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Entrepreneurs, Startups, Global Business, International Marketing Before you start that business, or business abroad, learn the Lessons from the Road from someone who has been there. A few moments of your time can save you headache, heartache, and money!

Our Road Scholars have learned lessons the hard way, in dozens of businesses and dozens of countries.

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What Does Global Censorship Mean For Global Business?

Filed under: Global Business — December 28, 2014 @ 7:13 pm

North Korea is threatening to retaliate against the United States over a Hollywood film portraying the assassination of Kim Jong-Un, saying it has “clear evidence” that Washington was heavily involved in devising the plot. “The Interview”, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco, charts the exploits of two U.S. TV stars who gain an audience with Kim and are then recruited by the CIA to kill Kim. The fury that this film has sparked gives great lessons to those of us who tout “free speech” and engage in the media business professionally and personally through our own websites and social media accounts.

Personally, I’ve been held up in many international border crossings for having the word “media” on my business cards. Even though I didn’t enter countries as a journalist, the thought of foreign media has aroused suspicions by many immigration and customs officials.

Even today, The Communist Party of China engages in four mainstrategies for influencing international media:
Direct action by Chinese officials inside and outside China often obstruct gathering news and try to prevent the publication of undesirable content. If guidelines are ignored, there can be punishment.

Self- censorship is often rewarded with perks and economic benefits to media owners and their outlets headquartered outside mainland China.
There is often an indirect pressure applied. Proxies, advertisers, satellite firms, and foreign governments–sometimes take action to prevent or punish the publication of content critical of Beijing.

Then there are cyber attacks and physical assaults that are not entirely traceable to the Chinese authorities but serve the party’s aims nonetheless.
In France, there was a strong governmental control over radio and television in the 1950-’70s. Even today, filmmakers are given subsidies in France (and elsewhere in Europe for sending the “right messages).” American-made movies cost more than French films in the movie theater. Other laws prohibit homophobic hate speech, denial of holocaust and the advocacy of illegal drugs.

The CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) lists these five countries to have the most censorship: (from the CPJ website):
Eritrea — Only state news media are allowed to operate in Eritrea, and they do so under the complete direction of Information Minister Ali Abdu. Journalists are conscripted into their work and enjoy no editorial freedom.
North Korea — Nearly all the content of North Korea’s 12 main newspapers, 20 periodicals, and broadcasters comes from the official Korean Central News Agency and focuses on the political leadership’s statements and supposed activities. The public is limited to a heavily monitored and censored network with no connections to the outside world.
Syria — Since March 2011, the Assad regime has imposed a blackout on independent news coverage, barring foreign reporters from entering and reporting freely, and detaining and attacking local journalists who try to cover protests.
Iran — The government uses mass imprisonment of journalists as a means of silencing dissent and quashing critical news coverage. Iranian authorities maintain one of the world’s toughest Internet censorship regimes, blocking millions of websites, including news and social networking sites.
Equatorial Guinea — Obiang’s government tightly controls all news and information over national airwaves. State media do not provide international news coverage unless Obiang or another official travels abroad.

But lets not just look at censorship as a Third World phenomenon only, let’s remember the book first published in 1884 in the United Kingdom: Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” This book was first banned in 1885 in the Concord Massachusetts Public Library, according to Arthur Schlesinger. Twain’s book is still in jeopardy of censorship today. One can tune into debates on TV today and see scholars discussing Twain’s book.

Hate crimes and hate speech are on the forefront of free speech debates. When is speech free, and when is it designed to hurt someone? No, I don’t have the answers to these questions.

I merely point out that all countries debate and participate in censorship in some form.

What Does This Mean For International Business?
Now that we can see that media can arouse fear, we need to temper our “free speech” patriotism when we travel. Our social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook can be a pocket-sized indictment of the countries we visit.

We need to remember that we Americans embrace free speech (well, some free speech) but other countries may not. Thus getting into a political or even economic discussion over news and information we have been exposed to may have a poor reception elsewhere. Many of our negotiating counterparts may have not been exposed to the level of media we have seen, nor the variety.

Our counterparts may simply not believe the media which we hold so high.

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Why Do Firms Fail In Asia? – Global Business Advice

Filed under: Global Business — November 7, 2014 @ 4:34 pm

Why do companies fail? The two main reasons are to do with lack of understanding of the Asian markets and inadequate planning for it. Asia is a big continent of 3.5 billion people in 26 countries. There are over 150 languages with many unspoken rules about business, culture and trust.

Asia creates Great Opportunities and poses Huge Risks.

iga’s sole purpose is to help US companies be successful in Asia. With iga’s experience, understanding and connections, we help companies avoid the landmines of unknown territories, so that you can plan appropriately for your products or services.

It costs very little to sign a contract, but it can be very expensive to support inactive distributors. Not to mention the expense and difficulties in trying to get out of unprofitable contracts. iga has set up over 200 performing distributors in Asia. Let us help you find the right ones.

Poor implementation defeats a great plan. Once distributors are signed up, it requires skills and constant management to ensure your products and services are supported adequately, effectively and profitably.

