h1

Child Trafficking or Incredible Cultural Naivete?

February 2, 2010

The current situation involving the 10 jailed members of the Southern Baptist Convention religious organization has a number of root causes. First and foremost, what I like to believe was a well intended group, the cultural ignorance shown by the religious group was pretty astounding.

Not only did the group attempt to move roughly thirty children across an international border without any of the proper paperwork (this in a country that suffers from the blight of real human traffickers), but the most recent development about yesterday’s postponed court date highlights the fact the group embarked on their overzealous mission without possessing an ability to speak French!

Basically, the group ignored any and all cultural, legal, and communications issues. Geeze!

How the situation will evolve and what the outcomes will be is anybody’s guess–as well intended as the group may be their naiveté borders on arrogant indifference. At first blush I thought this might be a case of corrupt Haitian officials making a mountain from a molehill—but the facts are otherwise. This group, whether inadvertent or properly intended, are in real trouble—and unfortunately they should be. Any thought or preparation about what the group might need to succeed in their international endeavor would surely have served as a harbinger.  It’s way too late, but a copy of my book would have certainly kept them from this fate.

Now, I alluded to other causes and they certainly are there. This group’s fervor and zeal was most certainly stoked by the hopelessness and ‘blame oriented’ media coverage beamed out by the likes of Anderson Cooper, and others:

Instead of the coverage recognizing the insignificance and futility of man’s abilities in the face of nature’s awesome—and at times awful—power, there was the wringing of hands over what was inferred as ‘avoidable’ delay and mismanagement of the Haitian rescue effort. There have been many stories from knowledgeable media sources about this ‘blame’ phenomenon and the resultant well doers—like our Southern Baptist group, spurred to ineffectual action, that actually cause more harm while desperately intent on trying to do good.  

Let’s remember, there is no evil at work here—nothing like the needless human tragedy that continues to exist in Darfur.  In Haiti, there are thousands of trained, professional disaster relief personnel struggling to do their very best in a place that is a ‘perfect storm’ of obstacles and challenges.

Advertisements
h1

Doing Business Internationally – BNN Interview August 2009

January 29, 2010

Trading Day : August 17, 2009 : Doing Business Internationally

Business News Network (Canadian CNN) interview with me about the book “Lies, Bribes & Peril: Lessons for the Real Challenges On International Business“:  http://watch.bnn.ca/trading-day/august-2009/trading-day-august-17-2009/#clip204256

h1

Haiti Needs Our Help; But Let’s Keep the UN Far Away from Donations.

January 16, 2010

Haiti 7.0 Earthquake Aftermath

I had just arrived in Dubai when I saw the news about the devastating earthquake in Haiti (it’s always interesting to hear foreign viewpoints on breaking world events).  Having been in Haiti and being in the logistics business, I knew the poor infrastructure in Port-au-Prince would present severe challenges to the relief effort; both sea port and airport are tiny with most roads small and poorly built–leaving them almost impassable in the best of times.    

With rubble everywhere and extensive damage from the 7.0 quake, as I listened to that the very first report, I knew that the roads were going to make the logistics of both search and rescue and disaster assistance very, very difficult.    

Later in the week I was in London watching the now 24 hour Haitian earthquake relief coverage when I was presented with a visual oxymoron–two mutually exclusive concepts occupying the screen simultaneously.  Sky News was showing an interview with the Haitian musician and actor, Pras, who (from what I could gather) was in the United States to join forces with a watchdog group that has been set up to make sure that all donated monies will go directly and completely to Haiti. As Pras was speaking, a news scroll presented the oxymoron and diverted my attention.   

The news scroll at the bottom of the television screen announcing:  United Nations (UN) appeal for 560 million dollars for Haiti. Okay, now I believe everyone should try to give as they are able to the Haiti disaster assistance, but I think donating to any UN organization should be the last thing a person should do!  My personal experience is limited, but my company was one of the first to stumble into chilling evidence in Iraq of the UN’s intricate complicity and outright collaboration with Saddam’s goons in the multi-billion dollar Oil for Food scam. I’ve also personally witnessed UN staffers more than double the cost of a major US Government operation with effortless chicanery.     

