My book provides six essential lessons for survival in the global market place… with the number one point being cultural awareness.
A recent Reuters article brought to mind the old adage: “You just can’t make this stuff up” and offers a glimpse into an Islāmic country that most Americans might find surprisingly tolerant. The article documents the growth of Khadija Ahmed’s sex shop in the Islāmic country of Bahrain. (Yes, that’s right, those words did just occur in the same sentence!) In most places around the world a business such as this would not be news, but when one considers Bahrain’s immediate Islāmic neighbors, this article illustrates the existence of a softer, more permissible side of Islam.
Just across the seventeen mile King Fahd Causeway linking Bahrain to the west is Saudi Arabia. Here, women can’t be uncovered in public, drive a car and in recent developments, even belong to an all female gymnasium. To Bahrain’s east, about a hundred miles across the Persian Gulf, an Iranian cleric is blaming the continuing seismic activity (Iran is one of the most earthquake plagued countries in the world) on women dressing and behaving promiscuously —this cleric must have a difficult time reasoning why there have been no earthquakes in Bahrain. Traveling a bit farther east of Bahrain is Afghanistan and the bordering province to Iran of Helmand—a Taliban stronghold. There, in Taliban controlled areas, women are prohibited from obtaining an education (schools have been burned and women killed) as it, according to the Taliban, promotes obscenity and vulgarity.
No, the Saudis, Iranians and Taliban types wouldn’t be at all understanding (one can only imagine the harsh or brutal punishments that might be exacted) of Khadija’s shop—so let’s all send a “shout out” to Bahrain and it’s exercising of Islāmic modernism and tolerance. Who knows, this kind of tolerance might spread to other issues and to other countries in the region—we can only hope.
As for Khadija Ahmed and her dreams to expand her shop to other areas of Bahrain and the Middle East, tribute can best be best expressed in one of my favorite American cultural colloquialisms—“You GO girl!”
In perhaps the most significant recognition of the beginning of the new world economy everyone should take note of a Newsweek Article, Where the Jobs Are.
Foreign companies, via various internet placement agencies, are hiring contract workers in the US at a rate that is four times greater than just a year ago—and I would bet, a fraction of what it will be in five years. As foreign corporations in Russia, Brazil, India, China, etc. , strive to meet the incredible growth opportunities in their own countries, good ‘ole American know how, skills and work ethic will be in ever-increasing demand.
Today these overseas jobs are being accepted mainly because of the current US recession and, as such, the wages paid may also be comparatively low, but that won’t be the case in the very near future. What is now termed as “reverse outsourcing” will become as impossibly mainstream as it seemed home computers would be two decades ago when (as popular legend has it, Bill Gates) was informed by investors that personal computers were a great idea, but that they would never catch on.
Those people lucky enough to be gaining priceless experience working for foreign companies (not traveling anywhere, mind you—they’re working from ordinary places like Tampa, Florida and Flint , Michigan)–including their cultures, their logic and more—will definitely have a huge head start on understanding how to succeed in the new world economy.
As I’ve said time and time again, EVERY PERSON who is in business or who is carving out a career path in this day and age will need to learn how to work and communicate effectively with other cultures in order to be truly successful. Whether you’re a global entrepreneur or a graphic artist living in Omaha, the insights from the book Lies, Bribes & Peril will prove invaluable!
As if more proof of the speed and “nowness” of globalization is necessary—on top of the likes of McDonald’s, Yum Brands & Caterpillar—this video provides a fascinating look at what Ford is doing in one of the world’s fastest growing and “regulation friendly” foreign markets.
Not only is the whole idea brilliant, it also provides a look at a fundamental change in business philosophy about today’s global marketplace (one that has brought Ford out of the automotive Middle Ages). The main underlying reason why this plant could never be built in the United States (given at the end of the video) is a genuine wake up call!
In one of the largest criminal fraud cases to be brought by the US Government in recent years a Kuwaiti owned logistics firm, Agility, was indicted last February for multiple instances of fraud and other crimes totaling (what has been reported to be) as much as two billion dollars. Yes, that’s billion—with a “B”—dollars.
The criminal indictment issued by the US District Court in Atlanta is public domain and is available on many web sites. It includes two conspiracy counts alleging (in simple terms) fraudulent large-scale over-billing, fraudulent large-scale concealment of distribution fees into item pricing, fraudulent retention of rebates from vendors, and fraudulent large-scale repackaging of items. The indictment counts detail a time-line of fraudulent behavior from June of 2003 to December of 2008 and lists dozens of instances, meetings, communiques, and transactions covering contracts totaling about 8.5 billion dollars (whew, now it’s easy to see how the fraud could be a much as two billion). It’s a pretty damning document.
This week the indictment was amended to include the major US subsidiary, Agility Defense and Government Services (DGS) headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, that seems to have been the contracted and operational entity. Lawyers for Agility DGS have pleaded ‘not guilty’ even though recent news reports suggest there are negotiations underway between the US District Attorney’s office and Agility that would have Agility pay 750 million to avoid a trial (now—in my understanding of the world—no organization pays three-quarters of a billion dollars if its’ innocent). Also see Article in Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Agility is a competitor in my industry so I have been closely watching the events unfold from a couple of viewpoints. First, as one of the largest competitors in my industry their demise would certainly be a boon to not only my company but other logistics companies as well; so I can’t say I’d be sad to see them crippled by their own folly.
