Moderator: Roza Pace
October 27, 2010
1:00 pm CT
Coordinator: Welcome and thank you for standing by. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode until the question-and-answer session of today’s conference. At that time you may press star 1 on your touch-tone phone to ask a question.
I would also like to remind parties that this call is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time. I would now like to turn the call over to Roza Pace. Thank you. You may begin.
Roza Pace: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for our Webinar on the Basic Guide to Exporting: Improving Your Cultural Intelligence. I’m Roza Pace, a Senior International Trade Specialist with the Trade Information Center. The Trade Information Center is part of the U.S. Commercial Service at the Department of Commerce. Our mission is to help U.S. Companies export.
I’d like to welcome all the U.S. Commercial Service clients and other Webinar participants in our exporting community who are joining us from all across the U.S. to learn about this very important topic.
We very happy to note that today we have a very diverse assortment of participants and we hope you will find today’s Webinar of interest. Please note that this is an audio recording. We hope that you will have in front of you PowerPoint presentation that was sent to you separately and during this session we will discuss the cultural IQ template and through the discussion we’ll link to our own intercultural communication experiences.
The discussion will be led by Mr. - by Dr. Doug Barry - our Senior International Trade Specialist with the Department of Commerce. Doug is also an editor of Basic Guide to Exporting, the 10th edition.
He will be available to answer your questions after the Webinar so the operator will put you in the queue to have your line taken off the mute and after the Webinar to ask your questions.
Contact information will be provided at the end of the Webinar if you will have any additional questions after this event. You will hear this presentation via your telephone and we’ll be happy to provide you again PowerPoint presentation to those of you who for some reason may have not gotten that.
Since this program is recorded, we’ll also be able to share with you the recorded version should you so desire. Now without further ado, Doug, welcome and have a wonderful Webinar experience.
Doug Barry: Great. Thank you very much, folks, and thank you Roza. Just to remind you, this was a sort of unusual two-part Webinar. The first part which was recorded in June by the author of the book Improving Your Cultural Intelligence Dr. David Livermore was sent out to those who registered.
It’s not a prerequisite to have this in front of you in order to get hopefully a lot out of the discussion that we’re going to have today and we can certainly send you his presentation as soon as this is over. If you e-mail us, we’ll be happy to provide that to you. It is online.
Today though you don’t need to look at anything in order to gain from the session. You just simply listen to your fellow participants who will be asking questions in a bit and I’ll give a brief presentation for five minutes at the top of the program.
And then after that I will ask for your questions and comments both on what I’m going to speak about in a minute, your own intercultural communication experiences and anything that you took away from the Webinar by Dr. Livermore.
Who by the way would have been here himself today except he was called away on short notice. I think he’s in Thailand at this moment where it is probably 2:00 in the morning and he was working quite late and was unable to be with us today.
So let me after welcoming you just to talk a little bit about the topic of cultural intelligence, how to develop it and how intercultural challenges that I’m sure we have all had that you are facing now or will face in the future can be enriched by the work of Dr. Livermore and his colleagues.
He has really provided a framework to help us think about how to think about the role of culture in our everyday life with a particular emphasis on business and I’m assuming that you phoned-in today because you believe that culture is an important element in doing international business.
And that there are particular skills you can learn to assist in your interactions with people from different cultures, and the culture does matter. And my takeaway from the book and the presentation by Dr. Livermore is that you can’t learn all you need to know by reading the equivalence of those Lonely Planet guides to Nepal or Thailand or China that he talked about in his presentation.
Though the do’s and don’ts and taboos book do have a place in our acquisition of this knowledge and this set of skills, they also have a lot of limitations and by themselves are not adequate to help us learn what we need to know in order to be effective intercultural communicators.
Now I remember reading such a book, the do’s and taboos before an assignment that I had a few years ago in Thailand and one of the things I remember, it warned me not to show the bottoms of my shoes to Thai people and not to touch them on the head.
And so I thought okay, this is useful, so I went to Bangkok and I was there for awhile and I asked a Thai coworker about these injunctions and this is what she said. She said, “Yes, these things are offensive to us” and then I thought aha, this is very useful. They’re right.
I’ve now tried it out on a relative young person so it’s nothing that is necessarily age-related. It’s true throughout the culture in large part and then she asked me when was the last time in a meeting with business people did I pat a customer on the head or raised my legs up in order to show them the bottoms of my feet while sitting at the meeting table.
And to tell you the truth I couldn’t remember the last time I did that. I don’t think I ever did that so reading the cultural sensitivity literature before your next intercultural encounter is part of the strategy that Dr. Livermore’s research suggests you do.
But there is much, much more and I like the way that he talks of acquiring CQ or cultural intelligence as part of a process that involves examining your behavior as much as it does examining the behavior of others not like you and most importantly learning from both of these things.