In the September 2005, when the last report of the Volcker Commission Oil for Food Program Report came out it stated that the UN needed thorough reform–and it needed it urgently. The Report also went on to estimate that perhaps one-third of all UN contracting activities were compromised by corruption. Using that guideline and my experience means that about half of any 560 million dollar UN fund will be wasted–WASTED (Pras certainly will need a lot of help here).    

People need to remember that since the special UN anti-corruption unit, called the Procurement Task Force, was established in 2006 it has uncovered many, many other major schemes within the UN.  A recent AP article, by John Heilprin (Jan 12, 2010, “UN cuts back on investigating fraud“) lays out the ugly, troubling facts about the UN disbanding this unit leaving the reader with the inevitable implied conclusion that the UN is returning to its old corrupt ways with a flourish.   

There are a lot of excellent charitable organizations out there; The Red Cross, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, The Clinton/Bush Haiti Fund, and many others.  Even if we all give to one of these fine charities we will never be able to erase the horrendous memories or incalculable grief suffered by the Haitian people, but we will be able to help put country of Haiti back on its feet even better than before.    

There is one thing that I do want to impress upon though:  Let’s stick together and keep the UN from pulling in any money that will “supposedly go” to the Haiti Earthquake Relief effort.

h1

The Future is Now–And It’s Moved. Hang on for a heck of a ride.

January 4, 2010

Entering this New Year and this new decade there are two pieces of information. One is a “factoid” and the other a researched fact and when deliberated together, they yield an undeniable conclusion about the future of the global economy. 

First of all, consider the fact that Goldman Sachs recently issued predictions that included a forecast that’s a major league world changer; Within the next two decades (note: 17 years was the precise prediction) the major emerging economies of China, Russia, India, and Brazil (or “BRIC” countries in the wisdom of the acronym makers) will eclipse the current G-7 (U.S., Japan, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain) in terms of Gross Domestic Production or GDP. The estimates for 2009 by the International Monetary Fund had the U.S. creating about one quarter of the world’s GDP and the G-7 comprising almost 55% of it. The IMF figures assessed the BRIC countries as producing just over 15% of the world’s GDP. Wow, if Goldman Sacks is correct then what’s ahead is sure to be one hell-ova financial switcheroo’!

Next, take into consideration reports of the highest returning money funds over the last decade. While the S&P index was losing about 3.3% annually for the last decade, the most lucrative funds were all emerging market funds and each of the top five returned over eight times their investment.

The top fund, East Capital Ryssland, returned 1524%…..double WOW. To put this in tangible terms, if you had put $10,000 into a S&P index fund in early 2000 you would now have, oh around $7,000 left in that fund to date (inflationary adjustments would just add insult to injury!). Contrast that with an equal investment in the Ryssland Fund for that very same time period: you’d be looking at about $152,400 by now. Any third grader can do the math there.

Where would you have wanted your investment?

Well, in one way or another, you’re going to get an opportunity to face that kind of decision. Assessing these points together can lead to only one conclusion–this kind of humongous market disparity will continue (and YES, Webster says “humongous” is a definitely a word).  If the mercurial pace of growth in the BRIC occurs as forecast (the IMF, World Bank, etc. —all divine similar growth) then not only the best investment opportunities will be in found in these emerging markets, but these countries will be the proverbial ground zero of global commerce for at least the next two decades. Unimaginable opportunity and wealth will certainly be created.

The next Microsoft, Wal-Mart, or Toyota will almost certainly not be from a G-7 country.  And NOTE: If historians ever point to any single corporate event that could be considered to have presaged the decline of the importance of the U.S. in the global economy, it just may be GM losing the place as the #1 Global Auto Maker to Toyota in 2008 (a spot GM had held for over 70 years!).

The widely forecasted colossal GDP growth in emerging markets will result in U.S. companies focusing their attention to those countries in a way that is historically unprecedented. 