Secondly, I’m keenly interested from an international corruption standpoint how the USG resolves the matter—I certainly hope it’s with greater impact than the 2008 Siemens corruption scandal.
In the Siemens matter no one went to jail and—incredibly—Siemens was not barred from doing business with the US Government. ((I wrote a Letter to the Editor about the Siemens incident that was published in the Wall Street Journal on December 24, 2008: If You Do the Crime, You Should Do the Time.)
Roughly half of Agility’s revenues come from business with the US Government and if any non-trial resolution of the indictment allows Agility to continue to do billions of dollars of business with the USG–well, there are very important reasons why that would be an incredibly bad outcome. To begin with (like the Siemens case), it would present no deterrent. If Agility is only “fined” 750 million dollars then, and from any knowledgeable cost assessment, they are way ahead—no question they probably profited much more than that penalty amount. Most importantly, if one looks back over large corruption scandals like Siemens as well as the great UN Oil for Food incident—the most notorious in recent memory—the similarity that cannot be ignored is the corruption was not isolated within those organizations; like a metastasized cancer it was systemic.
Best new jobs (in the not so distant future)? Inquire with the companies playing in the world’s emerging economies…April 6, 2010
At the beginning of the year I wrote about the tremendous growth that will occur outside the US. Both business (Goldman Sachs) and world policy institutions (International Monetary Fund) have presaged the new world financial order that will have the rapidly growing emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, India & China (BRIC) equaling the GDP of the current G7 within the next fifteen to twenty years.
An indicator that American business has embraced this thinking are the actions of two of the US’s preeminent fast food chains, MacDonald’s and Yum Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut & KFC).
Yum Brands has just opened its first Taco Bell in India while it has already established roughly 230 Pizza Hut & KFC outlets there. With a heady adherence to cultural issues in India, the company is making its offering spicier with a large selection of vegetarian foods and will not serve beef—which many Indians will not eat for religious reasons.
With 230 of its 250 non US outlets in India (is that an eye-opening stat, or what?), Yum is targeting to have over 1,000 total restaurants there by 2015—that would be over 400% growth in just five years—wow.
MacDonald’s has had a foothold in mainland China for twenty years now (60,000 employees in over 1100 outlets) and has just established its first Hamburger University in Shanghai (first in China & seventh worldwide) to train and develop new generations of managers.
Why in China? Well—not surprisingly—China is MacDonald’s fastest growing global market with the fast food market there expanding at an annual rate of over 10% compared with just 2% here in the US.
With that kind of market expansion MacDonald’s is hoping to double its restaurants in China to over 2000 in just three years—double wow.
And just what kind of opportunity does this present for American jobs? You guessed it—Huge! As I have noted before, the best new jobs in America (offering the greatest possibilities for advancement and salaries—not to mention excitement and satisfaction) will come from those companies, both US and foreign, looking to capitalize on the incredible growth in the world’s emerging economies.
Want to be a part of this new global order and establish a fabulous and interesting career? Silly question, huh? Besides having or getting a good education what should you be aware of and know? Well, both Yum and MacDonald’s have a keen focus on cultural issues and so should you. No matter if you might wind up in India or China—or any other global market—my book Lies, Bribes & Peril will be a critical guide to success.
If anyone has any doubt about the extent of the “face” issue and how it is playing out in today’s world (both political and business), they merely have to read the latest news about the vote by the House Foreign Affairs on the 100-year old Turkish-Armenian controversy.
The House committee has voted to pass a resolution that states that in the early 1900’s the Turks committed genocide by killing approximately 1.5 million Armenians. The Turks are so upset (even though the atrocities occurred during the Ottoman era) they’ve threatened to recall their US Ambassador. The Turkish pressure to stop the resolution from passing was so intense that President Obama even reneged on one of his campaign promises that stood on the side of Armenia. Apparently, getting Turkey to agree to sanctions against Iran is enough justification to break a campaign pledge.
Secretary of State Clinton weighed in last week warning the committee chairman that the resolution could harm reconciliation talks between Turkey and Armenia. Maybe the secretary has a new found respect for the issue of “face” after her Pakistan and China forays that created tension and controversy. In Pakistan she accused the government there of not wanting to catch the Taliban and the China/Google hacking issue is still making news. This is not to say Secretary Clinton isn’t a good and capable chief diplomat; she definitely is, but her American-style bluntness—or disregard for “face”—has had its shortcomings.
The Armenian lobby in the U.S. Congress is very powerful and is part of a larger global effort to have the Ottoman era killings labeled by governments worldwide as genocide. A similar resolution, pushed by the influential Armenian lobby efforts was passed in 2007, but was prevented from getting a full House vote by the Bush White House (during that time there was a fear that the Turks would prohibit use of a certain military base that was key to the U.S. Iraq war effort).
This century old issue has not been this hotly debated since the tragedies occurred—it’s an issue that is certainly a resonating indicator of the omnipresent and enduring influence of the concept of “face.”
For a greater understanding of “face” and its global cultural impact, pick up a copy of my book, Lies, Bribes & Peril.