Now by way of kicking things off, let me briefly share a personal story, how it might be seen through the cultural intelligence framework and what it might say about my cultural intelligence or lack of it.
Now I’ll confess that I’ve loved traveling since I was a little kid though I didn’t do much traveling then. I didn’t get out of the State of California until I was I think 21 but I always imagined and I dreamed about going places and I had a secret plan to go places when I had the money and the freedom in order to do it.
And I liked learning about and from other cultures and I grew up in a very cultural (polyglot) of San Francisco and the 1960s and 1970s. Now I’ll confess also that my parents and grandparents whom I was very close to were I suppose varying degrees of racist.
My grandmother, San Franciscan at the beginning of the last century, this puts it, you know, in late 1890s and the early part of the next century, fondly remember and told me this, you know, as a child chasing Chinese kids through the streets of San Francisco and pulling their queue or the little pigtail which they still wore at that time.
And it’s clear, she didn’t like them and she didn’t like them because they were Chinese. So I smiled during the last years of her life when she was cared for at her home by a Chinese-American woman who my grandfather - my grandmother - so, you know, not completely in her right mind at the time, loved as if she was one of her own children.
So I would not have selected any of my relatives to represent my company in international business dealings, not from what I know. And without talking to him further would I select the NPR - I should say former NPR commentator - Juan Williams who you may have heard about in the news who was fired by NPR after he voiced fears of getting on airplanes with people who looked like Muslims.
Now I think giving voice to personal prejudices is an important part of examining what Dr. Livermore calls drive, the reason behind one’s desire to acquire cultural intelligence. But stereotypes and how they develop must be part of the process of ongoing self-reflection and that is why do I hold these beliefs, how did they develop and what factual basis supports them?
And if none does, how can I change them? I’m different than my family members and probably different from Juan Williams. I’ve visited Muslim countries. I’ve visited mosques here in the Washington, D.C. area where I’m speaking to you today and I’m aware of the manipulative nature and power of the mass media.
And I try to take precautions against indoctrination by that media just as I do in warding off infections and viruses. Doing so daily is part of what Dr. Livermore calls strategy.
So now let me tell you another little story that brings us up to contemporary times and if you listen to the recording by Dr. Livermore, I was one of his questioners and I asked about how to prevent myself from doing stupid things in my relations with the Japanese people.
And let me just sort of quickly say that I had dinner with a Japanese man that I’ve known for many years. He’s quite a high-level, highly-respected individual in Japanese cultural, political, educational, diplomatic circles.
He came to Washington, D.C. almost a year ago today and he called me up and invited me to a very nice hotel in downtown Washington for dinner. We had a great dinner and then during the course of the conversation we had a discussion about a project, one that I had proposed to him and he was very, very excited about this and he thought oh, this was great.
We talked in very specific terms. He left. I e-mailed him a week or so later with some even more specific proposals about this project. He was equally enthusiastic and said okay, you know, send me additional details, budget and so forth which I did.
And then a week later I got an e-mail from him which seemed to suggest oh, we’ve gone, you know, way too far. We’re way ahead of where I feel comfortable being. I have to discuss this with my colleagues. They’re saying there’s no time to do this in their workplans and we just need to take time out. I need to consult and then I’ll get back to you.
And then the next time was even vaguer and the next time vaguer still until he wasn’t talking about it at all in these communications and I was, you know, frustrated. I thought, you know, we had a deal; what happened?
And I was just about ready to send him an e-mail that would have I think destroyed the entire relationship and I thought about it for awhile and I decided not to send it and so the relationship is still ongoing but the proximity to disaster troubled me very deeply because I thought I knew a lot about Japanese culture.
I thought I knew a lot about Japanese people, personality, character, psychology. I’d studied it. I’d been there, had Japanese friends. And I just wondered why none of that seemed to inform me at all and to prevent me from almost making a terrible blunder that would have ruined that relationship which is both personal and professional.
So I made a number - when I thought about this in sort of a triage or critique of what had happened - I had a number of implicit assumptions which are unexamined thoughts and beliefs which motivate action. In this case, you know, I didn’t examine these assumptions.
I didn’t even know I was having them. I didn’t identify them so how I could know about them until after the near-disaster and here are some of the assumptions.
And I’m laying out some of these assumptions now because I think the implicit assumption identification is a part of Dr. Livermore’s framework that while he doesn’t talk about them specifically, he implies such a process in a couple of the steps in his four-part model.
This in particular is sort of, you know, the research that you do beforehand and then the plan that you develop and the execution of the plan. So the assumption that I made was that because I have been interacting with Japanese for years, I could trust my judgment in each of the future encounters I would have with them.
And I further assumed that because this person spoke fluent English and seemed comfortable with non-Japanese people that he wasn’t as Japanese as other Japanese I had known or read about and was therefore free of the codes, the rules, the behaviors and the rituals that are associated with very Japanese kinds of behavior.
