Tag Archives: international business

An end is a new beginning

“What feels like the end is often the beginning” or “one door closes, another door opens” are useful phrases to think about when a project meets its natural, or unnatural, conclusion.

With international projects, these phrases are particularly relevant. Often times we are met by closed doors on the path to success. It does not mean that the project is done but that it might need to be re-envisioned or changes in someway.

Life is dynamic. Business is always changing. So should our projects. A closed door or “end” is just an invitation to a new beginning.

-EMC

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On Maneuver…

In international business, like in politics, local guides or experts are key to obtaining advantages in new markets. Here, two excerpts from the Art of War:

Sun Tzu:

Those who do not use local guides are unable to obtain the advantages of the ground.

Li Chang:

We should select the bravest officers and those who are most intelligent and keen, and using local guides, secretly traverse mountain and forest noiselessly and concealing our traces…we concentrate our wits so that we may snatch an opportunity.

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Keep on going…

This blog has been over two years in the making. At the outset, I sought to link management theories to best practices in Latin America. I have endeavored to provide inspiration to entrepreneurs, managers, leaders and decision makers that will make their organizational efforts resound with people and, in particular, users in Latin America.

For me, as Esther Clark and Founding Partner of Hipona Consulting, it has been a journey of exploration and learning. There are weeks when it is hard to find inspiration in the world around me. It is also difficult to find examples of leaders in real life; even when I know those leaders exist but are barred from acting like leaders because ego, legacy, comfort or other factors in their personal or professional lives. That’s why I think this blog and the messages I relate are important.

While I journey towards new professional challenges, I urge you to come along with me. To “keep on going” towards promoting better management practices, exploring new markets or focusing more on the clients we have. From my side, I will be refocusing this blog to serve my clients better and to share what I have gained for working with boards and executives (and entrepreneurs!) in Latam: connecting interests.

Thank you to my loyal followers and for your comments and engagement over the years.

-EMC

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Being True to You

I was at a birthday party yesterday where there were children from many different countries. A blend of English, Spanish, French, Portuguese could be overheard from the various conversations taking place.

I was talking to a teacher, scientist and mother and she described how important it is for children to have a language that they feel comfortable expressing themselves in. She mentioned that there are some students that don’t have a native language because they are third culture kids or because they have been schooled in international schools all their lives that they don’t feel comfortable expressing themselves in their mother tongue.

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From a business perspective, I can draw a connection between “being true to you” in business and “being true to you” as a person. Just as it is important for children to have a language where they feel comfortable expressing themselves, it is important for companies to remember who they are and how they best express themselves. Of course, it is important to go after a new market or offer a new product or service that fits a growing need you have identified but it is also just as important to not lose the language that makes the company – the brand, the following, the DNA that your clients fell in love with.

Being true to you is being to true to the others around you who love you – as a person, a company or a product/service.

– EMC

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Savvy Saturday August 22, 2015

You don’t climb mountains without a team, you don’t climb mountains without being fit, you don’t climb mountains without being prepared and you don’t climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards. And you never climb a mountain on accident – it has to be intentional.

Mark Udall
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Savvy Saturday August 1st, 2015

Today’s Savvy Saturday quote comes from Emily Dickinson and it’s about courage; courage to stand up, say your opinion, launch your product/service/business, go after a new market or take action. Courage marks the difference between action and inaction and, not surprisingly, success or failure.

Happy first day of August!

– EMC

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Last Bus to Lican Ray: Leveraging Opportunities that Come with Change

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Even the best laid plans have a way of becoming sidetracked by reality. The best analysis and risk mitigation measures can’t predict or control the future no matter how good the team, the project framework or the tools utilized. There’s an uncertainty about life that makes it gorgeously exciting.

When I took the last bus to the town of Lican Ray in Chile during a hiatus from studying at the University of British Columbia (Canada), I chose to get sidetracked, to break away from the norm, and, in the words of the Robert Frost to take “the path less travelled”. But can we apply that same thirst for adventure, quest for knowledge, interest in the unknown to our organizations today? Can we “plan” for the unexpected – not only in terms of risk management but also in terms of embracing the benefits of clashes of ideologies, of frames of reference and of ideas?

By laying the groundwork for innovation and growth to occur as a result – and not just in spite – of changes to the status quo, organizations can be better equipped to be part of the future. One way of doing this is by listening – to customers, competitors, analysts, stakeholders – effectively. Understanding, in the words of Simon Sinek, the “why” behind the product or service and what need, desire or aspiration it fills or seeks to fill.

Another way is by stripping away ego in order to become, once again, like hungry entrepreneurs – vying for the opportunity to show a solution to a problem that no one knew they had. Some organizations promote “intrapreneurship” or recruit talent that proves to be “entrepreneurial”. Others purchase entrepreneurial companies or startups – as much for strategic positioning in their industry as for the technology and talent they acquire through the purchase. Still others create innovation centers or tap into startup hubs to try to replicate the entrepreneurial energy and drive to succeed even before “success” is palpable.

A third way of laying the groundwork to leverage change is by being the change ourselves; looking at what has always been done and doing (strategically) something new. A recent example of this is Elon Musk’s June 11 blog post announcing that all of Tesla’s electric car patents have been removed “in the spirit of the open source movement” and “for the advancement of electric vehicle technology”.

