttressed with statistics. Not long ago, Japan occupied the economic driver's seat which is occupied by the US today.
Globalization is a dynamic concept of universal proportions. All of us are in its inexorable grip whether we support it or not, understand it or not. Even those who have spent much time and effort understanding globalization cannot rest on their laurels. Change is ever-present and yesterday's besieged has the potential to be tomorrow's victor. Alternatively, we can make use of the communication tools and resources which globalization has put at our fingertips to forge cooperative efforts and trans-global relationships of mutual understanding and prosperity not yet seen. In such a world, multilateral winners could make the historical win/lose cycle obsolete.
For now, globalization can only be defined point in time by point of view. Whether we choose to be participants or spectators during the globalization process, our understanding of it will grow and evolve as globalization forces transform the world we live in today.
A Personal View
Globalization offers me the opportunity to explore and enrich a new frontier for my German-English-speaking clients by identifying pitfalls and booby traps in their trans- national business activities.
German-speaking business people, a proud and highly educated group, they have traditionally relied solely on their school English as adequate preparation for doing business with English-speaking business partners. This reliance rested on the mistaken belief that a large number of Americans are just like German-speaking Europeans, with one exception, they speak English. While some have recovered from the lashings and bruises of their trans-continental encounters, others have retreated to relative isolation after suffering substantial financial loss.
During the current phase of globalization, I often get a chance to participate in international management training classes, at board meetings and business meetings where I often occupy a privileged position: I am able to coax along and bring about new connections, a deeper understanding, new possibilities for collaboration and insights. Lights go on in the heads of business executives; they begin to understand how a business process functions in the other culture and that this process is not wrong because it is different, but just as valid and good within its own context. Often, such realizations open new horizons and possibilities for constructive collaboration.
Even when transcontinental business partners speak the same language, the international language of business: English, communication is often elusive. For example, when a German managing director unambiguously asserts his priorities, his commitments to his employees, and his American partner is just as unambiguous about his priority, to improve the bottom line next quarter, language difference is not the issue. The first priority of this ërational' American businessperson is the bottom line, while for this German executive, being ërational' puts his reputation, his word in first place.
Worldviews, values and culture, in addition to personality and company differences are at issue here. Today, in the global age we are increasingly recognizing our global interdependence and our respective uniqueness, we are learning that there are other valid approaches, besides our own. And therein lies much of the richness, beauty and possibilities of globalization. Navigating along the jagged ridges which separate cultures, helping alternately one side and then the other to get a better view and understanding of the other side is challenging and rewarding. Helping the parties to ultimately reach agreement, which allows both partners to scale, the mountain ahead with combined strength and momentum, that is the thrill of globalization for me.
Want to check your e-mail? Do research or work on projects? By popular demand, the tech center will be wired with telephone lines for dial-up access to the Internet for your own computers during the day. Much more convenient than running up to your room at lunch or in between sessions.
It's safe because the Tech Center is watched during the day and you take your laptop back to your room at the end of the day. And, you get to select from several bonuses offered by Tech Center vendor/participants besides! Let me know via e- mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to assure your space.
More than a dozen suppliers of products compatible with Palm Pilot and other handheld devices will be participating in the Tech Center. Bring yours along if you want to try them out.
Information on Confab can be found at:
On October 29 and some time in November, I'll be teaching several courses on advanced Internet-based research with fellow consultant and business associate Jeff Molander through the accounting firm of FERS. Please contact Kyla Dreier, Director of Marketing at FERS at email@example.com for specifics.
As noted last month, I'll be speaking at the Marketing Research Association on November 6, also with Jeff Molander, at their Fall Education Conference, "Winds of Change: 20/20 Foresight," exploring new ways to leverage technology to increase strategic advantage in San Diego. For more information, see:
Here's how to play: copy and paste the question below into a new message; type in your answer with your name, title, company name and type of company (or work you do if independent) and send it to me at:
Extra credit: Approximately how many millions of U.S. users were there?
Those submitting even remotely-reasonable guesses will receive my list of favorite global-information Web sites.
Last month's question:
What is the single greatest barrier you see to the success of your organization?
Know what the greatest number of answers was?
It's great to know that our subscribers have such a fine sense of humility...or wisdom...or...sense of humor? ;-)
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