And free of these things I assumed further that I could talk frankly ala American upfrontness, even pointing out how unproductive Japanese behavior would be in this situation.
And that was predicated on a further assumption that this person was the ultimate boss and could summarily order his minions to do his bidding based on what I thought was a shared understanding of what that bidding was.
Now because these assumptions were never made explicit and examined by me, I nearly blundered and potentially lost a friend as well as future professional opportunities. I really had no strategy based on the identification of these assumptions other than getting the deal done on my American-style timeframe.
But if you heard Dr. Livermore, he opined that my intelligence - cultural intelligence - kicked-in somewhere during this process and prevented me from sending the e-mails and destroying the relationship.
That I did pull up just short of disaster was not a cause for celebration but wonderment on how previous lessons and knowledge can be unreflectively switched off, leaving one partially blinded by the power of their own cultural norms.
I now have a strategy which takes the reflections into account and makes the assumptions as you heard explicit and so with this Japanese friend, I will contact him periodically by e-mail.
I will raise the project only at the end of the e-mail and only in the most general and gentle terms and I will incorporate what I’ve learned about the process of Japanese decision-making and Japanese concepts of time into the execution of the strategy which at this point is exclusively a communication strategy.
And you know, with the Japanese and Dr. Livermore mentioned this, you know, time is a very important aspect of intercultural understanding and communication because different societies operate on different timeframes so I’m in a big hurry to get things done.
Others want relationships to develop slowly and completely before they feel comfortable before entering into an economic arrangement with you and in the Japanese side of things, they’re probably a mix of both but they do like to get to know you and they don’t want to be hurried.
And indeed, you know, they’ve sometimes used in the literature that is - this never happened to me I don’t think - but in the literature you will find anthropologists and others talking about people from other culture using knowledge of another culture that’s not their own as a sort of a counterweight or as an effective strategy against the other negotiating party.
And there’s been stories that I’m aware of, have read in the literature where Americans come and they say I’m going to be here for five days. And you know, I hope at the end of the five days - and they imply at the end of the five days I’d like to have a contract, I’d like to have an agreement and, you know, an exchange of protocols about making a purchase.
And so the people who they’re attempting to sell things to realize that okay, their flight is on Friday and that means if I can delay things and create pressure and tension, they’ll want to make a deal before they go. And because they’re in a hurry, they may make concessions that they wouldn’t make if time were not such an issue.
We have a different concept of time. Time is on our side in this case. They’ve indicated that it’s not on their side and so let’s use time to enhance our position at the expense of their position and then as far as the deliberative decision-making, the Japanese, you know, like to include a lot of people in the decision.
They want to get buy-in from everybody and it doesn’t matter, you know, what the status of the people are in the organization. There’s just a lot of discussion about whether or not to move forward on something and it can take quite a long time for that to happen.
It sounds a little bit like the federal government here in Washington so I should, you know, not only have the experience of living and working in Japan but also here in the federal government and I ought to be very much familiar with this process but I wasn’t.
I wanted to rush things into being and I switched off that understanding that there is this collaborative decision-making, consensus decision-making. The word in Japanese is (nemawashi) and I even thought at one point I would use that in my communication.
Well they might say I know this is (nemawashi) but (nemawashi) really, you know, has not served the Japanese corporate world very well, has it. And you can imagine how good such a slight - not intended to be one - but nevertheless received that way, he probably would be deeply offended but would never tell me and that would be the end of it.
In other words, I wanted - I had an impulse - to lecture him on what doesn’t work in Japanese business culture from my perspective and use that to help him understand that there are different ways of doing things and that he should do it my way and not his way. And right away you see the quicksand that I had jumped into there and fortunately I didn’t do any of those things.
And so I have a process that includes the knowledge component, that is, the kinds of things that I will draw upon in my own experience to inform what I’m going to do next and to understanding how to communicate.
I’ll have a strategy and I’ll have a plan to execute the strategy using the knowledge about myself and all of those shortcomings that I’ve just laid out for you and the Japanese that I have developed over time.
And as part of the knowledge and strategy, you know, there are many resources that I and you can depend on. One of course is Dr. Livermore himself who has asked you to e-mail him anytime with your questions, concerns and comments, that he will reply to you.
You can of course refer to his book which has a lot of practical tips and suggestions about how you can develop these capabilities and reflective capabilities.
Certainly you can contact me. You can contact my colleagues here at the Trade Information Center with questions about cultural communication and you can certainly talk and we’ll refer you to our colleagues around the world who represent most of the cultural groups you will be doing business with or want to do business with.
And then of course there are the representatives of these cultural groups in your own communities that also provide you with a resource that you can easily tap into.