I think there’s a balance between planning for the future and embracing the unplanned opportunities that present themselves; opportunities to learn, collaborate, and change. And it’s a focus on opportunity – coupled with talent and belief in a shared vision – that makes organizations able to survive, and to thrive on, changes to the status quo. Planning will always have its place; but in a world full of complexity and wonder, so will change agency (being agents of change).

Richard Branson said that “opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming” but I am glad that I caught that last bus to Lican Ray because taking the road less travelled sometimes makes “all the difference.”

NOTE: This piece was originally published in June 2014 on LinkedIn “Pulse”.

What do you think? Is it possible to build an organizational culture that thrives on change? How do you leverage the opportunities that come from change in your organization?

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Why Latin America? 5 ways that opportunity knocks

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Opportunity: we look for it every day. It’s what our organizations are built upon, it inspires us to create new products and it helps us set our sights and company vision on creating something of value; today’s best new ventures are those that act on an opportunity of changing (even just slightly) the status quo. But if there is opportunity at home, why consider expansion to a region like Latin America?

And that’s exactly the question posed to me this year by a group of executives in a stuffy office in downtown Quito, Ecuador. It’s an all too familiar question according to my colleagues in trade and investment promotion. Partners, clients and sponsors all want to know: “What’s the big deal about Latin America?”

Based on ten years of working in Latin America and conversations with hundreds of investors, entrepreneurs, employees and corporate executives, there are 5 reasons that seem to resurface when we talk about the “why” behind business expansion and opportunities in the region:

1) Heterogeneous
The fact that Latin America is a heterogeneous region gives companies a wide range of possibilities for market entry, collaboration and how they manage their operations. Countries in the region vary in their acceptance of foreign investment and ease of setting up a business representing opportunities for innovation, partnerships, and use of local resources. I have collaborated with international brands that have been wildly successful in this dynamic region – mainly because they didn’t try a monolithic approach to market entry and expansion in the region. BMW Group and their country specific local partnership strategy (usually allowing one well established business group to manage the brand in each country) is one example of a successful approach tailored to specific markets in the Latin American region.

2) Economic Powerhouse
Latin America represents a $4.8 trillion economy with about 600 million citizens. Brazil is seen as an economic powerhouse but there is no denying that rapidly growing Mexico and resource-rich countries like Chile, Colombia and Peru (the Andean Region) also have tremendous buying power. Buying power and growing number of consumers represents an opportunity for new ventures as well as entrenched players.

3) Burgeoning Middle Class
In the last 10 years, 50 Million Latin Americans have joined the middle class and present an opportunity for foreign companies not just as consumers but also as sources of talent from an increasingly well-educated and globally savvy middle class.

Apple is aiming to launch its first retail store in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by March 2014 in time for the 2014 FIFA World Cup; the rising middle class is driving demand for consumer products and electronics and, in the future, may be a factor in the establishment of more manufacturing plants if public and private sector are able to convince the manufacturing side of business that the talent and opportunity exist in the region.

4) Connected
Mobile penetration in the region is above 100% and Latin America will have nearly 300 million Internet users by the end of 2013 and nearly 400 million by 2017. Public and private sector organizations in Latin American countries are bringing most of their service and product offerings on line making the dynamic region more connected and transparent for doing business. This also brings ample opportunity for brands – from startups to large corporations- to engage with their customers, suppliers and stakeholders.

5) People
Latin American countries have high context cultures meaning there is a real focus on relationship- building and the “context” associated with doing business. While international companies studying their market entry strategy may find these nuances daunting – such as how connected you are – it is an opportunity for foreign firms to start with a clean slate and connect with the right people – and make the right impression – from the very start.

The risk-reward argument in favor of doing business in Latin America doesn’t quite cut it anymore; Latin America used to be touted as an opportunity for brave companies to make large amounts of money: “high risk brings high reward” people would say. But after helping organizations understand, engage and grow their market in Latin America in the last ten years, I have learnt that risk-reward is not the answer to why companies should “bother” with Latin America. Ventures that want to take advantage of opportunities in the region will likely enjoy monetary rewards as well as foster innovation and learning in their organization by diversifying their market, accessing new talent and resources, building a loyal following and creating a strategic contact network.

EMC

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If You Are Not Accessible You Are Not Social

I saw the above tweet from Vala Afshar (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vala-afshar/) today and it inspired me to write this post.

I think that the use of social media has greatly impacted our way of doing business and of interacting with each other, our friends, and our stakeholders. It has also made business leaders more accessible – you can follow their thoughts on Twitter, read their blogs and find out what their company is doing on LinkedIn. Nevertheless, true accessibility means being open to receiving feedback (good, bad or ugly) from your followers -incl your clients, investors, employees, providers, etc.

I have found that there are some leaders that are still very cautious about listening to 5 minutes of unsolicited feedback because of where it is coming from or what it might mean – to be precise, it may shed light on what they may be doing wrong and it may be from the most unexpected source.

We all like to be right but isn’t it preferable to be proven wrong at an early stage rather than months later? I also think there is nothing wrong with being wrong – at least you have tried to do something different and were not tied to the status quo. I would just prefer to know that I am wrong earlier than later…

When doing business – especially internationally – you have to be more open and listen to opinions from all sources – why? because being accessible doesn’t make you less important, it makes you more engaged in seeking out the truth and what is best for you, your business and your stakeholders. Be Social and Be Accessible.

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