What the world told me about Tuesday’s election.
Who am I?
As a regular global business columnist for the DBJ, many have read my thoughts and tips on global business. My field is international market entry, and my firm specializes in taking firms into foreign markets through sales, distribution, acquisitions, and strategic alliances. I only mention this to demonstrate that I am in touch with people from overseas regularly, often daily. The magnitude of work my firm performs forces long term, intimate relationships with my clients and business associates. We are able to speak directly, and no issue is considered taboo. I’ve been at this for over 25 years, and worked on 6 continents in 72 countries.
As a disclaimer, I cannot begin to speak to or surmise what 6 billion people think of the US Presidential election. My knowledge is limited to my own span of attention, and much of the reading comes from my own Outlook in-box.
Oddly enough, this weekend I was raking leaves at my home, when a woman from England came to my door to campaign for Obama. She and several other Europeans had flown in for election week. How many times have we heard of that? We all knew that the world has been watching this campaign, but this is the first I have heard of Europeans campaigning on US soil, for an American election!
This morning I woke to hundreds of emails congratulating me on our new President, and expressing cheer in my being American. The emails received from my colleagues expressed gratitude, relief, enthusiasm, optimism, and of course, curiosity. When companies allow you to build markets for them in unfamiliar territory, trust becomes the most important issue. Hence, I trust what I have read and heard this morning.
Some noteworthy examples (with names omitted for obvious reasons):
“Bill, it’s about time the world’s most powerful nation did something for itself….”
– CEO, French petroleum company
“You took your country back”
– CEO, Irish Media company
“I can’t begin to tell you how happy we are in London about America’s great success. We look forward to a different kind of soldier and a different kind of way to relate to each other”
– Chief of International Development, British Real Estate Development firm , one of the world’s largest property managers
“Maybe this guy will speak TO us and not AT us”
– Executive, Dutch Trading (import/export) company
“Dear Bill, The rumors that Obama is Muslim are outrageous. As a devout Muslim, it is difficult when Americans think that all Islam is bad, and therefore the best way to slander an American is to call him a Muslim. I do think that Obama will be the first American President not to hate all Muslims. Allow me to buy you dinner next time you are in Dubai.”
– CEO, Dubai and UAE investment firm
“I guess all Americans aren’t ugly”
– Secretary, Polish TV station
“Now we don’t have to hate you, or pretend to hate you”
– CEO of several Canadian companies.
“Does this mean we are safer now?”
– Japanese “salaryman” (middle manager at an electronics firm).
“With a man like Obama in charge, this is probably good for women.”
– Swedish commercial airline pilot (female)
In the past, my firm’s experience has been that many deals originating from the US carry a stigma. We are often shunned in business due to military, economic, or foreign policy issues. (All over the world, these issues are related to business. Most countries don’t “segment” them the way we do in the US. The Ford Motor company knows this, and conducts all international export and licensing activities through Ford Canada, a Canadian company.
Several years ago my firm had scheduled a 13 country sales trip through central Europe. Due to US foreign policy, most of the CEO’s had cancelled my meetings. Only the Poles met with me and enlightened me about the marriage between US foreign policy and US products selling in Poland.
“The door is now open”
– Polish entrepreneur and industrialist
Now it seems many of our cooling relationships with our allies can warm up, creating larger and better markets for US products and services abroad. We may even thaw the ice with some of the countries who have hated us the past, creating brand new opportunities for US firms. We have learned that the more we are entrenched with other country’s economies, the less likely we are to have war with them.
As the Polish entrepreneur said so succinctly,
“The door is now open”
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