So with that opening statement and in particular trying to take a recent experience that’s still raw in my mind and reinterpret it in Dr. Livermore’s, you know, four major areas of this structure for cultural intelligence that he has provided us, I would like for you now to think about for a minute cultural encounters that you have had.
How you’ve dealt with them successfully or unsuccessfully, see if you can, you know, twin them with what Dr. Livermore has laid out if you choose to do that or just share an insight that you have had that suggests, you know, the development of your cultural intelligence.
So let’s open the lines up now for comments and discussion. It’s now about 27 past the hour. We can go to the top of the next hour and that gives us about 35 or 40 minutes for a discussion. Thanks again for your attention and let’s have the discussion.
Coordinator: Thank you. We will now begin the question-and-answer session. If you would like to ask a question, please press star 1. Please unmute your phone and record your name clearly when prompted.
Your name is required to introduce your question. To withdraw your request, press star 2. One moment while we wait for the first question or comment. (Donald Ellison), your line is now open.
(Donald Ellison): Hi. You mentioned some of the experiences we had. I remember in my young business career I had a colleague - an older colleague - that informed me that he had an excellent contact at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. and that I should utilize that individual.
So I called him up, showed up at the Embassy, started my discussion and I noticed the individual was very nervous and I didn’t quite know how to deal with it but we continued.
Later on I found that he was an interpreter not a person that could conduct business and he was very nervous because he didn’t know as an interpreter why he was asked to participate or to be the contact person.
So you have to be careful and make sure you do your homework just like you have to be careful when you go into a U.S. Company. Because the U.S. Company, you need to get to know the gatekeepers, whether it’s the secretary, you need to know the corporate culture and so forth so that was an experience that I found has always stuck with me.
Doug Barry: Yes, that’s a very good observation, and yes, you get a reference from a person that you trust which is part of our culture. And here maybe is a great pathway into the Chinese Embassy and the expertise that exists there but you have no way of independently verifying whether what your friend told you is really accurate and it turned out not to be.
And the Chinese I think are very aware of status. They’re also very aware of what that status allows them to do in terms of talking to people who are not part of the Embassy community or if it was a Chinese business, the business itself.
And so finding out who the right person is to talk to is extremely important and I think to try to, you know, relate that to Dr. Livermore’s cultural intelligence template, this seems to be, you know, the knowledge that, you know, what knowledge do I need?
What information do I need in order to satisfy my objective which is to create I guess in your case contacts within the Embassy that can provide you some insight into a possible business opportunity there.
And so then, you know, to be able to ask yourself what information do I need, obviously I need contacts at the Embassy but the first contact you get may not be the one that you follow-up on and that there may be some additional steps to take. One is to call the Chinese specialist at the Department of Commerce who all have their own contacts at the Embassy.
They would be happy to tell you what those individuals know and maybe even, you know, offer to make an introduction to you which in a lot of Asian societies and a lot of non-Asian societies, an introduction is extremely important and who does the introducing is just as important.
And so the more effort that you can put in on finding the right person even if it takes a few weeks and requires some phone calls, that is time well worth spent.
(Donald Ellison): I might follow-up on that also when you emphasized the importance of working with the excellent resources we have within the U.S. government, a number of years later I was in charge of a trade association and we had some USDA money to help out with some of the trade shows we were doing overseas.
And I had to go into a country, make sure all the trade show exhibits and so forth were moved into the country, set-up and ready to go but when the company marketing people and representatives would arrive and then I would close things down and make it to the next country.
Well in one particular case I was having major problems getting our materials through the Customs and working with the Embassy, they sent down one of the local people and he was able to bridge some of the cultural problems because he was a local native and was able to get the materials through.
Whereas a carton of cigarettes I couldn’t have passed on, he was able to and saved a major disaster.
Doug Barry: Right, again knowing the right person but even beyond that, there are some very specific things that are worth knowing about Germans and German business culture and to be able to research that before you go would be very helpful.
They’re much more formal at these trade shows than U.S. trade shows. By that I mean dress, I mean the way that they refer to each other. There’s also the, you know, very interesting sort of social culture there at these trade shows that involves beer and Oktoberfest-like festivals and to know about that in advance and how to conduct yourself when you’re there can be very valuable.
And by the way, there’s an excellent video series on YouTube. I think you use the keywords international or German trade show. They that and there are five parts to it. They’re each about five or six minutes and they take you through the, you know, international trade shows using the German ones as an example and there’s a couple of segments on culture that are quite fascinating.
And if you can’t find this on YouTube, e-mail me and I’ll send you the links to it and I appreciate your comments and thanks very much. Have a good day and now we’ll open the line to the next question.
Coordinator: Our next question comes from (Jacob Nixon). Your line is now open.
Doug Barry: Hello, (Jacob).
