10 glocal rules to be more successful internationally

No sé Sr. Lange ….. ¿Está usted seguro de querer ponérselo para la reunión con los americanos?

„I don’t know, Mr. Lange… Do you really want to keep it on for the meeting with the Americans?“

Confucius spoke of three ways for people to act in an intelligent manner: the first and noblest is to take the time to reflect; the second and easiest is to imitate; the third and most bitter for being the most expansive is to act according to one’s own experience.

Human beings are surely capable of learning but are we also ready to learn from our experiences?  I do have my doubts when I see what is going on in everyday business.

That is why I invite you to take at least a short look at the following ten glocal game rules, which I have always tried to keep in mind in my many years of experience. More than ever, the most successful international companies are the ones which enter the exporting country with a global vision while also using glocal strategies. Bear in mind that potential clients increasingly wish for individual products and services as opposed to a product which is sold everywhere and does not meet their local perceptions.

  1. Think global but act as local as possible. Take therefore enough time to work on the target market:
    Nothing is more dangerous than letting yourself get blinded by your success in your home market; the export market will require time before you gain an understanding of it. A shopping center is not a shopping center right away and consumers’ shopping habits are not the same everywhere.
  2. Act as glocal as possible:
    To act as an internationally successful company is not necessarily wrong, yet without the right local touch with, for example, local employees, you will not be able to achieve a successful market entry. Expatriates are in my view no longer up-to-date as fierce competition requires having a deep understanding of target markets, and target markets are in the end people. Or would you actually want to reach trustful agreements with the Polish city administration in Spanish (universal language)?
  3. Surround yourself with local partners:
    Speaking foreign languages is a good thing but you will not get the between-the-lines nuances if they are not a native speaker. With a 1.500-word English vocabulary, one comes across as limited, and therefore trust will be very slow to build.
  4. Sell your products and services as if they were local products:
    Even globally-operating car manufacturers adapt their products locally. Just think for example of which side of the street people drive on, or if the honk has to meet higher requirements in India than in the German home market. All the same, the Berliner beer Schultheiss will not be marketed in Southern Europe with the advertising slogan “Dit is n Einkoofserlebnis!” (“What a shopping experience”, in Berliner dialect).
  5. Consider the regional, cultural environment and the local conditions:
    Whether a matter of mini-skirts, alcohol or pork, a blunder is just around the corner! But success lies sometimes in very small details: just an inappropriate speech or greetings to clients can quickly lead to misunderstandings: informal or formal address or a simple bow?  When in Asia, have you thought about paying your respects to the entrepreneur’s father in order to get his consent to the business relationship?
  6. Respect local laws:
    Not only labor legislation can make your life difficult or plain impossible, the legal foundations for franchises in Europe also greatly. Without thorough knowledge, nothing can be done.
    Contracts with agents must be concluded according to local requirements. The risk for you to suddenly have an employee and therefore unknowingly evade taxes and social security contributions is simply too great.
  7. Take your local competition into account:
    Look closely at your local competition and their sales strategies and you will start to understand the market. For instance, why can the balance sheet of a Portuguese company only be dealt with by a certified accountant (TOC)?
  8. Don’t do it alone:
    Why doesn’t the competition in Spain sell tobacco in supermarkets? Watch your competitor. He will gladly explain how things are done. Even better: if you cannot beat him, work with him. Both “never walk alone” and “if you can’t beat them, join them” are very valid in my view.
  9. One market at a time:
    Just to mention two classical misleading statements: 1. “Spain and Portugal are for us one single market, which we serve from the same office” 2. “Prepare a list of the African countries we want to start working in next year”.  Each market has its own game rules and more than one assignment of this kind should not be expected.
  10. Don’t look for instant success, think long-term:
    Rome was not built in one day, and I’ll add to that: I have nothing against quick successes and profits but the likelihood is still as high as winning the lottery. In the beginning, investments are inevitable, necessary and important, and if you start getting profitable after three years, I will congratulate you profusely.

Whether you have just browsed over the article, scanned it, read it with a colleague or thoroughly read through was your decision. I would hope for the latter one in consideration for your future success.

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