Lastly the top careers within most U.S. corporations will be built by specializing in and mastering all the emerging markets–regardless of industry.  Corporate hegemony will inevitably see U.S. companies acquired by foreign companies in far greater numbers than ever before.  No matter where you live in the U.S. and regardless of your endeavor, your life and its rapidly changing challenges will be significantly affected.

A new economic world-order is upon us. What should these revelations tell anyone who is in college now (or anyone under 40 for that matter) where their careers will most likely revolve and where their fortunes will most likely be found?

Two guesses (and the first one doesn’t count).

What skills will an individual need to compete in what is sure to be a wild, woolly, exciting and tumultuous commercial free-for-all?

The primary countries in play couldn’t be more different: history, religion, languages (India alone has 28 different dialects) and the geography literally stretches to the four corners of the earth! How in the heck will the entrepreneur, the thrill and fortune seekers of the next twenty years succeed in such diverse areas?

Traditional business acumen will be important of course, but there will be much, much more necessary to have in place and in play achieve success. Suffice it to say that new skills (perspectives really) that are not required now or even necessary in the current American marketplace will be critical.

A good start on what those perspectives are and how to develop an understanding of them can be found by reading my book, Lies, Bribes, and Peril: Lessons for the REAL Challenges of International Business. Read it and think about it and learn this: there are NEW skills and perspectives required in the future Marketplace of Now.   Add a dash of ambition, a peck of dedication and a bushel of perseverance and we are all off on an intercultural economic adventure of a lifetime for the next few decades.  Enjoy it people–it’s going to be  one heck of a (wild and exciting) ride!

h1

Brazilian Custody Fight = All Accommodation – UPDATE to 12/22/09 post

December 23, 2009

12/22 and 23/2009- CNN:  Brazil high court lifts stay, allowing boy to return to U.S. Brazil high court lifts stay, allowing boy to return to U.S

Thank goodness the latest turn of events (as of yesterday 12/22/09) has the Brazilian Chief Justice overturning the ruling last week by his counterpart and requiring the boy (Sean) be returned to his US father David Goldman. While anything can still happen, Face issues—brought by the combination of the absence of any legitimate legal basis and the very serious US political pressure—in this case have outweighed the obvious Accommodation. 

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/12/22/brazil.custody.battle/index.html?eref=rss_topstories&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_topstories+%28RSS%3A+Top+Stories%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

Read my book Lies, Bribes & Peril to get a better understanding about the concept of “Face” and “Accommodation” and other Lessons for the REAL Challenges of International Business.

Happy Holidays!

h1

Brazilian Custody Fight, Iraqi Oil No-Bids and AMA support for Health Care Reform—What do they all have in common? Accommodation

December 22, 2009

For those from Brazil, those having spent time there or those with extensive international experience, the reason for the seemingly bizarre events surrounding the custody battle over David Goldman’s son Sean are clearly understood.  Never mind the Legal issues that should be noted (legal precedent was never on the side of the Brazilian stepfather) or the Face issues that the Brazilian government is dealing with from the international scorn—neither is the issue at the heart of the incomprehensible affair. From the years of Brazil’s lower courts’ rulings in favor of the Brazilian stepfather (finally neutralized by intense political pressure from the US causing the case to be moved to federal courts) to the latest development of a single Supreme Court justice blocking the unanimous appellate court ruling to turn Sean over immediately to his father, there is no doubt the shenanigans have been due to Accommodation—okay, bribery. If there was ever more than anecdotal proof that bribes were occurring, it came with the blocking action of the single Supreme Court justice calling for the nine-year old boy to testify. Oh please…this from a Brazilian Supreme Court judge? The amount of money must be significant. Let’s hope the Face issues prevalent here overcome the obvious bribery issues.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34513705/