(Jacob Nixon): Hi, Doug. This is (Jacob Nixon) at the Trade Information Center. Based on your previous experience in the international world of business and also in your interactions with Dr. Livermore, in general what do you recommend an agent of a U.S. Company do when you’re having business with a potential buyer face-to-face in a new country that maybe they haven’t had a presence in in the past?
Doug Barry: Well, that’s a good question. You know, first, you know, I would have a plan going in and the plan would include before I got there to learn as much about that particular culture as I can and as, you know, Dr. Livermore said, it’s not always straightforward.
If you go to a place in the Middle East for example, say Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, you might be at a table with people who are Germans, Chinese, Koreans and maybe there would be someone there from Saudi Arabia, a Saudi Arabian and so, you know, you may need to know that in advance. Who is it that I’m meeting with? Inquire before you get there, who’s going to be there?
Can you send bios of the people? The Japanese are or were - I haven’t been there in a couple of years - very big on learning as much as they can about who’s going to be in the meeting with them and they will always ask please send us the bio of everyone who’s going to be there.
And they will study it carefully and they’ll memorize, you know, various aspects of the person’s background so that they can, you know, use it in discussion. But also they can get a sense of who this person is, what their title is, what the title signifies in terms of the, you know, the power that they have to make decisions on behalf of the company.
So that would be one thing in doing the homework and then find out as much as you can about the country. Look at and then obviously if you don’t - if you’re fearful - about going to the Middle East for whatever reason, if you have bad associations with people in the Middle East, then you might ask someone else to go.
You know, know enough about yourself and your own concerns, biases and so forth, stereotypes. Be honest and, you know, ask yourself. Keep a diary. Keep a journal in which these things can be written down and you can have an honest discussion with yourself about, you know, what might affect your ability to be successful as a representative of your company going to one of these places.
Then when you’re there, try to notice as much as you can about what’s going on there, how people fit, how they’re addressed, who’s the quieter, who’s the more, you know, conversational. Think about your own, you know, communication style.
If someone goes into the meeting with you, have them observe these things and take notes because you may be too busy trying to, you know, put your thoughts together and if you’re working through a translator or an interpreter, that would be, you know, another thing to multitask.
And you may not be so observant but someone else with you could be and then after debrief. What happened there? What did you see? What did I see and what might this mean for our next and future encounter?
And then after the meeting, you know, there are of course ritualistic responses, thank you very - make sure they get the thank you letters - make sure you address them properly. Better to err on the side of formality than informality.
Mohammad would probably not work but, you know, Mr. Sheikh or whatever would probably be more appropriate and these are things that you would know ahead of time and then you can plan your next communication, your next interaction with them based on these observations and what you’ve all put together in terms of the plan that you have developed.
And I think, you know, those before, during and after steps while, you know, very general and cursory probably will stand you in good stead.
(Jacob Nixon): Thanks, Doug.
Doug Barry: Thank you, (Jacob). Next question?
Coordinator: I show no further questions and again if you do have any questions or comments, please press star 1 and record your name. Again, please press star 1.
Doug Barry: Great. We can wait just a couple of minutes and be happy to take more questions from you. This is a good discussion. Again if you had a cultural communication encounter that went very well, let us know. If you had one that didn’t go so well or left you a little bit quizzical, tell us about that.
And any questions about the Dr. Livermore cultural intelligence model, feel free to ask those and go to his Website where apparently there is a tool or a survey that helps you measure your own cultural intelligence as the research of his group has indicated.
You can sort of tell where you are on a scale and let you know, you know, where you might need to go in the future or, you know, how terrific you are now as a cultural communicator.
Roza Pace: Doug, this is Roza. I’d like to follow-up with a question and perhaps also a comment. I’d like to hear from you your take on any specific advice that you might have for women in international trade.
Obviously all the wonderful points that were made by Mr. Livermore and yourself are very applicable to an agenda; however, I notice when I for instance traveled a lot to countries which are a little different than ours, let’s say, I remember very distinctly my experience of business travel to Pakistan.
And it was one of the receptions, I met this woman who was a very successful businesswoman working for major power company in the U.K. and her company was actually very successful in the international procurement field in Pakistan. They were overseeing number of power projects there.
And I asked her how she manages to be so successful in a Muslim environment knowing that she was not herself of this particular background and she said well, I just learned about the realities of the world and I know in this country women unfortunately at least from professional angle do not count as men.
So what I do, I breathe and I take with my assistants who don’t have the same title and may not have the same knowledge but I let them speak and tell them exactly what to tell and succeed that way.
I thought this was a little different but obviously worked in this particular case and of course dress code was a separate issue too in a country like Pakistan or the Middle East. Being a woman you want to be very mindful of being dressed respectfully but anyway any thoughts that you might have, that would be quite appreciated too.
Doug Barry: Yes. That’s an excellent question Roza and, you know, I don’t pretend to be an expert in the women’s styles of intercultural communication but I think that the story that you conveyed makes a lot of sense.