Many companies enter Asia for “bonus” revenue and do not have a focus and do not know what is considered successful. In addition, since the alliance partners are far away, they often get minimal support from the US company.

This is even less about language and more about culture and “being on top of things”. Out of sight often is out of mind. Many distributors are out there doing whatever they do by themselves, mostly selling other companies’ products. You cannot let that happen.

What can be done in one country may be totally impossible in another. Terms and conditions, including payment and delivery, must be appropriate for the country you are doing business in. Also, most countries are not as litigious as the US. Often times it is relationship that get you paid, not your contract terms.

Because the US is governed by a Rule of Law, we assume other countries are the same. The fact is, many Asian countries still are governed by Rule of People to some degree. Often times it is impossible to “sue” a company that did not fulfil its contractual terms. So ACT wisely.

This is a gray area to begin with, and it gets grayer and grayer as we stray far from home. Act wisely based on knowledge and connections can help tremendously.

Simple as it may sound, many companies were successful “making” money in Asia but could not get their money out of the country they are in. So they may need to “barter and trade” and are forced to start an import/export division. Know before you get in.

Check out our site: for more on international business know how

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Global Business Slide Show – Common Errors in Global Business

Filed under: Global Business — October 6, 2014 @ 11:21 am

International Business Podcast – China Outsourcing; Easy to do?

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Click here for the latest International Business Podcast brought to you by International Toolkit

What Can A Chinese Restaurant Teach Me About Global Business?

Filed under: Global Business — August 15, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

What a Chinese Restaurant Taught Me About International Business

A great gateway to understanding a foreign culture and overseas business styles can be explored in your neighborhood Chinese restaurant. The interactions and lessons in your local noodle parlor can translate as a “how to” guide for Chinese business.

Can you spot the boss? Is there a designated chain of command? My experience in Chinese restaurants (even ones with more than 50 staff) shows that there is one designated boss, and he or she makes every decision. The Chinese themselves refer to a “velvet fist” that the boss wields…his say is final, but the words are softened with paternalism and good feelings. This management style translates to large firms as well. Even CEO’s in large Chinese firms have the tendency to be involved in more details than their Western counterparts.

Pronunciation and language
A CEO of a large firm asked me how he could take his firm into China. I asked him: “how will you handle the fact that not one Chinese person can say the name of your brand?” Since he didn’t believe me, my advice was to walk into a Chinese restaurant, put his product in front of the waiter and ask him to pronounce it! He was shocked to find out that no one in the room could say his the name of his product! What an inexpensive way to do some basic market research.

There is this concept in Asia that anyone who helps with anything, can help with absolutely everything. I can’t count the times a Chinese restauranteur has a “brother in China who can source products” or a “cousin who can help me with Chinese business,” or “knows how to sell products in Asia.” A man selling $8 plates of fried rice is unlikely to be a marketing specialist in Asia.

Truth and lies
When a westerner walks into a restaurant and told his order would be ready in 5 minutes and it takes 20 minutes, we feel we’ve been mislead. Chinese aren’t necessarily lying here. They are saying “it won’t take long.” Think of how many times you’ve been told in the USA “it’s not in the budget” instead of “we don’t want your product.”

Level of intimacy
There is no word in Chinese for intimacy and there is no word for privacy. Chinese restaurants are often “under designed.” In many cultures (and larger cities in the USA) waiters will ask you to share large tables with other groups. On the level of intimacy, it’s not uncommon to see bright lights and hear the waitstaff and cooking staff speak loudly. What this tells the diner about what is private and what is public translates to business.

Belief in future
This is a common cultural discussion point. Have you every noticed why most Chinese restaurants have red decor? Red is the color of luck in China. It shows a belief in luck. Scholars of China find the culture to be very superstitious.

Guan Xi
This concept, loosely translated to “back door” summarizes how Chinese business gets done. If you have Guan Xi (GWAN SHEE) or relationships, everything is possible. If you don’t, nothing is possible.
Few diners feel any kinship with a bathroom in a restaurant. It’s why we often see nice restaurants with paper towels or other garbage on the floor. The same lack of Gaun Xi can be seen in the parking lot of many Chinese restaurants. Since the drivers don’t know each other, the parking lot can be seen as a “free for all” by us.

It seems that every article on Chinese business talks about how Chinese can lose face (pride) easily. Negotiators are often warned about the dangers of making Chinese lose face. Intermediaries are often brought in to float ideas back and forth so that disagreements and suggestions between 2 parties become indirect. As a trusted go-between in many negotiations, I’ve been privy to statements and feelings that would never be communicated directly. An example in a restaurant this idea of “face” is evident when a customer wishes to return a dish. This can bring a sense of shame and make the transaction difficult and uncomfortable. The waiter must communicate to the Chef that the food wasn’t satisfactory, making the chef lose face as well. In an example in Hong Kong, the use of face comes right to your table. When you pay for your meal and the waiter brings you change, he/she often has coins on a small metal tray laid out. The customer then chooses the coins to leave and the coins to take off the tray, all in the presence of the waiter who holds the tray in front of him.

So the next time your planning that big international trip, go out for an ethnic meal and keep your eyes open.

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