Last week there were news reports about the second round of bidding for Iraq’s oil fields, and how US companies (super players Exxon-Mobile and Chevron) did not put bids forward. The yield to Iraq could be as high as 200 billion (yes, with a ‘b’) per year. Now, with that kind of money involved, how can the US giants not participate? Well, the reasons put forward in the articles I read were along the lines of the US companies production sharing preferences (opposed to the flat fee per barrel required) or security concerns. Those may be valid but, once again, not the overriding reason for the US bidding moratorium.  With the US Governments increased anti-corruption actions against the likes of Siemens, Halliburton and Agility, the news reports were very lacking by not including those concerns (reporters must not have experience in Iraq or even much international experience).  Remember, until ten years ago the US was the only country in the world with anti-bribery laws of any kind (that’s not to say the ones in place in Europe, etc actually carry any deterrence value). Long before Afghanistan was making headlines for its rampant corruption, Iraq was essentially the world’s epicenter of corruption. Having worked in Iraq since the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003, I would be surprised that any contract can be won from an Iraqi Ministry without Accommodation being involved.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34395579/ns/business-oil_and_energy/from/ET

Not to be confused with the aforementioned Accommodation, the following Accommodation is actually legal—although if you can see a difference please let me know. In what Democratic Senators are calling the most significant endorsement of Health Care Reform, the American Medical Association (AMA) has thrown its support behind the legislation. After sixty years of opposition, what could have changed the AMA outlook this time—enhanced medical care for all causing a change of conscience? Hardly (I even gave myself a chuckle with that). Unfortunately, improved health care has nothing to do with the change of heart.  No, in a Los Angeles Times report (Sept 15, 2009) the reasons for the endorsement become crystal clear, “Of all the interest groups that have won favorable terms in closed-door negotiations this year, the association (AMA) representing the nation’s physicians may have taken home the biggest prizes, including an agreement to stop planned cuts in Medicare payments that are worth $228 billion to doctors over 10 years”.  If that is any different from the quid pro quo received by the Brazilian Supreme Court judge, or—especially—from the expectations those in the Iraqi Oil Ministry certainly have regarding the riches coming from their oil fields, I can’t make it out. Money—real money—that will absolutely enhance the accommodated party, is being promised. (SEE LA TIMES, SEPT 15,2009)

Accommodation…it’s everywhere. Read my book Lies, Bribes & Peril to get a better understanding of what’s legal and what’s not.

h1

Improved US-Russia Cooperation—All Started with a Communication Faux Pas

December 15, 2009

Recent articles suggesting greater cooperation between the US and Russia on various issues like cyberspace security are a nice change in the frosty dialogue that has been status quo between the countries over the past decade or so Implausibly it was all started by a classic Communication blunder on the part of The State Department and Secretary Clinton. (See: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.9ca28ad2530b0d0029e1304762eca18f.8c1&show_article=1).

Last March, in a Communication lesson straight from my book Lies, Bribes and Peril, Sec Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov with a box possessing a large red button and a Russian word thought to translate as “Restart.”  In a scene that couldn’t have been written better by one of the comedy news shows and is another real life parody off the web site www.engrish.com, Minister Lavrov pointed out the word in Russian actually said “Overcharged.” Sec Clinton attempted a weak joke about the faux pas, but then went to the real intent of the meeting. I think Minster Lavrov got a chuckle out of the mistake and no harm was done.  Why not? This situation should have been disastrous! As I point out quite simply in my book, most foreigners are usually pleased with the attempt, by anyone at any level, to communicate in their native tongue. The attempt is more important than being correct—even at a meeting this lofty.

The real point to drive home from this wacky situation (or “moment” as I say) “turn the ordinary into the bizarre”—and this kind of translation issue  is very, very common and occurs all the time. Here you have a situation where the entire State Department—I mean the whole damn thing is at Sec. Clinton’s disposal—got the word wrong!  Once more, the State Department’s sole purpose on this earth is: foreign relations –for gosh sakes!

Ok, the point here is not to embarrass, but more so to draw attention to the fact that, heck, if the State Department can get something like this wrong, a translated word involving a superpower, then the rest of us will make faux pas’ for sure.

I’ve had it happen many times all over the world–some hilarious, but some just as potentially devastating as this Restart situation.  It just flat-out happens all the time and ways how to best deal with and to realize when they  (there are a number of ways this ‘translation issue” can pop up) happen—are in my book.