And I certainly have read similar kinds of cases where high-level, you know, Western women will in fact bring others along with them through whom they can deal or with whom they can deal mainly as a way of setting the potential buyers and business partners at ease.
And I guess my feeling would be, you know, be pragmatic. What is your goal going into it? If the goal is to, you know, secure a sale or substantial business from a country with a culture that’s substantially different than ours particularly in gender relations, then that should drive the strategy as to who goes and who presents.
I do think though that the world is changing and what may have been true, you know, a few years ago is less true today particularly since a lot of these Muslim countries where the dominant religion is Islam, you know, they’re changing too.
The King of Saudi Arabia has made it a point to, you know, increase the inclusivity of women at all stages of society and there’s a lot of opposition to his plans but he seems determined as is his family on this course.
And I think Saudi Arabia which is one of the most traditional societies I think in the region and in the world will be very different in this respect in five years than it is now.
So I think let the pragmatism be your guide, knowing if you are a high-level executive in a company and you are a woman, you know, there are different ways of finessing this and by all means, you will get some cues obviously from the people who are hosting you and other, you know, discreet questions can be asked.
And you can of course contact we have an Embassy in Pakistan with both Pakistani employees and Americans who’ve been there for a long time and they would be more than helpful to advise you and it probably could be on a case-by-case basis.
Understand that it is a factor in play but it does depend on each particular circumstance, each group of people. There’s knowledge. This is the earlier question about, you know, who do you deal with, who can speak for the organization that you want to be in contact with?
Spend a little time on the front end making the inquiries and it will go much better when it’s time to meet people in person.
Roza Pace: That’s good advice, Doug.
Doug Barry: Thank you so much. Any other questions?
Coordinator: (Brian Ruff), your line is now open.
(Brian Ruff): Hi. I’m sorry, I joined a little late you might have (unintelligible). I was just wondering if you have any recommendations on specific literature regarding dealing with, you know, business meetings and cultures. Maybe specific by region or country such as dress, the type of dress you’d wear, the type of salutations you’d use, you know, the type of conversation that you might have, you know, specifically with countries in Asia or in Middle East or something like that.
Is there any specific literature that you would recommend or it’s just like a general broad research?
Doug Barry: Sure, good question. Well, you know, I’m quite fond of Dr. Livermore’s book which I read some months ago and that is the cultural intelligence book which I definitely is worth reading, getting out of the library or purchasing online.
There’s a chapter in the Basic Guide to Exporting on intercultural communication and business culture which is very worthwhile. That’s good and then I think it’s Roger Axtell, seems to me that he was the author of the Do’s and Taboos of International Business.
And it’s one of those books about, you know, don’t touch people on the head but, you know, there are hundreds of observations like that that apply to different cultures and societies, the formalities, how to address people.
And then another resource that is free is the Country Commercial Guide they’re called or short CCG, Country Commercial Guide and there’s one for every country in the world where we have a diplomatic presence and you can get them on export.gov under the market research section in the market research library.
You just type-in the country that you want the research on and it will give you this entire thing. It’s probably a hundred-page document for every country and there’s a section in there on business culture and I think those would be very useful.
And of course, you know, you remember the terrible stories that have been told about awful blunders in advertising when it comes to trying to sell things in other countries.
The blunder that a maker of laundry detergent made some time ago in the Middle East where they had a poster campaign on the highways. And the intent of it was to show a gray, you know, outfit, the long white robes that are worn there by men and women, you know, they’re very gray to start with and if you use this product, they’ll turn out sparkling white.
But in the Arabic language, you read things from right to left, not left to right so the posters were put up in the English-speaking world way and so the message to the people driving past on the Saudi desert was that this product will turn your robes to gray.
And you know, then there was the Nova, N-O-V-A, the GM vehicle 10-15 years ago when it was introduced to Latin America without any change of name. “No va” in Spanish means “no go” so no one’s going to buy a car with a name like that or maybe a few people would but most wouldn’t.
And then it’s not just us that makes these blunders, there was a company in Spain that rolled-out an anti-acne medication and they named it Zit, Z-I-T. So you know, these things are done, and of course we’re all appalled by them thinking that millions of dollars worth of marketing could just go down the drain because of some foolish mistake that no one caught.
But I think the good news is that you can only seize on a few of these blunders. Most of the time, people seem to get it right because they do care, they do their homework and, you know, they understand enough about the culture not to make this horrible mistake.
So there’s a few bits, a few referrals from the literature, particularly the free research that we do and I think you’ll be well-served to thank a look at them.
(Brian Ruff): Okay, definitely. Thanks.
Doug Barry: Thank you for your question. Anyone else? Please, we have a few more minutes and certainly time for let’s see at least one question, maybe two more or a comment.
Coordinator: (Joey Rosenberg), your line is now open.
Doug Barry: Hello, (Joey).
Coordinator: Please check your mute button.
(Joey Rosenberg): I’m sorry, can you hear me now?
Doug Barry: Yes, I can.
(Joey Rosenberg): Great, sorry about that. My question comes to you from having been an experienced traveler. I’ve been to many of the world’s regions and find that I feel very comfortable studying culture in advance and then sort of testing what I’ve learned here adequately on the ground and adapting.
But I’m wondering if a company is looking to expand to a new market altogether, how much time should be invested in trying to employ or make connections, either consulting connections or otherwise on the ground in the new market before they sort of try to take a stab at increasing their own cultural knowledge and going there?
I’m wondering how much of that connection and capacity-building on the ground should be built into that four-step plan that was in the pre-slides about your action and strategy.
Doug Barry: Right. Well, let’s see. That’s an excellent question and I think, you know, I think that it depends on, you know, if you’re going to be hiring staff in the country, if how complicated your product is and the extent to which, you know, it might need to be modified in some way because of the way the culture uses the product as opposed to its use say in its home market or the market where it was created, maybe the United States.
So those things, you know, need to be accounted for and then the other part is, you know, how if you know absolutely nothing about this, obviously, you know, you’re going to want to know if the thing will sell under any conditions whether it’s modified or not in this particular place.
Now, you know, you can learn a great deal from people in initial conversations with them and the Department of Commerce of course has a service where, you know, you engage the people at the Embassy, tell them what you want.
They go out into the marketplace. They find people who are interested in this and then they arrange for several different potential buyers to come to the Embassy to meet you when you go down there.
And then, you know, they make a presentation to you on their capabilities, you make a presentation to them on your capabilities and then you have a conversation about whether the product - I mean, the product is likely to at that point already passed the vetting stage where there is interest.
People think yes, it will sell here. Maybe, you know, you’ll need to create an operation here. It’ll just make it much easier for you or maybe we through, you know, a distributorship can handle everything.
And then you get into a discussion at some point. Usually it’s you the decision-maker going down there and you will learn some very useful things about the adaptation of the product in the market.
One case that I wrote about a year or so ago involved a very - it was a - I think it was some kind of a exercise machine for rehabilitation purposes that had been built by this company in Iowa. And they went to I think Japan which is a tough market to sell things in because they’ve very, very critical of things that are not made in Japan.
And what they learned from the Japanese was the seat is too big for them and if they made the seat smaller, it would sell and so they went back and this is sort of an interesting insight too.
As Dr. Livermore talked about, you know, flexibility, mental flexibility, personality flexibility, being part of this sort of, you know, profile of people who tend to be better than others at intercultural intelligence and communication.
And so of course taking this advice from your potential buyer, going back and making those modifications is an example of being flexible but it’s also an example of listening very carefully to people and taking back and wanting to improve the product so it will not only sell there but it will sell in other places.
So you know, you can learn a lot just from those initial interactions but they’re of course choreographed. You’ve got people working for you in the Embassy there who are setting all this stuff up. They’re informing you about cultural aspects then you have an opportunity to, you know, talk to the people who are interested in buying your product. They will inform you further.
You go to the stores. You watch, you observe. You sit on the street corner as it sounds like you’ve done that very well in your travels and you make notes of the behavior of people and all the while you’re saying this is different, this is different, this is similar. This is so interesting, you know, I can’t wait to get back and, you know, apply what I’ve learned here.
And so all of those things together, you know, I think can increase the likelihood of you being successful and at the same time suggest the amount of effort and time you need to put in on the front end.
Now saying that, you could get a call tomorrow from a buyer in another country who sees your products online and wants to buy it, you know, sight unseen and it doesn’t have anything to do with culture much although, you know, certainly you in your Website presentation can take into account what you know or can find out about an international buyer.
That they might want some kind of welcoming text in English saying, you know, we do serve international buyers and we’re delighted to have them here and here’s an example of, you know, a buyer in blank in Switzerland that was very, you know, that liked our product.
Or you can have a page in German or Spanish or wherever people are likely to come from welcoming them or the whole site, all the pages and the catalog of things that you have can be translated into different languages which shows that you’re ready to do business internationally.
You appreciate that not everyone is going to be fluent in English and therefore you’re going to provide them the service so that they will feel comfortable in dealing with you. Is that helpful?
(Joey Rosenberg): Yes, thank you.
Doug Barry: Great. Thank you for the question. Okay, who else do we have? This is great, by the way. Great questions.
Coordinator: Our next question comes from (Donald Ellison). Your line is now open.
Doug Barry: All right. Hello, (Donald).
(Donald Ellison): Hi. On your June 16, 2010 broadcast that Dr. Livermore made, he said that - I don’t know, the version that was the moderator Mr. (Hill) - said that if you participated in two of the - signed-up for two of the or more of the - advance to your Webinars, you’d receive a complimentary copy of the Basic Guide to Exporting.
Doug Barry: Yes.
(Donald Ellison): Is that still valid?
Doug Barry: Yes, it is valid today only ladies and gentlemen. If you send me a quick e-mail after, we’ll put one in the mail to you and those who are listening now, if you have also signed-up for more than one and are with us today, send me a quick e-mail, Doug, D-O-U-G dot Barry, B-A-R-R-Y at trade, T-R-A-D-E dot gov and we’ll make sure you get a book.
(Donald Ellison): Thank you. That was very productive for me to ask that question.
Doug Barry: Yes, it was. Was this helpful to you, this session and the other with Dr. Livermore?
(Donald Ellison): Oh, without question. And it confirms a lot of things that I’ve learned over the years. You mentioned as an example making sure that you know your audience when you get there.
We were taking in a series of meetings and one of them that we had not planned for was introduced by one of the individuals that we were working with and we got there, it was in Brazil.
We didn’t know Portuguese. They didn’t know English but we both had people that knew German so they conversed in German and then went back to each side and explained what was happening at that point.
Doug Barry: Very practical, very inventive and unexpected but nevertheless, it worked out and hopefully the sale was made and good business was conducted.
(Donald Ellison): Well, the irony was the German - or the American - that knew German, when he would turn back to us, he’d continue speaking in German because that was his native language and he’d forget. We’d have to say okay, time to speak in English.
Doug Barry: That’s right, well learning these languages is very important and, you know, I have an 11-year-old daughter who’s started learning Chinese and so hopefully when she’s in high school, she’ll go on an exchange and after that she’ll be fluent at some point down the road.
And, you know, I’d definitely recommend that you, you know, learn a few phrases before you go abroad and/or just a little bit about how the language is structured and how, you know, the formalities and what this says about the relationships between people and the way they make people feel.
And the language even if you don’t ever learn to speak it fluently, by studying its structure which you can do very easily, you can learn a lot about the people who have this as their native tongue.
And you will be able to make them feel more comfortable in your presence and all of these things will help to facilitate the communication that leads to understanding and hopefully commerce if that’s your goal.
(Donald Ellison): With the size of our country you almost need to have a cultural IQ opportunities to help us understand the regionality of our country and those working with us.
Doug Barry: Yes, you do, and I think that’s one of the points that Dr. Livermore made. And this is worth emphasizing as we get to the end of our hour here, is that this framework, this takes into account all kinds of cultures, not just the ones that, you know, the sort of big culture differences but the cultures of organizations that we operate in every day, the cultures that are present in the different areas of the country where we live.
This approach, seeing things differently and learning to understand others by understanding our own cultural attributes and the baggage that we have brought, you know, into our current life.
These things can be extraordinarily helpful and don’t for a moment think that I’m not going to apply, you know, what I’m learning in this discussion today and that I’ve learned from Dr. Livermore and his book, even in the - and I made a joke about it earlier - about the, you know, the federal government, you know, having its own intercultural issues but it’s true.
Just figuring out the culture of these large organizations and being able to deal effectively within them is a major challenge and one that I certainly more foremost in my mind then what I’m going to do with this Japanese friend in the next time I contact him.
So yes, culture is everywhere in many different kinds of cultures. You know, think about what you have learned in these sessions. See if you can apply it and let’s keep the dialogue going.
If you have questions or concerns or insights, you know, always feel free to pick up the phone and give us a call here or shoot us an e-mail. We’ll appreciate it and we’re here to help you.
(Donald Ellison): Thank you.
Doug Barry: Thank you very much. I think that that just about wraps-up this interesting afternoon for me and hopefully you’ve enjoyed it as well and that you will tune in for our next Webinar which is on the free trade agreements next week and I’m going to throw it back to Roza to wrap up. Roza?
Roza Pace: Well, thank you, Doctor, for this very enlightening presentation. I think we all learned a lot from you and you gave us a lot of food for thought. It seems like having a wonderful product and having a contract at hand is very important but that does not necessarily mean the deal is clenched.
Now remember for those of you whose questions we did not answer today or you were too shy to ask them, please feel free to call us. You can call Doug or myself at 1-800-USA-TRADE or you also have Doug’s direct number.
You can also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and also please check our Website at export.gov for information on exporting and other Webinar events.
And we certainly would like to invite you to call the Trade Information Center at 1-800-USA-TRADE to get additional questions answers not just on the cultural intelligence but any aspect of exporting.
We either will have an answer for you or we will hook you up with our friends on federal, state or local level or our vast network of colleagues at Commercial Service in our over hundred domestic offices in all states within the U.S. and 80 different countries.
Thank you again for dialing in and good luck with your ventures.
Coordinator: This concludes today’s conference. Thank you for participating. You may disconnect at this time.
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